About Dutch Town Bikes
British and North Americans are becoming increasingly aware of the bicycle culture that comes out of the best bicycling country in the world – the Netherlands!
But I’m still occasionally asked what makes a bicycle a “Dutch-style” bicycle, so this article will explain the anatomy of a Dutch bicycle.
First, a tidbit of history.
The Dutch didn’t invent the bicycle or even develop the earliest bicycles. In the late 19th century, England, Germany and France were leading bicycle manufacturing - and in fact, the first Dutch bicycles largely copied from English bicycles (thus, many of the features of a Dutch bicycle came from the original English design).
Due to the flat landscape of Holland, Dutch bicycles are generally heavy and sturdy and used for transport, and prior to the Second World War, it was very uncommon to have gears on Dutch bicycles.
If I were to describe a typical Dutch-style bicycle with a few adjectives, I would say they are sturdy, comfortable, low maintenance, practical, pragmatic, stylish and somewhat heavy.
Photo by James D. Schwartz
Dutch bicycles are upright or “sit-up” style – with taller frames than typical bicycles. This position allows for very good visibility and great comfort.
A popular form of Dutch bicycles is the Omafiets (translates to Grandma’s bike). The Omafiets are traditionally black, with a step through frame, upright position, mudguards and a skirt guard.
Although historically Dutch bicycles were largely single-speed or 3-speed, the Dutch are becoming more demanding for more gears. Most now also come in 7 or 8 speed!
It’s common for Dutch bicycles to use coaster brakes and many of them come with both front roller brakes and rear coaster brakes. Although coaster brakes are somewhat uncommon in Britain and North America, you may remember using them as a kid – you pedal backwards and it engages the rear brake.
Another staple feature of Dutch bikes is the varnished chain cover, mudguard and skirt guard. These features keep the rider clean and dry, and the chain guard keeps the chain protected from the weather elements. To ride a Dutch bike, you need nothing other than your regular clothes. This is why you will rarely see anyone wearing bicycle “gear” in the Netherlands.
And with a sealed chain case on a Dutch bike, you only need to oil your chain once or twice a year.
They are built to last, and they don’t require a lot of maintenance.
Photo by James D. Schwartz / The Urban Country
Photo by Todd Fahrner
Perhaps the most distinct feature of a Dutch bicycle is the handlebars. Dutch handlebars curve in towards the rider to make for a more comfortable, relaxing ride.
It takes a bit of getting used to, but you won’t want to go back to British or North American handlebars once you’ve “gone Dutch”.
For additional safety, many Dutch bikes also come equipped with a large, round headlight on the front:
Let’s not forget the sturdy rear (or front) racks on the back of the Dutch bicycle.
Another key feature that sold me on the Dutch bike is the fact that they can be stored outside year-round without rusting.
This is important in a country like the Netherlands because there is limited space to bring bicycles indoors, so Dutch bicycles need to withstand the rain and snow.
We have received a fair amount of snow here in UK this year, and I have yet to do any maintenance on my Dutch bike. In comparison, last year I was oiling my mountain bike chain every 2 days because of the rain, snow, and salt.
Last but not least is the convenient rear wheel lock. The key stays inserted in the wheel lock until you lock it, then you take the key with you. This is *extremely* convenient for short visits to a store – you don’t need to worry about someone riding your bike away - and we all know that nobody would be foolish enough to carry a Dutch bicycle ;)
If I still haven’t sold you on a Dutch bike, then you might just have to take one out and see it for yourself.
On this occassion we only sell the exclusive (to the UK/US/CA) beautiful original Dutch town bikes by Hollands first and oldest bicycle brand since 1862 and these come mostly standard with front and rear lights, stand, chain guard, bell, mud guards and lock. The Dutch Town Bikes are available in 23 models, catering for gents, ladies and children, various colors/gearing/sizes and are supplied with a 5 year warranty