Thinking about buying a Dutch bike?
If you are, the chances are you’re going to have lots of questions.
In this short feature, I answer some of the most common questions we get asked by visitors to our Dutch Bike shop in Littlehampton. I hope this information will be useful for those of you thinking of buying a Dutch bike, but are a bit overwhelmed by model choices, brands and so on.
What is a Dutch bike?
Mention a Dutch bike to most people and they will think only of a traditional Dutch Bike as pictured below.
Generally speaking, a Dutch bike is one made by a Dutch cycle manufacturer in Holland. Not to be confused with the many ‘Dutch style’ bikes which are now widely available. A genuine Dutch bike made by a quality Dutch cycle manufacturer, eg Batavus, Koga, Azor, Gazelle will have at its heart not only a quality frame and quality components but will have been lovingly built in a factory in the Netherlands and will, if looked after, deliver many years of pleasurable safe cycling.
Now when it comes to Dutch bikes, there are more than one particular style. While most people will identify the above Batavus Old Dutch bike as being a traditional Dutch bike, this isn’t the only model of Dutch bike available.
IN fact, the biggest sellers in the Dutch bike market is for the more modern bikes – for example, Dinsdag as pictured below.
The Batavus Dinsdag is a modern Dutch bike, which gives a lovely upright riding position just as you get with a traditional Dutch bike but the benefit of handlebars that adjust (great for changing riding positions depending on headwinds/hills and so on) and a lighter alloy frame that then traditional Dutch bike has.
There are of course many other Dutch bike models for you to consider. A quick look at our Dutch Bike Models gives you an idea of the many bikes to choose from.
How do I choose a Dutch Bike?
By far this is the most common question we get asked.
How do I know which Dutch bike is most suitable for me?
Often we get this via email and it’s difficult, if not impossible to answer as only you know which bike is most suited for you in terms of the type of cycling you intend to do and what you like in the’ look of a bike’ – the all important – appearance.
So if you’re looking for a traditional Dutch bike then your choices will be Batavus Old Dutch and the Batavus Hommage. These are 3-speed steel-framed Dutch bikes and give a nice upright riding position. Although traditional, they have modern components. For example, the gears are Shimano Nexus, brakes are Shimano roller brakes and the lights will either be battery powered front and rear.
In my experience, many people buy a bike as in our experience, choosing a bike is as much about the appearance and perceived attractiveness of the bike as it is about the actual bike’s features.
So, first step to choosing a bike – have a look at all the bikes and see which one or ones you like the most of. Make a short list and then read through the specifications that we’ve put underneath each bike. These will include how many gears the bike has and other features it has.
At this stage it will become apparent which bike/s are most suited for your needs.
You might hanker after a beautiful traditional Old Dutch bike – then go for it. I’ve ridden my traditional 3 speed Dutch Bike from Land’s End to John O Groats in 2006.
A Dutch Bike will take you anywhere provided you’re willing to cycle it. Obviously where hills are concerned it’s advantageous to have more gears – so with this in mind if you’re in a hilly area, perhaps sensible to look at either 7 speed (hub gears) or 27 speed Derailleur geared Dutch bike.
Pictured below is Mark Beaumont who set a new world record cycling on a Dutch bike in 2008. Mark rode a Koga World Traveller – a Dutch bike model we stock and sell in our shop. An avid cyclist and adventurer, Mark still rides Koga Dutch bikes and has completed some pretty amazing long distance journeys on them. Mark Beaumont’s website features his latest challenges and is well worth a visit.
What gears do Dutch bike have?
Contrary to popular misconception – most Dutch bikes will have gears. While single speeds are popular in the Netherlands, vast majority of Dutch bikes manufactured today will have gears ranging from 3-gears to 30 gears.
Dutch bikes will either have hub gears – these are gears which are contained in the rear hub of the bicycle or derailleur gears, which are external gears.
Both gears have their respective merits.
Hub Gear benefits
- Usually require lower maintenance than derailleurs.
- Comparatively easier to use – big benefit of hub gears is you can change them when your stationery – so you don’t have to pedal. Ideal if you’re in traffic and come to a sudden stop in too high a gear.
- Cleaner – as the gears are located in the rear hub, your bike will usually come with a fully enclosed chain case, which means you can wear whatever you wish without worrying about getting oil on your trouser/skirts or getting them chewed up by the chain.
- Less likely to suffer damage as they’re not exposed to the elements.
Derailleur Gear benefits
- Large choice of gears – usually 21/27/30 gears
- Excellent for extremely hilly areas
- Cheaper than hub gears (at mid range price level)
- Lighter than hub gears
It’s up to you which gear types suits you. However, in our experience, most customers looking to buy a Dutch bike tend to prefer a hub geared bike over a derailleur geared bike. Benefits of lower maintenance, less complication and easier to use tend to win over massive hill climbing ability.
However, if you’re in a very hilly area, or you’re planned cycling takes you a long a particularly hilly route you’re most likely better off with a wide range of gears and therefore a derailleur geared Dutch bike is well worth considering. You’ll still benefit from the all the features of a hub geared Dutch bike, save for having different gears. Yes, you’ll occasionally need to adjust and tweek derailleur gears, but this isn’t a difficult thing to do. We can show you how when you collect your new bike from us.
What brakes do Dutch bikes have?
Another area where we gets lots of confusion is brakes….
A common misconception is that all Dutch bikes have ‘back pedalling brakes’.
While back pedal brakes are a feature of many Dutch bikes, particularly older models, all the bikes we import and sell in the UK are fitted with either Roller brakes – which are hub brakes designed and built by Shimano – or v-brakes. Both systems are operated as you would normally be used to by using to lever pulls on the handlebars.
Typically, hub geared Dutch bikes will have Shimano roller brakes fitted – while derailleur gear bikes will have V brakes.
These brakes have been designed and are manufactured by Shimano. They fit neatly to the front and rear wheels and have pretty much replaced the older ‘hub brakes’, which many Dutch bikes had. The benefits of the newer roller brake system is they’re easier to maintain – just apply some Shimano Rollerbrake grease as required and we or your local bike shop can service them once a year as part of the annual service. Rollerbrakes offer all-weather braking and are less aggressive and don’t grab as much as V-brakes can.
Whatever model you choose – you should have no problems operating the braking systems as the levers will be as you normally be used to riding.
I’ve seen Dutch bikes cheaper on the Internet.
Yes, indeed you will have seen ‘Dutch bikes’ cheaper on the Internet – however it’s unlikely that these supposed Dutch bikes are actually built by quality Dutch brands such as Batavus, Koga, Azor, Gazelle. Always make sure when comparing prices you’re actually comparing like-for-like. Not only do the brands we stock build using quality materials and components, the bikes we stock and sell are designed to be ridden in all weathers throughout the year.
At the Dutch bike shop we’ve built our enviable reputation selling quality Dutch bikes and we will not sell cheap, inferior quality non-Dutch bikes passed off as the genuine article.
Therefore if you’re looking for the cheapest ‘Dutch bike’ and price is your primary motivation, it’s unlikely,we’re the shop for you. Our aim is to provide quality in everything we do – quality bikes, quality servicing and repairs, quality delivery service, while maintaining value for money prices.
Do you sell Dutch handlebars separately?
We get asked this question a lot usually by those who find their current bike uncomfortable and would prefer to ride a more upright bike. They wrongly assume, that by changing their handlebar arrangement they will be able to replicate the upright comfortable ride delivered by a Dutch bike.
The reason a change of handlebar will not give you the same uprightness as a Dutch bike is that it is the frame geometry that gives a Dutch bike it’s uprightness, not the handlebars.
Do you sell secondhand used Dutch bikes?
Not as a rule.
However we do offer a part-exchange scheme for quality Dutch bikes, so occasionally we may have used Dutch bikes for sale in our Littlehampton shop. We don’t list these on our website as they tend to sell quickly and we’ve had previous occasions where would-be purchasers have travelled some distance to look at a bike only to find it no longer available when they arrive.
Can I test ride a bike before buying it?
Yes, but only if we have a demonstration model set aside of the bike your thinking of buying.
The Dutch manufacturers and UK brands do not provide us with any demonstration bikes, therefore it’s difficult to provide a demonstration bike for each model we sell. We’re not a car company and contrary to popular misconception there’s not a huge amount of margin in selling bikes – so please bear this in mind when visiting our shop. The vast majority of our customers who buy a Dutch bike from us never test ride it prior to purchasing and in our experience are happy with the bike they purchased from us.
When and if you visit our shop, please be aware that we are busy – our workshop is particularly busy all year round and we have deadlines to meet. We’re not a big business, but we pride ourselves on offering a quality service both to our worshop and sales customers. Where possible we like to give our customers as much time as is needed to make their decision and answer any questions you may have, but our time is limited.
If you’ve any further questions, please don’t hesitate to phone us with your questions, or email us at email@example.com