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Recreating the Classic Dutch Bike

by Bike Shop Girl

With the goal of researching and educating about the European utilization of bicycles we will be reading, writing and reviewing as many “Dutch style” bikes as possible.  As a reader please comment, pass on links and any other information you think will be helpful.

Batavus BUB

In the next week you’ll see an introduction article of the Batavus BUB, a new style Dutch bike.  During my review period the US distributor, Fourth Floor, has been kind enough to email extensively about not only their new model but why it was needed.

Eric is going to talk mainly about the brand he distributes but please read through what he talks about.  As Americans we often think about Europe as the sanctuary of cycling.  Most people ride their bikes instead of driving a car and we all dream of bike lanes all over the cities we live and ride in.  What is different is how Europe looks at cycling compared to the US.  Everything we do is for an image or picture we have in our head and because of that many manufactures are selling the lifestyle of biking.  At the root of it all, where in Europe they live on their bikes year round, there is no lifestyle.  All they are doing is using their bike daily instead of their car.

The Dutch hardly romanticize their bikes like we do. They are born
onto bikes and treat them like tools. They regard their bikes the same
way they regard their washing machines. The urban demographic may
be tough to reach because of their preference for used bikes, but an
even tougher demographic to reach is the 18-35 age group. After
riding in the rain from the age of four, many youngsters want nothing
more than a car. Perhaps it’s strange, but as Americans fall in love
with bikes again, the Dutch are falling in love with cars. To lure
urbanites, and especially young urbanites back onto bikes, a new
approach was needed.

The typical classic Dutch bike, affectionately called the omafiets (grandma bike) is one of the most memorable icons of Holland. Every bicycle manufacturer in Holland still makes an omafiets, and while the Dutch bike has certainly evolved far beyond the omafiets the omafiets has still been the enduring answer for urban markets. But, it has problems. When Batavus first released the Personal Bike they had an instant hit in urban markets. It had a different seating position than the omafiets, it could stabilize weight better (like children and groceries) – and it was versatile. The seating position of an omafiets is almost excessively upright. The Personal Bike relaxed the position without stretching the rider into a sportive position (which every North American bike company still insists on doing). It also introduced the concept of high pressure 26″ tires to the market, allowing the bike to roll exceptionally well despite potholes and bumps. However, like the omafiets, the Personal Bike was a little on the heavy side. While neither bike rides heavy, anyone who wanted to bring their bike inside their apartment (a reality as Amsterdam builds higher) didn’t enjoy lifting it. The Personal Bike was a bold invention, but it missed the mark in terms of reaching the widest possible demographic. What was needed was a lighter, more ergonomic bike with the same broad appeal as the classic omafiets.

Perhaps the greatest obstacle to creating an evolved omafiets was the
iconic nature of the omafiets. Like wooden shoes or windmills, the
classic omafiets is one of the most visible icons of Holland. To create a
lighter version with a better seating position may have been
necessary, but the real challenge was creating something as
memorable. Like the Velib, Batavus needed to create an instant icon
that would romance the Dutch (and others!) back to cycling. As one of
the oldest companies in Holland Batavus certainly played a role in the
development of the omafiets as we know it today. And Batavus also
designed and implemented the entire Paris Velib system. They were
also the first develop the Personal Bike design, which has been copied
by numerous competitors. In Holland – which typically has a very
conservative and insular bike industry – Batavus is that one company
that thinks outside the dijk, so to speak.

 
BOB Trailer Sale

12 Responses to “Recreating the Classic Dutch Bike”

  1. BluesCat says:

    I was looking for information about my 1986 Batavus Course, and found the folks at Fourth Floor to be very helpful. They got in touch with a retired Batavus employee over in Europe, gave him the serial number of my bike and were able to get an estimate of the year the bike was made and the official name of the color of the bike.

    They never tried to “sell me” anything, and that, to me, is the first sign of a company who treats their customers well. I wish I was in the market for a Dutch style bike, I would definitely buy from them.

  2. Sad to hear that the Dutch teletubbies generation wants to give up on something as wonderful as biking. As someone who now has a Dutch bike and is new to the upright position, I love it. You see more, your wrist don’t get sore and you’re not in as much of a hurry. I suppose everybody wants to do something different.

  3. Kevin Love says:

    The “Dutch bike” is actually of English origin. I ride a Pashley Sovereign Roadster, whose fundamental frame design has not changed since 1926.

  4. BluesCat says:

    A “Pashley Sovereign Roadster.” Wow, you want to buy that bike just for the name!

    Double wow: The offices for Belmont Distribution, a distributor for Pashley, is less than a mile from my office!

    Tell me something, Kevin, do you know if that front fender I see on the Roadster and Sovereign are an exclusive to Pashley, or do other English bikes have it?

  5. I’m all for upright “Dutch” style riding. But the real omafiets are HEAVY. So I built up a Dutch style bike using a Salsa Casseroll frame.
    http://www.fototime.com/074695D4EC2B2B7/orig.jpg
    It rides and handles great while being light enough to allow for significantly easier lifting, whether for storage or for transport on bus and light rail.

    Other light weight candidate frames for this build are the Handsome Devil/She-devil, The Redline Metro9, and the Surly Long Haul Trucker (although the Trucker will be heavier). Beyond relative light weight, what these frames have in common is a more sensible geometry (especially a lower bottom bracket) than the typical “hybrid” bike sold in the U.S. With the proper bar/stem combo to get a truly upright position, they will give a smooth and stable ride mimicking the Dutch style pretty well.

  6. Kevin Love says:

    BluesCat asked:
    “Tell me something, Kevin, do you know if that front fender I see on the Roadster and Sovereign are an exclusive to Pashley, or do other English bikes have it?”

    Kevin’s answer:
    It is quite common on English style bikes. The most common bike in the entire world is the Chinese “Flying Pigeon.” Compare the photo of a FP at:

    http://lamaneta.com/flying/images/Bicicleta%20Flying%20Pigeon%20PA02%20IMG_2222.jpg

    with the Pashley at:

    http://www.pashley.co.uk/products/roadster-sovereign.html

    Classic Raleigh roadsters also look the same.

    There is an estimated 1/2 billion FPs on the road today with current production at 800,000 bikes per year.

  7. BluesCat says:

    Kevin: What intrigues me is that little chrome “hood ornament” on the front fender of the Pashleys. Looking closely at the Flying Pigeon, I don’t see it there.

    I’m intrigued because I remember a black, 3-speed Sturmey-Archer hub bike I had as a kid had the exact same fender and little chrome button hood ornament. I remember my parents saying it was “an English bike” and all of the kids in the neighborhood called it “The English Racer.” I don’t know if it was a Pashley or not.

  8. Kevin Love says:

    Interesting. You got my curiosity so stron that I made a special trip to the bike room to check that out.

    Yes, there is a little front fender chrome ornament. I had not really noticed it before now. I don’t know what other bikes have that sort of thing. Its not the sort of thing I notice. Sorry.

  9. BluesCat says:

    Kevin:

    Yeah, I have to chuckle because as a kid I didn’t want that bike, I wanted a Schwinn Stingray. My parents couldn’t afford it, and I remember being ribbed by my friends who had Stingrays and Phantoms about the fact that little chrome ornament was about the ONLY chrome my bike had on it.

    NOW, of course, that “English racer” bike would be ridden a couple times a week, sharing commuting duties with my MTB and my recumbent, and the Stingray would be a wall decoration!

  10. Kevin Love says:

    The Pashley is my daily bike. Actually, since this thread is supposed to be about “Dutch-style” utility bikes, I should write about my experience with it.

    I go to work every day on my Pashley. I put on 60L Basil panniers and have a wire basket that fits perfectly on the rear rack and is held in place by the “rat-trap” rear rack spring.

    All my work stuff is carried easily, with plenty of room left over for picking up groceries on the way home.

    What I like the most is the fenders, coatguard and full chaincase. The City of Toronto does a fairly good job of keeping the bike lanes clear of ice and snow in winter. Even after an 8-12 cm snowfall the City knows that everyone has to be at work the next morning, so things are usually pretty good when morning rolls around.

    The downside is that a key part of their strategy is using vast amounts of salt in the bike lanes. The fenders, coatguard and chaincase do an excellent job of keeping all the crap off of my clothes and chain. Clean clothes, clean chain and happy biking all winter.

    What could be better?

  11. Mistie says:

    If you are looking for an affordable, quality made “dutch style” bike you should check out http://www.bowerylanebicycles.com

    They are made by hand in american, out of american steele using solar power and they only cost $595.

  12. mike rubbo says:

    Nice to see the sit-up bikes, which are really so sensible for just getting around, and not that much slower, I would maintain, being given their due.

    Here in Australia, because of the total dominance of the car for even the shortest trip, people have a lot of trouble imaging themselves on a bike as transport.

    This is exacerbated by the cycling images they do see daily which are of hunched over riders in Lycra, weaving dangerously through traffic, not a group one feel easily part of.

    I made this this portrait of cycling in Amsterdam on a sunny day, expressly to help people re- imagine themselves on bikes.

    I hope you like it. Here is The Waltz of the bikes on Copenhagen Cycle chic

    http://www.copenhagencyclechic.com/2009/12/bicycle-waltz.html

    More on what we face in Australia at my blog http:// situp-cycle.com.

    Cheers,

    Mike rubbo

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