Sunday, February 10, 2008


At the top of Mt Tabor - Batavus and Portland skyline

We rented Batavus "Old Dutch" bikes from Clever Cycle to get around Portland for a couple of days. The geometry of a Dutch bike is markedly different and is explained here. I have to admit, it feels weird.

You sit upright like you're sitting at a table and the handlebars curve back so that you impolitely put your elbows on that table. If you've worked a garden tiller before, you'll know where your arms and elbows are. Sitting upright and pedaling with your feet out in front doesn't give you great mechanical advantage, not like the bikes that you're used to riding. This is not a bad thing necessarily, I rather like the comfortable position and this along with the three speeds should get you around rather nicely on relatively flat ground.

But, Portland ain't flat.

There's no standing up for power. The handlebars are up and back so that the bike handles like a warehouse. The Batavus had coaster brakes and so there was no pedaling backwards to get your feet into position at a stop light. After a bit, you figure out how to position the pedals to get ready to go, but even on the second day, I found myself hobbled by the brake. So with the combination of the coaster brake and the different geometry, starting from a light while going uphill wasn't something I was really comfortable doing.

I eventually got to the point where I sat back and enjoyed the ride and that makes all the difference in the world. Instead of leaning forward riding like you normally do and fighting the bike, lean back and pedal. You're not gonna win any time trials, but that ain't the idea. Mrs. Yam never got the feel for these things and subsequently ended up hating the bike, which is too bad, her commute is flat and this would make a great conversation piece. We received a number of second looks and I had two compliments on it.

I don't regret renting them and the folks at Clever Cycle were really pleasant and you can tell they really believe in what they're doing. It's a great store with neat bikes and I recommend you stop in. They're happy to let you test ride and you really should, the collection is like nothing else I've ever seen.

1 comment:

Doug said...

You answered one of my biggest questions with the dutch style bikes. How do you climb on them? Since I live in hilly Duluth, I've always wondered that. I'll stick to my current commuter bikes. Getting out of the saddle and being over the pedals makes it a lot easier to get up the hills.