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?

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