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First Look: Velorbis Churchill Balloon

by Commute by Bike

On review with Commute by Bike is the Velorbis Churchill Balloon. It’s a Danish style bike built in Germany and distributed here in the States by the Dutch Bicycle Company. This is the first Dutch style comfort bike that has ever been reviewed on this site and the first that I’ve ridden more than around a parking lot.

Velorbis Churchill Balloon

Velorbis Churchill Balloon

I was excited when the Dutch Bicycle Company asked as to review a Velorbis as it’s the type of bike I’ve been wanting to review on this site for awhile. However, I was a bit apprehensive as most of my commuting has been done on fixie/singlespeeds and cross bikes. The idea of sitting completely upright was a little weird and I was wondering how much I would like it.

Plus, by the looks of the bike, I felt like I needed a pipe and knickers to properly ride it.

The first trip I took on the bike was a mile round trip to the grocery store and people driving by must have thought I was a lunatic by the grin on my face. The bike is flat out fun to ride.

And after putting over 100 miles on this bike over the past couple weeks, I’m still having a blast on it and am ready to point out a few of the features that have jumped out at me as a first impression.

The bike overall is well thought out. I haven’t had anything come to mind that I wished they would have done differently. All the way down to the extra metal piece welded on to protect the rear derailleur.

Internal Rear Hub 7-speed

Internal Rear Hub 7-speed

I love the stock rear rack. Two features that stand out is the hook on the side for carrying grocery bags and the spring loaded flap on top to hold things secure. This is especially nice for my trips to the grocery as I can slide my empty grocery bags under the flap on the way there and then hang them on the side on the way home.

The overall look of the bike is fantastic. I love it’s Danish heritage and all of the Brooks components. The saddle, saddle bag, mud flap and grips are all Brooks brand. The rest of the bike is beautiful with the frame, chain guard, fenders, etc all matching. This is a seriously good looking bike that comes with all the bits you’ll need out of the box for your daily commute.

The rest of the specs and pictures are below and I’ll be continuing my review of the Churchill Balloon in the coming weeks, so stay tuned!

Frame: Luged Chromoly Tubing frame made in Germany (size 23″)
Fork: Full Chromoly + cable guides
B.B. shell: Kinex alu
Crankset: 46t Steel dogleg
Chain guard: half closed for 46t
Rims: Van Shothorst stainless 26 x 1.75
Spokes: Stainless 2mm front and 2,34 rear
Front hub: Sturmey Archer X-FDD 6v x 3w
Rear hub: SRAM S7 Gear Hub
Sprocket: SRAM 20t
Tires: Schwalbe 26 x 1.75 with 3m and Reflective band
Mudguards: Retro model 451 with nose
Tubes: Schwalbe 26 x 1.75c with AUTO valve
Chain: Z410 RB KMC Rustless
Seat post: Kalloy SP-907 Chromoly. 26.8 Chrom plated
Saddle: Brooks B66 Antique Brown Leather
Headset: Neco H131 36mm Chrome Plated 22.2 x 30 x 27 8 pcs
Stem: KY40/promax HS503s stainless high polished 250mm silver
Handlebar: Zoom NR 14 steel Chrome Plated
Shifter: SRAM S7 Shifter
Grips: Brooks leather antique brown
Mud flap front wheel: Brooks leather antique brown
Front brake: Sturmey Archer drum brake (S.A. X-FDD 6v x 3w)
Brake lever: Promax 4 fingers round lever
Rear Carrier: BOMI classic with bracket holder for lap top
Reflectors: NA included in tyres and head lamp
Pedals: Union classic model anti slip
Kickstand: thran steel galvanized
Bell: ring ring”chrome plated
Rear light: Bush & Muller 4D lite Plus 339 ALK
Front light: Bush & Muller 1706CSNDi Lumotec Retro senso plus
Weight: 19.7 kg or 43.4 lbs

 
Burley nomad 269

36 Responses to “First Look: Velorbis Churchill Balloon”

  1. Ringer says:

    Sure is pretty. At over 40 lbs., though, it seems like it’s a bit of a beast.

  2. Scott says:

    Wow… what a beautiful bike. Quite a work of art.

  3. NSK says:

    Agreed with Ringer. At what point does a style-oriented commuter become overwrought and overweight?

    As much as I like the idea of adding something like this to my stable of road-race bikes and fixies, I just think it’d be a PITA to ride around town.

  4. Juan says:

    I don’t think this would work out very well for me on my regular commute, but I sure like the looks of it!!

  5. Tim,

    I have been a convert to the fully upright, Danish style, riding position for 4 years now. (To be honest, I was first inspired by the Chinese.) I’m enjoying riding more now than I ever did in my 40+ years of using roadbikes and those other bikes that are considered “upright” in the USA.

    My 3rd upright bike is built on a Salsa Casseroll frameset. (See photo at http://www.fototime.com/E7A35125A372A38/orig.jpg ) Although the Casseroll is usually configured as a road bike, it’s low bottom bracket and longish wheelbase adapt extremely well to stately upright riding. It gives a smooth and stable ride while being relatively lightweight and nimble.

    Saint Paul / Minneapolis is a very large metro area so my “commutes” are often 15-20 miles each way. Therefore my roadie background dictates that I choose to use SPD clipless pedals – not very Danish, I know. Interestingly, I find that the upright position works great for pulling up on the backstroke. I am able to generate much more power than I can in a road or mountain bike position.

    Another observation – I find that when riding in the upright position, pedestrians and people in their yards often give me a friendly nod or even say “hi”. This almost never happened when I was bent over.

    I’m loving it! The “flat out fun” you’ve experienced doesn’t go away. A nation full of Danes (not to mention millions of Chinese and, of course, the Dutch) have it figured out. I’ve recently helped 5 friends/neighbors convert their “hybrid” road bikes to a true upright riding position. They’re loving it too.

    Regards
    Mark

  6. Paul in Minneapolis says:

    THAT is some hard core bike porn!

  7. John says:

    Wow this bicycle looks amazing. I has a quick look at Velorbis’ website. Check out their Scrap Deluxe Gents model here http://www.velorbis.com

  8. Dman says:

    Bike looks fantastic. But…I think if the bars were lower, just just above the top tube, it would look GREAT. Kind of like an old cafe racer styel motorcycle

  9. Dman says:

    ^sorry for all the typo’s….not sure what happened there lol

  10. Val says:

    For an explanation of why the weight of this bike should not be a major topic of discussion, look here: http://dutchbikeseattle.com/weblog/?p=67 Anyone who is truly unable to imagine how a bike that weighs more than 30 lbs. can be fun, efficient and practical can further their education by actually trying one – you won’t regret it!

  11. Mikael says:

    This ‘sit up and beg bike’ is standard issue in Copenhagen and Netherlands. Nothing like riding like this, in a natural posture. Velorbis is really gunning for the upmarket market and this ride is just splendid. Tried it myself, although I prefer the Scrap Deluxe, and it’s smooth. Funny thing about the weight is that it’s only Americans who worry about weight. 100 million daily cyclists in Europe couldn’t tell you what their bike weighs. It’s the ride that counts.

  12. NSK says:

    Y’all bring up good points. The concern that stemmed my “PITA riding around town” comment comes from the seeming lack of maneuverability of such a large, long, heavy bike.

    My commute is a little under two miles in medium-viscosity urban traffic. I have to slice and dice around cars and pedestrians to get where I’m going with any measure of timeliness, and I value being able to make tight turns, short stops, and quick accelerations. It just seems that a bicycle like this Velorbis would be really difficult to control. Even hefting it onto curbs and locking it up seems difficult.

    Sure, a Rolls-Royce is more comfortable than a Smart, but which would you rather drive around town?

  13. tadster says:

    It looks wonderful, but for some reason I think it would be more practical if it had a step-through frame. If I’m going to go all out for upright comfort, I’d also want mounting comfort.

  14. Paul says:

    If you’re at all worried about getting sweaty during your commute the upright position is ultimate.
    And about weight. It might be important if you are in Tour de France, but on a commute it’s not that important. I’m guessing some of you put extra weight on the racks anyway…

  15. Paul says:

    The most popular commuter bike in Stockholm is called Kronan and is based on an old army bike from the 40′s. I think it’s available in the US. It weights around 50lb. Velorbis is lightweight luxury ;)

  16. Ghost Rider says:

    Mikael beat me to it…you don’t see anyone but Americans complaining about bike weights…Flying Pigeons are 40 lb. + tanks, yet millions of Chinese folks don’t think twice about swinging a leg over and getting around town. Bakfietsen, European city bikes and all the other flavors of practical machines get used every day and night by untold millions of European citizens, and every iteration of those machines are heavy as hell. Do they complain about it? No — these bikes are transportation, nothing more.

    We need to look past the marketing hyperbole that the big bike manufacturers have shoved down our throats (“carbon is KING…save precious seconds off your ride with our patented unobtanium component and frame materials”). Fact of the matter is, a 50 lb. bike is still a zillion times more efficient and more fun than a 2 ton car (or 3 ton SUV).

  17. Doug says:

    Had to check out their web site. I see that there is a dealer in MA. I can imagine the cost though. I love the ability to sit up while riding. How come we feel we have to be bent over when riding? I do recall seeing early pictures of people riding and that was the way. I for one like to look around when commuting and running errands regardless of the fact I make the ride every day. That’s one of the beauties of traveling by bike instead of whizzing around enclosed in a box. I guess I still find it to be fun to ride my bike.

    On another note: I stopped to make my pre-buy for heating fuel this year. While sitting there the clerk commented that it was a great day for a bike ride. ( I was in my bike clothes.) I mentioned that I ride every day to and from work etc. She thought that was the greatest thing. Another customer mentioned that “people don’t get it” and that more people should be doing it. Now, you can imagine the thought going through my head as I realized that none of these people had no intention of acting upon their comments. I hear this at work also and I say, Well? what’s stopping you?

  18. siouxgeonz says:

    I got a Gazelle from a grad student going back to Holland. Yes, it’s heavy. No, it doesn’t matter – welp, except when the winds are at 25 mph and I’m simply plowing right through them, or there’s been a day-long deluge and boy, that momentum comes in handy when that water turns out to be *that* deep… and with the studded tyres, it got me through some icy-dicy spots in January and February. In fact, I preferred it on the single digit and colder days because if I do just a little aerobic before I leave, I don’t have that “interim cold period” between when I leave the house and when my inner furnace kicks in full bore.
    If the only heavy bikes you’ve ridden are CPOS, then there’s that association. This creature is so well-balanced and smooth that it’s like oh, a Mercedes-Benz truck. Once its moving, it’s smoooth gliding.

  19. RogerRider says:

    Does anyone see a link to the price on Dutch Bicycle Co’s site? I can’t find it.

  20. Joe says:

    I love it. I have an old Cannondale MTB that I got a stem extender for and some Velo Orange sweepback bars (like Mark in St. Paul). Also a Brooks; I love it. I love the upright riding position. I am a convert as well.

    I”ve never had a sub 20 pound bike, and I’m no racer. I ride because I love it. So these bikes are for me. My wife really enjoyed the pic.

    Joe

  21. Mark in Saint Paul says:

    Weight does matter for those of us who have to carry our bikes up/down stairs to go somewhere. Not all of us are blessed with living in a wonderful bicycle culture that supports bike parking anywhere and everywhere.

  22. siouxgeonz says:

    Do the two sentences have anything to do with each other?
    Boy, would I like better outdoor parking.

    I am grateful that I have a garage; bike storage was part of my housing decision. (Not having a car to go in the garage helps :) ) No kidding, I wouldn’t care to tote that Gazelle upstairs… more upper body strength than I’ve got.

  23. Bill Fox says:

    To each his own I guess. I think that bike would be fine while I’m on vacation at the beach and I just want to poke around with my family on vacation.

    There is no way I would ride that 25 miles a day with an emphasis on a speedy workout for my commute. Weight does matter if you don’t live in a city and you want to make some time where you are going, as well as when you have to ride hills.

  24. Bill Fox says:

    I’ve got vacation on my brain I think.

  25. Stuart M. says:

    I live here in Japan and commute to my English teaching jobs on a German-built Diamant “touring bike.” It weighs 40 lbs. and has fat 47-622 tires. I put a Brooks saddle with fat spings underneath on it. I love it! I also have two wire baskets that hook unto the sides of the rear luggage rack. Just lift them off and into the store I go.

  26. Neil D says:

    I called the guys in Summerville Mass and was quoted about 1200.00. Pretty steep considering I have had three bikes stolen during my ywo years of commuting. Still it is a better looking ride than my FP which has horrible components.

  27. Phil M. says:

    I’m anxiously waiting your complete review. So Tim Grahl when do you think you’ll be done?

  28. Arthur van Leeuwen says:

    Carrying a Gazelle upstairs really isn’t that much effort, if you know how to best lift it. Dutch students do it often, as there’s quite a bit of student housing that is first and upper floors only. This includes small female students!

    The trick is to lift the bike’s saddle to your shoulders, gripping the bottom tube of the frame, and then carry it up. Doesn’t really take much upper body strength at all, just the strength to get a good grip on the bike’s frame. The riding you do already prepares your legs for the lifting.

    Oh, and I’m not full of it: I did this for a couple of years while still a student. It was that or leave the bike out in the rain for the bicycle thieves to come and steal it.

  29. Jen says:

    In response to your comments about manoeuvrability, I live in Cambridge, UK, where these sorts of bikes are the most popular – both new and delicious, like these, or falling apart like my ancient 1958 British Racing Green Dutch women’s roadster. I have to say, I don’t think we Europeans ride as fast as Americans do, so manoeuvrability is not such an issue. Plus there’s the fashion statement of riding beautiful old-fashioned bikes. Here, bikes are just the most efficient mode of transport around the city, not a workout method, although getting my bicycle over hills does break a sweat! I couldn’t tell you how much my bike weighs – no one really brings their bikes inside here, we just chain them outside. But these bikes are stable, can carry all sorts of junk (even suitcases), and they’re beautiful. I grew up in a hilly rural area, riding mountain bikes, but find that the posture required makes my back and wrists ache. Plus you really feel any extra weight on them. I love riding sitting up, large baskets, and the ability to ride in a skirt. Perfect town bikes.

    So I have to retire my old bicycle now – the rod brakes are on their last legs (considering I bought it three years ago from a junk yard, it’s done pretty well). If I had the cash, I’d be buying the Velorbis Victoria. As it is, I’m desperate not to go back to ugly, uncomfortable, unstable roadsters.

  30. JC says:

    Great read and what a good looking bike. I heard that there is a bike shop opening in the Wicker Park neighborhood that will be selling them. I cant wait!

  31. Sam says:

    If anyone’s interested I’m sadly selling my Churchill Balloon as I’m moving abroad for work. Its on ebay uk at the moment: 330322784919. Cheers.

  32. Max McLaughlin says:

    I have a Velorbis Churchill Classic and I cannot reccomend these bikes enough, as good as you could ever want a bike to be. I have one for sale in London. Very good condition, a bike I have cherished..£475

    A bargain.

    mclaughlin.max@googlemail.com

  33. Michael says:

    I am about to purchase one of these bikes. I understand it now. When I was younger, I never would have rode a bike like this because I had a need for speed. Now that I am a little advanced in age, I don’t want to be hunched over my handlebars. I want to be sitting comfortably upright, still enjoying the ride,only from a different perspective.

    Thank you for the reveiw!

  34. I’ve been riding a Velorbis for quite a while now, so decided to write this technical review for anyone contemplating buying
    http://behoovingmoving.livejournal.com/30387.html

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