Originally, this was going to be a single article that covered everything. However, as time progressed and I got more and more of the details written down, I found I was at almost 6800 words, and could easily hit 8-10,000 before completion. Thats too damn big, so it had to be broken up. This opening post will cover some of the introductory bits. Then we’ll split off into followups that hit the high points of the various things worth bringing up.
There’s a lot to get to so lets jump in.
Having built up the Mongoose Envoy as my first cargo bike, then supersizing to the Surly Big Fat Dummy, you would think the Larry vs. Harry Bullitt was my third choice for a cargo bike. It was the opposite: The Bullitt was my first choice. But first,
What the hell is a Bullitt?
A Bullitt is a bakfiets. How does me saying that help you? It doesn’t, until I add that bakfiets is a Dutch term that means “box bike”. You’ll be helped along a bit more by the fact that a bakfiets is often referred to in English as a ‘frontloader’. So, the box is in front of the rider. Here is a Google image search that will let you see a slew of them, of all different types.
Looking at all those different pictures, they all look sort of like 2- or 3-wheeled dump trucks. Not exactly a fun ride. But thats to be expected of freight haulers, right?
So, What the hell is a Bullitt?
A Bullitt is a frontloader-style cargo bike made by Larry vs. Harry in Copenhagen, Denmark. It does its cargo carrying job, but its also specifically designed to be nimble, on a frame that is relatively rigid. Its also meant to be those things in a lightweight package, where that frame is lightweight alloy (whose inherent rigidity is mitigated by the sheer length of the frame. A Bullitt is also a very comfortable bike to ride).
In short, the Bullitt is a cargo bike for people who still want to have fun riding their bike. You aren’t schlepping around in the bicycle equivalent of a minivan.
When I originally decided to build up a Bullitt, I set up my build sheet and began listing out components. But before I finished, the cost crossed my pain threshold and I chickened out. This was going to be my first cargo bike. I had no experience with the platform, and wasn’t even sure I would like the idea, never mind throwing in the funkiness of a frontloader. I wasn’t ready to make such a big financial commitment.
So I went the budget route with the Mongoose Envoy. I used that frame and fork as a donor platform to develop a really nice lower-cost cargo solution. After some use I decided 1)this whole cargo bike thing was really cool and 2)the Envoy wasn’t big enough for the XXL jobs I wanted to give it.
When I was doing my research prior to buying the Envoy, I had almost bought the much larger Surly Big Fat Dummy, but bailed on that one too due to the same kinds of newbie uncertainties that led me to bail on the Bullitt project.
So, wanting to upsize, I went there next. That bike has been a thing of beauty. I loved it and still do for a variety of reasons beyond its utility as a cargo bike (and a bikepacking bike. And a take-the-trails-route-instead commuter. And an unstoppable freight train that terrifies all who cross its path). The Big Fat Dummy truly is a BFD.
Using the BFD for all things, every day, I could see room for improvement. Stuff that bugged me and worse – slowed me down.
At the shops, you have to bring the battery in with you or risk getting it stolen. I had a solution for this but it still takes effort to deal with and is a pain. Additionally it limits the size of the battery as the bigger it is, the more trouble it is to carry around.
The BFD has two panniers that hold more than 275L (not 27.5… Two Hundred and Seventy Five). Who can ask for more? Except bags that big aren’t kept opened up and ready for use. They’re folded up and strapped to the frame. Expanding them requires some fussing and fiddling with the straps. Not the end of the world but it has to be done. And then you need to cinch those four to six straps down to secure the load. And balance your load between the bags or bad things can happen. When you are doing this every day at multiple stops, you start wanting things to be easier… but how?
Enter The Dragon
A Bullitt from Larry vs. Harry. Thats how. A bike purpose-built for a narrow type of use-case: urban utility. The Bullitt is the most nimble and rigidly-framed of the genre: the sports car of the frontloader world. The battery on this bike will be locked in a quasi-concealed, sealed box under the cargo floor of the bike; out of sight from prying eyes and prybars. No more lugging it into the store with me. Most importantly, the bike has a floor in the first place. Cargo is held in a great big open box. I can just walk up, dump my shit in and and take off. No more pre-flight prep.
Also I kind of liked that it looked weird… and I had no idea whether I could ride such a contraption. I don’t get that kind of uncertainty with bikes much these days and I looked forward to the challenge.
Oh, and since LvH decided to call the green paint on the bike Lizzard King, well that makes for an obvious name for the bike.
Bullitts are – wonderfully – built up from frames and customized by a great many of their owners. So even though I am doing a lot of writing-up here, there’s not much point in doing full how-to’s, since thats how most everyone does it already, anyway. So my focus will for the most part be more of a high-level one rather than getting down and into the finer details of Tab A inserting into Slot B etc.
So Lets Build It Already!
So much going on… Where do we start?
The Frame Kit
Your local Larry vs. Harry dealer will happily sell you a complete bike, or even one whose frame has been purpose-built to integrate an electric motor. You can choose an internally geared hub, and the frame has a split in it to allow a belt drive. Lots of options for a complete bike, or buy their frame kit and build your own.
I chose the frame kit route. The kit comes with the frame, fork, steering arm, headsets (plural) installed and a number of other components that are unique to a Bullitt’s construction, so you don’t have to go searching all over creation for weird parts. I also purchased the “honeycomb floor board” (the cargo deck) and the “side panels” (hard sides to the cargo area that turn it into a big bucket). It all arrived in one giant box, too big for UPS so it was a LTL freight carrier in a full sized semi-hauler that brought it in. The truck was so big it had to meet me on the street.
I purchased the frame kit from Splendid Cycles up in Portland, Oregon. I handled the transaction entirely over the phone and the folks at Splendid were both helpful and generous with their time, answering my technical and build questions and making sure I was taken care of. Delivery was prompt and I was frankly amazed at how well the frame was packaged once I got the box opened up. Oddly enough I met the tech who packed my frame online, in the Bullitt Facebook group, who was happy to see I got the frame and confirmed what was visually obvious: he had spent time making sure it was packed well so it would get to me in the same shape it left their shop.
All Wheel Drive
Even though the bike only took me about a month to build so it was at least roadworthy, there was a lot going on with this bike. Most of the reason it was such a pain revolved around this one feature. In the end, it was worth it, but the added complexity of an AWD ebike is not for the faint of heart.
I have built several all wheel drive ebikes, but not recently. I decided the Bullitt was going to be the proof-of-concept behind a different, more civilized/everyman form of ebike AWD that I had been mulling over for years but never did anything about. That subject, the merits of an AWD ebike and the specifics surrounding it are all dealt with in a separate case study in my dual-motor AWD ebike series. I’ll let that post and its companions stand on their own and just say that the sort of cooperative, drama-free AWD that was put into the Bullitt is, in my estimation, a tremendous success with regard to making it a viable all-day, everyday auto replacement.
Which leads us straight into the next episode: