18 5 / 2012
A few months ago, while I was in the throes of my bicycle search, I began reading bike blogs. Well, I began reading one bike blog, really.
It’s called Lovely Bicycle, and it’s written by an American woman about my age who feels passionately about all sorts of bikes, but about Dutch transportation bikes particularly.
I like this blog because I like this woman’s take on cycling. She came to it slowly- like me. She started with a bolt-upright, beautiful, womanly, heavy-as-hell bike- like me. Little by little she learned about weight, speed, saddles, comfort, and other things I can’t think of because I’m pretty new at this. Her journey inspires me, and I’ve learned quite a lot from Lovely Bicycles.
Today I peeked in and was thrilled to see a review of my Achielle! These bikes are hard to find here, and almost impossible to find in the US. I hardly found any reviews of them before purchasing mine. (Dumb consumering, I know, but it was love at first sight. I couldn’t help it.)
Personal note: I just had a rear child seat installed on my bike, by the way, because it is getting hard for me to lift Sam up into his front baby seat. (It’s quite high on this bike, as the frame is taller than my last.) Because I moved Sam to the rear, I ditched my bike bags and picked up a front basket. It’s pretty cute. The ride however, is seriously wonky* and will take some getting used to. Redistribution of weight does make a huge difference in how a bike rides. Go figure. I’ll post a photo
*I asked Marc to ride my bike yesterday and he agreed that it was practically unride-able in its new state. Today he adjusted Sam’s seat a bit, and it rides a good deal more smoothly now. Certainly, it is a huge step down from having Sam’s weight in the front, but at least I can ride it somewhat competently. The cute guys at the bike shop yesterday did not do me any favors with a shoddy seat installation. American-owned shop no less!
01 4 / 2012
After weeks of obsessing, I finally found my bike. I love it. The ride is silky smooth, and the aesthetics are quite pleasing to my eye. She’s a fashionable lady.
This bike cost more than what I sold my car for, and that fact caused me to have a mini anxiety attack yesterday. By this morning though, I had decided to love my new bike and not think again about what it cost. But by god, I had better ride it.
I had originally planned on buying a Gazelle brand bike. Gazelles are the original Dutch bike, and I loved the idea of getting something simple and classic. However, as I began to read bike blogs and reviews of Gazelles (because, you know, there are people out there fairly sick with lust for Dutch and Dutch-style bicycles), I didn’t like what I found. Gazelles are no longer made in the Netherlands, and the frames are usually slapped together with some shoddy welding. In addition, to outfit a Gazelle with my specifications- at least one hand break and some amount of gears- the price point shot up quite a bit.
As with any hobby, once you get going it becomes easier and easier to find reasons for spending more money. Craftsmanship becomes something to consider. Specific wants and needs become more apparent. Buying this bike was no exception. Once I decided to buy a new bike, it became clear that I wasn’t going to get away with pinching very many pennies (and I have a pretty skilled pincher finger).
Somewhere along the search, Marc introduced me to this Belgian bike company called Achielle. It is family owned and operated, and the bikes are built to order. The frames are lugged steel (something I learned about in my research), and the components are beautiful.
There is one bike shop in the greater Amsterdam area that sells Achielle bikes, and it happens to be owned by an awesome Dutch couple named Marco and Monique. Basically, buying this bike was super fun. Marco and Monique are friendly, feisty, and unassuming (not always the case with bike shop owners, in my experience), and they love these bikes. Marco listened to my wants- an 8 speed with handbrakes and a back rack- and he assured me that he could make all of that happen. Of course, in the end I took this perfect bicycle and bogged it down with brakes, a front and back rack, 8 gears, a baby seat, and my cheap bike bags; but this bike is sassy enough to wear all of it in stride.
I love my new bike. I really don’t think I’ve ever owned something quite this nice. I sincerely hope it doesn’t get stolen because I’ve got a lot of plans for this baby. An April ride around some tulip fields is first on the list.
Monique and me, with my brand new bicycle. The beginning of a beautiful friendship.
15 3 / 2012
I know I’ve written about the Westerpark before. I believe that I called it something like “The Greatest Urban Park in the World”. Hyperbolic? Yes. True? Likely.
12 3 / 2012
So, I want a new bike. Not a new-to-me bike. I want a brand new bicycle.
- My current bike is fairly crappy (lights are always broken, it’s a bit too small for me, it rides a little wonky since my fall last year).
- My current bike doesn’t have gears (fine for flat Holland, unacceptable for Portland. I am not a masochist.).
- My current bike doesn’t have hand brakes (see above).
- I have never owned a new bike.
- I have never owned a bike that actually fits my tall frame.
- I want to bring home a funky Dutch bike.
- I have spring fever.
- I am ready to ride around with Sam.
- I sold both my car, and my bike, before moving to Amsterdam. Thus, I will need a bike in the US- used or new.
- My current bike is fine by Dutch standards (it blends right in=less likely to be stolen).
- Buying something new is not often the best option (economically, environmentally, etc.).
- We don’t have lots of extra cash lying around.
- Dutch bikes are by nature heavy beasts. I don’t know how it will feel to ride one (plus kid/s) in Portland. It might be smarter to buy a more practical bike when we get home.
- There is a certain amount of vanity in this want (lame).
- This bike is so new that we can’t find it in local shops (to my specifications). Therefore, I will need to order it online=missing out on supporting a local bike shop.
Here is the bike I want. It is Dutch, it is old school, and it can be ordered to my specifications (at least one hand brake, 3-speed, hub-generated lights). It is just released- hence the tacky promo in the corner.
Now, whether I get this bike or not really depends on how much I’m going to ride it. Marc has always treated himself to nice bikes, but they are his main vehicle during the week. So, that’s totally fair. Clearly, I cannot buy a fancy new bike and then let it gather dust.
So…I’ve begun taking Sam for rides. Public transit + my walking feet have served us well these past months. But the weather is changing, and Sam is growing up. We need to join the masses and start biking during the week.
Here we are heading to a carnival at the Westerpark yesterday.
Riding with Sam was awesome. Having him in the front was like holding him in my arms. I could talk to him, touch him, and hear his reactions to things. What fun!
Plus, how can I not take this kid places on my bike? I mean, just look at him. (He kept those sunglasses on all afternoon, by the way.)
If I don’t get comfortable biking with one child, I will certainly never do it with two. It follows that for the next 5 years, I will rarely ride around at all. That is not acceptable. So, here’s to trying new things and moving forward…on a very sweet 3-speed, sunshine-yellow oma fiets, with hand brakes, a back rack, and hub-generated lights.
09 11 / 2011
I wanted to thank some of you who were really encouraging about this bike fear that I shared last week. Auntie, you especially, inspired me to lighten up and give it another go.
Marc and I had a date night last weekend (date night=bike night) and it was really theraputic. Oh yeah, and fun. It was really fun too:)
It was Museum Night; the one night a year when museums all over the city stay open until 2AM and have special exhibitions and programs. Some have performance art, some show films, some host DJs- most have beer and wine available.
We spent our precious time out with a night tour of certain parts of the zoo (fairly creepy, walking around a zoo with a small group of strangers, with only a flashlight to guide), a visit to the aquarium, some dancing at the Tropen, and on the way home we stopped by the Pianola Museum down the street. (The Pianola Museum was maybe the highlight. We sat in this really charming space, watching a Buster Keaton film, while a local pianist played the soundtrack.)
For the first bit of the ride I had to remind myself to calm down and loosen my grip on the handle bars, but by the end of the night I was enjoying biking around the city again.
While we’re at it, yesterday Sam and I visited the children’s farm. This time he actually reached out for the rabbits, and we spent quite a bit of time sitting alongside the goats. For the first time we both enjoyed our time with the animals, so I think that like me, Sam is making some headway with his fears. Hurrah!