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Tuesday 29 June 2010

Going Dutch

Whilst my Raleigh Tourist might be Danish, and based on an old British design, it appears to have a certain Dutchness to most people. This is because theses types of bike were once popular everywhere bicycles were used as transportation by the masses. Sadly that is no longer the case here, but it is in The Netherlands and so this style of bike has become associated with the Dutch. I have been on a few rides on the Tourist and the main thing which strikes me is that it is lovely to ride, and easy to put the power down to the pedals whilst remaining comfortable to ride. Basically it reminds me of the power of riding my old mountain bike but without being hunched-over, having a bent neck and compressed stomach (especially following Xmas) which went with it. This is because of the frame geometry producing a riding position which is quite rare in the UK these days, largely due to market pressures and the relentless promotion of cycling as sport. The Kona Africa Bike has an upright seating position, but the frame geometry gently urges you to hunch over like on a mountain bike whilst the handlebar urges you to sit up like on a traditional roadster. This results in occasional difficulty in putting the power down when needed, resulting in “bobbing” and some general discomfort on rides beyond about 40 km. It is ideal for riding around town, but the frame doesn’t seem quite comfortable with what it was intended for when you want to take it further. I suppose it wasn’t really intended to be taken further.

On a bike with a slack seat tube, you can use your arse-muscles to put more power into the pedals whilst keeping the pleasing upright posture which classic-style roadster owners and Yuba Mundo owners alike know and love. The Tourist and the Yuba Mundo have this geometry, but sadly the Kona’s seat tube is just that bit too vertical.


I think this picture taken from Clever Cycles shows it well. If you want a bike with this geometry but you aren’t a fan of older-looking bikes such as the Pashley range, Royal Dutch Gazelle and Azor to name a few and you want a bike that isn’t a cargo-hauler like the Yuba Mundo, all is not lost. Electra make bikes in a variety of interesting styles (not just beach cruisers) with a very similar geometry to these classic roadsters, actually going as far as to suggest that the riding position is something they invented, so check them out if you want a comfortable bike for more frequent use. Here in the UK they are available from Practical Cycles.

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