Bike Review: Electra Amsterdam Series

Over the weekend I had to make a little road trip up north to pick up Mr. Ding – he’d been racing around on a sailboat for about a week.  I was going solo and had enough time to make some stops along the way.   On the way up I drove through Holland, Michigan and stopped in a friendly local bike shop called Velo City Cycles. They carry a lot of road and mountain bikes,  and they also carry Cruiser, Townie, and Amsterdam models from Electra.  I’ve always loved the cool cruiser bikes that Electra sells, but until I started looking at city bikes, I didn’t realize they had their own line of dutch-style bikes too.  I checked out Velo City Cycles online before I went, and their website said they carried the Cruiser, Townie and Amsterdam series of bikes, so I thought I might have a chance for a little test ride.  When I arrived at their friendly store the only bike in stock in the Amsterdam series was a men’s Amsterdam Sport – so that’s what I rode.

Amsterdam Sport dutch-style bike

Neither Electra’s site or Velo City’s website had any additional pictures or specs of the Sport model, but Clever City Cycles (Portland) sells them in their store and online here. Electra’s Amsterdam series of bikes offer the same “crank-forward” or flat-foot style riding as the their Cruiser bikes. When Electra first started selling their bikes, this riding style, which forces the rider to sit upright and allows a rider to easily put their foot on the ground, was a huge departure from the bikes that most people were riding in the US.   The Amsterdam series bikes do not have their pedals quite so far forward, but they still have the same geometry as other Dutch-style bikes I’ve ridden like Workcycles, Velorbis, and Batavus.

Amsterdam Sport Dutch-style bike up close

Price-wise, the Electra Amsterdam series are a very competitive option to an imported bike.  They run from about $500 for the Sport , to about $700 for the Balloon or Classic (steel-frame)  models, to $1000 for the fully-geared out Royal.  Add more for baskets, racks, and dynamo lights on the models that do not come with them, like the Sport. All in all, they’re a bit less expensive than the $1350 Gazelle Toer Populair, the $1600 you’d pay for a WorkCycles Oma , Opa, or Secret Service bike, the $1800 for a Velorbis, or the $2200 for a WorkCycles Fr8.  The  Batavus bikes are similarly priced to the Electra Amsterdam bikes however.

Ride-wise, it was comfortable and and I didn’t feel too squished, which surprised me since they really have only one frame size, and I’m 6 ft tall. The sweep of the handlebars seemed very dramatic – almost felt like a cruiser bike .  The Sport is an aluminum frame bike which makes it relatively light for a city bike.  I rode a steel-framed Classic a day later, and it wasn’t that much heavier – I could easily pick it up like I do my steel-framed mountain bike.  The light weight can make it more appealing for those folks who have to carry a bike up stairs in the city.  I prefer steel-frame bikes  though,  and I do carry my mountain bike up the stairs every day.  This bike rode smoothly and I didn’t feel like I was overpowering it, though it’s not the same powerful yet smooth ride of an Oma.   It was a much more relaxed ride too, if that’s possible.  The platform pedals were great for riding in sandals, and the seat is a faux-leather sprung-saddle style that was very comfortable.  All the 3i Amsterdam bikes have coaster brakes  and 3-speed coaster shifters, which shifted very smoothly.  I have to say though, that I felt a bit awkward with coaster brakes and I’m not sure they’d be appropriate for riding in the city.  Perhaps I would just need to get used to them.  There isn’t a lot of power or speed on this bike  – I was riding on flat ground, and I felt like any long ride or incline might be a bit of an effort on this bike.  It’s a beautiful bike, but just does not have a lot of power,  though the 8-speed Royal might have a little more oomph.

Riding the lovely Amsterdam Sport  didn’t make me call up the Dutch Bike Company in Chicago and cancel my order for the WorkCycles Oma that I am oh-so anxiously waiting for. I still think that’s the bike for me. Even though the Oma is going to weigh even more than my current steel-frame bike, I like the solid feel of the bike – it feels like a truck, but in a good way. I didn’t feel like the Amsterdam bikes could quite handle the load I’d want to put on them,  or that they would be as maneuverable with a load as the Oma.  Even the Classic model, which has a steel frame as well as rear rack, didn’t feel that much more solid, though it could have been the 700cc tires. However, if you want a great-looking cruiser bike that doesn’t totally look like a cruiser bike,  These bikes offer some good options.

Electra bikes are very popular bikes and I can understand why. Besides the Amsterdam series, they have a lot of great looking upright-riding bikes in the Townie and Cruiser series as well, and they’ve spent a lot of time and effort in getting the geometry of their bikes right, while keep the price in a range to be affordable for a wide group of customers.  They’re fun to ride and comfortable, and they know how to make great-looking, cool bikes. You don’t have to go to Michigan to ride one though, as many many bike shops in Chicago carry them as well.  Check out the Electra website and go ride one for yourself.

Amsterdam Sport Dutch-style bike

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