Tuesday, 30 July 2019

Pumping the Tyres on a Dutch bike

This is the most common question we get asked  -How to pump the tyres on a Dutch bike.

Not too sure why this causes such problems, but in this short post I will show you how easy it is to pump the tyres on any bicycle, regardless of the type of valve your bike has.

3 Steps to pumping the tyres on your bicycle.

  1. Work out what type of valves your inner tubes have.
  2. Work out what pressure (PSIs) your bicycle tyre should have
  3. Pump your tyres

Working out the type of Valve your bike has

The first step is to work out what type of valve your bicycle has. The valve is the bit of the inner tube where you attach your pump to. There isn't one type of valve, but 3 types. Therefore you will need to work out which type of valve your bicycle has in order to work out which setting your pump needs to be on to pump your tyres.

Different types of Bicycle Valves.

There are 3 different types of bicycle valves:

  1. Schrader Valve (or car valve as they're often called)
  2. Presta Valve  (or road/racing bike valve as they're often called)
  3. Dunlop Valve (or, Woods Valve as it's often called)  

Usually, a Dutch Bike will have Dunlop Valves (often called 'Woods Valves') fitted to them. However, it's worth knowing the 3 types of valves that are fitted to bicycles as it could be yours isn't fitted with Dunlop Valves/Woods Valves.

Schrader Valve

Probably the most common valve in the UK, fitted to most children's bikes and also adult mountain bikes. Looks just like the valve on your car. Recognisable with a pin in the middle of it.

Image result for schrader valve
Schrader Valve

Presta Valve

Presta Valve with have a little collar on the top that you have to screw upwards (but not completely off) to open the valve.

Image result for presta valve
Presta Valve

Woods Valve/Dunlop Valve

Most common valve fitted to Dutch bikes and as I said earlier they're actually a Dunlop Valve, but are often called Woods Valves. 

Image result for woods valve
Woods Valve/Dunlop Valve

Once you've identified which valve you have, then all you need to do is to work out which setting to use on your pump.

Most pumps will either come with a valve adaptor included somewhere, or alternatively with two different pump nozzles/heads. 

Although there are 3 different types of valves, there are only 2 different sizes - hence your pumps alternative 2 head/nozzle sizes.

The wider nozzle/head on your pump is for use with the Schrader Valve (car type valve)

The Narrower nozzle/head on your pump is for use with the Presta or Dunlop/Woods Valve. As the Presta Valve is exactly the same diamater as the Dunlop/Woods Valve.

Therefore if you have a Dutch Bike, you're most likely to have a Dunlop/Woods Valve fitted, so you'll need to use your pump's Presta Settings.

You can also use a valve adaptor which you screw on to your Dunlop/Woods Valve and then this will expand the size of your valve allowing you to use the Schrader Valve setting of your pump. Personally, I find this the easiest way to pump a Woods or a Presta Valve as the vast majority of pumps don't give a great seal when using the Presta Setting.  

Valve Adaptors can be purchased from your local bike shop or online at places like Wiggle. 

 Working out your Tyre Pressures.

Tyre Presssures are printed/embossed on the side of your bicycle tyre walls. Often they will come with a recommended range for you to pump to. For example - 50-65psi - indicates a minimum pressure of 50PSI or a maximum pressure of 65PSI. 

Most modern Dutch bikes will have anti-puncture protection tyres fitted and usually these require a high pressure - typically 50 - 60psi. 

A good quality track pump will give you a guage indicating the tyre pressures.

Beware that with Dunlop/Woods Valves, these valves open and close as you push the air in, therefore the readings on the gauge will often go up and down as you pump the tyre. While this can be frustrating to watch the pressure guage going up and down, just note the up readings and once you see the desired pressure readings hit, you're then and pumped.

Pump Your Tyres

Using your Pump - It's impossible to give you advice on how to use your pump as there are so many different pumps out there. Personally I would recommend you buy a track pump for use at home as these are usually excellent. Buy a decent pump from a decent bicycle shop retailer. 

You may also find our short video helpful



Thursday, 18 July 2019

Buyer's guide to buying an ebike.

This is a basic guide.

I don't want to swamp you or confuse you with too much information at this point and I certainly don't want to get into which ebike is better than another.

The purpose of this post is to simply give you a brief overview of ebikes written from the perspective of answering the most frequently asked questions we get by new ebike customers visiting our shop.

Benefits of an ebike include:

  1. Pedal assistance against headwinds and uphill.
  2. Fun. Ebikes are fun to ride as those who ride them regularly know.
  3. They're a great form of personal transport whether it be town or city riding, leisure riding or commuting. An ebike can make a relatively long distance, easily manageable and bearable.
  4. Great form of exercise. 
  5. They're a pedal-assist. You still benefit from lots of exercise and you can choose your level of assistance as you ride.

 What do you need to know before buying your new ebike?

The first and arguably, most important thing you need to get right is what type of ebike would be the most suitable for your proposed riding.

For example, are you planning to use your ebike to commute daily to and from work, and if so, how hilly is your route and what distance will you be cycling?

If you're buying one because you want to get out and bike more and live in a relatively flat area and you're not proposing to do great distances, your needs may well differ from those who are using their bike to commute and or, as a primary form of transport.

Reason I say this is that everyone's needs and goals are different - therefore the ebike your neighbour, friend at work or relative has bought, may not be the most suitable for you.

I often meet people in our shop who've been told by some well-meaning person that the only ebike they should ever consider buying is the one the one they ride themselves.

Which really is bad advice.

In my view and experience, there isn't such thing as a bad ebike, but more an unsuitable one. All ebikes, even those at the cheapest end of the market will have some merit provided you understand their potential limitations when you buy one of these bikes. I'd always recommend you avoid anything sold via non-cycling channels and purchase your ebike from a well-established, quality independent cycle shop or even chain of cycle shops.

You'd certainly do well to avoid the shopping channels who offer no after-sales service and whose bikes are unbranded and pretty impossible for your local bike shop to source parts and batteries for in the most likely event, your bike needs them. Often, regrettably, sooner than you'd expect.

First thing therefore is for you to buy from a reputable source.

It is that simple.

We regularly get telephone calls, emails from desperate people who've purchased an ebike from somewhere or other, usually via the internet and now find that the bike isn't working and they're struggling to get any replies from the seller and want us to fix their bike.

Don't allow yourself to be put into this position. Buy from a reputable source.

Where possible, buy from a bricks and mortar bike shop as opposed to an online-only retailer.

Bricks and Mortar shops are easier to visit in the event of a problem arising post sale. Online sellers come and go. When your ebike needs a service or a repair, you'll most likely have to take it to a bike shop. Far better to have established a good reputation with the shop by buying from them in the first place, rather than expect the same shop who you bypassed to then sort out the ebike you bought from somewhere else.

There's a reason these ebikes are cheap.

Next, buy from a reputable brand.

We only sell bikes from brands that I trust because this way, I can be assured that I can look after my valued customers in the event of post-sale problems. I'll be brutally blunt here. Ebikes can have a number of post sale problems, as can any bike even from the best and biggest brand names. There's no such thing as perfection. Especially when it comes to bikes, let alone Ebikes....

By choosing a reputable bicycle brand who fits reputable, quality ebike components, you really can save yourself a lot of trouble down the road.

Are Throttle controlled ebikes that go without pedalling legal in the UK?

Yes, however it's now illegal for a bike shop/business to sell them.

All ebikes built for and sold in the UK must be pedal-assist. However, if you already own, or buy or acquire a used ebike which doesn't require you to pedal and has a throttle control this is still legal to use on the road.

Personally, I've never liked these throttle controlled ebikes. When riding they're near impossible to strike a balance between getting the right amount of electric motor assist versus the right amount of pedal power. Which is probably why so many of these are ridden as a cheap form of electric scooter.

Deciding which motor is best.

There are 3 different locations on a bicycle where the motor can be fitted.

  1. Motor in the Centre/Crank
  2. Motor in the Front Wheel
  3. Motor in the Rear Wheel
1. Centre Motor Ebike (Raleigh Motus Tour - £2050)

2. Front Wheel Motor Ebike (Batavus Genova - £1799)
Raleigh Array Emotion Lowstep 2020 Electric Hybrid Bike Red EV367009 3000 1_Thumbnail 
3. Rear Wheeled Motor (Raleigh Array - £1275)

 Above are examples of the 3 different types of ebike motor locations, which I've taken from bikes we sell in our shop.

Which one is better?

By far the most common question we get when it comes to ebikes, is why motor location is best.

One is not necessarily better than the other, it's more a question of what type of riding you're intending to do and how much you're going to be using your ebike.

However, the cost of your ebike will very much depend on where your motor is located.

The centre/crank drive motor being the most expensive option as you can see from the above prices.

If you're planning to use your ebike regularly and you live in a relatively flat area, then either a front wheel motor or a rear wheel motor will most likely be suitable for what your riding.

Even if you live in a relatively hilly area, the front or rear wheel motor will usually assist you up those hills. I've ridden a front wheeled motor ebike up some fairly serious hills here in Arundel and surrounding areas, which are located near our shop. I've also ridden a rear wheeled motor up these hills and both motors do the job.

However, if I were buying one, and had the budget available, the centre motor would do the job easier and more efficiently than either the rear or front wheeled motor.

Power through the crank is very efficient compared to either the 'pull' of the front motor or the 'push' of the rear wheeled motor.

But don't let this put you off buying one of the other less expensive alternatives. We've sold many many ebikes with front and rear motors to customers who've enjoyed them now for some years and perform well for their needs.

As a general rule - if budget isn't a problem for you and you're really planning to use an ebike, then the centre motor is the best option to choose from. But don't be put off the two alternative lesser expensive options. Both do the job, it's more a question of your budget and what you're looking to achieve with your new ebike.

Are there any specific problems with a front or rear wheeled motor?

Front wheel motor

If you're motor is located in the front wheel, you may experience occasional problems riding on gravel/pebble surfaces where the front wheel can 'spin' as you ride along. This is because the front powered wheel which doesn't have any real weight bearing down on it, can have difficultly making contact with the surface. This is usually only ever experienced when either starting or stopping on gravelly/shingly surfaces.

This is why you'll find e-mountain bikes have the motor located either in the rear wheel or in the centre/crank location.

Rear wheel motor

Motor in the rear wheel reduces the risk of the front wheel spinning or making poor contact on pebbles/shingle or other off-road surfaces, which is why rear wheel motors are popular on e-mountain bikes.

However, the rear wheel is where your gears are located and often the most likely place for you to carry any luggage/cargo/panniers on your bike as well as the wheel that most of your body weight sits over. Therefore you need to be aware of the additional weight factor to the rear wheel.

You can therefore expect to get more punctures on your rear wheel given the extra weight. Always worth upgrading the tyres to something like Schwalbe Marathon Plus tyres (or similar), which give greater anti-puncture protection that those usually fitted by the manufacturers. 

Other Problems with front and rear wheel motors?

Another factor is the 'pull and push effect' of the motor being in the front or rear wheel.

UK road traffic legislation requires motor assistance to stop after the bike reaches approximately 15mph. Once this speed is reached, the ebike motor will automatically cut off leaving you to cycle unaided. This in itself won't cause you a problem, but you can experience a jerking as the motor cuts out as soon as you reach the speed limit and then cut back in when your speed lowers back down below the limit and the motor re-engages.

It's not a huge problem, but if you're travelling for a distance it can become tedious having the motor clicking in and in and out as your speed varies. Hence, it's better to cycle your ebike at less than the maximum 15mph thereby avoiding the 'jerking effect.'

In my experience, lots of ebike riders don't really notice this effect, but some do. And those who do notice and experience the effect, really hate it!

With a crank motor, the motor still cuts out, but the effect of the motor cutting in an out is far less noticeable. 

Which brand of centre motor is better?

This is a question which can raise enormous debate on ebike forums.

Which is the better brand of centre motor? Bosch? Shimano Steps? Yamaha? Bafang?

Brutally honest here - I don't believe one is better than the other, all have merits and some motors would be more suitable for ebike riding where more torque is required. For example, the Yamaha PW series motor is typically more powerful than the standard Bosch motor, however the Bosch more is (in my view, at least) perfectly adequate and capable for all ebike riding.

Best advice I can give here - is when comparing ebikes and ebike motors, have a look at the power ratings between motors and models. Noting that some ebike motor brands build different power variations. If you want the most powerful motor, check to see which one delivers the most power and obviously there's your bike. However, in terms of reliability, speaking from a bike shop owners point of view where we both sell and service a variety of ebikes and see the motors post-sale often some years on, I really couldn't say that any brand sticks out as being more reliable than the other. All are reliable, provided they're looked after by the ebike owners and not subjected to abuse etc.

Which front or rear motor is better?

Again, I don't really believe there is much of a difference between the main players - most motors perform well and are reliable - again dependent on the owner looking after them.

For example, if you ride your front or rear wheel motor through deep water (small brook/puddles/flooded road), it will usually fail. You also need to be careful of riding steep hills in a relatively high gear which can lead to the motor failing/burning out.

Even though you're riding an ebike, you must where possible reduce the overall and prolonged strain on both front and rear motors by always ensuring your riding in lower gears when tackling hills thus giving some relief to the motor which will be under considerable pressure.

An example of what I'm talking about - We had a lovely customer who purchased a front wheel motored ebike from us. The ebike and motor being from a quality brand. Our customer managed to wear out the front motor in less than a year and we covered a replacement under warranty. It struck us as unusual for this was/is a powerful front motor and the lady in question didn't live in a hugely hilly area, but there is one long hill just outside her home.

When we returned the ebike to her, we got talking about riding the hill outside her home. What become apparent was she was never actually changed gear. She didn't know how, and when she'd tried she found it too difficult. Therefore, she remained in the one gear, the highest gear, which mean that her bike regardless of whether she was riding on flat surfaces, hills or down hills always remained in a higher gear.

I showed her how easy it was to change gear and advised her of the importance of regularly changing gear as conditions demand. Since then, we've had no problems with the motor.

An easy trap to fall into with ebikes is to not change gear enough as the motor will always take the strain and stress. Even though you're riding an ebike, you should always be changing gear to adopt to the changing conditions. By doing this, you will significantly reduce the potential for motor failures or other problems.

What is a 'walk assist' mode on an ebike?

Most quality ebikes will come with a walk-assist mode. This is quite a nice feature that allows you to avail of assistance while pushing your bike up a hill when you're unable to cycle it. For example, in a pedestrian area of a town centre.

Great for when your ebike is loaded up with cargo or shopping and you're finding it heavy going pushing the bike. Just click on the walk-assist mode and you can relatively effortlessly walk alongside your ebike.

The walk-assist mode can also be used to start you off without the need for pedalling. However, it only can achieve a maximum of 2mph in order to comply with the UK's ebike regulations.

Hopefully you've found this introduction to buying an ebike useful?

My aim with this feature is to keep it as basic as possible, while still giving you the answers to most frequently asked questions. If there's any questions you still have, please feel free to post them in the comments section and I will do my best to answer them.

Thanks for reading.

Thursday, 11 July 2019

Lightweight Dutch Bike

Looking for a lightweight Dutch Bike?

The most frequently asked question whether it be by telephone or email to our shop, or those visiting our Dutch Bike Shop is what is the lightest Dutch bike?

There's a misconception out there that just because Holland is flat, Dutch bicycle manufacturers make extra heavy bikes, that would otherwise be unsuitable for riding anywhere other than in their native land.

Dutch bikes - as in modern Dutch bikes, are not heavy.

All the leading Dutch bike manufacturers, Batavus, Sparta, Koga, Gazelle, Union build their bicycles using lightweight, but strong alloy frames. Only a few models are built with steel frames.

However, when you compare the weight of a typical Dutch bike with that of say a typical UK bicycle, you'll find the Dutch bike will usually be heavier than the UK bicycle.

Which understandbly, leads many to (wrongly - as you'll see in a moment) conclude that Dutch bikes are all heavy bikes.

The problem when people look for a lightweight Dutch bike is that they're comparing the weight of a Dutch bike to that of a non-Dutch bike without looking at the features of the bike and making a like-for-like comparrison.

Let me give you an example of what I'm talking about.

Above is a 2019 Raleigh Pioneer Hybrid bike. 

It weights 15.5kgs and has derailleur gears. If you're not familar with what derailleur gears are - these are external gears - you can see the gear mechanism hanging below the rear wheel axle. To change gear you must be pedalling.

The features of the Raleigh Pioneer include:

  • Alloy step-over frame
  • 21 gears 
  • front and rear mudguards
  • rear rack 
  • v-brakes
  • Side stand
  • Fixed front handlebar position

Above is a Dutch bike - a Batavus CK

I've chosen this as the specifications are similar to the Raleigh - both are derailleur geared bikes.

The Weight of the CK is 16.4kgs - which is just shy of a 1kg heavier than the Raleigh.

However, compare the specifications -

  •  Alloy step-through frame (Step-through frames are always heavier than step over frames)
  • 7 Shimano Gears - with a guard to protect your mechanism from being hit.
  • Front and rear metal (far sturdier than Raleigh's plastic) mudguards
  • A strong rear rack capable of taking 25kgs of weight (Raliegh doesn't specify what weight their carrier can take, but it will be significantly less than 25kgs)
  • V brakes
  • Side stand - an adjustable and retractable heavy duty side stand compared to Raleigh's relatively flimsy (trust me, they are) side stand.
  • Front and rear lights - front light is superb Shimano Hub Dynamo light with a rear battery light.
  • High quality, gel sprung saddle (compared to Raleigh's unsprung saddle)
  • Anti-puncture protection tyres by leading tyre maker - Schwalbe - these will weigh more(and cost more) than the tyres fitted on the Raleigh. 
  • An AXA frame lock - this alone weights 750grams
  • An adjustable handlebar system - allowing you to adjust the position of the hnadlebars.
  • Stainless steel spokes (compared to Raleigh's unbranded steel spokes)
  • Partially enclosed chaincase - Raleigh provides no chaincase.

For just less than a 1kg, the Dutch bike is giving the rider far more by way of features. If you were to remove the AXA frame lock from the Dutch bike, you'd loose 750gms, which would give you pretty much the same weight.

Yet, you won't have a front hub dynamo light, which weights around a 1kg.

Then you've got the heavier duty, anti-puncture protection tyres, which again weigh more than the lighter, but lower quality tyres fitted on the Raleigh.

You'll also have to carry around a lock with you - again adding to your 'weight'.

When you actually compare the two bikes - were you to fit the AXA lock, the Hub dynamo and heavier duty tyres on the Raleigh bike, you'd be adding an additional 2kgs to the overall weight which would bring the Raleigh up to 17.5kgs in weight.

If you're looking for a light weight Dutch Bike - you need to stop comparing weight, but comparing features.

Dutch bikes aren't necessarily heavier than typical UK bikes, they just come with more features. If you don't want these features, remove them and you'll end up with a nice lightweight bike, but without the benefit of the features.

In my experience, vast majority of people looking for a Dutch bike want a bike that's comfortable, practical and comes with lots of standard features. The 'penalty' for want of a better description for all these things is you're going to get a heavier bike.

Another feature of Dutch Bikes that make them heavier is their gears. 

Hub gears weigh significantly more than derailleur gears. A Shimano 7 Speed Hub gear weights just under 2kgs.

Now let's look at a 7 Speed Nexus Hub Geared Dutch Bike 

The Batavus Dinsdag.

Weight 17kgs.

The Dinsdag is our lightest hub geared Dutch bike and given its features (and price) is remarkably light when you consider it's extensive features and that it is carrying a 2kg hub gear and 750g lock.

Were you to add the hub geared to the above Raleigh bike example, you'd end up with the Raleigh hybrid weighing in a 17.5kgs and it wouldn't have the lock, the heavy duty rear carrier, the front and rear lights, the fully enclosed chain case, the adjustable handlebar stem system and so forth.

When comparing weights - remember to compare features. A bike with little or no features will naturally weight less than a bike with features.

By features I mean useful things like mudguards front and rear to stop road spray destroying your clothing. A lock, lights and a side stand. Anti-puncture protection tyres, which will always weigh more but will reduce the likelyhood of punctures. A heavy-duty side stand, a heavy-duty rear cycle rack that's capable of taking weight up to 25kgs.

All these features add weight to your bike.

When looking for a lightweight bike, ask yourself which if any of these features you want on your bike. If you want to ride a 'naked bike' (nothing on it - mudguards etc etc) then great, a Dutch bike isn't for you. But if you want to ride a bike that's got these features, then a Dutch bike gives you all these features as standard - usually lighter than other bikes you'll see on the market - if they're equipped like-for-like.

If you want comfort, practical cycling, then it's hard to beat the quality and durability of a Dutch bike.

There are lots of different types of Dutch bikes, ranging from the very traditional upright Dutch bike as in the Batavus Old Dutch Bike - pictured below - to the more modern and comparatively lightweight Dutch bikes.

Batavus Old Dutch - a traditional steel framed Dutch bike.

Remember when comparing bike weights to take into account whether the bike has derailleur gears or hub gears. As I highlighted earlier, a hub gear weights more than a derailleur, however, the benefits of a hub gear - lower maintenance, ability to fully enclose the chain in a case and the biggest benefit of all, being able to change gear when stopped without the need for pedaling as with a derailleur gear - can outweight the cost of the additional weight of the hub.

In my experience of riding, selling, repairing and selling Dutch bikes (for the past 2 decades...) is those looking for a lightweight bike will rarely find a Dutch bike light enough for them. However, those looking for the obvious benefits that come with a Dutch bike - ie, comfort and practical features, will rarely if ever find that a lightweight bike suits their needs.

Buying a bike is always a compromise. If you want the practical features of a Dutch bike - front and rear lights, lock, mudguards, side stand, anti-puncture protection tyres, upright ride position, hub gears - expect a heavier bike.

On the other hand if you want a really lightweight bike - loose all the features and buy a 'naked' bike.

 Whatever bike you choose, enjoy.

Thinking about buying a secondhand/used Dutch bike?

Pumping the Tyres on a Dutch bike

This is the most common question we get asked  -How to pump the tyres on a Dutch bike. Not too sure why this causes such problems, but ...