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Riding Not-Clyde

It was bound to happen eventually: today I rode another bike to work.

Poor Clyde had to go into the shop for a pair of new shifters. Since this was warranty work, I took him to the Wrong For Me bike shop that sold him to me.

That shop has no loaner or rental program, presumably because their customers either own multiple bikes or don't ride daily. Clever Cycles, the Just Right For Me bike shop that I discovered last week, does rent bikes, and is a short walk from Wrong Bikes.

So to Clever Cycles I walked, and from Clever Cycles I rode away on a rented Dutch Workcycles Oma bicycle, in the glorious sunshine of April.

Doesn't she look like a Victorian lady with a bustle?

This is a serious car-replacement bike, an everyday bike. It's designed for work--for carrying groceries, kids, briefcases, flowers, small dogs, etc. It's designed to be ridden in good clothes, in bad weather, on city streets, day or night. You sit up straight. The handlebars are high and wide. All eight gears work perfectly. The chain and gears are completely encased, for low maintenance and no grease on your clothes.

The built-in headlight and taillight are powered by the bike's motion--no batteries!--and both are positioned so they won't be blocked by any load you might be carrying.

The Oma weighs a ton. It doesn't go fast. Everything on it is steel except the fine Brooks leather saddle and the serviceable rubber grips and pedals.

So what was it like to get this behemoth up the riverbank? To my surprise, it was somewhat less effort than on Clyde because, for one thing, shifting into low gear actually worked. This bike is made for load-bearing, and by the magic of good engineering it seems to transfer the energy of leg muscles to the wheels with tremendous efficiency. The trade-off is that it's not a speedy bike. At all.

I thought Clyde, my big red cruiser, made me stand out in Portland bike traffic, but riding a Dutch bike was like wearing a "not from around here" label. It's a completely not-American, not-sporting, not-recreational, not-fast, not-sexy bike. It's a Mercedes sedan of a bike. It will get you there in comfort, and it will do it for decades.

This isn't the bike for someone who has to store their bike upstairs or anywhere else "up". It was a significant effort just getting it up the four steps to my front porch last night. There was no way I could park it in the garage at work this morning because that parking is all vertical. (I locked it in the standing racks outside.) If I buy one of these, I'll have to park it in my back yard. Happily, Workcycles are built to live outdoors in Amsterdam.

Riding a Dutch Workcycle has made me feel very differently about riding bikes. It completely removes any sport-competitive-touring nuance and puts me squarely into "what if I were to give up my car?" territory. It is not an incidental bike. It's a bike for people who rideg a bike every day for every purpose, and never think of themselves as "cyclists".

I'm seriously considering making this my next bike.


( 11 comments — Leave a comment )
Apr. 3rd, 2010 01:14 am (UTC)
Pretty! That level of craftsmanship is always admirable, I think, even though the very concept of a custom-built bike is outside of my reality.

I'm always interested to see the comments on bike-related articles. Such strong feelings!
Apr. 3rd, 2010 02:09 pm (UTC)
"It's a bike for people who ride a bike every day for every purpose, and never think of themselves as "cyclists".

Lol! '' m Dutch, I've got an Oma bike like that, I ride it every day (I don't have a car), and I've never considered myself a 'cyclist'.

My bike only has one gear though, and no hand brakes (easier with shopping bags).
Apr. 3rd, 2010 05:09 pm (UTC)
You must have leg muscles of iron to get this type of bike, with groceries, up any kind of hill! I understand that Dutch towns aren't known for their hills, but...bridges? ramps? How do you do it?

I woke up this morning musing about selling my car--not for the first time, but riding the Oma for a couple of days has given me a new perspective.
Apr. 3rd, 2010 07:28 pm (UTC)
No hills over here, and no high bridges either. And no legs of iron.

Apr. 3rd, 2010 02:16 pm (UTC)
She's gorgeous!!
Apr. 3rd, 2010 05:10 pm (UTC)
She really is, in a charming old-fashioned way. Not skinny like a fashion-model bike, but curvy and serene. I like her a lot.
Apr. 4th, 2010 05:23 am (UTC)
A Victorian lady with a bustle - that is a perfect description, love it!

I'm so happy to hear you enjoyed your time with an Oma! She really is the loveliest bike. You get used to the slower pace, too, with time.

-Dottie, letsgorideabike.com
Apr. 4th, 2010 05:32 am (UTC)
Despite today's little chain incident--which I'm assured really was a freakish piece of bad luck--I'm almost sure that an Oma will be my next bike.
Apr. 4th, 2010 05:39 pm (UTC)
I love her looks, very earthy and solid. There must be a way to adapt a charging plug for your devices into that headlight/rear light charging device too. I'm sure others have thought of it, so it's out there somewhere.
Apr. 4th, 2010 05:51 pm (UTC)
A quick Google search indicates that Motorola developed a bike-powered device charger for "emerging markets" which means I bet there's something in China already.

Some Dutch geek created a home-made version but OMG so beyond my level of geekability!

It's coming, though. Give it another year. Stealing a little of the bike-wheel-spinning energy away from forward motion and putting it into a USB charger seems like a natural, doesn't it?
( 11 comments — Leave a comment )



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