Same revolution, different day

BikePortland.org got the scoop:
electra amsterdam


[photo: unknown; Rodale]

Electra is a smart company. This is big. This is emphatically a bicycle for riding in plain clothes, around cities, in the course of normal life, in style, rain or shine, day and night. It has only incidental recreational value. It’s not a toy for youth or a way to keep seniors moving (though it can serve those functions too). Bikes like it have always been at the heart of the most functional cycling cultures (as opposed to subcultures). And for a long time, you couldn’t get similar in North America without importing at considerable expense, and you’d be on your own when it came to maintenance, accessorization, etc.

Perhaps James will have something to say.

16 thoughts on “Same revolution, different day”

  • murray

    That is beautiful and so practical. Nice to see a dynamo driven light system as standard and a sprung seat.

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  • Andrew

    Yay Electra! Looks like they are using their “flat foot” layout where the BB is well ahead of the seat tube. Can’t wait to see what the pricing is.

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  • Aaron Goss

    Bike companies are starting to see the value in bikes like my Leapfrog. Yes!
    Come on America, get out of your SUV and onto a practical, comfortable, durable, low-maintenance,
    stylish, fun bike!

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  • Derek

    Very nice. One more Electra to add to the collection :)

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  • Bill Manewal

    Uhh… where’s the front brake?

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  • Todd

    Bill, I’m not sure the photo reflects what will ship, but I wouldn’t be shocked if it’s got nothing but a coaster brake. Comments at bikeportland.org and yours suggest, if I may say so, an imperfect understanding of what makes Dutch cruisers SO GREAT in their own way. They are not designed for sporty riding. If it’s inefficient, that makes it better exercise, right? They are designed for people of all ages and most conditions to move around and carry out errands in sensibly designed settlements (=pre-automotive) at all times and in all weather with the ABSOLUTE least amount of fuss and discomfort possible, several times faster than they could walk. PERIOD. That’s revolutionary for a bike being introduced in America in 2006.

    Of course coaster brakes suck in the light of typical American attitudes about what makes a first-class ride (mine included). But coaster brakes are good enough, even superior, for the broad mass of humanity who will NEVER be bothered to know or care whether their wheels are true, their pads worn, their cable housings slick, etc. This includes many people I know who bicycle regularly. As long as they don’t plan to go very fast, a coaster brake is probably the safest, cheapest long-term (lifetime) option for them. Dutch cruisers steer so easy that you can ride no-hands talking on the phone or having sex or whatever the whole way; what good are hand brakes then?

    This bike comes from a planet where full-coverage fenders (with kiss-the-ground mudflap), full chaincase, and front-and-rear generator lighting are superior in value to a front brake. Compare this to every other bike with superior stopping power being sold in North America lacking these other things, that if used on a daily basis require hours of maintenance and accessory husbandry annually to maintain value and be safe, and tell me which is better as basic transportation? As a lifestyle bike instead of a recreational/fitness prop? That’s why it’s revolutionary.

    It could flop, I guess, but I’ll still admire Electra for boldness in trying. They’re not autolyzing the existing American bike market like so many new hybrid/comfort bikes flogging the same stillborn suspension elastomer/gel click-click steep-seat/slack-head formula; they’re apparently trying to grow it. They’d better price it low, though; not because it’s low value but because I think they can make it up and then some in volume.

    I want one. I’ll trade for the iPod I never used.

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  • Erik Sandblom

    Oh that was good, Todd.

    I would like to make some points though. It may be a low-maintenance bike, but the bottle dynamo will need adjustments, the shifter and cable are not eternal, and neither is the lighting cable.

    Someone using their bike for everday transportation will not be above letting a repair guy look it over as necessary.

    It may not be a sporty bike, but three speeds are enough to make you go 20-25 km/h. A good front brake lets you pass crowds of pedestrians at say 18 km/h rather than say 15. I appreciate that, I think others would too. Even civil town bikes are fun to go fast on.

    The front brake is nice to have, and if it breaks or wears out, you don’t necessarily have to care. You just let the repair guy look at it whenever the opportunity arises.

    If it were a one-speed, I could see how you would skip the front break since that would mean half as many cables. You could then also integrate the front light with the dynamo and use a battery LED at the rear. Then you have no cables, and even a non-technical person could do all the maintenance him/herself for the lifetime of the bike. I think that’s closer to the ideal of a no-fuss bike which is several times faster than walking.

    But this bike has three speeds and can go fast. I would put a front brake on it.

    I also applaud bikes that are practical for everyday use. I hope it can be made to fit the bus racks.

    http://bikeportland.org/2005/09/26/electra-townies-dont-fit-on-busses-or-max/

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  • Mauricio Babilonia

    Hey Bill,
    I haven’t tried one myself yet, but this would kill a couple of birds with one stone:
    http://harriscyclery.net/itemdetails.cfm?catalogId=39&id=2177
    (Sturmey-Archer Dynamo Drum brake Front hub)

    Reply
  • Texas T-bone

    If the price is right, I’ll buy one. But simplicity and effectiveness of the coaster brake isn’t a gamble I’ll take. I’ll add a front brake even if it means a mandatory annual checkup at the shop.

    Too much to ask that the wheels might be disc-compatible, eh?

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  • Derek

    Tbone- What do you mean by gamble? This bike isn’t made for bombing through traffic at 30 mph in the rain or screaming down tight technical singletrack. Why on earth would you need disc brakes? For bike people, this won’t be an ONLY bike, it will just be a fun one to have in the collection. It might be enough to make a non bike person break into bike love though!

    Well said Todd-I agree and like and admire electra because they make fun/comfortable/relaxing/social/”cool” bikes. I have a number of electras(5), and whenever we have company over, riding the cruisers is mandatory and everyone always has a great time. They are bikes you can go out and hop on without changing clothes, “gearing up” etc. It doesn’t matter if you are in great shape or totally out of shape it’s still fun. It’s also really great to see (without exception so far) non bike people get excited about riding a bike. It just wouldn’t happen with my (fully functional) mtn/road bikes.

    I also share your sentiment in hoping they price low and go for quantity.

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  • Todd

    Unconfirmed/rumor pricing is ~$550.

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  • Bruce Wilson

    Three speeds might be OK if you live in Iowa or Kansas or some other flat part of the country, but they aren't enough for around here in the Mountin State. (When I lived in St. Paul I have a three-speed and it was OK, but we didn't have hills there like they have here in WV..)

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  • Val

    Three speeds are just fine for even radically hilly terrain, as long as they are the right three speeds. I have ridden a three speed for many years in Seattle, which is far hillier than Charleston (I have this in categorical terms from some long time Charleston residents who had spent a couple of years in Seattle). The key is to choose a chainring/cog combination that allows you to get up the steepest hill you are likely to ride on a regular basis, and to realize that your high gear will not win any time trials. Also, I have been using the Sturmey drum/dynamo front hub for several months now, and I love it. In normal usage, the drum brake should provide at least 15 years of service on one set of pads, and responds exactly the same wet or dry, and (in case anyone didn't know) generator hubs rule.

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  • Bruce Alan Wilson
    Bruce Alan Wilson June 13, 2007 at 1:18 pm

    Val, do you mean Charlie South or Charlie West? I live in Charlie West. And not Charles Town, but Charleston. I've seen topographic maps of Seattle and of Charleston, WV. I'm not an expert geographer, but Charlie West looks a lot hillier than Seattle, although I will concede that Seattle isn't as flat as (say) Lawrence, Kansas.

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  • Alison

    I'm just catching up and wondering if anyone has ridden one of the Electra Amsterdam's yet? Looking into buying and could sure stand to save the difference in price between one of these and an actual Dutch Bicycle. How do they match up? I'm a complete novice.

    I'm also concerned re: solely having a coaster brake. I live in Manhattan and think I should play it safe as I'll be driving in high traffic (car and pedestrian). Is it costly or difficult to throw a front brake on a bike like this?

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  • Dave

    As a really late addition, it's really simple to put a front caliper brake on this bike, and possible to put a front roller brake hub in (though much more expensive).

    I found a used front caliper brake really cheaply, and the lever and cable and everything probably totaled less than $50. Pads are easily replaceable by anybody (just one screw and it's off, one screw and it's back on), so it would be easy for anyone to maintain. Front roller brake is a hub brake like a coaster brake, so there is basically no maintenance involved in taking care of one.

    I think the Amsterdams are a really good value, though some of the components (like the light and the generator) are a bit flaky, and argue heavily for replacement if the bike is used regularly. Though, they seem to have recently switched to using different lights and generators, so they are perhaps better now than on the one I got this last summer.

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