Who rides a WorkCycles city bike?

WorkCycles is an Amsterdam company founded by Brooklyn-born Henry Cutler. To date, Henry has exported nearly all of the Dutch bicycles we’ve introduced to Portland, including the conspicuous Bakfiets Cargobike, but also a “Classic” series of city bikes. These are the finest examples of their type, a rarity in North America but the very soul of everyday Dutch biking sensibility. Timelessly beautiful and frankly heavy, what these hard-working tools may lack in miles per hour, they make up in miles per year (MPY) by being so capable, versatile, comfortable, and low maintenance. Miles per lifetime? According to Eric Kamphof, “The average Amsterdammer leaves their bike outside year round, rarely tunes it, and rides it nearly 3000 miles a year. The average age of a bike in Amsterdam is nearly 35 years old.” Meanwhile, WorkCycles city bikes are built and equipped quite a bit better than the average Amsterdammer’s best bike: they are “forever” bikes.

This is Zuzana on her Oma, our most popular bike in this range. Its exceptionally tall head tube and stem 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.

Zuz’s husband Bryan rides an Opa fit with the same front rack and a shorter box of his own construction. Bryan also races cyclocross. Some people suppose that utility bikes have no sporting appeal. We suppose they offer sporting bikers a more regular workout, weaving “training” into daily errands by replacing car trips instead of subtracting from leisure time. Same goes for non-sporting bikers!

For their two children, Bryan and Zuz rock a Bakfiets.

This is Cedric Justice: Energy Efficiency & Greenhouse Gas Management Consultant. Cedric rides a 65cm Kruis. At 6’5″ and 300lbs, Cedric has a history of destroying bikes. We’d be lying if we denied he’d deformed even the steel cranks of this bike once! This early 20th-century frame design, exuding steampunk flair, is the strongest and stiffest in this line, ample not only to withstand him but also Victorian picnic lunches and environmental monitoring and analysis equipment on both front and rear racks.

Cedric rides with an English equestrian helmet over his cerulean locks because, he explains, nothing else goes so well with an Ascot. He enjoys catching up with cars and faster bikes at every single stop on his commute.

This is Lisa, who with her husband Nathan were among our first Oma & Opa couple customers. Each time they ride off together we remark how badly we wish we had a camera ready: it’s love and elegance on wheels.

Lisa says all that needs saying:

My Oma has changed my bike riding for the better. I ride much more often, and in all seasons. I feel safer, even though I no longer wear a helmet. Sitting upright I am more visible to cars. I can carry much more cargo on my Oma than my previous bike, without feeling like I am compromising stability.

It’s not unusual for motorists or pedestrians to smile at me. I’m never sure if it is wistful envy or curious bemusement. Which reminds me of an incident last summer…

As I rode up Clinton St. one day a young woman sang out the theme for Miss Crump in The Wizard of Oz, as she speeds towards Dorothy’s house to take Toto. Without too much hesitation I assured her “I’ll get you my pretty, and your little dog too.” And we laaaaaaaughed!

This is Sandra and her daughter Nadia Del Pasqua. Sandra is a doula, postpartum caregiver and personal trainer. So many bikers — new mothers especially — don’t survive the transition from a “commuter” model of biking to the “minivan” model imposed by parenthood. We’re grateful to Sandra for her example.

She writes:

Instead of buying a second car, we decided to buy me a bike. I honestly feel like a queen riding the Oma around. Seriously, there are times when I just want to wave to strangers….and I think they feel the same way. People seem to love to see Nadia riding up front.

I also feel like I’m riding a work of art. The bike is so beautifully made and glides – except when I hit the hills and well then I look really good walking beside it. :)

We use this bike all the time to do our grocery shopping, get to our doctor appointments and to the gym. I’m excited to see how she does in the winter!

[Hint: she'll do fine!]

This is Beth, an actual Grandma (Oma) riding a bike of the same name.

Beth is 65. She’s been riding her whole life, in recent decades the US norm of mountain bikes and hybrids mongrelized to pass tenuously as city bikes. She stopped by our shop to ask only about a basket, but with a little encouragement she gave an Oma a turn around the block. “Where have you been all my life?!” her face said upon her return. A few days later she hauled it off on the back of her vintage Volvo.

We’ve seen Beth tooling around the neighborhoods and at the market since, with the same joyous gleam on her face of making up for lost time.

This just in via Henry’s blog: who else? Paul Steely White, New York City bicycle advocate, rides a Workcycles Opa:

13 thoughts on “Who rides a WorkCycles city bike?”

  • Dottie

    What a fabulous collection of profiles! I ride a WorkCycles Oma and completely agree with everything they all said. It's a life-changing bike.

  • Dave

    Does it count if we really, really want to own a WorkCycles bike? :) It's going to happen one day, you'll see. I definitely feel an Oma is in my future.

    Do you guys take trade-ins? :)

  • Todd (admin)

    Dave, you're pushing some handsome old Raleigh steel now. There have been advances in materials and processes, with attendant performance coming up a couple notches, but in concept you're missing not much!

  • Dave

    Yeah, I have a feeling I'm going to be holding onto the Raleigh as long as it's functional. It's a beautiful bike, and really fun to ride.

    Still, I would love to replace the Electra Amsterdam with a WorkCycles Omafiets. It's really nice having a bike with some more carrying power, the more upright posture (as compared to the Raleigh), and while the Amsterdam really has been a good and mostly reliable bike, both the frame geometry and the sturdiness leave something to be desired for me. But for now it's a "make do with what you've got" scenario there :)

  • Todd (admin)

    I might as well work in some trivia here for the record. There's a fair amount of confusion on this continent about how WorkCycles bikes differ from Azors, or from the now defunct Jorg & Olif.

    So. There's a factory in Hoogeveen, Netherlands, that makes traditional Dutch bikes as well as more modern ones like the Bakfiets Cargobike. This company is called Azor. They make bikes sold under their own name, but also sold under other names. The Azor name or brand doesn't have a terribly long history, so there are no Azors from the 20s or whatever, the way there are Gazelles and Batavuses and so on. Branding and corporate history aside, in important respects, Azor is as "old school" as it gets, being among the last manufacturers still turning out bikes with this clarity of purpose, design and material character in the Netherlands. You don't have to pick between high tradition/low performance and high performance/low tradition as with some other Dutch bike makers!

    WorkCycles purchases bikes from Azor, built to WorkCycles specs, and exports them to us. We tend to import only the premium-spec flavors, eschewing the available coaster-braked, 3-speeded, vinyl saddled variants that would knock only 20% or so off the price. We used to get them still branded Azor, but now they come WorkCycles. WorkCycles also makes some bikes of their own, not Azor-sourced.

    Jorg & Olif was a Canadian outfit that launched a pretty brilliant marketing campaign around Dutch bikes (and slowness, and wine, and authenticity) in 2006. The first generation of J&O-branded bikes were built by Azor, to specs I would describe as charm or nostalgia-driven more than service-oriented. ISO 635 steel rims, chromed handlebars brazed in to the stems preventing adjustment, tire-roller generators, those narrow-stance kickstands that fold up behind the rear wheel... all at premium prices. Classic, sure, and very pretty. They switched to at least 2 other manufacturers, simpler and cheaper (COASTER BRAKES?!), before succumbing to debt in 2008. The brand was bought, though, and some kind of relaunch is apparently in the works.

    So you see, when people ask us whether J&O or WorkCycles or Azor have better pedals, it's complicated.

  • Dave

    What about handle-bar grips? :D

  • Shane

    Wow, that was fascinating and interesting trivia Todd, thanks!
    Almost as good as the article which was also great!

  • Mark Stosberg

    I love the pop-up slideshows. This is a great use of the FancyBox jQuery plugin.

  • Adrienne Johnson

    If my wonderful Batavus ever gets folded or spindled or stolen this will be my next bike. I like my bikes big and heavy : )

  • Dave

    Gotta get it how you live :)

  • David Cox

    "I like my bikes big and heavy : )"

    I do too. I get around on my Fr8 and it is heavy, very big and I love it. I enjoy the comfort, stability and utility. The ride is always plush-- going up hills, down or scooting along on the flats, it's always comfortable.

  • Caroline

    And they are so cute, too!

    We just did a piece on how car culture affects health. Patti offers a european perspective, including the integration of bicycles into a daily routine. check it out: http://speakhealth.org/can-you-stay-fit-in-a-car-culture/

    love to hear what american bikers think.

  • William Bendsen

    I'm so happy to see that the basket on the Oma in the first image is fixed to the frame. It makes an incredible difference, and if the weld (and the basket) is up to it, then you can carry more than 200 pounds quite comfortably in that position. It's amazing!

Leave a Reply