Test Ride

By | August 4, 2010

I had the opportunity to test out a Nihola this morning – and I wanted to jot down my thoughts while they are still fresh.


Comfort: low top tube makes for easy mounting, comfortable saddle

Stability: this bike has got the long john beat hands down for stability – with three wheels it has to, right?

Visibility: with the rain hood attached I couldn’t see the kids as well as I can see them in the long john, however, I could see them well enough. The kids got a real kick out of the window in the cargo bay – they leaned right down so they could watch the pavement whizzing by.

Maneuverability: this is where the Nihola loses points. I didn’t like the huge turning radius – I can see it being problematic trying to fit in between street light poles and bollards and other tight squeezes.

Cargo: I’m not sure which bike could carry more… In the Nihola, the cargo goes up front. Though you could probably stack quite a bit in front of the kids, I would worry about grabby fingers and kicky feet. I carry 80-90% of my stuff behind and underneath the kids. However, I rely on bungee cords to keep my loads in the cargo bay, while the deep sides on the Nihola make that unnecessary.

Overall, a nice, stable, comfortable ride.

BUT… and it’s a big one: the woman who owns the bike has been riding it with a broken shifter for three months now – parts are hard to get and the retailer hasn’t been overly helpful. It’s stuck in high gear, which makes it really difficult to start up, impossible to take hills, and just frustrating in general.

I’ve got to say, I prefer the long john. Not just because I’m used to it now, but because it’s more maneuverable. It handles more like a regular bike. However, there was a pretty long period of adjustment for me – I had to learn how to ride the long john. You might compare it to learning to drive stick – I knew the basics, but there’s just more to it. Jumping on the Nihola was just, well, easier. I can see the attraction.

There’s some food for thought for any one out there looking at cargo bikes.

I’d love to test out a bakfiet next, I wonder how it compares… :)


duncan on August 4, 2010 at 1:09 pm.

Great review, Claire. There’s a couple of these in my neighbourhood. One belongs to a pretty funky dad and his hip kid. They pretty much brighten my day every time I see them go by.

Joe T. on August 4, 2010 at 1:15 pm.

I concur… great review! I love your Long John, but would love it even more for use personally if it had two wheels on the front like the Nihola.

For maneuverability, having the back wheel swivel while the two front ones stay straight would improve things a ton.

I haven’t much experience with cargo bikes though… so maybe I don’t know what I’m talking about? :)

Marc-Olivier Gingaras on August 4, 2010 at 2:18 pm.

Hi Claire, I own a Nihola and have a very similar story about the shifter being stuck in high gear… I’m starting to wonder if the person you borrowed it from is my wife Mary Ann?

cFletch on August 4, 2010 at 2:26 pm.

Yes, :) we were at the park together this morning.

Joe T. on August 4, 2010 at 3:08 pm.

Comments #3 and #4… Small world! :)

I see two of these (at least they look like the Nihola in the photo) at Pape and Danforth occasionally. I think there’s a couple Nihola lovers on the Danforth who get together regularly. :)

Mary Ann on August 14, 2010 at 8:01 pm.

BUT – I’ll continue the saga! After having returned the Nihola is less than a month to the shop, I picked it up only to find on the ride home that the repair did not work. After waiting weeks for the gear box to arrive, we finally got back our Nihola to take on a day trip to the Island. On the way home, it broke again and is now stuck in lowest gear. We are in despair as our summer of fun family biking evaporates before our eyes…so not recommended

Dottie on August 24, 2010 at 11:44 pm.

You gotta try the bakfiets – it’s fantastic. I haven’t had a chance to try the Nihola, but I think it’s coming to Chicago soon via Copenhagen Cyclery. I’m excited to try it out because I’ve heard so much good about it. The lack of customer service/parts would make me very hesitant to buy one, though. That’s no good.

Joe T. on August 26, 2010 at 11:08 am.

I’ve been seeing Niholas all over the Danforth recently.

Todd Tyrtle on August 26, 2010 at 5:31 pm.

They’re showing up in Dufferin Grove as well. It’s an invasion! I, for one, welcome my new cargo bike riding overlords.

john on March 21, 2011 at 4:49 am.

I have a Nihola and live in the Bloor and Bathurst area. I love it, the bike itself is something else. I’m glad I didn’t buy the bakfiets or any other two wheel cargo bike. Yes they are faster and handle like a two wheeled bike but, for stability you cannot beat the Nihola. I’ve riden mine to Scarborough with my son inside to Mississauga, the islands and it’s been excellent. During the winter on snow or ice, excellent. You can’t fall off from slipping, not with three wheels. I couldn’t ride the bakfiets or long john during the winter on snow or ice as easy. That would be a nightmare if you think about it. You have a hard time with two wheel cargo bikes at low speeds. Starting off and stopping with cargo or kids is not easy. On the Nihola it’s the simplest thing to do. Just jump on and sit, no ballancing required or anything like that. Stop lights, stop signs, anytime you have to stop, just stop, that’s it. I can sit and have a drink without worrying about falling over. Home depot, Canadian tire for a big microwave, Best buy for my 32 inch tv, Christmas shopping, all in the Nihola. I do agree with another poster that the level of service at the shop that sells them is terrible. The Nihola is to cargo bikes what the Land Rover is to SUV’s. Too much info? I hope not, just had some red bull and I guess it’s kicking in.

Mary Ann on April 22, 2011 at 5:01 pm.

2011 – second trip of the season (less than 1km) – the gears are gone again!!! I’m going to go crazy. It’s such an ordeal to get it downtown broken with two kids – and the warranty is about to expire. We would love to take it to Oakville and Scarborough but our only long trip to the island saw the gears breaking on the way home. Are any of the Toronto Niholas having this problem?

Simon on November 17, 2011 at 10:51 am.

I had the same problem, with the gears not changing. Turns out the kids had been standing on the guard that protects the clickbox at the hub, twisting the guard and clickbox dow but 45 degrees. After straightening it up ie making the guard and clickbox level, it worked fine. Hope that helps.

PS I’m selling my Nihola if anyone is interested (we’re moving overseas)

ann fitz on March 26, 2012 at 2:08 pm.


I’d be interested in buying your nihola for for 110 lb mother, she’s 4’9. would this be good. i want stability and that’s the commentary that gives it l00%. inspite of the gears perhaps i could get a good repair person.

Philip Kremer on August 5, 2012 at 5:44 pm.

Simon … it’s awfully late (you wrote last November), but is your Nihola still available?

FC Kaiserslautern on March 23, 2013 at 2:16 am.

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John Wyman on April 25, 2013 at 8:02 am.

I am selling my Nihola Family on Ebay now. Please refer anyone in North America who might want one. Thanks!

140962133736 (Item #)

Gisele on July 4, 2013 at 6:35 am.

Thanks so much to everyone for the article and comments. I have been dreaming of taking my toddler around Toronto in a Nihola for ages now, but can’t afford a new one. If anyone is interested in selling theirs, please contact me, Gisele (at) urbannation (dot) com. Thank you!

Maria on January 12, 2014 at 8:42 am.

We decided that we are getting rid of our car and are really interested in purchasing a Nihola. Where can one buy this in TO?

Peter on January 15, 2014 at 11:03 pm.

I’m really interested in getting one of these, but the only authorized dealer in Canada is in Montreal. I saw one parked at Bathurst and Dupont. It looked a bit battered but usable. Does anyone know an unofficial dealer of Nihola’s?

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