Daniel Ho

Amor Fati

A Toronto-based management consultant who spends too much time thinking about coffee, riding around on two wheels, photography, books, and fried chicken!

In Defence of "Old School": "City Bikes" are now cool...

Batavus Favoriet A while ago, I got an "old school" Dutch bike for daily use. Its qualities include:

- Sturdy durable steel frame that can take the abuse of everyday city riding; stainless steel components that resist rusting even when kept outside all year; - Fenders that keep dirty rain runoff from splashing on my pants or the telltale "racing stripe" of water and mud on my back - Enclosed chain that lets me ride without specialty clothing AND keeps the chain clean and maintenance free; - Great solid back cargo rack for hauling groceries and my briefcase; - Permanently mounted dynamo powered lights so you can never forget to pack a headlight or recharge its batteries; - 3 speed SRAM hub that lets me climb the hill home but still keeps things simple; - Comfy springy leather seat; - Integrated wheel lock for quick stops; - Traditional Dutch bike styling is great too for bike nerds like me.

This bike is immensely practical for everyday use, but for the longest time, this style of bike was hard to obtain without directly importing from Europe. Why Europe? Well, in many parts of Europe, bikes are seen not only as sport and recreation, but also a valid means of transportation and produced for this need as well.

For the past few decades in North America, the bicycle has been marketed and sold as recreational toys or sports equipment. The market has been dominated by mountain bikes with a few road bikes thrown into the mix. Nothing against these bikes, but they just aren't set up optimally for running errands or cruising around town.

Recently, I've been sensing a change the bikes that I've seen on the roads lately. It looks like people are coming to their senses and realizing they can use bicycles as transportation and don't really need elaborate gearing systems to get to the office, grocery store, or meet up wtih friends.

Kronan Bicycle

There is also a change in fashion. Since the Kronan bikes from Sweden appeared and started showing up in stylish lifestyle magazines, a demand has been created for this style of bike that the bicycle industry is calling the "City Bike"

Sales of this style of bike is climbing. People are even dragging similar bicycles from the 70's and before out of storage. Due to their simplicity, these bikes are being put back into service with only a minor tuneup and maybe a few parts. A good example of this are the 3 speed Raleighs. They are a very nicely built bike complete with fenders and chain guards. These old fashioned bicycles provide a lot of functionality with very little in the way of fussiness and maintenance.

This Wired article reporting on Interbike 2007 is saying:

Some people believe that, right now, a quiet revolution is taking place. In cities like London, San Francisco, Boston and New York, the ranks of bicycle riders are swelling with the rise of a new breed: the urban biker.

Traffic snarls, soaring gas prices and worries about global warming have prompted a big boost in cycling, affecting even places like Los Angeles -- America's freeway capital -- that have traditionally given bicycles the cold shoulder.

"What's really happened in the past year is a cultural shift," says Monica Howe, 31-year-old outreach coordinator for the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition.

At Interbike 2007, the bicycle industry's giant annual trade show, the shift toward the urban rider is loudly evident. Fancy road and mountain bikes are clearly no longer king of the roost -- or road. It's the scads of fixed-gear, town, single-speed and other urban bicycles that are drawing the crowds.

So, everything old is new again. Dig that old grandpa bike out of storage and rethink the place of a bicycle in your life. Rather than a toy or a sport, it can be a very efficient way for you to get around town. A spot of exercise probably wouldn't hurt either. You may be surprised how well it can work out for you!