I was honored to be contacted by MADSEN Cycles as of late so that I could review the new 2011 MADSEN. And since it was Commute Orlando that originally published an article about my using a MADSEN utility bike instead of an automobile, thereby garnering the attention of MADSEN cycles, I thought this would be a great place to do three things:
- Announce that I am now sporting an awesome, brand-spanking new, Tiffany blue cargo bike. Many thanks to MADSEN Cycles for considering me for this.
- Post a review of this bike.
- Pay it forward and announce that I now have a one-year-old MADSEN bike, with custom-made Hibiscus seats and only three thousand miles, just sittin’ there, just waitin’ for something, just waitin’ for a brand-spanking new family like you!!!
So this is an official announcement of a contest. Now, I have carried grown men, women, children of all ages, four princesses after a slumber party, a facade that recreated the boat from Peter Pan, 167 canned-food items for a Thanksgiving food drive at a local high school, a week’s worth of groceries including milk and a watermelon, 600 feet of heavy-duty garden hose and a case of beer, drywall, firewood, chicken wire, lumber, and camping gear; plus both of my children for an entire school year (including summer school). Rain or shine. 100 degrees in summer. 27 degrees on winter mornings.
So it should go without saying that this is a very special bike to me. Yet before I can rehome the bike, you have to tell me what you’re going to do with it. So please comment on this story, in 250 words or less, with how you would use it. *Things that are more likely to make you win: You adhere to standards of grammar and usage (I don’t mean to be elitist. I’m an English teacher. I have to do this.). You are hauling kids. You have a track record of success. You want to escape from the culture of cars. You do not want to make other people feel like something the cat dragged in. *Not guaranteed to make you win. Things that would make you win might not be listed. You might not win. For those of you who don’t win and for those of you who just want to know what the new bike has to offer:
The new 2011 MADSEN is a huge improvement on what was already a life-changing product. The design of the MADSEN, a longtail bicycle with an open-roof passenger/cargo hull in the rear, is one that removes the inconvenience from the transition to riding a bike as a primary vehicle, allowing self-actualization into your work commute in the same way that doing a job you love lets self-actualization into your work. What’s more, in the same way you would simply throw a bag lunch and jacket (see above for more details) into your car, you can load a MADSEN without a thought to as to how you arrange (most) cargo.
We have loaded the 2011 MADSEN with two children and a weeks’ worth of groceries for a family of four many times. On one of our trips, we actually filled the bucket and had to use the front rack for one of the bags. But on another trip, we went shopping right from picking up the girls from school. So we had two backpacks. We still fit a weeks’ worth of groceries and both girls. The trunk of a car would have been filled with what we bought; the storage and hauling space is so close to a car in the MADSEN.
On the maiden voyage, the first thing that came to mind was how much lighter it was (or feels) than the original model. It is easier to park for this reason, too, and it handles very well even at low speeds–better than the original, even, which already did a good job. Overall, the 2011 MADSEN rides about like a normal, non-cargo-carrying bicycle. If the original MADSEN was more akin to driving a truck, and my vintage 3 speed Raleigh is like driving an old Corvette, the new 2011 MADSEN is a mid-sized sedan. Though with a full load it handles with increased precision compared to the original MADSEN, which, again, already handled well.
Overall, the bike seems very durably constructed and solid. It originally rolls off the kickstand nicely and folds back into place without a lot of noise or banging, which is an improvement on the old model. Though, after about 450 miles, I have noticed it start to lose a bit of its stoicism in the area of the kickstand. The MADSEN rolls onto a new set of tires this year, which offer a much greater option of terrains. There are times I, as a rider, go over nontraditional surfaces (dirt in construction zones, curbs, grass and sticks and leaves as we turn around to pick up the baguette one of the children dropped). These wheels make all of that much more comfortable.
Certainly more comfortable than most, including the original MADSEN saddle, the new stock saddle is much softer and offers spring support which is Cadillacesque in its dealings with bumps in the road. I am used to being seated on a Brooks B-67 saddle, which is considered by some to be the most comfortable bicycle saddle available. Even with this prejudice, after putting 50 miles on the new 2011 stock saddle, I was without any soreness whatsoever. I would only advise that if you live in a place (like, say, Florida) that gets very hot, you many want to consider the length of rides with this saddle; such a soft and cushy saddle gets a little damp. It is very comfortable, I admit. But I changed it out to the Brooks. Fifty miles plus per week in near tropic temperatures, though, to be fair, it could just be circumstantial.
Though in lower gears (this is particularly true after the switch over to the larger, 44 tooth chain-ring), the new chain guard makes a sort of roaring noise, a simple adjustment to the guides included on the chain guard takes care of that issue. It should be noted that without the adjustment to these guides, you may experience the chain ringing as it grinds along the kickstand in third through first gears (with the 44 tooth chain ring). After this adjustment, however, there is very little noise or interference.
The 2011 MADSEN delivers a tighter drive train than the original model. In addition, the improved crank arm and stronger stock pedals seem tougher and more responsive. I usually use basketted pedals, but after 400 miles I still have not switched them out. The grip is great. I’ll update at 1000m. Overall, this aspect of the bike, too, is very well put together. It is also easy to go fast and not awkward to go slow on this bike, and the gears switch easily and smoothly, even with mediocre caregiving (I try–I really do!) and lots of construction zones.
To get to the grocery store, and to get back home, there is a bicycle/pedestrian bridge that is kind of steep; by kind of steep, I mean it is high enough for them to take a picture of for the Unite Bike Orlando photo shoot this year. I grocery shopped (loading up a weeks’ worth of groceries and two kids) using each size chain ring. I can see how the smaller chain ring would be a big benefit to those who live in hillier locations; for me, the extra speed from the larger chain ring was totally worth the ten minutes (figuring really high) it took to change it. If I go camping by bike, I’ll probably change it back for greater control in lower gears. But Florida is mostly flat, so I’ll probably just use the 44 tooth with the comfort that when I need to change it out it will be easy.
Come back soon for Part Two of this review, and updates on the contest, on my next post: Update on the Contest As Well As Improvements That You Might Not Notice but You Should.