On a recent visit to Holland, in the town of Haarlem, I was dazzled by the immense variety of bikes, as well as the immense number. People cycled everywhere, carrying almost anything, and in all weathers. The Dutch attitude to cycling ensures that bike-design serves specific needs. If you need to transport 2-4 children to school, then design a bike that can do just that. If you need to carry unwieldy luggage, adapt your two wheel transport to cope.
The overall common denominator in Holland seems to be a universal element of ‘sensibility’ in design. You know what I mean: upright, sit-up-and-beg riding posture, big load-carrying basket on the handlebars, kickstand for parking the bike, built-in locking mechanism on the back wheel……………….. the sort of bike people ride, not to break into a sweat, but to break into conversation with whoever is riding near them. The Dutch look majestic as they ride through city streets in their organized ‘pelotons’, and other vehicles respect their presence and give way to them as a priority.
On a bike-buying sortie with my daughter recently in Cambridge (the cycling capital of the UK?), we found a little back-street business dealing in Dutch bikes, and enjoyed having a little ‘pootle’ test ride. Despite being a road cyclist of many years experience, this riding position did not come naturally to me, and I have to admit to a certain sense of insecurity. Although your riding posture is upright, to someone who is used to leaning forward over the front wheel, it almost felt like leaning backwards, and its relaxed magisterial style encouraged a relaxed pedalling cadence, ideal for general city riding.
But then in Cambridge, you don’t really get anywhere above a moderate pace………………