Probably Clever Cycles’ biggest head of steam at the outset is that we’re Portland’s first source of Dutch family transport and city bikes. Unlike the Xtracycle-standard longtails and folding bikes that fill out our line, and that I’ve used intensively for many years, I’m a fairly new user of Dutch bikes. I’ve admired Dutch bike culture strongly from a distance for a while, but am only now coming to learn what it means in my muscles, bones, and mind.

Jonathan at Bikeportland celebrated the introduction of the Electra Amsterdam to the US market as indicative of a larger trend. Many commenters there compared the technical specifications of these bikes unfavorably to commonly available commuter bikes, and concluded that there was nothing special here but looks. Leaving aside whether the Amsterdam may be considered illustrative of real Dutch bikes, I’m going to try to clear things up here. And I’m going to simplify and generalize a lot for the sake of brevity, so bear with me.

j&o omaYou sit differently on a Dutch utility bike than on other kinds of bikes still in common use in America. How you sit has a big influence not only on your comfort and capacity to move, but on your mind. Just as laughing and smiling, even forcibly, can help lift a foul mood, sitting utterly upright, head high with your shoulders thrust back to “open your heart” exerts a powerful influence on your mind. It is serene, restorative, dignified. Mix well with endorphins and you’re getting there. I love watching people set off on Dutch bikes for the first time, seeing the initial wobbles of the unweighted handlebars relax a block later into a yogic smile and regal poise.

And on those test-ride occasions I try to keep the tech talk short, because the ride is where it’s at, but do have a look at the stick riders below. Note in particular the angles of torso and leg (red) and the mean inclination of the legs (green) to the ground. The green angle correlates to the bike’s seat tube angle and the red loosely to the position of the handlebars in relation to the seat.
bike ergonomics

The familiar racer’s posture has a sharp torso angle to let the buttocks–the biggest muscle group in the body–contribute optimally to turning the pedals, and a steep seat tube angle, ~73-75 degrees. These conspire to produce good aerodynamics and good power on a light, compact frame. Comfort isn’t a priority; it’s all about winning, the sheer thrill of speed, and the resilience of young bodies. The Tour/MTB/Hybrid (which I’ll just call mountain) posture may be understood simply as a more moderate application of similar principles, to support a higher degree of comfort into older ages and on longer rides while still accommodating out-of-the-saddle effort and reasonable aerodynamics. The seat tube angle is typically 72-73.5 degrees. This is by far the most popular “serious” bike fit in the US, and it is well-matched to the popular idea that bicycling is something you undertake for some hurts-so-good exercise and sporty fun, even if you’re just commuting or hauling some groceries home. It’s ubiquitous; people shopping for such bikes are often reduced to hours of online research trying to tease out how much better an LX derailleur is than an Acera, or similar differentiating trifles. Our folding bike selection supports this fit, but not our Dutch bikes.

Until recently, those in North America seeking more comfort than the mountain posture supports have been offered mainly the “sit up and beg” option of the so-called comfort bikes (unless they were fortunate enough to have come across an old Raleigh, Schwinn or similar utility bike in serviceable condition, or resourceful/desperate enough to modify a bike extensively — you know who you are, you and your Technomics and Albatrosses and layback posts and 650Bs and all). comfortErgonomically, I think comfort bikes and their antecedants the cruisers, are sort of a disaster. They have the steep-ish seat tube angle of a mountain bike, and simply bring the bars much closer and higher. (The designers would appear still to buy into “the myth of KOPS.”) This results in a very shallow torso angle so the buttocks can’t help much with pedaling. You see riders of these bikes bobbing their torsos forward with each pedal stroke trying vainly to enlist more muscles to the aid of their smoking quadriceps. The saddles are appropriately broad to support the upright rotation of the pelvis, but all that broad tragic squishiness leads to chafing because the seat tube angle puts the pedals too nearly below the hips. A common compensation is to set the saddle too low, which only makes the other problems worse.

When Electra introduced their semi-recumbent “Townie” models they claimed “flat-foot technology” and “foot-forward design” as proprietary terms of art. townieThey were quickly copied by most other major bike manufacturers. Unlike comfort bikes they support an upright posture while retaining a good torso angle, thanks to the slack 63-degree seat tube angle (it actually varies by seat height). These bikes are admirably bold and pretty smart, though arguably too much of a good thing, and inarguably a bit weird looking. The extreme slackness of the seat tube angle means that vigorous pedaling tends to launch the rider off the back of the saddle, hence the chopper/ape-hanger style bars to hang on to; some come with back-rests even to push into, like the true flipped-turtle-style recumbents you see sometimes down there in the biodiesel tailpipe miasma. To date, you can’t buy one styled and equipped to suit a wide range of grown-up needs.

Which brings us back finally to Dutch bikes, which I’ll nominate the most grown-up of all bikes. Like the English bikes whose design they borrowed around the time the Wright brothers turned from bikes to powered gliders they have typically 65-67 degree seat tube angles. Uniquely among bikes discussed here, they impose no upper-body stress at all; you sit with your spine, neck and head as neutrally balanced as a column of acrobat’s balls, with your arms quite relaxed, elbows at your ribs. Yet your feet are far enough forward to enable reasonably efficient pedaling. Please don’t call it “sit up and beg”–that undignified moniker is a comfort/cruiser thing. There’s not much of an out-of-the-saddle story at all: there are no hills to speak of in the Netherlands. For that there are modern gearing systems, at least on the Dutch bikes Clever Cycles carries. Shimano’s latest technology makes flat Holland’s most mature and beloved bicycle designs work almost anywhere.

Dutch bikes are not about any sort of Euro-fetishism, nor do any of us have Dutch ancestry. It’s about the ride. Dutch position isn’t even exclusively Dutch. Older English, Danish, Chinese and Indian utility bikes: same deal — this is simply the most popular way to sit on a bike, ever, in terms of numbers, but it’s barely known in America. The Chinese call the posture “holding the bedpan,” and the free upper body poise there implied works for sipping coffee and hunting open wi-fi spots, too.

Come to the shop and try one, or five. We have fully lugged steel city bikes with 8-speed internal gearhubs, full chaincases, full-coverage fenders with giant mudflap, skirt/coat/boa guards, integrated wheel locks, front and rear hub dynamo lighting, sprung Brooks saddles, 47mm wide Schwalbe Marathon tires on 700c alloy rims, drum brakes, steering stabilizers, center stands, klingly bells, ultra-heavy-duty rear racks with frame-fixed front rack option. My god they weigh a smooth silent ton — potholes will fear your imperturbable momentum. Good for decades of stylish urban family mobility with minimal maintenance, all seasons and times.

O and baskets, transverse panniers, front and rear kid seats — the whole deal.

naked bakfiets jousting

108 thoughts on “Dutchness”

  • lolop

    its funny how it seems that dutch bikes are a new thing in the US. Here, in Chile you can see all sorts of bikes, specially weird looking cargo bikes and custom Dutch bikes.

    Dutch Bikes are very comfortable and offer a relaxing ride, provided it is a short one. If you want to use it for daily commuting though its a different thing, personally i find that for longer daily rides I have to choose my path well and the bike is not very responsive when picking up speed and dodging potholes.
    Although i suppose there are not many potholes in the Netherlands

  • graham

    So, the downside of a "Dutch" style is speed? (on the flat or uphill?) How far can you go on a Dutch? in comparison to an MTB or whatever. I am coming to appreciate some of the aspects of a Dutch style bike, not least low maintenence and durability. How much of it can I get with the old school MTB I have now? Are there layback posts with enough rear set to give me the equivalent seatpost angle? How much do these beasts weigh? Is anyone making a longtail that will take an SM with these geometries? The retro look of these rankle, How much is necessary to the function? Sorry if this post seems completely negative, not my intent, I wonder how successfull something with the same geometry but more modern "finish" to the the look would sell? How many people buy these because of the cool retro look alone?

  • Bruce Wilson

    I'm still concerned about the fact that most of these bikes seem to be singlespeeds or three-speeders. Appropriate, perhaps, for a small, flat country like the Netherlands, but I have my doubts about how useful they would be in a hilly, or downright mountainous region. Our LBS here does sell them, but the owner says that customers are not very happy with them, as one really can't take them out of 'the flats' right by the river.

    I understand that some of these bikes do have up to eight speed gear hubs, which is better, but I'm not sure that these would be enough for really long, steep hills like we have in the Appalachians.

    I'm no techie, so if this is a silly idea, please disregard, but would it be possible to modify an eight-speeder by putting a double or triple chainring up front, thus giving one sixteen or twenty-four gears? Or are the two technologies totally incompatable?

  • Barbara Spencer
    Barbara Spencer June 27, 2007 at 1:27 am

    I will gladly pay you Tuesday for a granny bike today. I fondly remember my old Raleigh three-speed, and now I know why.

    When are you going to start selling online? Now would be good.

    Thanks for bringing these fine bikes to the USA.

  • Todd

    Bruce, a single-speed bike can be an easier climber than a 30-speed one. What's important here is not so much the number of gears, but the range they cover between high and low. As long as the low is low enough--even if it's the only speed on the bike--you can climb a wall (provided you can balance the bike at such low speeds).

    The bikes we sell in Portland have low enough low gears for Portland's hills with cargo for moderately fit people: generally below 30 gear inches. We can make them lower if necessary.

    As for the general ride-worthiness for "longer" rides... how long? Is a "commute" necessarily a long ride? I would not hesitate to ride a Dutch utility bike 20 miles. I would absolutely prefer it over most any other style of bike for under 10 miles, unless there were more than a few hundred feet of elevation change, or I were in a hurry or riding for thrills. I would think twice about 40 -- I mean I could make it slowly but would generally prefer a more speed/efficiency-oriented design. When I had a 9-miles-each-way commute in San Francisco, with hills and frequently fierce winds, my choice was a "sport touring" bike; it took me about 40 minutes in street clothes without breaking too much of a sweat. That same ride on a Dutch utility would likely run 50-55 sweet minutes.

  • Bruce Wilson

    Todd, if you are ever in Charleston, I invite you to take a singlespeed up into Edgegwood or Westmoreland or South Hills. Perhaps you are in good enough shape to do it, and if so I salute you.

    These people can tell you in more details about the conditions here: http://www.mountainstatewheelers.org/

  • Allan Folz

    <i>biodiesel tailpipe miasma</i>

    No doubt. I do not hate the internal combustion engine, but folks that think switching to bio-diesel somehow absolves them from the ills of their auto-addiction miss the point. There is far more wrong with car-culture than what it does to the air.

    As for the weight issue, it is blown completely out of proportion by marketing budgets and their hangers-on trying to up-sell and re-sell consumers. I am not saying weight does not matter, but 5 lbs either way on a sub-10 mile ride is not worth the pixels I've just burned typing about it. An order of magnitude more important is the geometry and the suitability of the bike to just hop-on and go. You know, like people do with their cars... hop-in and go.

  • Todd

    Asking how much a beautiful, sensible, comfortable bike weighs is like asking a beautiful, sensible, easygoing person the dimensions of their sex organs. Especially if you ask in the first 30 seconds. It's not that you can't be curious, but it's sort of a vulgar preoccupation whose real significance to happiness is vastly overstated.

  • Erik Sandblom

    Bruce, what Todd means is that the gears on a three-speed or an eight-speed are grouped together. So you can have a bike mechanic move the whole group for you. Move them down, and you can climb hills but the top speeds will be lower. Move them up, and you can go real fast downhill or with the wind in your back.

    My three-speed used to be pretty fast. I would go well over 30 km/h in third gear. But it was really hard work to get groceries up the hill. So after learning the things we are talking about now, I had the bike shop gear it down for me. Now it's a joy to take up the hill with groceries, but the price is that other cyclists pass me on the flats, because I find it hard to top 25 km/h. So the gears used to be grouped together up at the top of the scale, and now they're all down at the bottom instead.

    If you look at my speed, with the old configuration I was happy pedalling at about 20 km/h in first and about 35 km/h in third, and with the new one it's about 12 in first and 22 in third. So the new configuration is much better for slowly getting up moderate hills.

    So as you see, with a three-speed, it's either a good hill climber, *or* fast on the flats. It can't be both. An eight-speed has roughly twice the range of a three-speed, so you might ask your bike dealer to set up the gears to make you go 8 km/h in first gear and 24 km/h in eighth gear, or about five to fifteen miles per hour. I think that's what Todd is doing regarding the bottom gear being below 30 inches.

    Technically you could have an eight-speed where, on the slowest gear, you go about walking speed or 4 km/h. But in top gear you would only be going 12 km/h or three times walking speed. So that might be a little impractical, and it would be better to simply go around the steepest hills, or using a bike with more gears, or using electric assist.

    Bottom line. On an eight-speed, your top gear is three times as fast as your bottom gear, and you can have the bike shop set the bottom gear as slow as you like. It's just that the top gear will be that much slower too, because the gears are grouped together.

  • Ash

    Bruce, a double or triple is easy on a hub geared bike, or at least it was in my case. I took my almost 20 year old 10 speed road bike and slotted in a Shimano 3 speed laced into a 27" steel rim (hey, it was free!) But, like you I live in a hilly area and was concerned that 3 speeds wouldn't be enough spread, so I took a mountain bike triple chainring and put it up front. I retained the derailer for chain tensioning and shift the whole thing (including the hub) with the original friction shifters. I use all 9 speeds but I'm forced to concede that my 21 speed mountain bike has a better spread with so many inbetween gears, I mainly notice this on the flat though, not when climbing as the hub bike is a superb climber thanks to the triple. I love the hub bike, hub gears are great.

  • Bruce Alan Wilson
    Bruce Alan Wilson June 27, 2007 at 1:24 pm


    Thanks. I've never seen a setup like that, so I thought that perhaps there was some technical reason why it wouldn't work.

  • Allan Folz

    <i>Asking how much a beautiful, sensible, comfortable bike weighs is like asking a beautiful, sensible, easygoing person...</i>

    Hahahahaha. I can't believe that went by with not a comment. So I will... I completely agree. Though, I'd probably shoot for a less graphic analogy and say asking the weight of a beautiful bike is like asking the weight of a beautiful woman. Not only would a gentleman never ask, he would never think to ask.

    First, it is self-evident, so why ask? Second, it is entirely a 2nd-order effect. If a woman is beautiful does it not follow she weighs that which makes her beautiful? In a sense it is asking what comes first, the beauty or the weight. Well, obviously the beauty. Indeed, if weight is of primary importance as some seem to be suggesting, then if they find a woman beautiful they must admit her weight is perfect, whatever it is. So, again, why ask?

    Now, having said that, I probably have to answer why in my post on Pereira's long-tail about the first thing I mentioned was the bike's weight. Well, a couple reasons. The grey-beards around here probably remember a few lengthy posts where I suggested certain long-tails were, um, too fat. Guys were bragging about weight like coaches at an East German Olympic weight-lifting trial. I said a long-tail could be sevelt and eventually set out to show it. Second, long-tails are a new thing few people have experience with so their weight is not as self-evident as with single bikes and women. Third, people have been conditioned to ask, so why fight it? Unless of course the thread is about fighting it, which is where this one has partly gone.


  • Logan

    Haha. Awesome analogies. Are there any plans to sell online soon? Curious and car-less in California.

  • Erik Sandblom

    Bruce, Ash, internal and external gears can be combined. Sram sells a three-speed with external casette, called the dual drive.

    But the advantage of just internal gears and nothing else is that it's very low-maintenance and easy to use. For a non-technical person, the derailleur and chain tensioner on Ash's nine-speed will be fiddly to adjust and maintain, and can easily break. If you have a nearby bike store where they can fix things quickly, derailleurs don't have to be a problem even for non-technical people.

    The disadvantage of all-internal is that internal gears are a little less efficient than external gears, but that's only true if you keep the external gears and chain very clean. That's a lot of work on a bicycle you use every day in all weather.

    Internal gears by themselves also have smaller range, which means that you can't have a hill-climber *and* a fast downhill bike at the same time. If you really want internal gears but are anxious about hill-climbing, you can either gear it low or get a more expensive hub such as the Rohloff or the Sram nine-speed. These are the best of both worlds but quite expensive.

  • Alan Braggins

    Apart from the excellent but pricey <a href="http://www.rohloff.de/en/products/speedhub/index.html" rel="nofollow">Rohloff</a> (14 evenly spaced gears, which is as many different usable gears as a typical derailleur system (you might have 27 gears, but the ranges of the three chainwheels overlap, and you shouldn't run small-small or big-big chainring-sprocket combinations)), another way to get a wider gear range is the <a href="http://www.schlumpf.ch/" rel="nofollow">Schlumpf</a> drives, which use epicyclic gears (like a hub gear), but in the bottom bracket, with a switch between the two gear ranges operated with your heel. Also not cheap (but not as expensive as a Rohloff).
    And unlike the SRAM dual-drive, you can still use a fully enclosed chaincase and 1/8" chain, so your chain will last for years.

    But an 8-speed Shimano hub will be enough for many people who aren't racing, even in hilly areas, if you just make the low gear low enough.

  • Val

    When I had the good fortune to spend a month riding in the Netherlands some years ago, I learned a lot. One of those lessons came when I made a trip of several days through Luxembourg. Once I crossed the border, I got the impression that the reason that the Netherlands were so flat was that all the hills had been compressed into Luxembourg. The terrain was mostly vertical, with ridges and ravines alternating with precipices and valleys. After most of a day struggling up and down this stuff on my touring bike (30-108 gear inches), I stopped at a roadside campsite. There I met a very nice Dutch couple who were also cycle touring, on a pair of omafietsen. We spent the evening talking, but it was not until the next morning that I truly appreciated the enormity of their undertaking. Each of them was carrying at least 50 pounds of gear in the traditional huge Dutch saddlebags, and piled high on the rear racks. I examined the bikes more closely - they were well used, repainted black several times with spray cans, dented, rusty, and faithful. They also had one speed coaster brake rear hubs, and no front brake. I was amazed. The bikes themselves were heavy enough that most Americans would not deign to ride them around the block, and yet here they were, touring in the vertiginous slopes of Luxembourg. I had to ask: "Isn't it difficult to ride in these hills without gears?" "Oh, well, the hills.." the fellow replied, "well, you know, you just push a little harder, and eventually you get to the top." I had nothing to say to that. I was in awe. The morals are: 1. It's not the bike that gets you up the hills, it's the motor. 2. It's not the flat terrain that makes the Dutch such great cyclists, it's their attitude. I aim to emulate.

  • Ash

    Hi Eric, the rear derailer is the chain tensioner on my bike. There's no adjustments, I simply tweaked the limit stop screws so it was in alignment with the sprocket on the hub and that's it, set and forget. I can't imagine it will break any time soon :-)

  • Bill Manewal

    Val, your story reminds me of an experience I had way too many years ago (1968) buying my first bike in San Francisco. The old American Cyclery shop was run by a very knowledgeable and helpful curmudgeon Oscar who must have been over 70 years old. I was deciding on what gear setup to get on my Dawes Galaxy and he asked me a simple basic question that I can't imagine being asked today. He asked, "Do you want to ride up every hill you come to, or is walking your bike up some hills OK?"

    So why isn't that question asked today? Probably because we are so used to what I believe Aldous Huxley called the only sin modern man has been able to add to the classic seven deadly: the sin of acceleration. And, I would add, the sin of convenience.

    Yes, you just push a little harder. Or get stoked!

  • miketually

    If you take a look around Sheldon Brown's website, you'll find it's possible to combine a triple chainring, with a hub gear and a rear sprocket cluster. Some cargo trikes use a set up like this, for a huge range of gears, including super-low.

  • Rex

    Isn’t it a little hypocritical for the “bicycles will save the world” crowd to be fawning over Dutch bikes being sold in Cascadia. I mean, how many rants have I heard about, anti-globalization, eat local foods, consume less, etc. Yet we think it is cool that lots of people are all lining up to pay a premium price for a foreign made luxury item. What is the carbon footprint of a 50 lb bicycle that has been shipped 5,000 miles? What would James Kuntsler say?

    If Todd had filled his shop with sub-$100 Chinese one-speeds that offer as much functionally, would we still be drooling? Or would we be talking about sweatshops, and how these bikes should be made here?

    Where is the love for Schwinn, they were building bikes in the U.S. with similar function and durability as the Dutch bikes for generations, and the bicycle community thumbed their noses at them. The were not light enough or racy enough.

    Don’t get me wrong, I am drooling too. These bikes are cool, they have style and function that will turn heads and perhaps make people think. However, I guess I am more excited to the see the next generation of bikes. Bikes built here in the NW, that will take the style and durability of these bikes and adapted to our corner of the planet.

  • Todd

    Rex, I object to your characterization of these as luxury items given their real utilitarian value. People *are* selling cars to buy these, unlike cheaper bikes (or more expensive recreational ones, for that matter). Practical bikes are irreducibly frugal, I think, in the context of what even the poor are sometimes proud to spend on cars. If they are handsome and pleasurable to use as well, does that count against? As for costs, I'm thrilled to promote utility biking as an indicator as well as an instrument of economic well-being, something elegant to aspire to, instead of as something for young people to endure until they finally grow up and accept the yoke of car payments.

    I'm not equipped to do a complete carbon footprint analysis (nor, I think, are the people casually insisting these bikes must be egregious in that regard). But the fact that these bikes are shipped from afar is a very minor part of it. Container freight is extraordinarily energy efficient, unlike cars and trucks, bio-diesel/plugin or whatever. I'm guesstimating that the fuel used to ship one bike here from the Netherlands (as part of a container) is comparable to what typical US families spend on fuel *every week*. Used as designed to free people from dependence on heavy motor transport around town (including the bus), I suspect these bikes can offset their shipping footprint many, many times a year, every year for decades.

    Nobody who has ridden one of these bikes alongside a sub-$100 Chinese one-speed would assert that they offer equivalent functionality. The frame designs may be similarly venerable, but the componentry and construction quality is not at all comparable. Wide-range hub gearing, integral lighting, Brooks saddle, etc. are not frills; they can be the difference between appealingly comfortable, safe, convenient and reliable, and not. Dollar for dollar, you have a point, but you could say the same thing about walking versus riding a $50 bike (unless of course you were wearing foreign-made luxury shoes... everybody knows that barefoot is best right?).

    It's a shame what happened to Schwinn. I hope (and trust, even) that as the value of our currency slides further to reflect our nation's ability to make valuable things in an increasingly fuel-strapped world, we'll see their like again. The pendulum that brought Schwinn down is swinging the other way now, I think. Until then, take your pick of cheap Asian, expensive European, or stratospheric artisanal local bike fabrication with long waiting periods. And of course you can find fantastic values among used bikes if you're knowledgeable and patient. I think they're all defensible choices, all more energy frugal and better for our bodies, neighborhoods and minds than any car.

  • Donna

    Rex's quote: Where is the love for Schwinn, they were building bikes in the U.S. with similar function and durability as the Dutch bikes for generations, and the bicycle community thumbed their noses at them. The were not light enough or racy enough.

    Where I grew up, we all had Schwinns like that. No one I knew thumbed their noses at them. I couldn't care less about weight. I'm not riding in some athletic competition, nor do I have any plans to do so. The problem is that those Schwinns haven't been made for a very long time. There have been some great advances since then. I want one with an 8 speed internal hub, a generator hub in the front for my lights, and aluminum rims for good braking.

    Rex's quote: Don’t get me wrong, I am drooling too. These bikes are cool, they have style and function that will turn heads and perhaps make people think. However, I guess I am more excited to the see the next generation of bikes. Bikes built here in the NW, that will take the style and durability of these bikes and adapted to our corner of the planet.

    Who is making those besides the custom builders? I'm not some great mechanical expert with a shop full of tools who is going to go out and build my own bike, so where are these NW bikes available for purchase?

  • Erik Sandblom

    Rex, here are some websites where you can see the carbon dioxide emissions of air freight and of driving:


    SAS says it takes them 100kg of carbon dioxide emissions to fly a 20kg bicycle from Amsterdam to Seattle.

    Volvo says their saloon/sedan cars emit about 200g of carbon dioxide per kilometre.

    So let's say you ride your bicycle ten kilometres per day (6,25 miles) instead of driving. That's two kilos per day (4,4 pounds). If your heavy Dutch bike weighs 20 kilos and is flown in from Europe, you've compensated the air transport in fifty days, say ten weeks.

    You can easily check the carbon dioxide emissions of most car models by looking up the manufacturer's website for Britain. For example, www.volvocars.co.uk This is because the European Union requires CO2 emissions to be listed in all car advertising and brochures etc. For transportation, maybe you might try the same trick; look up the same courier's website for different countries.

    Maersk says their container ships are 66 times more efficient on carbon dioxide than air transport.

  • Licketyssplit
    Licketyssplit July 1, 2007 at 4:48 pm

    Todd wrote:

    "Asking how much a beautiful, sensible, comfortable bike weighs is like asking a beautiful, sensible, easygoing person the dimensions of their sex organs. Especially if you ask in the first 30 seconds. It’s not that you can’t be curious, but it’s sort of a vulgar preoccupation whose real significance to happiness is vastly overstated."

    LOL! Nicely put.

    However, as an owner of one of these beautiful beasts, the weight-factor is an issue. Trying to lug that 50-lb brute (my best estimate) up a few flights of stairs is not easy. Keep in mind the down-curved tube -- you can't hook it over your shoulder. Mine is a three-speed, so anything other than modest hills become daunting. For a stronger rider, that might not be an issue -- factor in rider-skill and athleticism, here (which are sorely lacking on my part).

    Very lovely bike, well-built, but frankly, I get more use out of my low-end hybrid.

  • Bill Manewal

    Licketyssplit wrote:

    "Mine is a three-speed, so anything other than modest hills become daunting."

    As has been pointed out elsewhere, the inexpensive solution is a new front chainring.

    The ultimate solution may be a Rohloff, which may appear expensive until one remembers that it's replacing a car's transmission in your life. Then it's cheap! Mine cost me less than a year's car insurance.

  • Erik Sandblom

    Licketyssplit, Todd often points out that these bikes live outside and are thus not meant to be carried up stairs. If you need to carry a bike with a down-curved tube, you can hook the saddle over your shoulder.

  • Scott Atwood

    Eric, I'm not sure where you live, but in my neighborhood leaving a bike outside would simply be an invitation for it to get stolen. Ever since I had two locked bikes stolen out of the communal garage of my apartment complex, I always carry my bikes upstairs to my third floor apartment.

    As for carrying a U-frame bike, I concur that hooking the saddle over your shoulder is probably the easiest way. Breezer U-frame bikes also have a low bracing tube between the down tube and seat tube that makes a convenient handle when carrying the bike.

  • Licketyssplit
    Licketyssplit July 2, 2007 at 6:12 pm

    Thanks, cats. I'll try hooking the seat-nose over my shoulder when I lug it up and down stairs. Looking at the beast as I type, with its rather snub-nosed saddle, I'm not entirely convinced, but I've been proven wrong so often in the past, I will welcome the comeuppance.

    I'm still going to expect a sharp right hook to the chin from the handle bars, though. Seriously, those things have a mind of their own.


  • Licketyssplit
    Licketyssplit July 2, 2007 at 6:15 pm

    Bill, I will give that chainring upgrade some serious thought. In the meantime, I'll experiment with increasing my leg strength and skills (and ditching some body weight). Thank you for the suggestion.

  • rb

    Excellent graphic representing different riding positions.

    I think that these Dutch bikes look great. I can see that they would be very practical for fetching the groceries, riding to the train etc.

    I have a bunch of bikes, but for the last two years, I find myself using my 60s(?) Raleigh Sports 3 speed the most. It is most comfortable to sit upright, which looks to be a similar position to the Dutch bikes.

    I think that the weight may be an issue for me, as there are times where my bike needs to be lugged on the commuter rail or carried up apartment stairs. I will withold judgement until I get the chance to test ride one of these steeds, though.

    I have been considering a Breezer due to the aluminum frame. Does anyone have thoughts on these bikes?

  • Todd

    rb, on features/price, the <a href="http://www.breezerbikes.com/bike_details.cfm?bikeType=town&frame=u&bike=uptown&new=true" rel="nofollow">new Uptown 8</a> with full chaincase looks outstanding. I have not ridden a Breezer, but it's obvious that the riding position and feel will be a major difference vs. Dutch. Our current Dutch bikes have a longer wheelbase, larger wheels and higher-volume, higher-spec tires for more cush over rough surfaces, and beefier frames and racks for heavier cargo/passenger loads. I'm guessing the Breezer will be at least 10 pounds lighter. Then there are looks and style: classic artisanal lugged steel vs. robot tig welding, sprung Brooks vs. padded plastic saddle, no-label black with gold pinstriping vs. candy colors with big decals, etc.

  • Erik Sandblom

    Scott, if your bike gets stolen from inside your garage, I'd say that's a problem of law and order, of society, rather than a bicycle issue.

  • Matt


    In regards to gearing, I wrote up a comparison between stock English 3-speed roadster gearing, the same hub with a lowered range, the Shimano Nexus 8-speed hub, a classic 1970s ten-speed and my modern Atlantis with 3 chainrings and 9 gears in the cluster. For those who find the three-speeds' ranges too high, this shows how you can move the range down with smaller chainring/larger cog combinations. For those interested in the Nexus 8-speed (or SRAM's new i-motion 9-speed), you can see how much of a range those cover. Seeing the limitations of the ten speed and the hordes of duplicates or close matches on the 27-speed is also interesting. You can bypass my boring text and go right to page 4 to see the graph. If you do read the boring text, you'll see references in there to the 2007 Lake Pepin Three Speed Tur, and a couple of specific climbs on that ride.

    The gearing stuff: <a href="http://www.uscoles.com/threespeedgearing.pdf" rel="nofollow">Three Speed Gearing</a>
    The Three Speed Tour: <a href="http://www.uscoles.com/073speedtour.html" rel="nofollow">My Account of the 2007 Lake Pepin Three Speed Tour</a>

  • Todd

    I hope you'll be pleased to know, Matt, that I printed your gearing chart shortly after we opened as a teaching aid.

  • Matt

    Hey, that's cool! One of my local bike shops sells Bianchi Milanos and I was in buying a cable or something and overheard a lady concerned about only having eight gears and not twenty four or something. I thought about taking them my chart but that assumes that their goal is to sell eight speed bikes rather than derailleur bikes, so I still haven't done it.

  • Mike

    Matt -

    Nice work on the gearing chart.
    Wishing that I knew about internal hubs last summer when I built up my dream rando bike. I've been fussing with rings and cogs trying to find the perfect spread... and it looks like the Nexus would do it, and as I $plurged on the Campy I could have gone Rolhoff for the same money.

    Sigh. So many bikes, so little time.

    Todd -
    Do you have any long Bakfiets covers in stock? I'm looking for a kid canopy...


  • George

    Hi Todd, my compliments on your great efforts and results. I have a respectful and perhaps naive question about the Dutch riding position, in connection with something I read once. What I read was that the common-in-the-U.S. bent-forward riding position allows a person's back to form a kind of suspension, such that hitting an unseen pothole will not shock the spine. In contrast, the article alleged, a ~vertical-spine riding position on an unsuspended bike/seatpost will transmit major road imperfections up the spine, to the detriment of spine health. So, my question is whether anyone has heard about such an allegation and whether there is a real basis to it. On the one hand, I'm tempted to say that so many riders in Europe and Asia can't be wrong. On the other hand, very many people in, e.g., Asia smoke tobacco, and so I shouldn't just trust the masses. By the way, I'm not trying to say that the leaning-forward riding position is comfortable or great or better (except perhaps in this one pothole-related dimension). Also, I don't think this is too nerdy a question because plenty of long-time bike riders have switched to recumbents due to not-quite-right-anymore spines, and so back health is quite a legitimate concern, in my opinion.

    Thanks for any expertise.

    -- George :-)

  • Todd

    George, I don't pretend to be an expert in back health. I do have at least one damaged disc at L5-S1, and a long history of neck trouble. Neither issue seems obviously correlated with my posture on bikes, though I suppose that would change if I were to take up time-trialing and adopt an aero roadie position (not likely).

    I suspect the suspension effect you describe with bent-forward positions depends not so much on the inclination of the spine to the ground as upon the legs and arms providing active suspension. You don't sit like a sack of potatoes on a bent-forward bike; rather you distribute your weight across hands, legs, saddle. This suspension scheme depends on maintaining a certain intensity level in your riding; you pedal harder to help unweight your hands and butt. In short, bikes that are appropriate for higher-intensity riding are relatively uncomfortable to ride at low intensity. Note I said relatively: there are certainly many bend-forward bikes that are quite acceptably comfortable for relaxed riding, and they're fine and not going away. But they're not as comfortable as the Dutch posture.

    Dutch utility bikes come with sprung saddles, almost as a matter of course, to absorb road shock. They also tend to have larger wheels (28") with fat tires at low pressure, long wheelbases, and steel frames (springy) to suck up the shock.

  • derek

    Nice to meet you and check out the place yesterday! Kinda bummed we were so rushed. I really would have liked to hang out and chat a bit more. Next time!


  • christian

    Another option worth considering (not that you folks seem to need more projects :-) ) is setting up Surly LHTs with a Dutch-style riding position. This might appeal to some customers seeking a bike for longer trips and other uses as well.

    The Surly complete LHTs http://www.surlybikes.com/lht_comp.html , which go for about $1k when they can keep them in stock, could be modified with taller stems and the aforementioned Nitto Albatross bars. You'd need new brake levers, cables, housing, but you could keep the bar end shifters. I'd imagine that the additional parts (not labor) cost would be ~$100 .

    I'm enthusiastic because I did this myself (using parts I already had--not the LHT complete bike)and ended up with a great commuter, as well as a bike I like to ride on dirt roads and just about everywhere else. The long wheelbase + high bars make for a bike that feels lots like ones I rented in Amsterdam a number of years ago.

    Here's mine (which is fancier than necessary -- http://www.flickr.com/photos/halibut5000/264403326/ ).


  • Aaron Goss

    Bikes are a world product. At my shop we try to buy and sell bikes from the USA, but truth is customers have budgets and the Chineese made bikes meet folks budgets. As Peak Oil's effects become more pronounced, bike manufacturing may shift back to the USA. It is already here, but it is quite expensive. The time will come, however, when you can trade a bag of produce for a bike. In the meantime, please give Todd a break. He is selling quality bikes the REPLACE your car! I would hang him from the nearest tree if he were selling cars! But he is selling bikes! A World Product!

    Every single one of you can now go look at your tires or tubes and see where they are made. How about your grips or tape, or your saddle, or your frame tubes, or your spokes or rims, or handlebars. Most bikes have between 3 and 5 countries of origin parts on them! Event he Made in China bikes may have parts from another country!

    Manufacturing bikes (or anything) is expensive. Americans demand high wages and low prices. We say we want to support the LBS but complain about their prices and shop mail order. We say we support Unions and CSAs and Cottage Industry, but Fred Meyer and WalMart still exist.

    Bikes are good, now matter what. Even China bikes are OK in my book!

    Yeah, Bikes!

  • Bruce Alan Wilson
    Bruce Alan Wilson July 8, 2007 at 11:08 am


    There is an article about Dutch cargo bikes which mentions CleverCycles specifically.

  • Todd

    Interesting story on increase in Dutch riding.

  • David

    For RB above, who asked about Breezer Bikes. I dig 'em a lot, especially the Freedom, the three speed one, with painted-to-match steel fenders. A wald basket up front and some reflective tape and blinky lights and you're good to go. It won't provide a full dutch position, I don't think, but it's been a while since I rode one.

    Also, Breezer makes the best grocery pannier around, and a nice "other-side" pannier called the allyearrounder, or something, that is sold as a single, and claims to be fully h2o-proof.

  • Andy B from Jersey
    Andy B from Jersey July 10, 2007 at 3:48 pm

    Finally someone gets it besides me! About the convenience of the Dutch bike (I call it a "Town Bike") position that is.

    Couple of points and stuff brought up.

    I own a 1970's 3Speed (Shimano), 35lb+, Ross Eurotour that I found in the trash in nearly perfect stock working order (This is one of the FEW advantages of living in a bicycle ignorant part of the US). This bike is now my main daily ride. My custom made IF Mountain bike and lugged Campy equipped Ciocc Italian road bike (plus several others) now collect dust on most days. This bike is perfect for going to work in normal cloths and still remarkably fast. In fact it is much faster then my other "sport" bikes for my daily commute to work because I don't need to spend time packing and then changing into office cloths. Plus its just a real hoot and fun to ride!

    Where I live in central New Jersey there are some steep but short hills and the 3Speed tackles these just fine. I just get out of the saddle and go. The big prolonged hills of cities like Portland, Seattle or San Fran might be more cumbersome. However there is nothing in New York or Philly that this bike could not take on, including all the big bridges and the hills of northern Manhattan and the Bronx.

    I also road my Ross on a 40 mile charity ride last summer to prove a point about the benefits of the practical Town/Dutch Bike. Now, I'm still a rather fit, if not a slightly overweight cyclist but I was smiling and having a great time at the end of the ride, often leading the pack. I could have done more 10 or 20 more miles if need be. I was also wearing regular cloths (shorts, t-shirt, sneakers). These bikes CAN do distance mostly because the position is so comfortable but also the position itself makes you not want to go too fast (15+ mph) which also ends up saving energy from undue drag. You just want to loaf along at 10 or 12 mph enjoying the view.

    Finally, there is an American company making an inexpensive practical work bike and much, much more (Who do you think makes the hotdog vending carts??)!!

    Workman Cycles of Ozone Park, Queens, NYC. (Yeah! Howya' Doin'. You gotta' problem wit dat?) http://www.worksmancycles.com/
    Family owned for over 100 years with frames still made in-house in Queens, NY USA! Bikes start at $299. Take that, Chinese import!! And since they're made in NYC, they gotta' be tuff.

    Okay, enough food for thought for now. Keep up the good work out there in Portland. I do have Stokemonkey bakfiet dreams.

  • Greg

    One way to put an upper bound on the energy costs shipping the bikes from Holland is to simply assume that the whole transport cost represents energy costs (likely mostly bunker oil in this case). Translate that into carbon and you've pretty much got an upper bound, I'd imagine. And even so, I'd guess that Todd is right that's it's worthwhile to ship the bike given the lack of equivalent (esp. cost-wise) locally sourced choices.

    (And last time I checked a custom frame alone costs around what the entire dutch bike costs.)

    My new commuter is going to be made up off Japanese and Chinese(?) (shimano bits), Taiwanese (frame/fork), and even Swiss (spokes) parts. As Aaron says its a world bike market. It would be interesting to know what the carbon footprint of building and shipping the whole thing is, but I'd guess that energy represents a small fraction of the total cost of the thing.

    (And I think the Peak Oil folks miss out on how that's not going to change. The end of cheap oil will only mean local production for things that are heavy compared to their value. For everything but very low end bikes I'm guessing that energy represents a small part of the costs of the delivered good. And low end bikes may just disappear - new very inexpensive Chinese bikes will simply no longer be a sales category. However, the Workman link above (thanks! Andy B) suggests that somewhat inexpensive bikes can still be made in the US. I'd guess even Workman sources many of it's parts from China.)

  • Mike

    My guesstimates are that you can ship a whole container of Dutch bikes across the country cheaper than you can build 1 custom bike locally. Factor in the journey they make over the Atlantic and you still don't even get close - and this is for shipping and handling alone. It is a world bike market - and hopefully these things will start to change to more locally produced products - but the resources to make nearly anything we use are part of the similar system - aluminum, steel, rubber, cork, etc. etc. If I were to live locally (say 100 miles) I'd live in a stone and wooden house with a slate roof (not sure how to get the slate here from the southern part of the state), and I could ride a wooden bike with wooden wheels. I might use a locally produced abacus (pebbles and wood) for my 'computing' and I could eat lots of cheese, milk, some meat and maple syrup most of the year, and other goodness when its in season. For the balance of my living - including typing this message on the vast internet - we are typically tied to global systems. I, like many, want to support my local economy, food coop, local producers and small businesses - but I find it humorous that people can rag on Todd for bringing in Dutch bikes while they type away on their computers - probably some of the most environmentally degrading machines we've ever made (on a waste per unit manufactured basis).

  • Mike

    @ Bruce -

    I just took delivery of a Bakfiets and will be testing it in the hills and valleys of northern Vermont. I'm awaiting a change to the gearing - the spread on the Nexus 8 is 300+% in 8 slightly uneven steps. As a stock bike it works pretty well - and I've managed to climb some of our local hills lightly loaded. Looking at the Dutch city bikes I'd probably drop that gearing a bit as well. Hopefully we'll find a solution that will allow me to load up the camping gear and do some S24Os with the Bak - not because I have to - but because I think its entirely possible and think its a blast to cruise down the road on my human powered box truck.

    Since I'm coming at this from the randonneuring / light touring side of the 'sport' of cycling I've come to appreciate setting up a bike's gearing for what you need to get over, when you are sleep deprived and tired from a 24 or 40 hour event. My rando bike is set up to get me up hills. Getting down is the easiest part. I'll take this approach with any bike - Dutch or not.

    Its also important to remember that solutions to transport problems are as much about locality as they are about any specific technology or vehicle. You don't see 747's being used to take mail from Kansas City to Wichita, and you typically don't see skinny wheels with tight, high gearing tooling around the single track. In many of your posts here you take a fairly negative stance about a specifically defined solution that folks are applying to their local environment. You really shouldn't fault the hammer for being good at driving and pulling nails when you may need a screwdriver.

  • Bruce Alan Wilson
    Bruce Alan Wilson July 16, 2007 at 4:45 pm


    I liked what I read about the Schlumpf. The Rohloff--well, I'm afraid that being a stupid Humanities major I couldn't quite understand it. I've sent the link to my cousin who's a Mechanical Engineer; my Aunt, his mother, is a retired English teacher, so he's used to translation techspeak into humanistspeak.

  • Alan Braggins

    Here's a couple more Rohloff hub links, but they are fairly full of techspeak too.

    The condensed version - it uses precision engineering to pack more gears than you thought possible into a hub gear, and it's priced accordingly.

    Advantages over other hub gears: more gears, giving both finer steps and a larger overall range.
    Advantages over derailleur gears (shared with other hub gears): simpler to use (a single control, no disallowed or overlapping gears), can be changed while stopped, needs less maintainence.
    Disadvantages: cost, limited choice of gear changers (there are some options for drop handlebars, but if you really really like bar-ends or STIs and don't like twist grips, too bad), <em>very slightly</em> less efficient than a good <em>well-maintained</em> derailleur system, limits on allowable torque that aren't a problem in normal use but might be on a loaded touring tandem or heavy cargo bike.

    (All this is from reading about it, not personal experience. Basically opinions seem to divide into "they are great, and I'm glad I got mine, even though they are expensive" and "they sound great, but I can't afford one".)

  • Bruce Wilson


    I'll be interested to hear your report of how well the machine works in Vermont; the terrain there is, from what I have heard and seen in pictures, not unlike WV.

  • Mike

    Bruce -

    Changed some things tonight and climbed a short and sweet 8-9% grade unloaded - slow and steady, in the dark with the generator light showing me the way. I'm going to try a slightly longer grade @ 6-7% tomorrow on my way home from my pet food run - I'll have close to 120 pounds in the box. Add 70 for the bike and nearly 200 for me and I'll be moving close to 400 pounds down the road, under my own steam. The hills nearby in town can be steep - but they all tend to be relatively short - I think the run from the lake to the college is just about 1.5 miles - steady, and steep in places, probably topping out at 8%.

    The setup I'm using needs to be fine tuned a bit. I rummaged through my parts bin to make the tweaks tonight - and I didn't have the ideal components on hand. Pulled a crank off my Bridgestone and a chainring off a Ritchie racing compact, and then used a gold BMX chain to get it all rolling. Improvisation and bling...

    Here's what I've found:
    The stock gearing on my Bak was a 44t front chainring and a 22t rear cog. With the Nexus 8 this gives me a range from 27.4 gear inches to 84 gear inches. @80 RPM thats 6.5 mph on the low end and 20 mph on the high end! I'm not really sure I need to be racing around at 20 mph with 100+ pounds of cargo - so I swapped the cranks (I didn't have anything in the parts bin that would work with the stock cranks) and mounted up a 34t front ring. The new range is from 21.2 to 64.9 gear inches. Still a bit steep in my opinion for a cargo bike - @80 rpm thats 5 mph on the low end and 15.4 on the high end. I think my ideal will be with the low end just below 20 gear inches - perhaps with a cog / chainring combination that gets me to a low gear of 18 or so gear inches - @80 rpm thats 4.4 mph - @60 rpm thats 3.3 mph - just about where it starts to become hard to keep the bike upright. The high end will suffer - @ 80 rpm you'll be able to hit just under 14 mph - so going faster will require spinning higher revs. Moving to 100 rpm (I personally ride between 90 and 100 on average) will net 17 mph. Plenty fast for a utility bike in my book.

    I'd be curious as to how the Portland and Seattle Baks are set-up...

    Aside from my real world test tonight unladen (but I'm already making improvements) most of this is theoretical by way of Sheldon Brown's Nexus Gear Calculator:

    Of course, when Stokemonkeys become available for Bakfietsen some of this will need to be reworked, as I'll start looking at ideal combinations of man and monkey. I still doubt I'd push the high end though - cruising around with 200+ pounds up front @ 17+ mph seems plenty fast for me.

  • Ian Hopper

    Todd, you mentioned via email (or maybe it was on the phone) that you and Bill Manewal had had some issues with your Rohloffs wearing out prematurely under the increased torque of SM and cargo loads: do either of you have any idea how many miles you got out of your systems before you ran into a problem? I was under the impression that they were good for 50,000 km or something in that arena, but that's not with a SM or on a cargo bike... as you mentioned, no one is creating transmission parts that are up to the long term punishment that a Stokemonkeyed Cargobike (or even un-stokemonkeyed cargobike) can inflict. I'm just wondering what to expect from a Rohloff if I get one for SuperVato.

  • Todd

    You sure about that gearing Mike? All of our bakfietsen have come with 38T chainrings. We now spec a 19T cog, which is generally adequate for Portland's grades. 17T was borderline too high.

    We're not sure we'll ever support Stokemonkey for bakfietsen, not these ones anyway. We fear that the ultimate braking capability might not be up to the kinds of hills that Stokemonkey would let people operate in, fully loaded. It's not the brakes per se, but the amount of rubber on the road relative to the magnitudes of kinetic energy involved and the somewhat unfamiliar braking dynamics. We've contemplated maybe offering Stokemonkey only to people who have already owned a bakfiets for six or more months, so (a) they understand the braking issues and (b) they know whether they really want/need it. Last thing we want to do is interfere with people learning what they can do on their own power.

    The subject of touring on Dutch bikes is interesting to me. My initial assessment was "not a good choice" based simply on the notion that a good touring bike lets you put more of your muscles to most efficient use, and is lighter, and is a little bit more aero. But then I consider my experience of touring on such bikes, and I remember that my energy levels and speeds went through a boom-bust-boom-bust cycle everyday, and everyday I was quite exhausted by the end. I made good progress, mostly, but is that what touring is about?

    The thing about Dutch bikes is that your comfort on the bike doesn't really decrease as your energy levels sag. Also, they don't particularly reward furious effort. They don't leap out from underneath you as you stomp; rather it's like adding another penny to your momentum bank. All you have to do is maintain a positive momentum balance and you're going to be comfortably rolling ahead, enjoying the view. I think this might moderate the boom-bust energy cycle. It's tortoise and hare. If hills and headwinds make you get off and push occasionally, is that really so bad?

    They do handle lots of weight aboard beautifully. If you're reading this, <a href="http://cyclerslife.blogspot.com/" rel="nofollow">Joe with your new Opa</a>, giant frame-fixed front rack, Jan Heine's theses re "planing," and touring ambitions/experiments, feel free to chime in.

    It's been way, way too long since I toured properly.

  • Mike

    Todd -

    I stand corrected on the front ring. I was orignaly told when inquiring about the gearing before my purchase that it was 44t and 22t. When I inspected the front ring this morning it was the 38t ring as you describe. I'll have to go check the back cog now - if it is 17 or 19 I know I have room to move. The gearing I have on it now worked really well unladen last night. I'm assuming its 34x22 - but if there is a 19 on there I'll swap to the 22 and pick up a few more precious inches.

    Agreed on the SM part. I've been testing the brakes loaded and unloaded. I haven't pushed them to their ultimate limit yet - but I have noticed the front wheel and length of the bike creates for a different braking sensation. Counter intuitively from my normal riding experience I'm getting more stopping power out of the rear brake - due to the size of the wheel maybe? Or is there some truth to the rumor I read about some sort of limiter on the Shimano front roller brakes? (so you can't throw yourself over the bars) - which doesn't apply to cargo bikes.

    Sheldon Brown mentions a 'power modulator' for the front roller brakes:

    I have noticed the brakes fading a bit. I think adding the cooling fins to the spec will be helpful.

    I don't think I'd offer anyone a SM out of the box. On paper (as I've never used one) a SM really looks like a car killer. As a family we're close on getting rid of the vehicles... a SM Bak would probably seal the deal - although I'm curious to see how the Bak does this winter in the snow.

    Re: touring -
    As I ran into town to do groceries last night on the Bak I was thinking about brevets and touring. While I don't think I could do a brevet on a bak - (I'm not that strong of a rider on my 'go fast' bike) another Dutch bike might be the ticket. Sure, I wouldn't set any speed records - but like you I have noticed a very different set of bodily reactions - on my Bak I feel like I can ride forever - even if its slow going in the hills. The same run into town (with some bonus miles just to cruise around) is very different on my road bike and my fixed gear. I'm hoping to get an Oma or Opa here to Vermont - with a front and rear rack - and I think the set up would be quite nice for short camping trips to the mountains - less than an hours car drive away.

    What I find most interesting about riding Dutch is that I am constantly reminding myself to relax! I have this ingrained notion that when I'm on the bike I need to be working, and hunched over, and pushing. On the Bak it seems I arrive in style and comfort when I sit back, open my chest, enjoy the view, and let the bike and the body work together - its been enlightening to say the least. Your post above nailed the feeling one gets when riding this way. I think a long tour would be a riot. No, you can't stand up and hammer over this hill - you have to sit here and spin and smell the flowers and enjoy the view. My guess is your tortoise / hare proposition will hold true. You might be a bit slower at any given moment - but as you will probably keep moving, but not hitting any sort of energy bust and need to slow down to recover may have the Dutch tortoise rolling in respectably close to the touring hare - and in much better spirits.

    Off to check in on that gearing. The 34t front and ?? rear is pretty close.

  • Todd

    Ian, the trouble Bill and I had with our Rohloffs freakily around the same time turns out not to have had anything to do with the toughness of the hubs. I forget the details of Bill's (resolved) issue, while Aaron in Seattle's still got my hub awaiting me making up my mind what to do with it. He thinks the trouble was just with a really gunky/filthy external shift box. The Rohloff reportedly has some internal nylon "fuses" that will break before it is possible to break any of the metal parts.

  • Mike

    Todd, you are correct again. The cog (which I never checked as I took the spec I was sent at face value) is a 17t. Back to the drawing board, as I was basing my effort vs. the calcs I had of what I was told was on the bike. Swithching to a 22t should help for round these parts.

    Note to self: take everything apart and measure for yourself next time.

  • Val

    As far as doing Brevets on a dutch bike, check out Kent P.'s musings on "Life at 12 MPH" ( http://kentsbike.blogspot.com/ ). Apparently it's not all that hard, if you just keep going. He's not riding a Dutch bike, but he sure does have the attitude. Ride on, Kent!

  • Mike

    Val -

    Was thinking the same thought as I was typing my previous reply!

    What has been really refreshing about the Bak is the lack of 'cycling' stuff. I don't bother carrying a pump or spares or tools, I'm using flat touring pedals (but I did splurge on the powergrips), that really comfy totally upright position, a bouncy (and squeaky) Brooks sprung saddle, and cork grips. I rode into town today in my casual clothes, shopped, walked, and looked like a human being (although I was a little sweaty because I had the chance to pass a roadie on the MUP).

    Best of all there is no computer! No pace arrow to stay ahead of. No mileage ticking itself off. Just me, a bike, and a bell - and I do love the bell that comes on these things. Ding Ding.

  • Andy B from Jersey
    Andy B from Jersey July 18, 2007 at 2:27 pm

    Yeah I got a bell on the bars of my old Ross as well. The only other thing on those swept back bars is a 3AAA Battery LED Headlight that never comes off (or at least it hasn't been "taken off" as of yet). However I still like to go fast particularly down some of our "Jersey Hills." Its real fun to whip around turns at 15mph+ siting upright with the lazy slack head tube angle. I also like the response I get as I pass other cyclists on "more serious" bikes while riding the old Ross in office cloths. The bike is still remarkable fast but I just like to go fast and have never been one worry about the numbers riding around town.and fender

    What I really like to do on cooler days is ride my vintage Raleigh Roadster complete with "roller lever" brakes (rod actuated, no cables) and 28 inch wheels with a head tube so laid back that the front wheel and fender look like the hood of a big black Cadillac. I then wear my Scottish tweed jacket and English flat cap (yeah, yeah no helmet get the safety police on me) like a proper sporting gentleman. You want to talk strange about looks?!?! I would fit right in on the streets of Amsterdam or most other places in Europe without even a notice but in New Jersey I'm some sort of freak even though I'm better dressed than 99% of the slobs in their cars. But then again I love being the freak on the bike whose grinning ear to ear.

  • Ian Hopper

    Todd, perhaps you'd be willing to share the chainring and rear cog combo on your Rohloff equipped bike (I'm assuming it's the xtravois...)???

  • Suzanne

    I lived in Amsterdam for four years, car free. It is completely typical to see two or three teenagers on a 'dutch bike' or Oma fiets. One pedaling and one or two sitting on the back rack. My husband and I learned to use this tandem setup, and it was very handy. The passenger would field the mobile phone arrangements with friends and jump off for steep bridges. The pilot would try to avoid the potholes. I live in London now, but I still use my Oma fiets around town here. I always seem to arrive at my destination with a different sort of attitude than if I take my road/touring bike. Very calm, very peaceful. It doesn't even bother me particularly when a car guns past only to slow down for the stoplight 100yds ahead. Tra la. The upright position was sometimes annoying in the Dutch headwinds, but the bike is so stable that it was very easy to take a more aerodynamic stance - bending forward and placing the forearms on the steering -- aero without the bars. You can also maintain balance at very slow speeds. This might be because of the angle of the front forks, at least based on the info at Fajans lab in Berkeley. (http://socrates.berkeley.edu/~fajans/Teaching/Steering.htm)
    Riding around the Netherlands is interesting as the riding style of the Dutch is quite different than most American riders. The cadence is typically very slow, but very consistent. Most people have been riding every day since they were 3 years old, so they know how to maintain a straight line. Car drivers typically leave about three inches of space when passing, and old ladies think nothing of riding down the trolley tracks toward an oncoming trolley! We quickly made a rule: never follow a Dutch person on a bicycle.

    As far as touring on them, the Dutch do it all the time. One of the main Dutch producers is Gazelle. They have a full range, which includes 27speed 'lightweight' touring bikes with a typical 'dutch bike' riding geometry, although usually not the elegant swoop frame. These are quite popular and you frequently see people riding around the paths on longish day tours (typically 20-30 miles) with maps mounted on a sort of vertical clip-board holder in front. They also run 'bike buses' where you take an all night bus to the south of France and all the bikes go in a trailer behind. For a while, I rode a 3-speed miyata with drum brakes, but it finally got stolen. Now all I have is a funky old one-speed oma-fiets with backpedal brakes. It's great for pottering around town and for a short flat commute. The simplicity and enclosed chain makes it extremely reliable.

  • Richard

    I lived in the Netherlands for a while, quite some time ago, and my wife and I have always liked Dutch bikes. While visting our daughter in the Netherlands recently we bought an Azor bicycle from a dealer in Nijmegen. Azor (www.azor.nl) make some superb Dutch style bikes with or without lots of gears. As we live in a hilly area in England we went for the Azor Toronto which has 8 speed Shimano Nexus hub gears. The bike is very well made and equipped. It is continually admired by people who say how nice it is to see a bike with a comfortable upright sitting position - as opposed to the riding style adopted by people on mountain or hybrid bikes. Azor bikes can be bought in the UK - not sure about the US - but it is much cheaper to buy when you are in the Netherlands.

  • Renee

    Just wondering, does anyone have any trouble with discomfort in the sitting region with this riding position? I switched to SWB recumbent almost 5 yrs ago but am considering switching back to upright to get my little one on the bike with me instead of going with a trailer.
    My first bike as an adult was a hybridized MTB where I swapped out handlebar stem to ride with less weight on my wrists, but it hurt my butt so bad I hardly ever rode. I think I might have put 200 miles on the darned bike in 10 yrs. I have 2500 and counting on the 'bent.
    I tested a couple year old steel Breezer (7spd internal hub) and HATED it. Took the lightrail back to work instead of sitting on it the next day 'cause I was bruised, and that was only 6 miles of riding.
    I'm planning to visit clever cycle to test ride the Dutch position myself, but thought I'd ask for opinions from those "in the know".

  • Andy B from Jersey
    Andy B from Jersey August 3, 2007 at 7:48 am

    I find my old 1970's Ross Town Bike to be exceptionally comfortable. It has a very primitive saddle (a metal frame with carpet padding, with a vinyl cover) and the handlebars are a little lower than some Dutch Bikes but I still find it to be exceptionally comfortable. The upright position (sit up and beg) makes sure that my backside is properly positioned on the saddle.
    I ride this bike to work in office cloths 2.25 miles every day and will often do errands and just cruise around town after work, up to an extra 10 miles. I've ridden it over 40 miles once, with only a typical amount of minor discomfort towards the end.
    The biggest problem you might me having is saddle choice. I'm a big fan of Brooks Saddles (B17 for my road bike and a Swallow on my IF mountain bike) and have a very wide B68 (I think?) on my vintage Raleigh Roadster and even though it is obviously not broken in, the saddle is still mighty comfy.
    Now I'm about 20 to 30 pounds overweight from my super-fast days (I'm still fast) but still find the town/dutch bike position comfortable. I'm not trying to be mean or anything but if you're a little to very overweight I could see any upright position to be uncomfortable. I'm quite sure that if I dropped 40 pounds to a typical very fit roadie weight, I'd be comfortable on a super narrow 80 gram Italian race saddle. Also, there is some amount of toughing-up ones backside needs with any conventional cycling.
    Anyway, thats my 2 cents!


  • Jeff

    I just took delivery of an Azor Opa ("Grandpa" in Dutch) bike with all of the golorious Dutchness--skirt/coat guard, dynamo lighting, massive front frame rack, strong back rack, metal fenders, etc. (Plus a Brooks B66!) I live in Chicago and enjoy the world's second greatest bike commute--eight miles up the Lake Shore Drive bike path from the Museum of Science and Industry, through tree-lined parkland, past Soldier Field, the museum campus, Buckingham fountain, Grant Park and its rose garden, and finally to the Sears Tower. (I say "second best" because I imagine living in Nice and working in Manaco might be a little better commute.) I cannot describe how perfect this bike is for its intended purpose. Presiding over the city in a upright position is pure poetry. I cannot more strongly recommend this bike and others like it. More than a century of practical engineering went into these Dutch designs, and it shows with every pedal stroke. Just go try one and you'll definitely buy one.

  • Andy B from Jersey
    Andy B from Jersey August 22, 2007 at 3:34 am

    The Nice to Monaco commute isn't nice at all. I've done it on bike during my grand bike tour of the Alps. The scenery is excellent but the traffic is very heavy with crazy but competent Italian style drivers. There are no bike lanes and the roads are narrow. Jeff your better off in Chi Town.
    What could be better commute is one that either takes you over the Golden Gate or Brooklyn Bridges. I've ridden them both and they are absolutely amazing!

  • Andy B from Jersey
    Andy B from Jersey August 22, 2007 at 3:36 am

    Oh Yeah! One more question Jeff! Do you have bike parking at the Sears Tower and if you do, what is it like?

  • Jeff


    Yes, I park in the Sears Tower's fancy garage next to the Jaguars and the Benzes with 24-hour security. I pay a monthly fee. I leave my New York Fahgehdaboudit lock on the rack so I don't have to tote it around.

    I'm surprised to hear about the road from Nice to Monaco. I did the stretch immediately west of that, from Cap d'Antibes to Nice on a self-supported tour of the coast from Marseille to Nice. A little traffic, yes, but stunningly beautiful, especially the Massif L'Esterell between St. Raphael and Antibes. I was planning to pick up where I left off next year by flying into Nice and cycling east up the Italian Liguria coast to Genoa, then down through the Cinque Terra, and then through Tuscany, flying out of Florence. What say you about that route? Oh, and I'm going to do it on a new Atlantis!

  • Jeff


    Per your earlier coment re vintage clothing on the Raleigh. You are not alone. I took the Opa to a high rise party during the Chicago air and water show, riding up the lake front in a seersucker suit and straw Panama hat. It was pure 1920s. My only regret is not having a cigar to smoke while riding. By the way, I never wear a helmet on the Dutch bike. It would be like crossing yourself at a Passover seder. It's just wrong!

  • Andy B from Jersey
    Andy B from Jersey August 23, 2007 at 3:10 am

    WOW!! They still allow cars to park in the Sears Tower garage!! I bet they wanted to eliminate the bike parking after 9/11 but not the cars (if you even had it back then). How much do you pay and what kind of rack is provided? I'm studying urban planning with a focus on bike/ped planning so I'm very curious.

    As for cycling the Côte d'Azur may I suggest Francis & Sheila's Virtual Alps (http://www.aukadia.net/alps/index.htm). A very good website that has a review nearly every pass in the Alps along with some cover of the Côte d'Azur region. I rode from Genoa to Nice and like and idiot did no go see the Cinque Terra or Pisa. DUMB!!! DUMB!!! DUMB!!!

    Oh yeah I remember why! I was in Genoa just days before the G8 Summit in 2001 and they were literally welding down the manhole covers so I just wanted to get out of town.

    Anyway I felt there was too much traffic for a self supported tour when you just want to relax and enjoy the scenery and make a modest amount of distance. There are three road choices the Virtual Alps goes over; a low, middle and high road and I seem to remember that the others (I took the low road) had less traffic.

  • doggo

    Oh... this is where I was trying to go with my <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/doggo/1096818277/" rel="nofollow">customization</a>. Rats.

  • doggo

    Lookit this? Raleigh Denmark is still selling what amounts to a <a href="http://www.raleigh.dk/Default.aspx?ID=427&M=Shop&PID=659&ProductID=2169" rel="nofollow">classic English bike</a>. Which looks very similar to a Dutch bike. I'd sure like one of those.

  • Jeff

    If you like that, check out Pashley. The finest English bike made. http://www.pashley.co.uk/

  • doggo

    Thanks Jeff...

    Now I gotta scrounge up $1500 for a Pashley. I can't wait.

  • Todd

    Interesting fat tire bike with dutch-like geometry. Similar to the Retrovelo BaloonTire series. I wish someone would make one of these in a smaller frame size and that it were available in the US. Might make a fun custom project.

  • Todd S

    More dutchy fat tires.

  • Mike

    Wow, according to the site most bikes are made to handle 80k (176 pounds)... in which case all my bikes need to be replaced!

    I do like the concept... and I love the Retrovelo bikes.
    Interesting that the Bigboy is using drum brakes... apparently there is enough stopping power for heavy loads.

    Tood - Is 'drum brake' a generic name for the roller brakes found on most Dutch bikes? How have the brakes on the City Bikes you offer been taking to Portland streets? (currently waiting for my first few city bikes to test in Vermont...)


  • Todd (admin)

    Mike, I've been describing Roller brakes as Shimano's trade name for drum brakes, though I understand that Shimano's tech is arguably novel enough to qualify as a new brake type. They're good brakes, though the soft "power modulated" feel takes getting used to. It's important to remove all excess play for best performance -- we adjust until there's a hair of drag and sometimes leave it that way. You can find grades around here long and steep enough to induce significant fade, especially with a laden bakfiets. We think that more aggressive brakes would probably contribute to more wipeouts as the wheels would lose purchase. There's just not enough rubber on the road relative to the loads you can carry to support really aggressive braking. You have to stop these bikes the way you'd stop a truck.

  • Mike


    As I thought about the Shimano comparison. I've seen them labeled as both throughout the interwebs...

    I've noticed fade as well with my Bak, and when I've lent it out I make the comparison to renting a UHaul and loading it up. I have it adjusted nearly the way you describe - just a half turn of the barrel from dragging. I'm debating re-cabling it with some compressionless housing from Jagwire - even with the adjustments I seem to get quite a bit of play in the cables. (this was a demo bike... so I'm not sure on how long the brakes have been in service)

    I've inquired about adding the 'cooling fins' to the brakes. I'm not sure they are available after market - and I'm not sure if they would add anything to the capabilities of the bike. Have you gone down this path?

  • Todd (admin)

    The fork needs redesign to accommodate the fins. Not sure about the rear. We did have one case of the Zoobomb film crew causing the rear brake to belch smoke. We greased it and it was fine. All our baks have come with compressionless housing; not sure how much impact this has on performance. The long brake runs would seem to entail a certain amount of squishiness this side of hydraulics.

  • spambait11

    Todd: Any thoughts on the Dutch bike kickstands? I'm looking for a better (i.e. more stable) solution for my Xtracycle, and think those kickstands look like an outstanding option. If they're all they're cracked up to be, any chance of stocking/selling them?

  • Todd (admin)

    spambait11, they're too narrow to offer a clear improvement over the stock kickstand, plus compatibility is sharply limited due to the freeradical's interface with the bike.

  • Gary

    The original article states that a higher torso angle is needed for efficient use of the buttocks in pedaling.

    I am trying to figure out what this might be the case (or perhaps it isn’t?).

    The quads are used for extending the leg at the knee, which is a major part of pedaling. The buttocks are used to extend the leg at the hip which is another major part of pedaling. A higher torso angle (as you have on a racing bike with a long top tube and lower handlebars) means that your buttocks are more stretched than they would be sitting in a more upright position. So the original article is saying in effect that the buttocks can be used more or used more efficiently working from a stretched to more stretched position than from a less stretched to stretched position. Note that the range of motion of the hip appears to be the same regardless of torso angle.

    This difference in torso angle also shows up in strength training. Squats are down with minimal torso angle. But leg presses, down sitting down in a machine, are done with a 90-degree or so torso angle. So does this mean that leg presses in a machine work the buttocks more than squats?

    So, again, why does a greater torso angle allow for more use of the buttocks in pedaling?

  • Mike

    Todd -

    Touring on a Dutch style bike? How about a Kronan... and powering your ultra mobile PC from solar panels? A Brit did a 7 day tour down the Rhein on what looks like a single speed city bike, loaded with computing gear and solar panels.

    Interesting read here:

    Pics here:

    Kronan Bikes:

  • Todd (admin)

    Gary, it's my understanding that muscles are generally most powerful near the mid-point of their fully contracted and fully elongated states. This point tends to correspond with the mid-point of the joint's range of motion. Which is approximately how a racer's torso is bent relative to the thigh near the most mechanically advantageous part of the downstroke.

  • Bruce A. Wilson


    Does anyone know if this contraption has ever actually been built?

  • Gary

    Todd, Thanks for your explanation of why you believe a "racing" angle allows the buttocks to be used most efficiently.

    I think you are on the right track, but I don't think that it's quite accurate to say that "muscles are generally most powerful near the mid-point of their fully contracted and fully elongated states." Instead, I think the combination of muscle and joint position is most powerful toward the fully extended position. This is why I can squat much more weight if I only go down a few inches before returning to standing position than I can if I go down to the mid-point where my knee makes a 90-degree angle.

    But in order to get a useful range of motion for pedaling, it does make sense that you should stay between the mid-point and fully extended, which appears consistent with your belief that the racer's angle is better than a more upright angle for best muscles use.


  • Todd (admin)

    Gary, in the case of squats being easiest when you're nearly standing up, I think that has more to do with your skeleton relieving your muscles of work than with the muscles being most powerful at that point. It's complex. To simplify, I'm thinking of well-matched earthworms engaged in a tug-of-war. I think the winner will be the one that starts out nearest mid-contraction. I could be wrong. I do know that comfort/cruiser riders will bob torsos forward with each pedal stroke as soon as their quads give out.

  • Richard

    I bought the opa 8 speed. The bike is heavy and slow. Moderate hills are an effort. Forget steep hills. Very well built, like a tank. Great looking and very comfortable. My rationalization in favor of this bike is that if you want to get a good workout within a short distance, this is a good choice. Ironically, if people want a bike for exercise why get an easy to pedal bike?

  • Bruce Wilson

    "I bought the opa 8 speed. The bike is heavy and slow. Moderate hills are an effort. Forget steep hills. Very well built, like a tank. Great looking and very comfortable."

    NOT suitable for around here; hard to get anywhere around here without encountering at least moderate hills, and usually steep ones. Out in the MidWest, or down on the Atlantic Coastal Plain, or in Florida or the Mississippi Delta, perhaps; but not here in the Appalachians.

  • Andy B from Jersey
    Andy B from Jersey October 9, 2007 at 5:09 am

    Funny but even seniors seem to have no problem with them in hilly regions of Europe. My mom rode her single speed bike up mountains 3000 feet high in war-torn Germany as a 16yo child. The roads in 1946 weren't even paved and their was always the burned out tank or two to swerve around. She would bomb down the hills so fast that the coaster brake hub would nearly glow and they would throw water on their hubs to cool them down. When things got too steep on the up-hills she and her friends would simply push. Thats how the omas and opas still do it today on the steep hills in Europe.

    I recently bought a Brompton with a 3-speed and brought with me to California for the big CalBike conference in Davis. I also rode it all around San Francisco. I got around okay even though I wished it had a 7 or 8-speed hub. When the hills got too steep I simply pushed. It's not all that much slower. I made it up and over the Golden Gate Bridge with out ever pushing and I came up a pretty steep hill from the Crissy Field area that is just above sea level. All this is regular cloths too!

  • Bruce Wilson

    'Thats how the omas and opas still do it today on the steep hills in Europe.'

    I recall very few nonni and nonne cycling in the mountains of Italy. Down by the sea, yes, and in the river valleys, but not up in the hills or mountains.

  • John Kerswill

    It's not strictly to the point (or even to the point at all), but as an English person who's just read through most of this thread I have to say I'm staggered by the quality of the English. Not just the technical stuff like punctuation, spelling and grammar but the clarity of expression. A similar discussion here in the UK would show up the near-illiteracy of most contributors.
    So: some questions. Are Americans much better writers than Brits? Or just American cycle enthusiasts? Or is the hidden hand of an editor responsible for these high standards? Whatever the answer, I'm impressed!
    In case anyone's interested, the reason I chanced upon this was that I'm thinking of buying my wife a Dutch electric bike for Christmas (Gazelle Easy Glider)and was looking for reviews; but I don't think these bikes are sold in the States.

  • [...] gearhub. Schwalbe Big Apple tires on both, 24” on the Surly. Both bikes have been “dutchified” to produce effective seat tube angles below 70 degrees, with short stems, swept bars, and [...]

  • Human_Amplifier

    As a bike designer (Strida, IF Bikes)It is good to see something written about upright riding positions.

    Unless riding for sport, max speed, and minimum wind resistance, the crouched down riding position as THE way to ride is a total myth which has peculated into the general public conscious. Probably because anyone new to riding naturally asks existing bike riders/enthusiasts what position is best. And to an enthusiast (sporty male) fast is best, so crouched is best. So gradually most frames in the US and UK have tended towards MTB's and Road racing bikes riding positions.
    Check out Henry Dreyfuss' classic ergonomic diagram ...

    Strida is a folding bike with 'dutch' riding position,
    the following picture shows a range of heights, demonstrating the upright riding position.

    The discussion about getting the other 80% of the population who currently do not ride bicycles is very important(the vast blue Ocean). I think many aspects of the current bicycle world actually put off non-cyclists eg Lycra/spandex vs regular clothes, Shops targeting the sporty male clique making anyone else feel 'left out', testosterone fueled marketing again targeting sporty male.

    Imagine: the cycling utopias of Holland and Denmark CAN work in other places ... its easy if you try.

    here are some links for inspiration...

  • Human_Amplifier

    Durrr ... I meant percolated into the general public conscious !
    who mentioned english :-)

    And likewise, sorry I realise promoting Amsterdam and copenhagen is like teaching 'granny to such egg's' - I just find this discussion topic is fascinating. ..... mark

  • amsterdamize

    Good to see you here too, Mark :)

    @George, concerning which riding position would be better or least harmful, I recommend you read <a href="http://amsterdamize.com/2008/09/23/take-it-from-doc/" rel="nofollow">this article</a> from a while ago.

  • Human_Amplifier

    Thanks for that link Marc. Always looking for good info to convince fellow Brits that upright is best for everyday cycling. Mark

  • Enrique

    Just bought a 3 speed dutch style bike and I LOVE IT! Sitting upright is so much safer and dignified, not to mention comfortable.

    Some hills are a little slow going sometimes but commuting about 10 miles each way in NYC I can tell you there is still no hill I haven't conquered.

    I have a road bike, I have a MTB, and now with my dutch cruiser unless I plan on attempting a long distance tour or going off road, my road bike and MTB will only gather dust.

  • [...] not all good. Cannondale kept the hybrid geometry that yields the sit up and beg riding position instead of the highly comfortable fully upright, arms at the side position of a true Dutch bike. [...]

  • drooderfiets

    As A dutch bike I can't but confirm that the position on a dutch bike is very very confortable. The saddle is important though. When you do more than an hour of bicycle, if you don't have a smooth enough saddle, your bump starts to hurt.

  • [...] This is Zuzana on her Oma, our most popular bike in this range. Its exceptionally tall head tube permits mounting of a very large basket on the “Pickup” rack fixed to the frame up front, without the bars colliding with the basket. Zuz reports that she rides her Oma faster, further, and more often than the less substantial Electra Amsterdam “Classic” that first whet her appetite for Dutch-style riding. [...]

  • Dave

    I was just coming back to this post to look at the little stick diagrams, and got caught up in reading all the comments again, and I thought I'd just chime in on a few things regarding differences in frame styles, as I've now spent some time on both a real Dutch bike (Batavus Old Dutch), an Electra Amsterdam, an old Raleigh Sports, and an old-ish Raleigh Roadster.

    I can relate to Todd's description of the "initial wobbles" of riding a Dutch bike, as even after spending a year on the Electra Amsterdam (which is somewhere in-between the Townie and the typical Dutch geometry), the geometry of the Batavus was so different, it took me a few times before I was really comfortable mounting the bike (never fell over or anything, but it was tenuous). Both the Batavus and the Electra are 3 speeds, and I have ridden the Electra all over Portland, SE, NE, Downtown, NW, and the Batavus went all over SE and downtown, and I've never felt like I really *needed* more than 3 speeds. The only time the upright posture isn't fantastic is when it's really windy, other than that, I love riding that way. It offers so much flexibility, since your weight isn't resting on your hands - it's easy to ride with one hand for long distances, do other things while you're riding, etc.

    The Raleigh Sports is definitely much closer to the touring position, I'd say (and I think originally it was meant as a touring bike, primarily). It has many of the amenities mentioned about the Dutch bikes (internal gears, full chain case, dynamo hub, rear rack, etc), and has a 4-speed hub, which is supposedly geared the same as Sturmey Archer's 3-speed AW hubs, with one lower gear. It's an extremely solid bike, and is a bit more maneuverable than the Dutch Bikes, the slightly wider range in the hub is really nice, and it is a little better for climbing hills - but, as compared to the Dutch bikes, it puts much more pressure on your hands, and the smaller wheels and wheelbase make it definitely less-suited for carrying things. Still fine for a bag of groceries, cat food, that kind of thing, but you're not going to carry your kid plus three days of groceries like you might on an Omafiets.

    The Raleigh Roadster is a stepthrough that looks similar to the Omafiets, and has a more upright posture than the Sports, but is still not quite the totally upright position of the Dutch bikes. It has 28" wheels, similar to the Dutch Bikes (and opposed to the 26" on the Sports).

    All four of these bikes have a very different feel to them, are very enjoyable to ride for different reasons, and have different advantages and dis-advantages (well, the main advantage of the Electra Amsterdam over any of them is the price, but quality suffers also - well-illustrating Todd's point that the WorkCycles bikes they sell are not equivalent in functionality to a cheap Chinese bike, trust me). That all being said, if I was going to have just one bicycle for all of my trips, it would definitely be a Dutch bike, and a *real* Dutch bike (WorkCycles, Gazelle, Batavus, etc).

  • Wytze


    "Cannondale enters city bike fray with Dutchess concept bike | Austin On Two Wheels Says: November 17th, 2009 at 13:14

    [...] not all good. Cannondale kept the hybrid geometry that yields the sit up and beg riding position instead of the highly comfortable fully upright, arms at the side position of a true Dutch bike. [...]

    end quote

    As the designer of the Cannondale Dutchess I can inform you this is not true. The Dutchess has adjustable handlebars that allow a riding position from The fully upright position all the way to a sportive MTB-like position.
    If you ask me easy, fast adjustable handlebars (preferably operated while riding) is the ultimate solution. Especially for people that really use bicycles as their daily transport, those nasty country roads against the wind can be killing in an upright position. And at busy intersections a upright position that allows you the 360 degrees of sight is literally vital

  • Todd (admin)

    Hi Wytze - probably this comment was meant for the "Austin On Two Wheels" blog where this confusing "hybrid geometry that yields the sit up and beg riding position" comment was made, but since that blog links here with that remark, let me try to clarify.

    Your very attractive design appears to differ ergonomically from a classic Omafiets or similarly traditional model not in the adjustment range of the handlebars, but in the relatively steep seat tube angle. It appears to be, like nearly all "sport and fitness" bikes made today, in the neighborhood of 73 degrees, instead of in the 65-68 degree range characteristic of classic Dutch city/utility bikes.

    This steep seat angle, paired with bars high and close, is what I call here the "comfort/cruiser" position, and criticize as sort of a disaster. It isn't so much about where your arms are, but about the mean angle of torso and legs, which is too shallow to encourage effective use of the buttocks. People tend to lean or bob forward in partial compensation as they pedal such bikes with anything greater than walking intensity, such as into wind or uphill.

    This lean, together with close hands, results in a praying-mantis bend of elbow and wrist also characteristic of little poodles sitting up and begging for a piece of bacon: "sit up and beg." Steep seat angles tend to encourage either too low a saddle for proper leg extension, or else make it challenging to place a foot down for stability at stops while remaining in the saddle.

    Traditional Dutch bikes, in contrast, have the pedals far enough forward of the pelvis that the buttocks get good use even while the rider remains completely upright. I think the various "foot forward" marketing concepts tend to take this basically sound idea just a little too far for the sake of clear storytelling.

    The term "hybrid" only confuses things, because in north america it describes something like what is called "trekking" in europe: basically a rigid mountain bike with 622 wheels and city tires. In the simple meaning of "mixed" I'd say your bike is an uneasy mix of old classic/traditional city handlebar position and the newer orthodoxy of steep seat angle. We fit many of these setback pins to rectify this situation: http://www.flickr.com/photos/cleverchimp/1429704016/

    I do like quick-adjust handlebars for just the reasons you cite. Quick-adjust seat angle: now that would be something!

  • Eli

    Just found this post and was utterly baffled, in the early comments, why anyone would consider an inquiry as to the weight of the cycle inappropriate. When I'm reading about bicycles, it's one of the first things I want to know. My commute combines bicycling with public transit; here in the Twin Cities (MN) where I live, that requires lifting the bike onto or into a rack. I'm no Olive Oyl, but I'm no post-spinach Popeye, either; I have to know how much a bike weighs so I know if I'm going to be able to put it on the rack. You compare the question to "asking a beautiful, sensible, easygoing person the dimensions of their sex organs", but you don't have to heft those sex organs onto a bus bike rack.

  • [...] being what it is it, tends to be best executed by businesses and blogs selling everything from imported, upright city bikes to the concept of cycling fashion to the aesthetic and lifestyle associated with both of [...]