I’m fairly decided that I’ll be getting an European city bike, but now the issue becomes which one. At the moment it comes down to two bikes.
Up to a few months ago the answer was clear: the Electra Amsterdam 3 Classic, the male companion to my wife’s bicycle.I absolutely love the look of the Amsterdam. It has very simple lines that say “I am a straightforward bike” and those extra details–the slightly swept-back seat, the wide handlebars, the coat and chainguard, the back rack, the dynamo-powered headlight–that give it that dignified look of a bike meant to be used by regular people for regular purposes. Yes, I’m waxing poetic on a bicycle, but look at it, it is a damn beautiful bike. The one drawback that I can name right off the bat: it doesn’t have a hand brake; while I’ve nothing against coaster brakes, a hand brake would be something I would like in my next bike, if possible. If I use my wife’s Amsterdam as a precedent, I’m looking at around $550 for this bike, built and ready to run. That’s a very attractive number! I do, however, need to add the cost of a front tray as that’s one customization I absolutely require for how I intend to use this bike.
The second contender is the Gazelle Toer Populair 3 SPD, a truly Dutch (as in, from Holland) bike. This bike brings Europe to you; you can rid it, squint real hard, and pretend you’re in Amsterdam. Again, simple lines (notice, however, that this one is straight at the crossbar and seat), a chunky back rack with back-wheel lock (love those!), coat and chainguard, dynamo headlight – all the fixings of a daily-use bike. The Toer, however, adds a hand lever brake out of the box, which is something to consider. And let’s face it, there’s the fact that this is a bike by a 117-year old company that knows how to make city bikes. Gazelle is an institution in the Netherlands, so they have the expertise to deliver a tried-and-tested fantastic bike. The one huge drawback? The price. Though Gazelle has a representative in Miami at the moment, they are still not carried by any local store, so based on the closest US dealer with prices displayed online (Dutch Bike Co. in Chicago), it’s $1300, more or less. Plus the cost of a front tray as well (though I don’t know if the Electra one I linked above will fit this one; if not, I need to find one that will).
That’s where I’m forced to stop and think. Marc from Amsterdamize.com, when I commented on the issue of pricing, replied, “Yeah, there’s no escape from import costs and duties, but we are of course talking about an investment in decades and decades of durability, the Dutch would say: ‘Goedkoop is duurkoop’ = ‘Cheap is expensive in the long run.'” Trust me, I know this is very much a case of up-front investment and I’m trying to keep it in mind. It would be a lot easier if the Electra Amsterdam wasn’t such a good and durable bike as well. As durable as a Dutch bike? Hard to say; to be fair, Electra hasn’t been around as long as Gazelle, nor do their bikes have had the same kind of use and abuse over the years. Which actually does bring a point: in Miami, I’m not quite yet at the level of use of people in Holland, and while I would love to get there eventually, does it warrant the expense now?*
I continue to ponder this as I inspect other bikes (in the interest of doing my homework and being diligent, even if I keep coming back to these two). I’m decided to keep both options viable until I have evaluated the bikes in person (and thanks to an email I received a couple of days ago, it looks like I’ll have a chance to see the Gazelle Toer in person in Miami). My other main concern is if the mechanics here will be able to work the Gazelle. I imagine so, but I intend to make sure beforehand.
Next I’ll look at some cruisers as well.
* – Of course, if Gazelle wants to work out a promotional/sponsorship deal with me, the decision would be a very easy one to make. I think about the amount of publicity Electra has gotten with my wife’s bike every time we ride around, especially when we go to Bike Miami events, and through this blog; maybe that would be worth something to Gazelle as they seek to stake a claim to the South Florida market. Just saying.