Dutch Bikes


I started this blog after I started doing some research for my next bike purchase. One afternoon I stopped by Copenhagen Cyclery in Wicker Park and took a test ride on a Velorbis. The manager in the shop that day spent the time to talk to me about upright ‘dutch’ style – or actually, “European” style bikes.  That got me hooked on Dutch bikes.   Here was a bike that I could ride to work every day and around the city on errands and short trips that wouldn’t require a change of clothing, special shoes, AND could hold all my groceries and assorted gear. I also made a stop at The Dutch Bike Co.  store in Lincoln Park and fell in love with their Workcycles bikes. Handbuilt in the Netherlands, a little heavier than the sleek Velorbis bikes, but beautiful, strong and able to haul a lot of cargo.

Standard Characteristics of a Dutch-style Bike

  • Upright riding position – you don’t lean forward and rest your weight on your hands
  • A loop or swan-type step-through frame
  • Fully or partially-enclosed chain case – much less maintenance since snow, ice, grit and grime can’t get to your chain. No need for rolled-up pant-legs either
  • Full fenders – again, to keep snow, ice, grit and grime on your wheels, not your clothes
  • Skirt guard – keeps your skirt, or long coat, or wide-leg trousers from getting caught in the wheels
  • Front rack or basket
  • Rear rack or baskets
  • Mud flap
  • Generator hub lights – a generator inside the front hub generates both front and rear lights . This is sorta optional, some bikes have an external hub dynamo, or standard LED lights, but the hub dynamo is a preference of mine
  • Steel Frame – a heavy frame for heavy loads and a smoother ride. My current non-dutch bike is an old steel frame and I swear by it
  • 1, 3 or at the most, 8 gears. These bikes were designed for flat Northern European cities (kinda like Chicago) so, riding one around, say Durango Colorado may not be quite as practical.

Oma, Coffee Maker, and Marshall Fields

Classic Dutch Bikes Available in The United States

  • Batavus– They’ve been making bikes in the Netherlands since the early 20th century, and have manufactured mopeds and motorcycles as well. They make other more ‘modern’ style bikes, but continue to make and sell the classic steel-frame Old Dutch, Fryslan, and the Personal Bike, among others. There are quite a few bike and transporation bloggers who ride and write about their Batavus bikes.
  • Gazelle – even older than Batavus.  Royal Gazelle (They gained the “Royal” appelation in 1992) got their start in the bike biz back in 1892. Originally they sold bikes imported from England  – so some say Dutch bikes are really English bikes. They started their own production line in 1902. Recently I test rode a Gazelle Toer Populair and you can read my review here. And of course, there are bloggers who ride the beautiful Gazelle bikes too.
  • Gouden Leeuw – Just this year a local Chicago bike shop started importing these bikes and recently Dottie posted a nice review of one over at her blog Let’s Go Ride A Bike.
  • WorkCycles – This bike company was founded in 2003 by an American who moved to Amsterdam. This is the bike I decided on. They make Oma and Opafiets and a couple of other styles as well. Solid, heavy, handmade bikes from Amsterdam. Mine’s been through a few winters here in Chicago and it’s doing just fine. Here are some other bike bloggers that ride and write about their WorkCycles Oma or Opafiets.

Other Dutch-Style Bikes Made Outside of the Netherlands

  • Achielle – These are Belgium-Dutch bikes made in the Dutch part of Belgium (and available in the US).
  • Bear Bicyles – This would be Dublin’s answer to Dutch bikes. They work with the Azor factory (like WorkCycles) to design frames for their shop in Dublin.
  • Flying Pigeon – Chinese-made loop-frame style city bikes made since 1936 (and available in the US)
  • Papillionaire – These bikes are designed and sold in Melbourne Australia.  Basically Australia’s answer to a Dutch bike
  • Pashley – The granddaddy English bike manufacturer, make of the Pashley Princess, a lovely loop-frame bike available in the US. I recenlty had a chance to ride a couple Pashleys – you can read my post here.
  • Velorbis – Gorgeous Danish-German bikes.  I was quite torn between a Velorbis and a WorkCycles Oma and had to test-ride both quite a few times.

Chicago Bike Shops That Sell Dutch-Style Bikes

More and more bike shops in the city are carrying city bikes, but as far as I know these four shops  are the only one selling Dutch and Dutch-style bikes imported from Denmark, Germany, England, and the Netherlands. Great folks, great stores – check them out!


Beer Rack on an Omafiets

Using the ‘beer rack’ on my Omafiets as it was intended (though I overdid it on the bungee cords)