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Saying goodbye to the ‘Old Dutch’

Posted by on January 14th, 2008 at 9:31 am

Batavus Old Dutch-2.jpg
(Photos © Jonathan Maus)

Thanks to good folks at Seattle Bike Supply, for the past several months I’ve been the lucky caretaker of a Batavus “Old Dutch”. I hoped the Portland sales rep who loaned it to me would have forgotten about it, but unfortunately, last Friday it was time to give it back.

It’s a beautiful bike, and a clear symbol of the Dutch Bike Invasion that is sweeping North America.

Even though it wasn’t my ideal day-to-day bike, I relished every opportunity to take it for a spin. There’s something about the Dutch position (expertly explained here by Todd Fahrner) and the angles of this classic bike that just feels right.

Batavus Old Dutch-3.jpg
The skirt guard also makes a great
kids feet guard.
Batavus Old Dutch-6.jpg

But beyond how it felt to ride, one reason I enjoyed this bike was because it always attracted attention. That’s not just because I’m some egotist who likes attention (although I don’t usually mind it), it’s because if we’re ever going to get non-bikers to start pedaling, we’ve got to first inspire them with functional, and more importantly, beautiful bikes.

Batavus Old Dutch-5.jpg
Danica liked it too.

Riding this thing around town, I was amazed at the type of people who would stop, stare, and ask me about it: The mail carrier ducking out of his truck; the elderly women crossing the street in front of me; not the usual suspects to have bike-envy.

And it’s not about rocket science or huge R&D budgets, the Dutch have built bikes like this forever. It comes stock with a full chain-guard, ample front and rear fenders, integrated front and rear lights, an upright position, a skirt guard (also handy for keeping kids’ feet out of the the wheel), and a comfy saddle.

As I rode around on this thing, usually grinning ear-to-ear, I often wondered how much better off our great country would be if bikes like this could be purchased at at Toys R ‘Us or Wal-Mart.

Maybe the bike industry’s current fascination with commuter and utility bikes will trickle down to big-box retailers someday. But first, they’ll have to sell through their stock of $189.00 full-suspension mountain bikes.

In Portland, you can check out this “Old Dutch” at Revolver bike shop in North Portland, or see our local Batavus dealer Clever Cycles on SE Hawthorne.

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Comments
  • Joe January 14, 2008 at 9:59 am

    Bike Love there.. wow.. shes a beauty

    be safe,
    Joe

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  • Tbird January 14, 2008 at 10:25 am

    great article…what an easy bike to ride. Just curious, why it wouldn\’t be your ideal \” day to day \” bike? I have one, I ride it everywhere. While not being a real mountain climber, I find it to be the perfect ride for daily use, to work, to the store, to the pub etc…

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  • Jonathan Maus (Editor) January 14, 2008 at 10:33 am

    \”Just curious, why it wouldn’t be your ideal ”day to day” bike?\”

    Hi Tbird,

    Various reasons really…. I need more gears (my knees are shot already), I need more speed (hate to say it, but I ride a lot around town and I usually don\’t have time to dilly-dally!…but I\’m always safe!), I need a front rack, a rear wheel that can accept my Burley trailer skewer and a rear rack that can accept a Burley Piccolo, I need bars that I can easily get out of the saddle with (the Old Dutch bars sway back a bit too much for me).. it\’s a great bike, it just doesn\’t really suit the needs of my day-to-day riding.

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  • brettoo January 14, 2008 at 11:04 am

    Thanks for the article and the Clever Cycles blog link, Jonathan. I rode a big, heavy Batavus in Holland this summer, and I agree completely that there\’s something about the way it positions the rider that makes me feel more comfortable and stable, and even affects my riding psychology; I was happy cruising at lower speeds. I\’ve thought about getting a Dutch bike (I ride an inexpensive Specialized hybrid now) but have wondered how it would handle Portland\’s hills. I\’m not a mountain biker or racer; for a casual Portland rider, how do you think one of these would work for trips around town and the occasional Forest Park or Mt. Tabor ride? And as much as I like the Dutch bikes, can you recommend any American-made bikes in the same style?

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  • Melanie January 14, 2008 at 11:11 am

    I absolutely love my Old Dutch. Any ride on it is a pleasure, even if it means getting off to walk up a steep hill (though admittedly, my legs have gotten much stronger with just 3 gears). It\’s such an open, upright bike that big smiles are unavoidable. I feel like I\’m doing positive bike PR whenever I go out on it– it really is a bike that begs to be looked at. The design of the bike got me on it but the functionality will definitely keep me on it for a long time. I feel very safe riding this bike– it is definitely a bike that can be seen, and in my experience has handled well on ice and snow. My only complaints are that I have had some problems with the gears (it\’s like I only have 2) and the ginormous turn radius makes steering a little challenging in tight spots.

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  • David Feldman January 14, 2008 at 12:56 pm

    I work on a few department store dual suspension bikes–it would be wonderful if all of the Frankenstores were selling utilitarian bikes. It makes me a little ill to look at the shitball mountain bikes that Wal-Mart is pumping out and realize that they could, say, sell a downscale (maybe 3 speeds instead of 8, maybe China instead of Taiwan) knockoff of the Bianchi Milano, for instance. I use that as an example because it seems to split the difference between sporty and practical very, very well. Knowing the price of components at dealer level, having a good idea of what distributors must be paying to get a bike out of the PRC, there has to be a way for the department stores to get an internal 3-speed plus coaster city bike on their floors at a reasonable price. Hey, without having to buy all of those shock forks and complicated rear suspension frames maybe they could, like, afford to sell multiple frame sizes!

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  • blogmayor January 14, 2008 at 3:34 pm

    JM:

    Best therapy for creaky knees is a fixie with a reasonably low gear. FGs demand a constant and lower force for equivalent power, because they have a much longer effective stroke than a freebie bike.

    Check out Mercury\’s \”Blogtown\” this Friday.

    —Jim Lee

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  • anonymous January 15, 2008 at 12:12 pm

    I\’m a bit affronted at the thought that if Wal-mart sold it, things would improve! Wal-Mart is always going to sell the cheapest, crappiest version of something. That\’s just what they do. They don\’t have the time, energy, or reverence for bicycles for them to be considered anything more than a unit to be assembled quickly and cheaply, and moved out the door to make room for the next one. If Wal-Mart were to carry these, they\’s carry a shitty version and people would be eventually dismiss this style as junk.

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  • brettoo January 16, 2008 at 2:56 am

    Jonathan or anyone else who\’s ridden an Old Dutch — can you compare it to the Electra Amsterdam and/or the Jorg & Olif Scout? I\’m especially interested in the upright vs. feet forward positioning but also build quality, riding on moderate hills, etc.

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  • IanO January 17, 2008 at 11:40 pm

    The Amsterdam has nice styling, but you can tell Elektra cut a lot of corners to reach the $600 price point. My experience:

    * The Shimano 3-speed needed a warranty repair for squeaky brakes after about 300 miles use.
    * The side panels are afterthoughts, constantly unclipping and falling off, especially if using panniers. I took them off immediately.
    * The right handle tends to slide off over time, and the end cap fell out.
    * After 700 miles, five of the rear spokes broke, and I had to rebuild the wheel.
    * The bell jingles while riding (yeah, pretty minor, but just one of many little annoyances).
    * The feet forward upright position took some time to get used to. I had to do a lot of seat adjusting before my knees felt right. You don\’t get the power in this position that you get on a road bike or hybrid bike. Most of north and east Portland are no problem, but don\’t bother climbing Mt. Tabor or the other buttes. (I\’ve tried!)

    I must say though, the Amsterdam is quite a looker! It is the only bike I\’ve ever owned where folks would come up to me to give it a compliment.

    After getting a flat on my newer authentic Dutch Azor, I\’ve been riding it again and was surprised to find it is about as comfortable. The eight speeds of the Azor is offset by its tank-like weight and construction. (Great for excercise and cargo!) The Amsterdam is much lighter, even though it is also steel.

    I didn\’t test-ride the Old Dutch so I can\’t comment on how it compares.

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  • brettoo January 21, 2008 at 2:20 am

    Thanks for the comparison. I think I\’ve narrowed it to the Jorg & Olif Scout and the Old Dutch. Need to test ride each. Looks like a trip to Clever Cycles is in order! Anyone else tried either or both?

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  • IanO January 24, 2008 at 10:24 am

    A few more comments on the Amsterdam and Azor:

    * The front bottle generator buzzes loudly, and only powers the front light. The bulb burnt out going down a hill fast. The wiring also looked kind of cheesy. (I\’m totally sold on hub-generators now.)
    * Coaster brakes take a while to get used to, but seem adequate even for stopping at the bottom of a hill.
    * The rear built-in light takes two AAAs, and doesn\’t have a flashing mode.
    * The bike is light enough overall for only three speeds. It has been less work biking it around than the 8-speed Azor, due to the Azor\’s greater weight, fatter tires, sticky roller brakes, and higher wind resistance due to my choice of panniers.
    * The seat is very comfy and water resistant. It seems strange that the Dutch Azor comes with a leather seat that you need to protect from the rain. That would never fly in Holland itself, rain capital of Europe.

    Does anyone sell Jorg & Olif locally? I also would like to give it a test ride.

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  • brettoo January 24, 2008 at 2:02 pm

    I know the Ace Hotel has a few J&O bikes (not Scouts though; they\’re 10lbs lighter) that guests can rent. Maybe they\’d let non guests do the same?
    I\’ve been in touch with the friendly J&O folks in BC and thought I might be able to take a test ride this weekend, but doesn\’t look like it\’ll work out. Here\’s what they said:
    - we studied the Batavus Old Dutch and Gazelle Toer Populair when designing our bikes… both Original and Scout match up with respect to durability
    - in terms of parts, the Scout has a few less parts than the Old Dutch although the quality of the parts are essentially the same. It is also possible to add-on some parts to Scout, such as skirt guards, if interested
    - Scout Omas and Opas are both available in three frame sizes, which the Old Dutch may not be
    - Scout is manufactured in Belgium.

    I\’m still not clear if the Scout would work better on pdx hills than an old Dutch (are the weight and gearing better in that respect?), but otherwise they seem similar enough for a test ride to tell whether this style of bike will work for me and my bad knees.

    In a this thread (http://bikeportland.org/2007/08/03/jorgolifs-scout-promises-affordable-dutch-style/), Clever Todd says the Old Dutch has higher quality touches, plus a slightly higher price. I\’d still rather buy local if possible, even though the Old Dutch costs more, so I\’m leaning that way if the test ride works out. I loved riding a Dutch bike in Utrecht; hope it\’s the same here. But I think I\’ll keep my current hybrid for Forest Park etc.

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  • Melanie March 5, 2008 at 12:32 pm

    The Old Dutch as a 3-speed, is not very good for sharp, steep hills, but great for hills will a long, slow grade increase. It\’s a heavy bike and it just doesn\’t go low enough. Part of riding a bike this heavy is to me, being willing to get off and walk on those kinds of hills. However, if that\’s all you do (I live in Salt Lake, not Portland, so I\’m not exactly sure what your hills entail) I would consider having it geared down if you did go with an Old Dutch. I do find the bike to be very easy on the knees, and have felt extremely blessed all winter by the chain and skirt guard systems and how well it handles in bad weather.

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  • A March 31, 2008 at 9:09 am

    I just got a Batavus Old Dutch – I picjed it up from the shop yesterday (I had it shipped to my city and it needed some assembly). I LOVE it.

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  • [...] which was provided to him by our friends at SBS (the American Batavus distributor). You can read it here . (And feel free to comment, he would appreciate [...]

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