Bike Review: Gazelle Toer Populair

Gazelle Toer Poulair

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, I had the opportunity to take one of the Gazelle Toer Populairs out for at spin while Vince at the Dutch Bike Company swapped out the studded tires on my Oma. They sell a couple of different Gazelle models, but this one is my favorite.  As you can see by the picture below, it’s a typical loop-frame Dutch bike, very similar to my WorkCycles Oma. There are a few differences though, starting with the cream-colored tires.

The Gazelle and the bakery

Gazelle Toer Populair (step-through)

They come with a Brooks saddle – this one sports one of the ‘aged’ B67s. This style is supposedly softer from day 1 as compared to a standard B67, though I didn’t have a problem breaking in my own B67. The aged version also has that lacing on the sides.  I’m told that historically it allowed riders to tighten the laces if they felt the side flairs were too wide. They look nice, and it felt soft.

Brooks B67 Aged Saddle

Brooks B67 (Aged) saddle

The biggest difference between a Gazelle Toer Populair and other similarly-configured Dutch bikes are the stainless steel rod-operated drum brakes. The brake-levers up front give Gazelles their distinctive look.

Gazelle Toer Populair rod brake levers

Gazelle Toer Populair rod brake levers

The rod brake lever means that you can engage both front and rear brakes at the same time, with one hand.  The levers are placed in a different position than standard brake levers so it was a slight adjustment for me to get used to the location.  The placement of the levers and the front light on this bike also mean that it might be difficult to put a basket up front or any handlebar-mounted child seat (like the BoBike Mini +).

The handlebars on the Gazelle are not as wide or swept back as those on my WorkCycles Oma.  They’re about 2-inches shorter and I could really feel the difference.  To me it felt a little too narrow, but then again, I’m 6ft tall with wide shoulders. It might be perfect for shorter riders. You feel a little more ‘perched’ on a Gazelle than on a WorkCycles bike, or at least I did. I would imagine this is similar to riding a Pashley – which makes sense since Gazelle got it’s start importing bikes from England to the East Indies before it became a bike manufacturer.  Notice the huge bell by the way. It’s a true “Ding DONG” bell like the ones you’ll find on the Pashley bikes.  It’s got a very unique and loud ring.

Gazelle Toer Populair handlebars

Gazelle Toer Populair handlebars

Gazelle pays attention to the details on their bikes, and they add little branded flourishes all over the bike to remind you just which bike it is that you are riding. You’ll notice the red bolt cover on the handlebars in the above picture.  This red image appears all over the bike. It’s a nice touch.They also add their branding to the skirtguard.

Gazelle Toer Populair skirtguard

Gazelle Toer Populair skirtguard

and they’ve added a design to the chainguard as well.

Gazelle Toer Populair chainguard

Gazelle Toer Populair chainguard

The Gazelle also has a kickstand – a heavy duty stand that keeps your bike stable when loading or unloading. It flips up and snaps to the supports for the rear rack.  I can’t say that I have a preference between this style or the double-kickstand on my Oma. Both are made to support heavy dutch bikes when parked and when loaded.

The kickstand on the Gazelle Toer Populair

The kickstand on the Gazelle Toer Populair

That’s my ABUS lock wrapped on the back of the bike by the way, and I had a bag of cookies strapped down to the rack to take back to the guys at the bike shop.

They have a front dynamo light (rear light is battery-powered) on these bikes but it’s the external ‘bottle’-style dynamo.  I will say that aesthetically it looks sharp in all its retro-glory, and fits in with the look of the rod brake-levers. However,  I’ve heard they don’t generate as much power to the lights as internal dynamo lights, and I’d be worried that they would get stolen or broken off in Chicago.

Front dynamo generator on a Gazelle Toer Populair

Front dynamo generator

Notice the flourish on the top of the front fender, the branding on the fork, and another red bolt cover design on the front wheel.  If you didn’t spot the rod brakes you will still definitely know this is a Gazelle bike and not a Batavus or WorkCycle.

All in all, the Gazelle Toer Populair is a great city bike.

  • It comes with an AXA Defender wheel lock on the rear wheel like most Dutch bikes do, but you’ll have to add your own study lock as well – a wheel lock alone in Chicago is not enough security.
  • This particular Gazelle was the 3-speed model with the 3-speed Sturmey-Archer hub – I would prefer the 8-speed version, and it is available in both.
  • It can haul your gear on the sturdy rear rack, and will get you safely through a Chicago winter without a spec of dirt on your clothes.
  • It felt a little lighter to me than a WorkCycles Oma, though Vince tells me there is not much difference. Perhaps it’s the thinner tires.
  •  It’s an upright bike with a slightly more aggressive feel than a WorkCycles bike though it still has that smooth comfortable ride like a Cadillac or other late-model large comfy car.

Go take a test ride and tell me what you think!

Pricing: Gazelles run around $1300-$1400  – though the Dutch Bike Company’s website is selling a couple for $1100.  While not a cheap bike, it is less expensive than any of the WorkCycles bikes ($1600-$2100) though more expensive than a Batavus Fryslan or Old Dutch ($700-950).

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  • Uptown Biker

    I’ve been riding one of these (an Opa) since 2007 (I brought it back from Germany).  It’s a good bike for the city; heavy (not a problem on short trips), but with a nice long wheelbase for a stable and soft ride.

    The chaincase is *great* for keeping the chain clean, but complicates replacing the chain or removing the rear wheel.  I wouldn’t plan to replace a rear wheel tube by the side of the road!  You need a few different tools for that, which you won’t want to carry all the time.

    The skirt guards had seams that came unglued, allowing little bits of material to rub on the tire (no problem except for annoying noise), so I got rid of them.

    The kickstand is functional but not without issues.  The bike can be pushed over easily; also, the stand in its retracted (up) position can interfere with a lot of pannier geometries, so be careful what you buy.

    The bottle dynamo is OK, but like all of them can be problematic in rain or snow (the dynamo wheel tends to slide on the tire without rotating).  You can minimize this problem by adjusting the dynamo position, but it will never work 100% reliably like a hub dynamo.

    The brakes work fine, but do require a little care to adjust so that they stop reliably but don’t generate   excess drag all the time.  When adjusted properly, they are far better than any rim brakes in wet weather.  The only advantage to the rods is that both brakes can be actuated with only one hand.  In Chicago, I haven’t found this to be important, but in Amsterdam, where bikers often use one hand to hold an umbrella, etc., it’s perhaps more appreciated.  However, the rods look cool, which alone is enough reason to buy this bike 😉

    Overall, this is a bike you can use for commuting and errands around town for a long time without having to do much in the way of maintenance.  Perfect for Amsterdam, pretty good for Chicago, too.

  • henry

    Great review! I got a 3 speed Toer Populair a few months back and it is a dream to cycle. For years I had been battling with a truly crap bike that I wished someone would steal so I could upgrade. Nobody took it but I upgraded anyway. Fell for Gazelles while on holiday in The Netherlands. A great ride and incredibly stable with great momentum behind it once you build up speed.
    Henry, Dublin.

    • Ms. Ding

      Do you have the rod brakes on your bike as well?

      • henry

        I do indeed.  They are a little bit spongy at the moment so need some adjusting.  Almost took out an inattentive pedestrian this morning as a consequence. 

  • Lovely Bicycle!

    Great review! A few points to add as someone who’s ridden all of the bikes you’ve mentioned:

    . Not all Toer Populair models have these rod brakes. You can get this bike with just the normal brake levers.

    . Same deal with that dynamo bottle: there is an option to get the bike with a dynohub instead.

    . Gazelle is not at all similar to riding a Pashley or any English bike for that matter. It has a lot more in common with Workcycles and Batavus than it does with Pashley.

    . Also, it is not just Gazelle that was influenced by the early English roadsters, all Dutch bikes were. But over the years they’d made modifications that make Dutch vs English bikes fairly differentiated.

    I ride a Gazelle A-Touren from 1995, which was the predecessor to today’s Toer Popular. Mine is a great bike. I found it used, and a week later sold my previously-owned Pashley Princess without hesitation.

    • Ms. Ding

      Thanks for the comments and the additional information! I didn’t know that you could get one of these bikes without the rod brakes. And I guess I need to get myself on a Pashley so I don’t make any more assumptions about how those bikes ride. 😉 What made you keep the Gazelle over the Pashley that you had?

  • Amy Gawthrop

    I hadn’t realized at first that the Gazelle has rod operated drum brakes. That’s pretty nifty! I like the look of old rod brakes, but prefer the stopping power of the drum brakes. Shame most dutch bikes are too tall for me! That’s how I ended up with a Pashley. I’m swimming in it’s little 17.5′ frame. 🙂

    • Ms. Ding

      Yes, that is the downside of the Dutch bikes – they are so tall. I’m glad the Pashley works for you – I’ll have to remember that for my shorter friends. 😉 For me the Dutch bikes are a godsend with their tall frames.

  • Sue

    The handlebars on my Pashley don’t look as narrow as the one in your Gazelle photo. The handlebars are more a North Road style handlebar. You are definitly right about the bell though 🙂

    • Ms. Ding

      Hmm… Guess I’ll have to take a ride on a Pashley – haven’t done that yet! I didn’t know that style of handlebar was called ‘North Road’ style either – I had to look that one up. Thanks for the bit o’ bike education and history. And that bell – do you just love it – do people jump when you ring it?

  • Cecily Walker

    I’m very curious about this bike, but sadly my local Dutch Bike dealer doesn’t carry this model. I’d love to compare it to my Fryslan.

    • Ms. Ding

      I haven’t ridden any Batavus bikes yet, so I can’t say myself. However, I would think they would ride similar to a Gazelle or WorkCycles bike? Perhaps I can find a tall one to test ride.

  • Elliott @ Austin on Two Wheels

    The 8 speed version of the Tour Populair is very similar in ride quality and component spec to the WorkCycle Oma (I own both but sell the Gazelle: This higher end version comes with the internal dynamo hub, model MTB style brakes, and the 8 speed Shimano Nexus hub has more range and much smoother, consistent shifting than the Sturmey Archer hubs.

    The handle bar geometry you mentioned and the placement of the front light which limits your front rack/basket choices are in my opinion the biggest difference between the Tour Populair and WorkCycle Oma. If those are not an issue, you are getting a great Dutch bike in the 8 speed version for an MSRP of $1350.

    • Ms. Ding

      Yes, I would imagine that the 8-speed version would ride similarly to my Oma. It’s a beautiful, solid bike if you don’t mind the handlebar geometry. You mention “model MTB style brakes” – what did you mean by that? Do you sell an 8-speed version of the Gazelle w/o the rod brakes? Wondering though if those unique brakes are the reason some people want this bike – without those, is it still a classic Gazelle bike? Just wondering. Do you replace them with caliper brakes (like on my own MTB) or drum or roller brakes, like I have on my WorkCycles Omafiets?

      • Mathijs

        Hi there! Great to read there are Gazelle cycles in the USA! Specially this model of Gazelle. It’s my favourite. I’m from Holland (please excuse my englisch when it’s rubbish) and I’m a cycle mechanic. I own Toer Populair with the SA gearhub and rod drumbrakes but with a gentlemens (opafiets) frame, 66 cm high :). My former bike was a Gazelle Impala, the predesessor of this one. That bike was build in 1976 and broke down last year, the frame broke near the bracket. I loved it so much I wanted the same bike again :). Here in Holland the classic omafiets is a real hype for years. It’s the best sold bike for years and there are many many many different brands but the Gazelle is the best. In Holland you can chose from several different types.
        – single speed with coasterbrake and black painted rims,
        – single speed with coasterbrake, stainless steel rims and drumbrake at front,
        – 3 speed shimano nexus with coasterbrake and shimano dynohub with rollerbrak at front,
        – 3 speed Sturmey Archer with rod drumbrakes. This is the premium one :).
        They are not selled with the shimano inter 8 hub. No need in Holland where everything is flat :).

        The Axa Defender lock has an additional hole where you can put a chain for extra safety. So you don’t need an loose chainlock and an axtra key. The dynamo fitted on the bike as shown above gives the same power as an dynohub. Only at very low speeds it gives less power. And you need to adjust the setting of yours :). If you place a long rod from the little wheel and centered on the dynamo the other end of the rod should be aligned with the wheelnut. Thats the perfect setting.

        Have fun with you beautiful omafiets!!

        Greatings from Holland!


      • Ms. Ding

        Thanks for the lovely note Mathijs! Sounds like you are quite a fan of Gazelle bikes! I do love my omafiets – very much!

      • Ms. Ding

        Thanks for the reply and all the info on the various configurations of Omafiets in your neck of the woods. How did you break the frame on your original Gazelle?