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A little bit of #LazyPosting on the blog this week.
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC0intLFzLaudFG-xAvUEO-A, who is originally from Canada but now lives in Amsterdam, recently did a video called
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aESqrP3hfi8, which took a detailed look at the standard Dutch city bike, and put it into the context of what's available in Canada and what Canadians would be used to. I'm a huge fan of his work in general and this video in particular, so I thought I'd riff off this a bit by taking a look at the bike I had in Amsterdam, and the one I bought when I got back to Australia.
My bike in Amsterdam was a cheap secondhand omafiets that I got from The Bike Boys, who my University put me onto when I was first arranging accommodation and so on. It was very similar to the main star of the Not Just Bikes video - a heavy, single-speed bike with step-through frame, fenders, and a chain guard (but no skirt/coat guard). It had a rear rack, but honestly I never really used it - when riding to class or whatever, I just wore my backpack.
It didn't have a frame lock, and the advice I got from the locals was that these are basically useless - more security theatre than anything else. If you're relying on the combination of people's honesty, the bike being too crappy to steal, and one of these locks...the lock probably isn't doing the heavy lifting. I just had a normal chain lock that served me pretty well.
The lack of gears wasn't at all surprising, given how cheap-and-cheerful the bike was - but it certainly had an impact on rideability, particularly as I wasn't very bike-fit, especially when I first arrived. People always say that the Netherlands is very flat, and it mostly is, but the human-built form like overpasses are as steep as anywhere else. (Also: they call the very strong winds the "Dutch hills" for a good reason).
Like the bike in the video, mine didn't have handbrakes, just a footbrake that you engaged by pedalling backwards. Unlike him, I HATED this - the motion is intuitive enough once you get used to it, it just didn't have enough stopping power to pull me up as quickly as I wanted.
I didn't have a dynamo, I just had some small detachable LED lights. These honestly worked fine, and LEDs are so energy efficient now that the batteries last ages. In fact, I sold the bike back to the Bike Boys about a week before I left Amsterdam, but I brought the lights back to Australia with me, and I'm still using them now.
In Australia, the situation is a lot better than in Canada - the vast majority of adult bikes are still sporting bikes of some description, but Dutch-style city bikes are certainly available if you know where to look. Disappointingly, bikes with step-through frames are still exclusively marketed as "women's" bikes in Australia...but of course, nobody is obliged to pay attention to marketing.
While Dutch-style bikes are available, this is a relatively new phenomenon, and they're still seen as something of a premium product for Latte-sipping lefties. So the new ones tend to be quite expensive, and the second-hand market hasn't really developed yet. So the whole "buy a cheap belter, don't care if it gets stolen" thing you can do in the Netherlands is probably still a few years off here.
It took me a while to get sorted once I got back to Australia (because taking a semester off work meant I was broke, but also just generally Because COVID) but ultimately I got my hands on the Jordaan by Lekker Bikes. Lekker is a Dutch-Australian company, with stores in Melbourne, Sydney and Amsterdam, so they have a very good understanding of both the Dutch bike and the Australian environment - a few of my friends have Lekker bikes and gave positive reviews when I was asking around in early 2020. People also recommended Papillionaire, Gazelle and Electra at that time, but I can't speak to personal experience with them.
The Jordaan came with front and rear racks as standard, and I opted for the front basket as well, but to be honest so far I haven't really made much use of them - like in Amsterdam, I've really just used my backpack. But then again I've mostly been riding for leisure - I suspect that once more of Ballarat's cycling network is built, and I'm riding more for utilitarian reasons, I might make more use of the racks.
It has front and rear hand brakes - rim brakes on the front and disc brakes on the rear. These have a good amount of stopping power, and make me feel a lot more secure than the old foot brake did. It also has a three-speed in-hub gearset, which is infinitely better than the single-speed bike in Amsterdam (and infinitely better than derailleur-based gear systems I tried as a teenager). The cables for the brakes and the gear system are all closely integrated into the frame (actually passing through the lower tube) so I can't imagine ever facing any issues with them getting in the way when parking.
Annoyingly, the bell that came with the Lekker wasn't up to the same standard as the rest of the bike - it looked pretty, but it was hard to get a good sound out of from day one, and fell apart within weeks. A $5 replacement now does the job.
Now, all of this doesn't really come cheap - a shiny new Jordaan with all the trimmings, delivered to my door 98% assembled, cost me $1054. (Although at the time of writing they have a free shipping deal which could save you a bit). Which is clearly a big difference to the cheap-and-cheerful omafiets I had in Amsterdam, and perhaps more than someone who's just cautiously getting back on the bike might be willing to pay.
But I'm really happy with my purchase, and I hope to see more of this style of bike around the streets of Ballarat soon.
This article first appeared on the-iron-road.blogspot.com
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