Tuesday, August 6, 2013


Justification.  Not for being an enthusiast for a type of cargo trike, but for having a blog about it.  Because the machine is sound, its the mind a person might wonder about.

I wasn't of course born on a bike.  I grew up with cars, in a place where biking was, and still is, a good way to die as far as I am concerned.  But times change and I moved to Denmark and started a family.

We planned on getting a car but it never happened.  In Copenhagen its easy, fast, safe and cheap to get around by bike, so we did.  We got a bike trailer for our first kid, and it was pretty awful (cheap though).  Right after the second kid arrived we were sufficiently committed to not buying a car that we realized we might want a cargo bike.  I say bike, but I mean trike.  Everyone carrying "cargo" in Copenhagen does it on a trike, except recently Bullitt has been getting some attention.

We ended up with a Nihola.  This is where the tale of being an enthusiast begins.  Being in Denmark we could go right straight to the main Nihola location and talk to dedicated mechanics and sales people, who were perhaps one and the same thing.  It has since become clear that they like to run the company on the principle that quality will sell the product.  No advertising, and it seems no particular enthusiasm either.  Happily they deliver the quality.

At the time a person could order a Nihola with a SRAM P5 hub (5 speeds) with foot brake, or its big brother the S7 (7 speeds) with a v-brake.  So the 7-speed option had a pedal that free-wheeled backwards because the rear brake was on the rim, whereas pedaling backwards on the 5-speed engaged the brake.  The sales guy suggested that the 7-speed was nice because it was easier to start moving when heavily loaded, because the pedals could just be spun around to a good starting point.  That was the whole sales pitch for a fairly expensive upgrade.  Much later we learned that they could install whatever gearing system a customer could desire, and at a reasonable cost, but they don't let anyone know.  Apparently it might confuse the customers.  I was basically told as much.

We got the 5-speed with the idea that if it didn't cut it, we'd want something more radical than 7.  The 5-speed delivered.  Soon I was taking the older kid out in the forest, driving on mountain bike trails, horse trails, mud, roots and rocks.  I wrote to the Nihola store I told them this was working great, they should maybe make a Nihola that was half mountain bike.  Wow were they not impressed.  Polite and professional, but totally not impressed.

Niholas are not great in mud, but they can take you to it.

The Nihola adventures continued.  I took the older child from Birkerød to Roskilde one day, was going to bike back too... but somehow the thumbscrew that holds the clickbox onto the P5's axle got lost, leaving me in 1st gear over 40km from home.  We biked from Birkerød to Ølstykke and back, down to Bakken and back, around Furesø, the list goes on.

One day I came up with the crazy idea of getting another cargo bike.  This was helped along because I broke the 5-speed hub trying to climb over an obstacle in the forest, and the process of correcting that problem perfectly was taking time.  We could no longer live without our precious cargo bike.  I actually wanted a Bullitt as a lighter faster machine for lighter faster work, but this was vetoed based on price and small capacity.  So we got a second Nihola, and the first one reappeared with a Shimano Nexus 8 with foot brake.

Niholas can be tent anchors.

We went on 3-day and 10-day family tours that summer (2012), two kids and two Niholas.  The kids made this challenging, but there were a lot of good times and I have fond memories.  I was very enthusiastic, but did not inform the Nihola people.  Life continued and both Niholas saw a lot of use.  I often commuted 10km to work on one.

Then we moved to Oslo, Norway, in February.  The conditions were challenging for a carless family in the winter, and aren't really easy in the summer, either.  There are interesting lessons being learned.  Well, I think they are interesting, anyway.  In fact they could have been really informative to a person like myself two years ago.  To learn anything from the Nihola company you need to know the question to ask.  I am unaware of any substantial owner-provided Nihola content online.  Why should I learn things and not share them?  What a waste.  So now I'm writing them down in the hope that a search engine can spread around a bit of what I have found.

Niholas can go places.


  1. Nice Nihola! Were did you get the orange rain cover? Do you know the RAL code for the frame?

    1. I believe it is RAL 2000, and not because we didn't consider more interesting-sounding numbers.

      The rain cover came right from the main Nihola store near Dybbølsbro station in Copenhagen. We hadn't even intended to get a rain cover for Nihola #2, but they had just gotten a whole box of the orange covers in when my wife showed up to get the new trike. An easy sale. I can't recall ever seeing anyone else with an orange cover.

  2. Hi! Do you have any idea how to secure the rain cover to the body of the Nihola to prevent it from being stolen? There is a lot of Nihola theft going on in Copenhagen - either the whole bike or the rain cover. I was thinking of running a cable lock through the holes but that's just in my imagination and have no idea whether it is actually do-able or not. Would really appreciate your thoughts. Thank you and kind regards.

    1. I think a cable through the rain cover holes would be effective against casual theft, but nothing is going to stop someone with tools. My own technique is to always remove the rain cover and metal bows when they are not needed, which is most of the time for me. The cover just gets faded in the sun anyway, and I think a nihola is nicer to ride without the cover.

  3. p.s. would appreciate "how-to" photos, if possible :) thanks again!

  4. Hi Ray - I was wondering if you are still a Nihola enthusiast? I would love to see more of your blog!