Guest article: The city bike, according to a vélocoutureist

Patrick Barber, vélocoutureist.

[Editor’s note: This article was originally published by Patrick Barber on his blog, Vélocouture, and has been re-published here with his permission.

On his blog, Barber writes about bike fashion with an urban flair. City bikes and fashion don’t even make news in Europe, but here in the states, they’re finally gaining serious steam (see our coverage of the Great Dutch Bike Invasion). Just yesterday, the New York Times published a piece about the popularity of high end Dutch bikes. But just what is a “city bike?” In the article below, Barber gives us his definition.]


Poke around on enough of the bike photos in the Flickrverse and you’ll start to notice something: while we North Americans ride around on all kinds of bikes . . .

(Photos from the Vélocouture group on Flickr)

. . . folks in places like Copenhagen and Amsterdam seem to have mostly the same kind of bike.

(Photos from the Vélocouture group on Flickr)

The European style of bike is what North Americans refer to as a city bike. But in Europe, and in most other parts of the world, such as Africa and China, the bike we call a city bike is simply called a “bike.” And it’s used for one thing: transportation.

“…you don’t need to make special accommodations for an aggressive posture, heavy backpacks, unwanted grease or mud, or things getting caught in moving parts. A city bike lets you dress up and go… and that’s why we love them.”
— Patrick Barber

What makes a city bike? There are lots of things we could talk about relating to its design and construction: the frame materials, steering geometry, wheel size, history of the gearing systems. But a city bike is not defined by what it is. A city bike is defined by what it does.

City bikes provide a service to the user. Like any bicycle, they help a person to move from one place to another with ease. But in addition to that basic service, city bikes help out the user in ways that a standard North American bike — say, a mountain bike or classic ten-speed — does not.

Your city bike helps keep you and your clothes tidy. You don’t need to roll up your pants when you get on a city bike. The chainguard takes care of that. You don’t need to pin up your dress or your coat — the coat guard, or skirt guard (that dark covering over the rear wheel, just behind the saddle), keeps the rear wheel from messing with your skirts. Fenders and mudflaps keep rain and road grime from splashing on your clothes and things.

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Thanks to the built-in, no-battery-required generator light system, your city bike not only remembers the lights, it remembers to turn them on — and turns them off when you’re at your destination.

Kidical Mass!-12.jpg

Going Dutch, in Portland.
(Photo © J. Maus)

You don’t need to find a wall or pole to lean the bike against at your destination, you just use the kickstand.

If you need to carry something with you, just put it in the basket, or attach it to the rack. You can carry your kid, or a friend, on the back too.

Furthermore, the bike is built for maximum durability and comfort, and minimum maintenance.

This may all seem a bit much compared to the bicycles we’re used to, but consider the North American equivalent to the city bike: the private automobile. Just think of how silly it would be if you had to carry your groceries on your back when you used a car to get somewhere. Or if you wanted to go out at night, but your lights had run out of batteries. Would you buy a car that didn’t come equpped with lights to begin with, requiring you to buy separate lights that you had to attach yourself? What if a car rusted into uselessness if parked outside in the winter?

A very good sign-1-2.jpg

No problem, on a city bike.
(Photo © J. Maus)

Cars, like city bikes, are designed for practical transportation.

You can spend $500, $2500, or somewhere in between to equip yourself with a brand new city bike, if you have the budget and the inclination. But you don’t need a brand new bike. With a few adjustments, the bike you ride now can likely serve you very well as a city bike — or you can cook up your own city bike from a readily-available used bike, some key parts, and a good “recipe.”

The great thing about a well-equipped city bike is that it allows you to wear whatever clothes you like — you don’t need to make special accommodations for an aggressive posture, heavy backpacks, unwanted grease or mud, or things getting caught in moving parts. A city bike lets you dress up and go… and that’s why we love them.


– You can find this original story by Patrick Barber on his blog, Vélocouture.

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shooter
shooter
13 years ago

I love my Azor Kruis city bike. Camera gear on the front tray, groceries in the pannier. Comfortable and easy to ride.

chriswnw
chriswnw
13 years ago

Dutch-style utility bikes are not well suited for biking further than two miles or so under fairly congested conditions. Such a bike would be absurd for my commute. My commute is six miles, which I cover within the span of roughly twenty minutes. The only reason why I can cover that distance within such a short span of time is because I ride fast on a lightweight aerodynamic bike. These heavyweight Dutch contraptions would probably double my commute time. They might be okay for a grocery run, but a utility bike with a road bike frame, skinny tires, upright handlebars, and a basket would be even better.

Amsterdam is a medieval city. What’s appropriate to Amsterdam is not necessarily practical in America. The average weekday for the average American doesn’t allow them to remain within a two mile radius.

Zaphod
13 years ago

I’d love to do a cross town TT (time trial) on different bikes to get a feel for what the differences really are. I know that’s not the point but for those (aka me) who enjoy speed, it’d be a great test. For it to be a fair test, I’d be bringing the equivalent of a bag of groceries along for the ride.

Carl
Carl
13 years ago

Great article, Patrick. I hope the days of “city bikes” sold with quick releases and suspension forks but no sign of lights, fenders, a chaincase, a rack, a kickstand, a bell, or lock are numbered. Once we’ve got bikes that don’t require you to “dress like a bicyclist,” people can finally ride bikes without identifying as “bicyclists.”

…and for every “bicyclist” who commutes six miles over the west hills, there are probably ten folks who could benefit from the service of an upright, fendered, chainguarded, dynamoed, 40 lb. city bike for getting around in comfort and style.

Carl
Carl
13 years ago

Good idea Zaphod. In addition to carrying groceries, you might want to wear dress clothes, too!

TonyT
tonyt
13 years ago

Keep in mind though that the super-slack geometry of a lot of these city/Dutch bikes is best suited for flater areas.

If you’re going to be dropping a lot of money on a bike, you should do yourself a favor and take it for an extended test ride, and hit some of the hills you’ll be doing on a daily basis.

Saw someone on a Dutch bike struggling mightily on a hill just last week, they were trying to stand up and get their weight over the handle bar, but it just wasn’t working.

And if you’re going to have to climb stairs with it on a daily basis, you better be sure you can manage that.

What works for a friend might not work for you, and vice-versa.

Test ride, test ride, test ride.

Carl
Carl
13 years ago

Also: not all European city bikes are upright tanks.

Particularly in Copenhagen, bikes like these are quite common:

http://www.lokecykler.dk/product_info.php?products_id=93

aljee
aljee
13 years ago

I am interested to see what type of bike that is in the top photo. It’s got drop bars, so I am guessing it is not a ‘city bike’. Looks nice, anyhow, and still has a basket.
I think the niche bike for Portland could be somewhere in-between, possibly like a touring bike. The geometry of a touring bike would be more in-between, and it could still do the hills while carrying stuff in buckety panniers.
I am all for bikes whose logos don’t look like they are going to fly right off.

SusanEkstrom
SusanEkstrom
13 years ago

My husband and I have ridden Dutch bikes for 10 years, ever since we worked in Amsterdam. In a decade of riding in Oregon almost every single day (average 5 miles or more) I’ve had to tune my bicycle once! I’ve ridden through all kinds of weather dressed to go to work and play, in sandals and heels – even in my wedding dress! My dog rode in the front basket for years, which I could lock in place so the bike wouldn’t tip over if she moved around. If I added up all the minutes the built-in lock saved me in 10 years, I’ve probably gained 1000 hours of free time.
Dutch bikes are about moving through life with grace, charm, and ease. Chriswnw couldn’t be more wrong. They are the product of decades of experience from the most practical people in the world. Mine are by far the best bikes I’ve ever owned, and I’ve owned a lot.

k.
k.
13 years ago

I agree that a lot of the pre-existing packaged “dutch” style bikes aren’t really well suited to Portland, with it’s hills and varying terrain and traffic. The good news is that the term “city bike” seems to be in constant flux and is being continually refined by local and other bike makers. It’s exciting to see the mix of new styles and older bikes getting refurbished and/or modified and out on the streets. It’s one of the things I like about Portland!

Ross
Ross
13 years ago

I have a dutch bike and ride it over the West Hills. Sure, it’s not the fastest going uphill, but downhill is a whole different story. I enjoy the extra workout on it too. You can easily ride these bikes 20 miles in comfort. At the end of the day, the more bikes out there on the roads, the better. Happy cycling.

rider
rider
13 years ago

They do make a PDX specific city bike…it’s called the Trek Portland. Put some panniers on it and you’re good to go.

David C.
David C.
13 years ago

I live in Portland and I’m riding Dutch. I’m riding my big Dutch everywhere. Hills. Flats. No problem, no worries.

todd
13 years ago

@chriswnw, 2-mile radius claim is absurd. Yes I sell them (just getting that out of the way) but I also ride them daily or nearly so, further, with bigger loads than lighter bikes handle well, and yes with hills. I also own lighter sport bikes and have used them for 100-mile weekly commutes, for years. Double your commute time? Please.

Time trial? Yes, a sport bike will go quicker, but not by anything like the margins some of these comments imply, and that speed isn’t free. Sport bikes permit you to use more of your muscle groups, ride with greater intensity, than Dutch utility bikes. That means you tend to work harder. Let’s say a sport bike feels “right” cruising along at 17mph, and a granny bike at 13mph. I submit that the granny bike rider is still working less per mile, at least in flattish terrain, and will arrive a few moments later feeling fresher, not sweating. Those extra moments are often recovered because you don’t need to find a bike rack, your lock is built in, your lights theft-proof, and you don’t need to change, either.

If the bike is practical and comfortable enough that you ride it every day for all errands, grocery shopping or school dropoff/pickup, etc., instead of driving, after a while your fitness and performance on the bike will very likely exceed that of people who use only go-fast bikes with minimal loads on nice days. I sure pass plenty of people on light, stripped down bikes uphill.

brettoo
brettoo
13 years ago

The most important part of the Dutch bike for Americans is the fact that it comes with all the essentials — or what we’d call “extras” — installed. Mine came with back rack, chain guard, kickstand, bell, wheel lock, U lock, basket, integrated lights. It all means that you can just jump on and ride without tinkering or worrying about clothes.

Durability, reliability, and little need for maintenance are compelling reasons for owning one.

The other big advantage is the smoothness of the ride (steel frame, big tires, etc) and ease of frequent stopping and starting (upright geometry), which you have to do a lot downtown. My Oma is simply more practical, fun, and easy to ride in all my daily errands and trips.

One big difference between many if not most American Dutch bikes and the kind they use over there is the gearing. Seemed like most of those I saw in Holland were 1 or 3 speeds. My 8 speed nexus hub is perfectly adequate for my rides in central and inner east side Portland, and I have bad knees.

I agree that a west hills commuter might need a more aggressive geometry and lighter weight. But I took my Oma on a 13 mile ride all over the east side Saturday and only had a little more trouble than I would have on my hybrid, and that only when climbing the hill on the interstate path.

I’m style challenged, so I can’t cop to the cycle chic thing, but I occasionaly have to dress up a bit sometimes and it’s nice to not have to worry about chain grease. Of course, this is Portland, so who really dresses up much anyway?

Long distance commuters, racers, mtbers, and people who ride steep hills a lot should probably consider a different kind of bike. (Or have more than one for different uses.) For most Portland urban biking, a Dutch bike with appropriate gearing is not only fine, but in many ways superior to American alternatives, probably with exceptions like Breezers. Best idea is to test ride one at Clever Cycles or another dealer and see how it works for your particular needs.

Kevin Love
Kevin Love
13 years ago

I grew up in Madison, Wisc. In the 1960’s, my father would ride his Schwinn city bike to work. He was a university professor. When I was 16 years old, I got the Schwinn city bike that I rode for the next 31 years, until I bought a Pashley Sovereign Roadster.

There have always been city bikes in the USA. Schwinn made great ones at their factory in Chicago. Three-speed internal hub gears, fenders, chainguard and a fully upright riding position. I’ve still got my old Schwinn and it still works fine.

chriswnw
chriswnw
13 years ago

Different people have different riding styles and preferences, and I suppose the Dutch-style bike would work wonderfully for many. However, as a “city biker”, I take issue with notion that a “city bike” and a Dutch-style bike are one and the same. There are other styles of bikes that work great in an urban environment, especially for those who take joy in going fast, whipping around corners, etc. For example, others have pointed out the existence of more aerodynamic, light-weight utility would get better results in a moderately hilly city with longer travel distances. Somebody mentioned Breezers: http://www.breezerbikes.com/bike_details.cfm?bikeType=town&frame=d&bike=uptown Basically a modernized version of the English 3-Speed roadster.

I personally think that a low-geared singlespeed freewheel is one of the best urban transport vehicles — they are cheap cheap cheap!, light, fast, low maintenance, and you fly up moderately hilly terrain. I love mine. However, I’m planning on building a bike similar to that shown in the link, with a road bike frame, skinny kevlar tires, upright north road handlebars, front basket, 3 or 4 speed internally geared hub.

a-dub
a-dub
13 years ago

@12. I have a Trek Portland and while I love it, I still had to modify it including adding full fenders and a rack on the back. That said, my 20 mile round-trip commute is a lot easier on my Trek Portland than on my Marin Larkspur.

Carl
Carl
13 years ago

Kevin Love,
Good point. I’ve got an old Schwinn with a Bendix kick-back and fenders. Great city bike. Very comfortable. It’s too bad that that tradition and sensibility got trounced by America’s need for performance.

Speaking of which, lock up your Trek Portland on a city street with its clip-on fenders, and quick-releases…see how long THAT lasts. Nice bike, but not a street-ready city bike.

Jim Lee
Jim Lee
13 years ago

Fixies rule!

Anonymous
Anonymous
13 years ago

I think i remember reading about another portland framebuilder winning the “best city bike” category at nahbs this year?

John Lascurettes
13 years ago

I’ll take heavy but pragmatic and durable any day. I’m with you, Todd. ChrisNW, I commute 5 miles each way every day on a “heavy” 31 lb. bike (REI Novarra Fusion) outfitted with a Nexus internal hub and dynohub with light, full fenders, rack, bell, frame lock and I’m usually carrying the frame lock’s plug-in chain. And I do it in 23 minutes to downtown and in 28 minutes going home (I take a longer route to go up the Alameda ridge).

Now where I differ with this article is that I do push myself. I actually do it for the workout and I get sweaty (especially coming home) – thankfully my employer has a locker room. I’ve lost 20 pounds in a year doing so. I’ve plateaued over the last several months and have stopped losing weight. I’ll probably add some recreational rides this summer to see if it helps pick up the metabolism again.

SkidMark
SkidMark
13 years ago

I commute just fine on my KHS Aerotrack with a front brake and a clip-on fender when it rains. Tallbikes are good for commuting too, because you can see further ahead. You don’t need fenders because you are well above the water coming off the tires.

old&slow
old&slow
13 years ago

The “city bikes” they talk about are fine and people should ride what they are comfortable on but the best “All Around” bike for general commuting for anything over 3 or 4 miles is a cyclocross bike, Light, you can put fenders and a rack on, fast for getting where you want to go. I commute from N.E. to Wash. square, 13 miles and a big hill in between. I am 55 years old and can ride there in 50 minutes. I am not sure a “dutch” city bike would be the best bike for my commute.

mike m
mike m
13 years ago

I ride two bikes. Both are the best bikes when I am riding them. Biking is fun. Whatever bike you are on is fun. Driving my car sucks (except to the mountain in the snow).

Metrofiets
13 years ago

@post 21
Yep – Mitch of M.A.P. won the best city bike award at NHABS.

http://oregonframebuilders.com/
http://www.mapbicycles.com/

BURR
BURR
13 years ago

The Brits, the French and the Germans all have different ideas than the Dutch on what constitutes a ‘city bike’.

I’ve got to say, even though I’ve got several Dutch bikes in my stable, the Dutch-o-philes in Portland are getting a bit tiresome.

When it comes to cycling, everything Dutch is not necessarily the best thing for Portland, despite the fact that an influential minority desperately want to believe this.

Loren
Loren
13 years ago

Ride what you want to ride, cause if you don’t, you won’t ride. And the difference between my fast road bike and heavy tourer on my 12 mile commute? A couple minutes. You lose akmost all the time you gain sitting at lights.

Mark
13 years ago

When I took my last job, I was thrilled that I would have a 3 mile or so commute to a downtown office. Bicycling was the obvious choice. My first reaction was to ignore the perfectly good bikes in my basement and buy a “commuter” bike, whatever that meant five years ago. I told a friend that I was on my way to my LBS to buy a new bike for commuting and he said, “Huh? What about the other bikes you have?” The message was clear. Use what you have. Having visited Europe and Copenhagen in particular, I would love to have one of those models I so admired plying the streets of ancient cities. But, I’m in agreement that just about anything will work if you give it a chance, including my 20 year-old Cannondale sport-tourer that serves me very well.

coaster
coaster
13 years ago

not sure if this was already mentioned, but one big advantage of the ‘city bike’ would be it’s ubiquity. they all look the same, which discourages theft. a friend of mine told me after spending a semester in sweden that he routinely lost his bike amongst all the other, identical, city bikes. I think this allows people to just park it and not worry so much… it’s a tool, not a fashion accessory. But then again, this is America! where you ARE what you DRIVE.

Darren Alff
13 years ago

I think the best thing about city bikes are the fact that most of them are pretty beat up jukers. Like you said, they are for transportation and therefore, most people treat them as such. They don’t worry about scratching the paint of making sure the chrome is polished. Just get on and get to where you need to go… and look good doing it!

buglas
buglas
13 years ago

I’m with mike m #25 and Loren #28. Just ride. My bike was a gift last Father’s Day, so I didn’t pick it out. Purists would cringe at this mountain bike bogged down with fenders, a rear rack with a milk crate type basket zip tied on top, and a bell (BELL?!!) on the handlebars. Maybe not pretty, but it certainly meets my utilitarian needs.
I went into the LBS where the kids got me this one and said, “While I don’t feel like I’m doing it wrong, if I said ‘commuter bike’, what would you show me?” It was educational.
My next bike will be very different from what I ride now. Then, like mike m, I’ll have two best bikes to suit my moods.
I haven’t seen a packaged deal that I wouldn’t want to tinker with. Think of all the good features, Dutch and otherwise, as a menu and pick the ones that turn your crank. And don’t worry about living up to somebody else’s “label” or “style”.

mmann
13 years ago

Ride the bike you’ve got. Just about anything works with some creativity and willingness to futz with it.

Kent P recently rode from Issaqua to Portland and back for the for the weekend on a beater mountain bike set up single speed.
http://kentsbike.blogspot.com/2009/03/issaquah-portland-issaquah.html
If Dutch bikes get more people riding instead of driving, great. But don’t let “I don’t have the right bike” ever keep you from riding.

Ben McLeod
13 years ago

I love my breezer. I think I bought it for $500 back in 2002. It came with a built-in rack, lights, wheel-lock, chain-guard, fenders and a bell. The internal gear-hub was perfect for year-round riding in NH (commuting in snowstorms is pretty fun!) and is flawless in PDX. I would recommend it to anyone looking for a great commuter/city bike.

NB
NB
13 years ago

Dutch bikes are neat in their own way and all, but I can’t say I understand the fad. They’re super expensive (comparatively?), and if we, as bicyclists, are serious about trying to reduce our environmental impact, then one (important!) way to do so is to decrease the need to extract new materials and use energy in manufacturing. So buying a new bike seems superfluous when you can “reuse” an older bike, of which there are literally zillions out there still, and those old steel frames should last, with a little love, for another couple of decades. Besides which, it’s apparently too late to buy a Dutch bike because the NY Times has jumped on them as a hot new trend, and apparently in order to ride one you have to wear ridiculously un-color-coordinated clothing, wear silly gloves, have cool hair, and carry a gold chain.

Krampus
Krampus
13 years ago

It’s all about the Azor Kruisframe. The ultimate decadent bicycle ride.

brettoo
brettoo
13 years ago

Sigh — as bikes become more popular, I guess we’ll get more twits riding them too. Some of those models’ pants cost more than my bike!

But … Dutch bikes a “fad”? Anything but — the same basic model has been around for about 100 years. Fixies, mountain bikes, etc — those are fads by comparison. And they sure are green, because the things last a lifetime. What’s NOT green is buying a cheap wal mart bike that has to be replaced every few years. (In any case, I got mine, an Azor Oma, on craigslist.)

And the comfortable ride makes you more likely to ride the bike than drive. I can’t emphasize enough that the ride is MUCH smoother and more comfortable than any aluminum bike or any bike that makes you hunch over. My back, neck, and wrists have all felt much better since I started riding the Oma.
The cost is high compared to an old Schwinn (and I endorse using those beautiful, well built, pre 1980s models as long as they can live), but no higher or even cheaper than many of the bikes like a comparably equipped trek portland or breezer, and if you amortize it over the lifetime of the bike and consider the fact that you don’t have to buy the fenders, lights, etc, it’s pretty reasonable. Someone on this site (I think) once ran the inflation figures and found that a new Dutch bike today costs little more (adjusted for inflation) than what you would have paid for a good, mid priced American or English city bike back in the 1950s and ’60s.

NB
NB
13 years ago

@brettoo

I meant “fad” here in Portland/the United States. Yes, obviously the Dutch have been using them for a while…

I don’t really have a problem with Dutch bikes; all I’m saying is that for much less money you can buy a used (steel) bike and save the world the materials/energy required to build a new bike. (I know that creates jobs, the economy, etc., but that’s a different discussion.) I’m sure Dutch bikes are a good investment for what they are, in the same way a Rivendell is a good investment if it’s the last bike you ever buy. (Which it should be. And no one is suggesting that anyone go buy cheap aluminum Chinese-made Walmart bikes.)

However, what I do have a problem with is the assertion that people *need* to go buy new city bikes, that city bicycling is some sort of different discipline that requires new equipment, that people should “upgrade” to new Dutch bikes. I’m sure they’re super useful, and if you don’t already have a bike (or really want to truck your kids around in a wheelbarrow) and have the money/need for one, it’s probably a good thing to buy if you’re buying something new.

Perhaps this will be a moot point when we finally eradicate cars from our inner cities and allow pedestrians and slow-moving European-styled citybike folk take over. And I think perhaps I am also irked when I see the NYT take a slew of non-rider fixed-gear models, slap equally retarded (and expensive) clothing on them, and have them pose with vapid expressions on top of bicycles! Who does that??

April
13 years ago

I have two bikes: a mid-70’s mixte, ten speeds, with drop bars; and a ’61 Ladies Raleigh 3-speed.

While the mixte isn’t all that fast (it’s heavy and has a crappy gear range), I can definitely see the appeal of both faster bikes and “Dutch” bikes.

The Raleigh, which has similar a similar geometry to Dutch bikes, is very comfortable. I love being able to sit up and look around. The basket I put in front is convenient. But, let’s face it, it’s slow and a bitch to get uphill, and one does get tired of having her friends wait for her at the top of moderate inclines.

I’m definitely more comfortable riding longer distances on my mixte, because I’m not as afraid of being tired when I get to my destination. I also like being able to put my hands different places on the drop bars. Maybe if I just rode longer distances on the Raleigh it wouldn’t matter as much beause I’d be used to it?

And, just gotta say, I wear non-bikey clothes on both bikes–full skirts, that kind of thing. I’m still figuring out how to avoid getting dresses caught in my brakes/spokes (I think I need to start carrying a couple big safety pins around), but I just adapt my clothes to the weather (like putting a rain jacket on top of everything) and go for it.

chriswnw
chriswnw
13 years ago

This company makes what I consider to be practical and yet aerodynamic city bikes: http://www.swobo.com/bikes/collection/

brettoo
brettoo
13 years ago

Nick: amen. as they say about buildings, the greenest bike is the one that’s already made. I agree — a lot of people should see if their current bike or maybe a used one from the CCC or bought used could be rehabbed. Even if you later move up to a newer breezer or dutch bike, it’s nice to have a backup for when friends visit, or to donate to CCC.
I just wish American manufacturers hadn’t stopped making those sturdy old Schwinns and Raleighs (I guess those were British) in favor of “racers.” It’s nice to see real city bikes coming back, like the simple city, breezer and those pretty swobos.
If my Oma is ever swiped, I’ll certainly look for an American model, although it’ll probably be built in China by low-wage non union workers, unlike my dutch made bike. Although I still think they should come with a full (not half) chaincase to reduce maintenance, back rack, etc.
April: I found that the more I rode my upright posture bike, the easier it got, because I was building up those front thigh muscles (quads?) that carry more of the load. Upright will never be as efficient or powerful as hunched over, but it’s a lot more comfortable and also stable, especially in stop and start city riding; I’ve never come close to spilling on my Oma, and I love being higher up so that cars can see me better and vice versa. I just allow an extra couple of minutes if I’m going more than a couple miles. I still have my old hybrid (on loan to a friend) and if I decide to go up mt tabor or something, I’ll probably haul it out.

KJ
KJ
13 years ago

Part of the appeal to me is functional. I like the step through frame and chain and skirt guard. I want that…I think more bikes should have those options regardelss of intended function of the bike.

I like the idea of riding in a more upright posture wearing whatever I like. I am thinking of manufacturing my own skirt guard so I can wear whatever length of skirt or dress I like with impunity…

That being said, these bikes to me are as much about looks are function. The other reason I want one? I think they look pretty.

Maybe someday I’ll find a nice used step through frame I can mod. But most of the Duchies are out of my class $$ wise. And I can’t stand the cutesie townies and cruzers out there. I just like the pretty dutch bikes. shallow? yeah.
which is why I am not too bummed about not getting one, my hybrid is perfectly serviceable.
I still want one.

Faux Porteur
Faux Porteur
13 years ago

While I don’t have a Dutch city-bike I do have a heavy, wide tired (2.35″), dynamo-lit bike that I’ve built into an Xtracycle long-tail. It most likely weighs over 55 lbs but I choose to ride it everyday (even though my average daily-loads could be carried by a lesser bike). I don’t notice some huge performance jump with my lighter “more aero dynamic” bikes.

The most important things for me are:

Comfort (good handlebar/saddle/pedal relationship, appropriately wide/smooth tires)

Convenience (dynamo powered lighting since its dark, on average, 12 hours a day, ease of cargo loading/unloading since I’ll need stuff where I’m going)

Dryness (70mm fenders over the 60mm tires and a raincape/spats combo)

My long-tail delivers those in spades.

Sure, if I was in a race I’d want something else, but guess what I WILL NEVER BE IN A RACE. People don’t drive Formula 1 cars around town either.

It takes me 20 minutes to get to work, if I rode a so called “fast” bike I could maybe shave a couple minutes off. When I have to cross town for a punk show in North Portland or something it takes me 35-40 minutes, again, I could *maybe* get it under a half hour on a “fast” bike. Big deal.

Some people come into the shop that I work at and scoff at the bikes we sell (all steel-framed, 25+ lb bikes). They make it sounds like the bikes are impossible to ride. What, are they spaghetti-legged weaklings? People have been using 25-60lb bikes as transportation for over a hundred years, they usually don’t complain about how much they weigh.

metal cowboy
13 years ago

I have a sticker on my computer “Get On Your Bike” not my city bike or my fast bike, my cyclocross, tandem, mountain bike, touring bike… I think going dutch is cool, but echoing some of the other posters, you should ride what works for you… so that you’ll ride! Also, this thread reminds me that I don’t have too many bikes, just not enough sets of legs 😉 Trsut me, I can rationalize you under the table when it comes to my bikes.

jim
jim
13 years ago

Given enough time and American bikes will evolve into a smarter design like the dutch, it’s only natural. In a country where we have 2.8 cars in every garage perhaps we can also have 2 bikes? A city bike (or should we call them smart bikes?) and a lightweight for those long rides

Todd Boulanger
Todd Boulanger
13 years ago

Another point to consider in bike choice for one’s trip is time saved by not having to shower or change one’s clothes at the destination.

Riding slower keeps me out of the shower at the end of a 5 mile commute (10 minutes saved). Switching from my fast fun track bike to my city bike saves me only a couple of minutes after having to change clothes.

The issue of speed really only comes into significance with commutes over 5 miles. (Portland will only become a true bike city with converting all those short car trips into bike trips…leave the long ones to commuter rail or cars. )

Dave
Dave
13 years ago

Look, a variety of available bike types benefits everyone. In a hilly city like Portland I’d find a Dutch bike an exercise in masochism since I go up hills slow enough already and they’re not really suited for PDX’s “ditches and ridges” geography. American cities and more to the point American suburbs create needs for equipment that can be ridden more quickly over longer distances. When I started “real” cycling in 1968, there were no bike variations between road racing bikes (although the race bikes of that time were more useful and versatile than the current species!) and Raleigh Sports/Schwinn Breeze 3 speeds. 2009’s situation is far better as the bike for anyone’s travel or commuting purpose exists. Vive le differences!

El Biciclero
El Biciclero
13 years ago

Todd B. said, “The issue of speed really only comes into significance with commutes over 5 miles.”

It’s true, the longer your travel distance, the more time you will save with speed. Having only been able to afford one bike at a time, I’ve always opted for something “multi-purpose”, which is currently an Al-frame road-hybrid (16 years old!). I have fenders and a rack and battery lights I use when it’s gloomy or dark, and really, the only hassle over and above something heavier is the lights that I must remove every time I stop anywhere (lest they get stolen, which is sad in itself…). But since the main use of my bike is commuting 8 miles one way to work and back, I’m glad to have something “faster” than a cruiser to do it on. I also go for occasional rec rides through the hills (or even take a hilly route to work some days), and then I am glad to have something lighter than 35 lbs.

As has been stated before, use whatever type of bike suits your purpose and motivates you to ride!

Carice
Carice
13 years ago

I don’t really want to defend the NY Times and the silly clothes they had the models wearing. However, my perception is that clothing culture in Portland is a little more informal. Among the people who work in downtown Boston, suits and dresses (stockings, heels) are the majority, and when you’re dressed up, a Dutch bike is far superior than any other bike type.
And yes, I know you can pack a change of clothes and change at work, but I used to do that and it sucks when you forget your undies and have to wear cycling shorts under your clothes all day.

dutch city tank bikes!!??!?!
dutch city tank bikes!!??!?!
13 years ago

after hearing so much about these bikes…i decided to look it up and read reviews…
people are saying shit like “u cant ride a road bike in dress clothes” well i commute to work in philly in dress pants and a shirt and tie everyday…
and if it gets above 90 i wear shorts and a change of clothes…

comparing this bike to the huge fixie fad…now its gonna be a dutch city fad going around which will be equally annoying….
now not only will their be stupid kids riding like idiots and doing stupid wheelies on the road, theres going to be slow ass bike riders in my way

if u really want something practical…
get a road bike some gears if u have hills, or a single speed or fixie will work. they are light and fast and able to weave through heavy traffic

id rather roll up a pant leg than drag a 50 pound bike around