Pulling the Trigger on the Bullitt Cargo Bike – Kevin Sparrow

Pulling the Trigger on the Bullitt Cargo Bike
Words and photos by Kevin Sparrow

Bakfiets, bucket bike, cargo bike, or long john; no matter what you call it, this is a true workhorse of a bike. The Bullitt from Copenhagen, seem to be the cargo bike of choice for working messengers around the globe. My first opportunity to ride one was when I was working for Breakaway Couriers right here in Milwaukee. I have always wanted one for myself but had no idea just how much until my last trip to Amsterdam. There, I borrowed a friend’s bakfiets from the brand Work Cycles and took my wife Dani and daughter Lily for a riding tour of the city. After that one afternoon, I was convinced that I needed one. As soon as I got back from that trip I started researching what was available and affordable within the U.S.

Lily before the Riverwest24.

I test rode several different brands and the only bike that really made sense to me was the Bullitt by Larry vs. Harry. If it is good enough for messenger life, then it has to be good enough for family life, right? It had everything I was looking for: lightweight, disc brakes, and something that I knew was going to last me well after Lily grows out of it. Unlike trailers that mount to the backs of regular bikes, I wanted something that could handle trips to the grocery store and possibly touring long distances. I was finally ready to pull the trigger.

The box I built fits snug against the frame to minimize rattling.


I contacted Brandon of Chicago Cargo and got the ball rolling. He is a customer direct dealer for Larry vs Harry right here in the Midwest. There are many different colors and builds to choose from. A simple frameset comes with a fork, headsets, steering rod, and even your choice of dropouts. There are 3 dropouts to choose from depending on your drive preference: external gears, internal gears, or coaster brake. This is great because you dont have to commit fully to how you want to set it up. The best thing about these bikes is that almost all of the components are common and can be bought right at your local bike shop. If you have any experience building a bike, you can easily do it yourself with whatever you have laying around your garage. Of course, you can also buy a complete bike, but what’s the fun in that?

The steering rod can be set up differently depending on your preference and riding style.


While I was waiting for parts to come in, I started working on the cargo bay. Many messengers simply fabricate a base plate and stick an oversized rubbermaid container with some bungees to deliver their packages. Since my cargo (e.g. my daughter) is a little more fragile, I couldn’t go the bungie/rubbermaid route. I needed some sort of box and platform for her to sit comfortably. Larry Vs Harry does make a base, side panels and a seat, but I was looking for something a little more traditional like the wooden box that bakfiets in Amsterdam are famous for. I had some ½ inch foam board laying around, so I cut out a template to fit with the Bullitt’s shape. I then stopped at my local lumber yard to get some wood, stainless steel hardware, stain, and spar varnish. The total came out to $85, which is a fraction of what the complete set would cost from the manufacturer. With help from a carpenter friend, I was able to create my very own weatherproof box. I even made a seatbelt for kid safety.

PDW Whiskey grips.


I scavenged some existing parts, ordered some new ones and finally ended up having it all complete just in time for the Riverwest 24 hour bike race. Naturally, I was excited to try it out and break it in a little. In all honesty, 24 hours of pedaling was more of a cakewalk than I could have ever imagined. A few key components that made it so comfortable were the PDW Whiskey grips and the Easy-up stem for changing positions on the fly. Not once did I feel like I was at any sort of disadvantage. It is quick, responsive, and handles great. Because the load is lower than other types of bakfiets It makes a huge difference. To be specific, the aluminum frame makes it lightweight and easy to get up hills with heavy loads. The fact that I was able to ride this bike for 24 hours and feel as great as I did, means that this bike is realistic for daily use as well as for touring long-distances. Cross country road trip anyone?

Dani commuting with Lily.


One thing I really love about riding this bike is the reactions that I get from people. Because cargo bikes are not very common in the U.S., they will always turns heads when ridden. The Bullitt bike is a magnet for questions. I love offering it up for test rides. At first, the handling is a bit strange for people. Being far away from the front wheel, most people don’t expect it to be so responsive in the front end. The easiest way to get over that is to tell people not to look at the front wheel. Dani thought it felt “funny” for the first few tries, but now she prefers it to her regular bike and uses it more than I do.

The Bullitt is about 8 ft long built up. The kick stand makes for easy parking.


Cargo bikes are an investment and people tend to shy away from them because of the price. For a Bullitt or any well-made Bakfiets, be prepared to pay around $3,000. However, based on my family’s experience with it, it’s worth its weight in gold. And we always tell people, “it’s our mini van!”. As parents, we love that we can not only see our darling daughter as we cruise around the city, but we can also carry on a conversation with her. Every trip is a pleasant adventure. And as the rainy season nears, I will be building a rain cover for it; I’ve already ordered the poles and canvas. When it’s ready, it will be just as weatherproof and durable as any brand name kid trailer, but with an aerodynamic design to keep the ride flowing. But for those without children, this bike is useful for grocery shopping, day trips, and camping. If you are looking for a true two wheeled lifestyle I highly suggest considering getting one.
If you have any questions about the bike or if you need help finding one, I’d be happy to answer.


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38 responses to “Pulling the Trigger on the Bullitt Cargo Bike – Kevin Sparrow”

  1. barry mcwilliams says:

    I love this.

  2. h salinas says:

    very cool write up. every time I see a courier going by on one of these things I just want the opportunity to ride one. now I’m guessing it’s probably best if I don’t or I might end up wanting to buy one (n+1 rule comes into effect…)

    excellent job on the cargo box as well, never seen one done up in such fashion. happy trails!

    • Kevin says:

      Thanks! It took some planning but now that I have a template the construction of the box will be a lot easier to make.

  3. arcivr says:


  4. Tyler Shannon says:

    This is a question only semi related to the photoseries: was this shot on the X-Pro too? I know the other work you have posted has been

  5. Jesse says:

    My son also doesn’t like to wear helmets.
    Interesting water bottle placement…hard to get to while riding?

    • Kevin says:

      Not at all! I found the water bottle mounts inside the triangle are actually too close to the TT and quite difficult to get the bottle out.

  6. velopusher says:

    i moved to montreal and worked as a messenger for 5 winters, thanks to this bike i was able to work as an independent messenger, really enjoy reading this post, i m now back home and will be in az (tucson) this winter with my cargo bike , i hope we can see more and more of this machines making peoples life easier if you can peeps GET ONE SAVE UP WORTH EVERY CENT!!!! touring working commuting for us after 2 years of owning one must say life would SUCK with out it… big boom
    ahh and no matter where your at Hans n gang in Denmark will make it happen supa killa peeps! and of course Chicago Cargo
    big ups to all you bulliter´s world wide!!!


  7. Sean says:

    Thanks, Kevin. Nice overview. I have the Toba Brooklyn integrated basket/handle bar combo and I’m huge fan, but it has it’s limitations; mostly it can rattle the hell out of a six pack despite a couple of bungee cords so I still end up bringing a bag on beer runs. Have you found yourself wary with the bullitt and precious cargo (beer, children…..beer….other things I can’t think of)? Many thanks.

    • Sean says:


      • Kevin says:

        Hey Sean,
        when I built my box put rubber washers in between the box and the frame. It seems to help a little. What helps the most is having a little bit of a cushion between the floor board and your cargo. I have 2 chair cushions for my daughter, one on the bottom and one as a back rest. When I carry groceries I simply place the back rest on the base and then put my bags on top of them. So far nothing has been damaged on my trips to the market. Hope that helps!

  8. Antoine says:

    I rode one for a week down here in Auckland, had a blast cruising the hood with my daughter. I like the way you “carve” the corners, feels just like a longboard.

  9. Raoul Morley says:

    One of these would basically do everything I need from a car, that I’m doing with multiple trips and a backpack at the moment. How do you store yours?
    I guess that’s the critical thing for me a 29er MTB is a handful in a London flat, I could see exterior storage being just about possible but perhaps not ideal.

  10. Frank says:

    That’s a fantastic setup! Pity I can’t justify having another cargo bike … the Big Dummy does all of the above albeit without the euro style.

  11. Liam Griffin says:

    I love that I’m reading about a cargo bike on the Radavist. I too dropped in this summer on our “mini van” and ended up going with the Xtracycle Edgerunner. I’ve probably put more days on the cargo bike with the kids this summer than any other bike in the fleet and have found myself taking it on rides even without the kids, just because who knows what I might need to pick up!? Full coverage fenders plus a generator hub with really nice lights make it a total all conditions ride.

    Agreed on “the reactions that I get from people” part. Hardly anybody around here has any sort of cargo bike, so people are constantly commenting, asking questions, etc. especially when I have it fully loaded with multiple kids & gear. At one point I had 3 kids on the back, plus a day worth of beach gear and two strider bikes strapped to the sides…

    I’m curious to know how much the complete build weighs?

    • Kevin says:

      I have not put it on a scale but i am guessing with the box it weighs around 60-65 lbs.

      • Liam Griffin says:

        I’m impressed that you can run a 1x setup on that rig. I’ve got a triple on the Xtracycle and I think it is more in the 55 lb range. Maybe it is the VT hills or the 2nd kid, or maybe you’re just way stronger!

        • Kevin says:

          Milwaukee is not very hilly. Couriers in SF ride doubles and triples up front. There is something easier about pushing weight rather than pulling it though.

  12. Thomas Ettema says:

    Anyone even seen or ridden the Urban Arrow Bakfiets? Another Dutch made Cargo bike, Bosch electric assisted, or not.

    • Angus McGill says:

      http://www.bikemamadelphia.com/ just posted about their Urban Arrow. They have a few really good posts about it.

    • Sven Külpmann says:

      Seen, ridden, owning and loving it.
      the six-yo loves the box, mommy loves the assist and I love how smooth the NuVinci-hub and the Bosch work together.

      huge enrichment of our living-comfort as we live a car-free-live!

      • James Peart says:

        Sven, how does it go on an incline? I have an unassisted Gazelle Cabby and am moving to the Pyrénées where I have a 2km climb at 8% to get up from the valley road to my place. Obviously the Cabby won’t be much use. I love the sound of the Urban Arrow but am worried it won’t handle the 8% when loaded up. What do you think?

  13. Jess Duffy says:

    Love the pictures of your daughter! So beautiful. I used to love working on a Bullitt, so much fun and everyone would jump out of your way. It was always the guys who got given them at my courier company but whenever anyone was sick, I’d rush in on my day off to ‘help out’. Haha.

  14. papparotc says:

    You just sold at least 25 more Bullitts.

  15. Seb O'Neill says:

    Proper stem and pedals! Bravo! Rad build.

  16. Chris Haar says:

    I rode one a few years ago here in Minneapolis, and have been lusting after one ever since. One of these days, I’ll find a way to comfortably part with $3K+ and join in the fun. I’d better not wait too long for my kids to grow too old to ride with me up front, though… Thanks for sharing!

  17. Sven Külpmann says:

    Yeah. nicely written! it sounds so familiar to us, as we ride an Omnium aka. our “one less SUV” (dad) and an Urban Arrow aka. our “one less mini van” (mom)
    keep up praying a car-free lifestyle!


  18. Another cargo bike to know about, this one made in the USA (by me): http://cetmacargo.com/pages/bikes

  19. Mike Wilson says:

    Love the cargo bay! Do you have the dimensions of the parts so that I can get started too?!!!

  20. mattkime says:

    @johnprolly:disqus I really wish the photos were still here….is it possible?