Buying a good quality, good condition used Dutch bike can make for considerable savings on a new one, provided the bike you buy, is actually in good condition.
Good condition - isn't what the seller tells you, but what the bike tells you.
A used bike in good condition means (in my view) that it rides well and everything works as it should - brakes, gears are running smoothly and wheels turning freely and rolling along nicely. Cosmetic appearance is something entirely different and is pretty subjective. When buying a used bike, expect some scratches, dents and spots of rust.However, if there's a problem with the bike's actual working mechanics, such as brakes and gears, then you should be very careful.
In the two decades I've been selling and servicing Dutch bikes, I've come across many instances where a buyer has purchased a bike that they believe to be in 'good condition', but has required relatively vast sums of money spending on it to bring back into a serviceable condition. This is because either the brakes, gears or both aren't working as they should and require either extensive repairs or replacing.
But don't let this put you off sourcing and buying a used Dutch bike. There are many excellent examples out there, which not only represent great value for money, but also are in reality, really cool and beautiful bicycles.
The purpose of this article isn't to sway you towards buying a new Dutch bike - but to help those who are looking to buy a used Dutch bike from ending up wasting money on buying a bad example of a used Dutch bike.
OK, things to look for when buying a used Dutch bike.
- Who is selling the bike - an individual owner, or a business?
- How old is the bike and where does it originate from?
- What type of brakes has the bike?
- What type of gears has the bike?
- What are the tyres like?
- How does it ride?
Before you fall in love with that must-have used Dutch bike, check out who the seller is. If it's a business that specialises in selling used Dutch bikes (there are a few now), then you need to be more careful than buying from someone who's owned and ridden the bike. Benefit of buying from a private owner is they will be familar with the service history of the bike and it should be pretty obvious if they have looked after their bike or not.
Regardless of who the seller is - question carefully any statements they rely upon.
A common claim is that the bike is in good condition but could do with a tidy up and few minor things sorting out."
I've come across this a lot over the years. The claim that the bike just needs a little bit of minor repairs and what's euphemistically referred to as a 'tidy up.'
What's actually required is usually a great deal more.
Common sense dictates that if the bike only needs some 'minor' work then surely it would be better for the seller to address this work before offering the bike for sale?
A typical scenario at our shop is a customer arrives, opens the boot and take out a used Dutch bike that looks to be in good condition, but, and there's always a but - (which is why they've arrived at our shop), either the gears don't work properly or the brakes aren't working or both don't work.
Invariably, the seller has claimed that the bike only needs some minor work, which a good bike shop could do for 'a few quid.'
Often these supposedly minor adjustments aren't that minor after all and they usually add up to a few hundred pounds - often more than was paid for the bike.
By the time labour charges, parts are all added up, the cost of this bargain used Dutch bike far exceeds what they would have paid for if they'd bought a new Dutch bike.
Therefore, the first thing to ask yourself when you hear and see these claims being made is - if the bike only needs some minor things doing to it, then why hasn't the seller carried out these minor things themselves?
Surely if whatever minor repair or tidying is needed, and the seller is business seller - specialising in selling used Dutch bikes (or used bikes), surely it would make sense for them to address these minor problems and one would imagine by doing so, improve not only their chances of a quicker sale, but also the final price they sell the bike for?
Questions therefore to ask any seller (including private sellers) is to ask them why, if the repairs are so minor, haven't they undertaken them themselves.
My advice is always to walk away from a bike that is not fully up and running and in good enough condition to ride away.
If you really want it - then tell the seller you'll buy it, on condition they have the 'minor repairs' carried out and that you'll be happy to pay them the 'few extra quid' it will take for them to have the work done.
Don't be surprised if they tell you they're just too busy to do this.......
Which is better to buy from - a private seller or a business/commercial seller?
Private Sellers - In my experience, private sellers offer the best opportunity to source a good quality used Dutch bike. With a private seller, you will usually get the history of the bike, where it was purchased and any service history. Ideally, a bike should be serviced once a year. Please remember this when buying a used bike.
Commercial sellers - there are some good ones out there who take care in sourcing good quality Dutch bikes from Holland and ensure the bikes their selling are serviced/pre-checked prior to sale and any problems addressed. If you can find one of these, then great - not only will you get to see and try a variety of used Dutch bikes, which is a huge benefit over the single-bike private seller, but you'll also benefit from some sort of guarantee.
Regardless of who you're buying the bike from - private or commercial seller - where possible make sure you test ride the bike. I'll tell you what to look out for when test riding a bike shortly.
2. Age of the bike and where it originates from.
The Dutch as a nation ride more bicycle miles than any other country in the world. Therefore, a 'used' Dutch bike that originates from the Netherlands and has been imported to the UK, will by its very nature, have been ridden extensively and in all weathers.
This is what I love about the Dutch and their cycling culture. Their bikes get ridden. Not just on sunny summer days, but all year round, which means, they clock up some pretty impressive mileage even for relatively short town and city riding.
High mileage = potential for worn component parts - that may need replacing.
Replacement hub gears aren't cheap.
Remember this when you're looking to buy a used Dutch bike.
If the bike has been imported used from the Netherlands, this isn't a selling feature. It may be that the bike has been considered uneconomical to repair by the bike shops in Holland and has been sold as a job lot to the UK - on the other hand, it may be in good condition, but you need to carefully consider the bike's origins and how old it is.
10 years or under is a good age to buy a used Dutch bike and preferably one which has been sold new in the UK from either ourselves or other UK based bike shops who sell new Dutch bikes.
I say 10 years as a guideline as most of the main Dutch Bike manufacturers will still stock original parts like mudguards, chaincases etc etc for this age of bike.
Components like brakes/gears, cables etc can all be sourced for any age bike by most bike shops.
Therefore if the bike is let's say 15 - 20 years old, but in good condition ( my description for good condition is bike that can be ridden where everything works smoothly as it should - gears and brakes etc), don't be put off, this age could still represent an excellent used Dutch bike opportunity, but make sure that it is actually in working condition.
I've also seen Dutch bikes in superb condition from the 1980s and even as far back at the 1970s. All depends on how the bike has been looked after and what regular servicing work has been carried out.
But for the average used Dutch bike purchaser, newer is better - 10 years and under, great. Over 10 years, be a bit more picky.
Type of Brakes
Most modern (say 15 years plus) Dutch bikes used either Shimano Roller brakes - these are a hub brakes manufactured by Shimano and can be replaced if needed. Many older Dutch bikes will have hub brakes/drum brakes and these will require specialist attention from an 'old school' bike shop. We can work on older hub brakes, but most modern bike shops in the UK that specialise in road and mountain bikes won't have the motivation or the most likely the experience to work on these for you. Please bear this in mind when choosing a Dutch bike.
Back Pedal Brake - very common in the Netherlands, Denmark and Germany. If you haven't used a back-pedal brake bike before, they can be tricky to get used to as you can't 'set the pedal'. Again something you need to bear in mind. Ideally, try and buy a used Dutch bike that has two brake levers on the handlebars. Most modern Dutch bikes do.
Most Dutch bikes - at least the ones we import to sell in the UK and those which are imported for the used Dutch bike market will come with hub gears.
These gears are locally in the rear hub of the bike and differ to derailleur gears, which are the most common gears found in UK bikes. Hub gears have an advantage over derailleur gears in that you can change them when the bike is stopped. Ideal if you stop suddenly and find yourself in too high a gear start off. They also typically require less maintenance than derailleur gears and they mean the bike can be fitted with a fully enclosed chain case to prevent your clothing from catching in the exposed chain. A disadvantage is they don't give the same overall range as derailleurs and they're heavier - and cost more to build.
When hub gears don't work or the gears are slipping, you can sometimes adjust them yourself, but if the bike is relatively old and has high mileage/usage, this can be an indication that they're in need of replacement. Replacements are relatively expensive - bear this in mind when choosing your used Dutch bike - by making sure the gears work. By working this means you experience a
noticeable change in performance/behaviour in each gear you change into.
5. Tyre Condition
Check the condition of the tyres - check that there's enough thread left, but also check for cracking on the side of the tyre wall. If the bike has been left unattended for a period where the tyres have been under-inflated, the weight of the bike presses down on the tyre wall and causes it to crack. When the tyre is subsequently inflated to the correct pressures, depending on the level of cracking/perishing, parts of the inner tube may be exposed leading to punctures or in the worst case scenario a blow out.
Tyres for Dutch bikes are relatively expensive as you'll need ones with an 'anti-puncture protection layer' fitted. A mid range, good quality tyre is about £32.99 - multiply this by two and factor in labour for a bike shop - £15 for a rear wheel (hub gear) £8 for a front - £57.99 alone on new tyres.
All these things add up - remember this when choosing your used Dutch bike.
Golden Rule when it comes to bike maintenance charges/costs - bike maintenance/repairs charges are not based on how cheap or how much you paid for your bike. We get this a lot in our shop - would-be customer buys a cheap used bike and wants it serviced and is horrified to discover that the estimated charges far exceed what they paid for their bike.
7. How does it ride?
Benefit of test riding the bike prior to purchase is obvious - you get not only to see if you actually really like the bike - and it's comfortable for you and your type of riding, but also to check if everything is working as it should. Or, more importantly as is claimed.
If you want to buy blind without testing the bike, then it's up to you whether or not you should go for the bike. Obviously if you're planning to buy without test riding or seeing the bike 'in the flesh', you should study the pictures carefully and ask questions of the seller.
Questions to ask should include details of any service history - for example, when was the last time the bike was serviced by a bike shop and does the seller have any receipts. In our shop, we always give a condition report when we service a bike, this will include a recommendation of any work not carried out, but that we believe would be of benefit to the owner.
We do this not just to be helpful, but also to cover ourselves in the event that whatever it is we've highlighted that needs attention ends up failing shortly after we've worked on the bike.
Service history is important. If none is available/provided, then your default position should be to accept that the bike most likely has never been serviced. A bicycle should be serviced yearly.
A used Dutch bike in good condition means that it rides well and that everything works as it should. Brakes are responsive and smooth, not sticking on or off or being temperamental. Gears change freely and easily and you experience a noticeable change of torque/pressure in each individual gear.
When test riding the bike - ride it see not just how comfortable it is, which is obviously important, but how does it ride? Does it pull to the left or right or have other unusual behaviour? I've ridden bikes that have pulled to one side and upon checking the frame have found it to be distorted. Evidence of a previous crash/incident.
Spin each wheel and check for buckles.
The wheel should run relatively true. A good quality wheel can be trued in your local bike shop, provided the buckle isn't too great.
Run your fingers along the spokes and check for tension. You're looking for loose, broken or missing spokes. Again, this problem can be sorted out by your local bike shop, but you need to factor in labour charges - wheel building/truing is specialist service and replacement spokes - the heavy guage, stainless steel spokes typically used by Dutch manufacturers are relatively expensive.
Unless you're able to undertake the work yourself and can see what needs to be done and are confident you can source the parts required.
Marks, bangs and scratches etc - don't let cosmetic appearance put you off. Dutch bikes are solid, quality built bikes and even if they appear a bit bashed, rusty in places, this isn't necessarily a reason not to buy. Provided the main and important parts - gears, brakes all operating, wheels turning freely and easily, you're OK. The paintwork and other blemishes shouldn't be your main concern.
Best of luck with choosing a suitable used Dutch bike.
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