7 things you should know BEFORE you buy a used Dutch bike.
While we don’t sell used Dutch bikes at the Dutch bike shop, we do service and repair all makes of Dutch bike and this is a large part of our business.
The purpose of this article is to help those who are considering buying a used Dutch bike, which can make good financial sense. However, you need to be aware of the potential dangers/pitfalls and make sure that what you buy represents a sound investment.
Here is our top 7 things to look out for when buying a used Dutch bike.
1. Who is selling the bike?
You’ve fallen in love with the beautiful ‘Dutch bike bargain’ that you’ve seen on ebay/gumtree etc and you believe it’s the one for you. Great. But have you checked out who is actually selling the bike?
In our experience, the best seller of a used Dutch bike is the private seller whose owned and ridden the bike or is selling the bike on behalf of a relative.
The other type of seller is the business seller who imports used Dutch bikes from Holland and sells them in the UK. While some of these businesses can offer you a good quality used Dutch bike, you must be careful that the bike you’re buying isn’t simply at the end of it’s life and uneconomical to make usable again. Hence why it’s for sale in the UK, not Holland.
We regularly get contacted here at the Dutch Bike Shop from businesses in Holland looking to offload large quantities of used Dutch Bikes. The deal is that you buy a container/truck load and it’s literally a pick and mix. You could get some bikes that are in relatively good condition, others than require substantive work and those that really are at the end of their life.
We don’t get involved with this type of business, but there are a number out there now operating in the UK. So, beware. The private seller is always the better option – in our view/experience.
2. Check the Bike’s Service history
Things you need to check include:
- When was the bike last serviced (if ever…)
Contrary to popular myth – all bicycles need servicing. At least, once a year depending on the usage. The Dutch ride more miles than any other nation in the world. You need to remember this if you’re buying a bike that has been imported from Holland.
3. Check the Brakes.
Brakes – Older Dutch bikes will usually have hub brakes. Or a form of drum brakes.
If the bike you’re looking at has older drum brakes, then you need to be careful as getting parts/replacement brake pads for these bikes can be tricky, especially in the UK where these brake systems are now mostly obsolete.
Working on drum brakes is fairly specialist stuff and labour intensive compared to modern braking systems. You need to be aware of this when buying the bike that if the brakes aren’t great, you could be facing some expensive bills to put them right, that’s on the basis you can find a cycle workshop capable of working on these brake systems.
Modern Dutch bikes (by modern, I mean bikes built in the last 15 years or so) will usually have Shimano Roller brakes. These brakes were developed by Shimano to replace drum brakes and they’re far easier for bike shops (with knowledge…) to work on these. If they’re completely shot, they’re not too expensive to replace.
4. Check the Gears.
Dutch Bikes typically used ‘hub gears.’
Benefit of Hub Gears is that they usually require less overall maintenance than derailleur gears and you can change them when the bike is stationery. Useful for when you’re forced to suddenly stop/slow down that you don’t have to be pedalling to change gear.
Hub gears can also mean less likelyhood of cathing your clothing in the chain/gear mechanisms and they usually come with some form of chain case thus keeping oil and grease away from clothing.
But they’re expensive to replace when they wear out.
It’s unlikely that most UK Dutch bike riders will wear out the gear mechanisms, (but we have seen some of our high mileage customers do this) provided of course they keep the bike’s service routine up. However, if you’re used Dutch bike has come from Holland where bicycles are ridden by their owners most days of the year, in all weathers and can be their primary form of transport – it could be the internal mechanisms of the hub gear can be worn out and needs replacing.
Not a huge job for a specialist who knows what they’re doing – but it’s realitively expensive as there’s cost of the new hub/hub inners and the labour.
That said, most hub gears that we see in our workshop that aren’t working correctly can be put right – problems are usually with the cabling action or the way the wheel has been fitted to the bike or other fixable problesm.
But you need to be aware that if the gears aren’t working on the bike you’re thinking about buying and the seller tells you it’s an ‘easy fix’ then ask yourself, if it’s so easy, why haven’t they fixed it themselves?
Make of hub is also important – most modern Dutch bikes will be fitted with Shimano Nexus Hubs – either 3/7/8 speeds.
Older Dutch bikes may have Sachs hubs – which are no longer in production – thankfully as these hubs were plagued with problems and our advice is always, to steer clear of a bike fitted with a Sachs hub. Or if you must have the bike, factor in the cost of a new hub.
Sturmey Archer is also a popular hub gear. Less expensive than Nexus, usually reliable, but the downside is they’re heavier than Nexus hubs and they’re more difficult to work on. Finding a cycle shop with specialist knoweldge of working with a Sturmey Archer hub isn’t always easy. Especially these days when so many traditional bricks and mortar bike shops are closing.
Our advice would be to look for a modern Nexus hub first. Sturmey archer would be second choice and Sachs hubs would be a walk-away from.
5. Check the Tyres
3 main areas to look for:
- Check for wear – how much thread depth is left?
- Check for perishing – are they showing signs of perishing/fatigue etc
- Check the tyre walls for cuts/tears
We always recommend you have some quality puncture protection tyres fitted to your Dutch bike. Tyres can be expensive and fitting is chargeable by most shops. Typically a set of tyres front and rear including fitting can cost around £80 – £100 depending on the tyre chosen and fitting costs. You need to factor this additional cost when buying a used Dutch bike.
Bicycles tyres wear and perish.
If a bicycle hasn’t been used for some time, the tyres can be destroyed by lack of use. What happens is the tyre deflates over time and the weight of the bike sit’s on the bottom of the tyre causing damage and perishing.
6. Test Ride the Bike
When buying a used Dutch bike, you should always test ride the bike. If this isn’t possible, then you really don’t know what you’re buying.
The only way you will find out if the brakes and gear work is for you to test ride the bike. Testing the gears – ask the seller how you change gears (even if you know, it’s a good way of checking if the seller really has ridden the bike or if something he/she has simply acquired).
Gears should move smoothly in each number. Number 1 is the lowest and as you go up the gears, you should get more resistence. Usually with a hub gear, you either stop pedalling momentarily while you change gear, or you lay off the pressure as you pedal. Nexus allows you to pedal while changing gear, but most older Sturmey Archers don’t. Which isn’t a problem.
7. Is the Bike the right size for you?
The Dutch are the tallest nation in Europe.
Thefore their bikes tend to be built in larger frames than you’d typically find in the UK market. Size 48cm/19″ is usually the smallest frame size for ladies/step through and gent’s frame sizes are usually from 50cm/almost 20″.
You should make sure that the used Dutch bike you’re thinking of buying is the right size for you. Frame sizes are determined by inside leg measurement, not your overall height. To ride a 48cm framed bike, you will need an inside leg measurement of at least 27″.
Ideally, should sit on/test ride the bike to make sure you’re happy to ride it.
Buying a good quality, well-maintained, looked after Dutch bike can offer you a great opportunity to save money and enjoy a bike without huge cost.
However, you will have to carry out some research prior to making your purchase. If this isn’t something you’re keen on doing – then don’t buy a used Dutch bike.
Your research should include:
- Checking out who selling the bike? Importer of used Dutch bikes of varying quality bikes, or a private seller whose looked after their bike?
- Does everthing work as it should – eg, brakes, gears, lights (if fitted).
- Size – is the bike the right size for you?
Book your Dutch Bike in for a Service
If you’d like us to service/repair your Dutch bike, please contact us on 01903 730089 and we can arrange a day for you to bring the bike in for us to have a look at.
We do offer a collection/return service for servicing and repairs for all areas within a 10 mile radius of our shop in Littlehampton.
We hope you find the information in this article of some help and wish you well in finding the right bike for yourself.