My Dutch Bike – The Test of Time

The commute this morning (NCN2 at Worthing) with Brighton in the distance and the sound of traffic competing with the sound of the sea.

It’s now been about two months since the Batavus Old Dutch entered my life. It has therefore been through pretty much everything a British winter can chuck at it as well as the salty sea air of the south coast. It would be fair to say that my cycling life has been transformed as this wonderfully simple piece of machinery joins the dots of all the other aspects of my life too.

Firstly the basics; it is a 2009 model (bought new) comprising the following;

Old Dutch with other bikes that the British can't handle due to the fact that they are too practical.
  • 3 speed Shimano Nexus hub with grip shift
  • A coat guard (or dress guard depending on the mood one is in)
  • A kickstand that many British cyclists will keep forgetting is there (we’ve forgotten about sheer practicality)
  • A fully enclosed leather chain guard so The Wife doesn’t grit her teeth when oil magically appears on soft furnishings
  • A springy Selle Royal saddle. It needs to be springy due to the owners’ love of Trappist Ales.
  • Full mudgaurds
  • An integral lock – Put keys in to release lock and then frantically frisk yourself before remembering they still in the lock when you reach your destination. All you have to push the lock down, remove the keys and walk away. An additional chain that plugs into the lock to secure it to a stand is advised and can be carried on the rear rack when not in use.
  • Integral lights – these sadly are battery operated and not hub dynamo but I’ve been using them for 2 months and they don’t seem to be dimming at all. They aren’t amazingly bright but you won’t be going fast enough for this to pose a problem.
  • A heavy duty rack (please note that this rack will NOT take your finest Ortliebs. Dutch panniers are recommended and stay fixed to the bike – the idea being that you put your shopping bags or whatever straight in and pedal away.
  • Puncture resistant tyres with reflective sidewalls

It is not light. At all. It is a strictly utilitarian machine for cruising along at a steady pace carrying hefty loads. You wouldn’t enter a Ford Transit van into Le Mans so you wouldn’t enter a bike like this into the Tour de France either. It also hates headwinds, but then again we all do so that’s something else we all have in common. The handling is lovely due to the upright, arms out position allowing one to take in large gulps of fresh air (or not, London readers). The basic rule of thumb which I love is that if the handling is erratic, then you are cycling too fast. Slow down.

It must be stated that I’m not gaining maximum enjoyment from this bike on the 12 mile[ish] commute, not because it isn’t a joy to ride but because of the time constraints that my current routine imposes. Because The Boy requires his breakfast at 8am, I have to cajole him until The Wife prepares it so I can then bolt out the door to get to work for 9am. This is repeated in the evening when I leave at 5.30pm to have to get back for 6.30pm so I can bathe The Boy and give him his final feed before putting him to bed. Sometimes with a bedtime story about bicycle infrastructure in Groningen (which does seem like a fairy tale when read in the UK) or, if he’s been bad tempered, excerpts from John Franklin’s Cyclecraft.

All this means that I’m usually a bit sweaty (wearing a wind and waterproof jacket doesn’t help as they never vent enough). However, it must be reiterated that this is a fault of the constraints that my lifestyle has placed on the bike as opposed to being a fault of the bike. I could just say ‘stuff it’ and get into cycling gear to make a speedier commute on my road bike but I now find that with a helmet on and being back on drop handlebars makes me a noticeably more aggressive rider, chasing down others and being passed far too close by motorists that suddenly see me as an illegal alien in their environment. I’ve re-entered a testosterone fuelled Rat Race of the male cyclists’ creation.

However, it’s not just what this bike does now as what this bike will be able to do in the future. As the days continue to draw out, so will The Boys bath and bedtime. I’ll be able to cast off the waterproofs (but be able to keep them in the pannier as it usually chucks it down during the tennis at Wimbledon) and feel the warm sea air blowing in off gently crashing waves as I have a go at South Coast Cycle Chic. I’m going to purchase a front child seat shortly for leisurely rides along Worthing Promenade seeing as The Boy is now 9 months old. We’ll try and go a traffic free route so he doesn’t pick up any swear words. Or we could just immigrate to Denmark or the Netherlands and properly fit in.

In short, if you want a do it all bike with the added appeal of being lycra free that can take all types of loads, people or little people whilst sitting back and enjoying the view, then I strongly recommend a Dutch Bike or Roadster. The sheer get on and go appeal means that I’m using it for far more errands. And then finding excuses to run more errands.

Old Dutch on the train. The bike is more reliable than Southern Rail.

23 thoughts on “My Dutch Bike – The Test of Time”

  1. I’m sure it is wonderful but now the wife has let you buy it do you still need to justify it?
    You have a chainguard that I don’t have (and have never needed because a trouser clip works), an integral lock that needs a sepearate chain (I carry a cable lock), and it’s heavy. Everything else my folder has and it always fits on the train.
    So, what’s the advantage of a Dutch bike?

    1. A Dutch Bike is a very comfortable ride. Especially more than a folder. It can also carry big loads and be just left outside as the gears and brakes are internal reducing further the need for maintenance. Just don’t get a puncture 🙂

      I do have a Brompton (or Thunderbird 2 as I like to call it as it’s in T2 green too) as well as a fast drop bar tourer. I just wanted to try something different and then write about it as this type of bike is hardly two a penny in the UK. The weird thing is, it has more in common with the roadsters that my grandfather and father used to have (and also ride on singletrack across the local commons decades before the Mountain Bike). It doesn’t offer anything new but when I see people carrying luggage on themselves or riding in the rain without mudguards (which is very common) I do wonder why we’re not getting back to basics. This to me is the bike (or similar) that will facilitate mass cycling.

      Also I’m used to heavy bikes. I was the proud owner of a Raleigh Grifter 🙂

  2. Interesting that you found it more restful in traffic. I’ve always used a ‘sit up and beg’ for local and shopping trips – current model is a Gazelle Fuente Pure, which I adore – but find I get more hassle from motorists than on any other machine. Slow and stately progress seems to attract more ire than head-down and obviously ‘serious’ progress.

    It also affects my choice of route. Going to work I’ll use a cyclepath alongside a dual carriageway rather than a hilly and narrow country road, which is relatively heavily trafficked. And I’m not filtering through stationary traffic as much either – on a sportier model I’ll take the lane or filter much more than on the Gazelle.

    As you say, a great experience, and one which is much closer to the Continental model. Just wish motorists would think the same!

  3. It is strange how the type of bike you ride actually makes you ride in a different way. I have two bikes. One an old heavy flat bar hybrid with wide tyres, rack and guards. The second bike is still fairly heavy but is drop barred and shod with skinny tyres. Each bike has its own peculiarities and demands to be ridden in a certain way.

    I am currently building up a long-tail xtracycle cargo bike for groceries/school run which I am imagining will be unlike anything I have ridden before!

  4. @ericonabike

    Actually I agree with this. The other day I hopped on my hybrid in my normal clothes and my beanie hat(bright red) and was pootling back from the shops when I was almost knocked off not once but twice. This has so far never happened while coming back from my commute. Sure, it could have been coincidence but it made me think twice.

    1. The commute is flat apart from one climb from the seafront to where i work (Brighton is fairly hilly). However, Worthing where I live is flat so the 3 gears are ample. If I lived in the Highlands of Scotland I may favour a 7 speed hub 🙂

  5. I broke my wrist a few years ago and couldn’t work out why my arms were in agony every time I rode my old road bike where all the wait was on the handlebars…

    Since moving to a sit up and beg I swear I’ll never go back. I’ve still got my road bike for races or workouts but for just getting to work or popping down the shops you can’t beat a sit up and beg. I’m glad you are enjoying yours Jim!

    What saddens me is how difficult they are to get – the mainstream bike shops are packed with all sorts of weird and wonderful contraptions but very few practical city bikes. A shame, methinks.

    1. I have converted what is essentially a cyclo-cross bike to a very usefull “sit up” type by simply poping on a set of North Road type bars and an integral lock(the lock is a game changer… try it). Hub gears have been my preferred choise for many years for their ease of use/maintainance.

      It ends up with the position of a dutch(ok…almost) but without the massive weight and cheap to do. Very nice in traffic due to the high/relaxed eyepoint but still nippy when needed. A practicle bike gets used more often.

  6. hi there, this is a great blog post and so happy to have found it!
    I am hoping to buy a Dutch bike in the near future, but I was wondering about the gender-friendly frames?
    I am a male and I know traditionally gents bikes have straight bar frame bikes like yours but do you know if curved-frame Dutch bikes are specific for women or are they mixed-gender?

    thanks man,

    1. Hi and thanks!

      When I was in the Netherlands earlier this year I saw many men using step through frames and indeed even in the shop where I bought my bike from, there were far more oma than opa (gents) frames. I specifically went for a gents purely for nostalgic reasons – because my father had a similar looking bike and I used to ride on a small cushion balanced on the crossbar as a child (my son has a proper seat with windshield these days!). Also, it has a very British gentlemen’s roadster feel. It’s just a question of taste but as far as I’m aware, curved frames are mixed-gender. I certainly saw nothing in the Netherlands to prove anything otherwise and I saw a LOT of people on Dutch bikes 🙂

      Best of luck, whatever you choose.


      1. Hello –

        Oma frames are indeed for everybody in Holland. Many people, including men, have an old one for getting around town, shopping, and especially for practicality with kids’ seats (if you have a larger child in a rear seat, it’s hard to get off a mens’ frame bike without giving junior a Bruce Lee to the head or midriff.)

        Oma frames are inevitably less stiff than Opa frames (or cross-frames, etc.) and thus are less comfy for long rides in the country, with wind, etc. For a longer commute, Opa makes more sense.

    1. You should go to The Netherlands! When I was in Assen & Groningen last year, there were lots of men, young and old on Omafiets. But then again, the bicycle over there is just a simple tool for them to get from A to B so they don’t really mind what they’re riding – at least from my observations.

      In the UK, I occasionally see men on ladies framed mountain bikes or some such but it’s far more common here to see Gents on Gents frames and Ladies on Ladies frames.

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