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Posted by on Nov 21, 2010 in General, Product Review | 11 comments

A Look at the New MADSEN ~or~ Write for a Bike (details inside)

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:

Our whole family got the new 2011 MADSEN, not just me.  It's got four seat belts and a bucket made out of the same stuff they make whitewater kayaks out of.  It's our choice for traveling.

  1. 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.
  2. Post a review of this bike.
  3. 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.

This is how the MADSEN comes out of the (gigantic) box, straight to your door.

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.

Handling:

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.

Accessories:

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.

Drive Train:

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.

11 Comments

  1. Wow, Congratulations on your new Madsen. I have enjoyed reading your posts and seeing you in video moving your family around town either car-lite or car free.

    Our son is rapidly outgrowing the child trailer we purchased a three years ago. He is excited about learning to ride his own bike. Both son and daughter love being taken to the park and store in the trailer. Having a Madsen would allow us greater enjoyment while out on the bike. They would not be enclosed and could experience the world as other cyclists, you, and myself have grown accustomed.

    I passed the 10,000 mile mark in mid October, a milestone for me. My wife is interested in learning more about cycling and getting around town by bicycle. A Madsen would expand her ability and capacity from her current rig.

    Here is to more happy and beneficial family cycling. Something BIG in family cycling is coming soon. Good luck to you with your new ride. Ride Big and Ride On!

  2. Jesse, I hope this bike finds a well-deserving home. Alas, I have no kids to cart around, and I recently bought myself a cute commuter bike, so I don’t think I’d be a good candidate. But you’re doing a great thing, and you totally look like you know what you’re doing when I see you hauling your angels around town. I’ll keep my eyes peeled for this Tiffany-blue beauty; hope to see it on the streets, too!

  3. Please don’t be afraid to write in 250 words or less whether or not you meet any of the criteria. I’m not hating on people who don’t have kids ;), or who don’t meet any of the other *recommended* qualifications. Just FYI. :)

  4. I hate cars. Plain and simple, I hate driving. I hate it to the point that I am 35 years old, a mother of 3, and I just got my driver’s license last year. Three years ago when my husband was offered a promotion and suggested we move to Orlando from Vancouver, he also said “you’ll probably need to get your license”. I didn’t agree. For 2 years I walked 4 miles a day round trip, pulling a 4 year old and a 6 month old in a covered red wagon to get my daughter to and from preschool, to get groceries, etc… That all changed last year when Kindergarten was about to begin (5 miles each way) and baby number 3 was on the way! My 7 year old now rides a bike and is desperate to ride to and from school. I so want to encourage this, but I do not have a bike of my own, or a trailer to pull the 3 year old and 10 month old. I keep wanting to buy one, but leaky roofs, dental surgery, life in general keep getting in the way (no excuse!) Your bike is awesome, and I would love it, and it would be so very appreciated by every member of our family. I would ride it everywhere. Thank you for the chance.
    Janet Young

  5. Jesse,

    How does the Madsen compare to an Xtra-Cycle? I want to spend more time peddling and less time driving. I’ve been weighing my options, and plan to make a purchase next year after getting my tax return. Do you feel the Madsen is more practical for an all-around utility bike? How is the cruising speed vs. a bike with the Xtra-Cycle frame extension?

  6. This bike has been on my wish list for a few years now! What an incredible giveaway, thank you. Before kids, my husband and I rode our bikes in place of driving as much as possible. I currently use a bike trailer for my kids, but we are expecting a third early next year. I would love to be able to take all three around town. We are blessed to live within riding distance of many local stores and resources. For us, most days a car is not a necessity. Thanks again, Lisa Dunham

  7. I am doing what I can to contribute to a car-free culture. I ride a Trek commuting bike hauling a 2-seater Burley trailer (the B&T) to haul regular and precious cargo. Similar to Jesse’s situation, I have a 3-year old daughter who I take to daycare in the B&T, just blocks away from where I work. I have a new son that is 7 weeks old and when he is ready, he will ride alongside his sister. My workplace does not sponsor recycling, so twice monthly the B&T is used to haul away recyclable cans to my home where the City of Orlando recycling trucks accept them. The B&T is also used for hauling groceries, sundries, and other items from local stores. I’m very happy with my “cargo bike” and very happy that I can contribute my experience to this blog. During my morning runs I’ve seen Jesse with his new blue Madsen on the Cady Way Trail and would like nothing more than to “test drive” Jesse’s bucket bike. And while I’m at it, I have never felt comfortable crossing Colonial to get to Home Depot. I’d like to know exactly where and how you cross (couldn’t quite figure out the details from the Sept 17, 09 Commute Orlando blog). At any rate, keep up the good work Jesse!

  8. Jesse, I think I deserve this bike more than anyone. Currently I own two beach-cruisers, two road bikes, one mountain bike with an xtracycle extension, one folding bike for taking in the trunk when I go on an extended car trip, a front loaded cargo Tricycle that can haul 350 lbs., and a quadracycle that seats five total with four of them peddling. You see, my endeavor for complete human-powered vehicular dominance is nearly complete. I simply lack one final cog in the machine before my plan is complete: your old madsen.

    But seriously, you should give it to Janet.

  9. Unlike Alex, I only have one bicycle that I ride regularly. It is the Pashley Sovereign Roadster. With 70L panniers and a front basket I can take an absolutely amazing amount of groceries.

    I agree with Alex on one thing – I think you should give your bike to Janet.

  10. Hello Jesse, Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family! What a wonderful idea to pass along the joy that your crew experienced with the MADSEN and keep the good times rolling! I am a mom to a high energy eight year old boy, a two year old princess, and a developmentally delayed five year old boy named Connor. Unfortunately, he does not walk independently (he uses a walker & we are hopeful) and he does not talk. We try to give him every normal childhood experience possible. We spend many days riding on a five mile boardwalk with Connor in a baby seat. He loves bike rides and the outdoors. Unfortunately, he is outgrowing the baby seat. This year while I rode bikes with my other children in the Fourth of July bike parade, Connor’s Daddy pushed him in a stroller. On Halloween, we pulled Connor a.k.a. Mickey Mouse, in a wagon. With the MADSEN, a day at the beach would truly be “a day at the beach”! Rather than balancing a beach umbrella, towels, sand toys, a cooler,and chairs on our stroller, I’d load that cargo bucket up with all of that and two kids. My husband & eight year old would ride along side for a great day of family fun. This MADSEN would not just be functional and fun, this would change our quality of life. Please help me ditch the minivan. We will ride this everywhere. Thank you for your consideration. Sincerely, Patti Lynn

  11. Jesse,
    My husband had been secretly saving and ordered one for me on Black Friday! Maybe I’ll see you around someday.

    Congratulations to the winner,
    Lisa