Sunday, September 18, 2011

Bleak Prognosis for the Dutch Bicycle?

Trek Cocoa
While I can't say I did not see it coming, it was nonetheless a surprise to spot one of the latest offerings from Trek at Interbike.

Trek Cocoa
Meet the Trek Cocoa: a "Dutch-inspired" 3-speed. Loop frame, chaincase, dressguards, vintage-style graphics and even - believe it or not, some lugwork (despite the allegedly aluminum frame?).

Here is an Interbike anecdote for you: Upon seeing Trek's Dutch bike, I naturally wanted to examine it carefully: to feel the weight, to move it to a location that would make it easier to photograph, maybe even to test ride it. But the bike was locked up to a display stand, so I asked a representative in the booth about it. He looked confused, as if I'd brought him some weird bike he'd never seen before and wants nothing to do with. "I don't really know anything about this," he said, "but let me see if I can get someone who does." I waited, but no one came, and so I ended up photographing it as it was, then moving on. It made me imagine that perhaps there were these warring fractions at Trek, with one adamant on designing European-inspired city bikes and the other disgusted by the idea and insisting that all resources be focused on Madones. Who knows what goes on behind the scenes over there, but the bottom line is that a Trek Dutch bike now exists.

Trek Cocoa
If you are waiting for me to tear this bicycle apart, I will have to disappoint you. While I have not test-ridden it, visually and structurally it is not bad. The frame is partially lugged and the welded bits are not as horrendous as on other bikes I've seen. Though the frame size is smaller than typical for a Dutch bike  and the wheels are 26", the proportions - from the thickness of the tubing to the curve of the looped top tube - come across as convincing. The graphics are attractive. There is no lighting, but perhaps they will add that as an option once the bike goes into production.

Trek Cocoa
While the Cocoa is not an authentic classic Dutch bicycle as far as geometry goes, it is much nicer than I what I'd expected Trek to produce in this genre - especially after their take on the French mixte. I look forward to a test ride in 2012.

Trek Cocoa
At this point you may be wondering about the bleak title of this post. Well, in order to explain it, I ask you first to have a good look at the above photo. Then turn your attention to the photo below:

Gazelle with Unicrown Fork
Do you see much of a difference? Because you are now looking at the latest model from the Dutch bike manufacturer Gazelle - namely, at a rather crudely welded unicrown fork. Seeing this at Interbike, it made complete sense as the finishing touch after a number of other changes Gazelle has undergone over the past few years, such as switching to welded chainstays and loop connector. Given that Batavus underwent the same changes a few years earlier, it seems that what used to be known as the two major Dutch bicycle manufacturers are essentially no longer differentiated from bikes mass-produced in Chinese factories by the likes of Trek and Republic - which is not surprising, because as of several years ago they are being produced in the same Chinese factories. While I am sure the geometry is different - at least for now - I see less and less of a distinction in construction and quality between the big name Dutch bikes and their imitators.

All this is to say, that the idea of the Dutch bike as it was first introduced to the North American market - as a timeless design, lovingly hand-made by specialists who'd been producing it in the exact same way for generations - is quickly becoming a marketing myth. The only manufacturer I can think of who still makes Dutch bikes entirely in that manner is Achielle, and they are based in Belgium. Correct me if I am wrong, reassure me, give me examples - I am open to it. But having seen the latest offerings at Interbike, I can hardly feel optimistic. If the likes of the Trek Cocoa ride decently, I don't really see a reason why an American consumer would want the more expensive Gazelle - the difference in quality is rapidly disappearing.

76 comments:

  1. speaking of which, I'd love to see an Achielle review. They're so gorgeous, but I've never seen one in person!
    -Jen

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  2. Azor is the only Dutch brand of bicycles still made that way.

    If you want to hear a (good) bicycle repair person rant, ask them about the recent quality of Batavus and Gazelle....

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  3. It is indeed true that big name manufacturers Batavus and Gazelle aren't being able to live up to their name anymore. It is known here in The Netherlands that both had a very difficult time, financially, and they were bought by other manufacturers, keeping their names. And it is for sure that their bikes aren't what they used to be anymore, sadly...

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  4. à chacun ses goûts; I rather like them. They're simple, strong and elegant.

    My actually-made-in-the-Netherlands Batavus (as opposed to some romantic idea of a pre-war Dutch bike) doesn't have a unicrown fork. It has a suspension fork. With a welded hydro-formed aluminium frame. I love it.

    Mind you, rim brakes on a recently-made roadster like the Trek? That brings the hate.

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  5. Azor (and Workcycles) are stil made in Holland. (And other higher end brands like koga or Multicyle, maybe.)
    I don't think lug work or clean welding is that important. Those classic dutch bikes were always crude workhorses, reliable, but not work of art, anyway
    What's really important is strong wheels, good chain carter, drum brakes, oversized components and sensible geometry... The Trek on your pics doesnt deliver any of this. It looks like a omafiets from a distance but that's about it. Now, the average american consummer may gets fooled, but did he noticed the previous elaborate lugs in the first place ? probably not. Just as he does not need an expensive imported dutch bike, designed for a daily commute when he rides on sunny week end only.

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  6. Given a choice, I think I'd still take the now discontinued Gary Fisher (made by Trek) Simple City 8 with the step-through frame over the new Trek. Lugged frames are only one element of the overall bike package. My daughter, who got the Simple City, agrees. The big front basket and the 8 speeds trump lugs. I didn't ask about skirt guards. We men really ARE pigs!

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  7. I really can't get past the really short seat tubes used in american versions of dutch loop bicycles. They must do this so that they only have to make one size of bicycle. I find it even more visually unappealing as the unicrown fork on the gazelle.

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  8. Re Azor, someone please clarify the following for me: Azor does not get imported into the US directly, as far as I know. But Workcycles uses Azor frames. However, Workcycles also states that some of the frames they use are made in the Far East. Does this mean that Azor outsources some of its frame production, or does it mean that Workcycles uses frames other than Azor (in addition to Azor)?

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  9. "speaking of which, I'd love to see an Achielle review. They're so gorgeous, but I've never seen one in person!"

    Same here. I was in touch with Achielle before they had an American distributor and we had some friendly back and forth correspondence. As soon as they got an American distributor, I contacted them and asked how a test ride could be arranged. They did not reply, and that was several months ago. Also, to my dismay they were not at Interbike. Maybe in the future an opportunity to see them in person will present itself.

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  10. I looked at the specs for the Cocoa on the Trek web site and was disappointed to see that although the fork is steel, the frame is aluminum. I'd be more interested in an all-steel bike.

    Still, I'm sure there'll be a market for this. It *is* a fashionable bike with some nice features at a kinder price than real Dutch bikes. But it's not going to tempt me away from my '66 Raleigh Sports Deluxe.

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  11. Seems like the dumbing down of the Dutch bike for the US market. Trek doesn't seem to do well with niche products (that need some explanation). That said, the Felt Regency looks pretty nice.

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  12. I am actually v curious about the aluminum frame and how they managed to make the lug overlays. There was some speculation at Interbike, but I found no one there to talk about it with.

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  14. Bob - I didn't get to the Felt booth! Other things kept distracting me and I just never made it there to see this bike or Eva Lu. Would love to the the Regency, hopefully some local bike shop will carry it in 2012.

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  15. Actually just saw one of these at a wine and street fair in lafayete c?California. Sharp bicycles in that area already sells them if you have any questions.

    Here it is

    http://sharpbicycle.com/product/12trek-cocoa-wsd-130987-1.htm

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  16. Sigh, Achielle. They are stunning. The bakfietsen are especially gorgeous.

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  17. I am happy so far with my 2011 Gazelle Populair in spite of some compromises compared with the older bikes, but I wouldn't buy one with an ugly fork like that !
    I am assuming that the model shown is the 2012 Basic ?

    The Trek fork looks better because the brake assembly covers up some of the unicrown's ugliness ( at least on this type of bike, I mean ) - Gazelle would be better off using a lugged fork and leaving off the fender ornament, using a decal type headbadge etc. , if they want to save pennies somewhere on a basic traditional model. The fork really clashes with the styling as it stands ! Having said that, I imagine the gazelle fork would have a better looking curvature to it, but I can't see from the photo.

    Looking at my local (Australian) ebay, the trendy words "fixie" and "dutchie" are plastered everywhere, even on the same bike in some cases (!) Sadly, cynical trendy marketing is everywhere, but it is nice to see an alternative to mtb's and racers becoming more popular if it's done reasonably well.

    I agree with Amanda about the Trek's seat post, it looks as though its 'pants' are falling down :)

    If the Gazelle pictured is the Populair model, then its future indeed looks bleak !

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  18. As I understand it, some WorkCycles-branded Azor frame models (e.g., Oma) are brazed in Taiwan, then finished and assembled in Hoogeveen, Netherlands (we visited the factory). Other models (e.g., Kruis, "Secret Service") are brazed in Belgium, then finished in Hoogeveen. The Asian-brazed frames are more consistently clean and true, by the way. Other WorkCycles bikes, such as their own Fr8 line, are made by Nijland in the Netherlands. In all cases, many/most components are made in Asia.

    In any case, for what it's worth, we (Clever Cycles) have never, ever presented these bikes as "lovingly hand-made by specialists who'd been producing it in the exact same way for generations" or any such notions, which seem to me a bit fetishist, contrary to the flatly pragmatic attitude toward bikes prevalent in the Netherlands.

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  19. One thing that bugs me about "Dutch-style" bikes sold in the US is their relatively skinny tires. Some of our cities have astonishingly crappy roads (compared to the Dutch paths, especially). An appropriate tire for the Big Apple, is the Big Apple. Utility bikes with Big Fat Tires would save money and avoid many crashes (the BAs don't fit in slotted storm drains, just for example).

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  20. Todd - Thanks for the explanation; that is consistent with what I thought. For what it's worth, a number of times people have gotten deeply offended and interpreted it as an attack on Workcycles when I'd point out these bikes were not "100% handmade in Holland."

    To be fair, Dutch people do not all have the same attitude about their bicycles; in fact many whom I know personally are quite patriotically attached to the idea of NL-made bikes. Not because they fetishize bicycles, but because they value what is known world-wide as a uniquely Dutch product and they like the idea of local production.

    This issue aside, I think that Workcycles and Gazelle are doing very different things. It's not just about the place of manufacture, but about the quality. Over the past 3 years I have watched Gazelle bicycles show up with structural changes and changes in components that show a distinct cost-saving strategy, at the expense of quality and aesthetics - while keeping retail prices the same.

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  21. check dutch brand RIH :-)

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oc4mw_s162w

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  22. This isn't new; a lot of American mfgs. came out with dutchie bikes: Linus, Public and I think Pake and probably others.
    The Trek retails for $550; seriously why would anyone consider a Dutch bike in these United States when you get the added benefit of paying massive transpo costs and import duties.

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  23. Linus and Public did not make Dutch bikes per se; the forms of their frames are different. More like a modification of English lady roadsters. Also, those are not equipped with chaincases, dress guards, etc. Trek did its research and went for a full-on Dutch bike look, only in miniature. Similar to what Republic did.

    Still, the reason it's news is because it's Trek: a huge, mainstream, widely known manufacturer. This bike will be in almost every bike shop across the US.

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  24. Unfortunately it looks like Trek is no longer offering the mixte version of the Belleville for women in favor of Cocoa model. Their website has been updated to include the Cocoa but the Belleville WSD http://www.trekbikes.com/us/en/bikes/town/utility/belleville/belleville_wsd/

    now comes up 404.

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  25. Fascinating. I suppose it was only a matter of time. And it's a pretty handsome bike, but yes--I also get hung up on that short seat post and that stubby little bicolor saddle. The devil is in the details.

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  26. Well, V, perhaps the Trek will be a boon to upright city bicycles in general. When folks buy a lower-end bike, they might actually ride it. Pretty soon, they might think it's time for an upgrade to something more substantial, and they might discover other brands or vintage bikes.

    Personally, "real" Dutch bikes seem hugely impractical to me in many cities, including my own. I don't know how anyone here can own one other than as a status symbol. To pay nearly $2000 for a bike that one can't ride up half the hilly streets in the city seems like a huge waste of money. If Trek provides a lighter version, maybe more folks will be out on the road, and that's a good thing.

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  27. None of these are trad Dutch bikes anyway; things change, materials change, geometry changes with better roads, wheel sizes change, some riders demand a sportier bike regardless of looks.

    It may be a lot of shops but that's up to what Trek demands of its dealers: a certain number of x models, a certain number of y or in lieu of these numbers more of z.

    This Trek may have superficially copied a trad Dutch bike, but really all the above mentioned mfgs are doing bikes within a range of geometry that is currently popular. As usual I'd hesitate to call any of them anything other than transportation.

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  28. My point was not so much that the new Trek bike is good/bad, Dutch enough or not Dutch enough, as that one distinct trend I noticed at Interbike is a "meeting in the middle" in terms of quality and inventiveness between what were previously considered to be higher end manufacturers and mass-produced bikes. There used to be a very clear visual distinction as far as quality between a bike such as, say, Linus and a Gazelle, but that distinction is blurring.

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  29. Got it. Have you ridden a Linus? It's utter crap imo, even compared to bikes of a similar price point. Whatever, it's cheap and moves people.

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  30. Haven't gotten around to visiting a store that carries them. I finally saw their mixte though, and was amazed that they managed to get the split headtube lug, but not cap stays to finish the seat cluster to match.

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  31. Ground Round, curious why you label Linus bikes as utter crap? I live in Chicago and more than a few rebuttable shops carry them. All of those shops have spoken rather highly of them--especially at the price point they target.

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  32. I'm happy to see the Cocoa, by the way, the same way I was happy to see the Electra Amsterdam series. It looks even a little bit schlockier than the latter, but may be more widely distributed. It helps normalize the idea of an upright bike with fenders and a gearhub and a covered chain and fattish street tires that isn't a beach cruiser. It's a gateway drug, a match, a fuse, and the bomb is a bike that can do what the best Dutch/Dutch-inspired bikes still do like no other. This is a bad photo, but see what i mean: http://www.flickr.com/photos/cleverchimp/3345950194/ . For us, "Dutch" is all about hauling family and groceries in a sturdy, extremely low maintenance, plain-clothes-friendly package with built-in lights and lock and passenger-class rack and enclosed everything. It's not about gold on black detailing or lugs or whether crypto English or Sino-Flemish imposture. At least, that's how it is with our WorkCycles selection.

    The Gazelle Basic still seems like a better value to me than the Cocoa, because for a little more than $200 extra it comes with a dynamo hub driving LED headlamp, drum instead of rim brake, couple of frame sizes, powdercoat, true full chaincase, ring lock, stout rack... and it will accept front and rear child carriers, woot!

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  33. Todd - I pretty much agree with everything you wrote above. Your last paragraph is basically what I was saying here. But increasingly, people have been emailing me about faulty components and other problems on the Gazelle Basic. When I tried it in the Spring of 2009 it was a nice bike, but if they keep altering it in this manner, I will have to go back and recant or at least add caveats to my older posts where I voiced support for Gazelle.

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    Replies
    1. Hi Velouria!

      I just received a second-hand Gazelle Basic and I would love to hear more about the feedback that you have received from folks about their Basics. I want to be prepared for any issues that seem to be fairly common.

      Thanks so much!

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  34. ad, this is just my opinion but the fasteners are sub-par and aren't very corrosion-resistant as a practical point. A lot of people have them where I live in Cali so it's not a huge issue but my feeling is Linus wasn't started by bike guys but by entrepeneurs. They are pretty light weight bikes but are that way because of being under built so they are a bad kind of flexy and won't hold up under heavy use. If you are the type of rider that rarely goes faster than 15mph, heavy or abusive it isn't a problem. They're also fine starter bikes but I think Pake city bikes are cheaper and better built, Public more expensive and quite nice.
    Your local shops will speak highly of them because they're trying to sell them!

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  35. "the idea of the Dutch bike as it was first introduced to the North American market - as a timeless design, lovingly hand-made by specialists who'd been producing it in the exact same way for generations - is quickly becoming a marketing myth."

    IMO it always was a myth.
    The only thing that really mattered about dutch bikes, apart for a few initiates, is the fact that you can sit straight up, haul lots of stuff and it came fully equiped. The rest was always marginal and secondary.
    Who cares really about lugwork etc.?

    Now for those who loose their jobs too Asian outsourcing, that's a real problem. But as cycling becomes popular again (and it will thank to such brilliant initiatives - if find this Trek cocoa to be a major milestone) many will move up the quality ladder and former worker will be able to open their own shops selling to better informed people/initiates.

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  36. snarkypup said...
    Personally, "real" Dutch bikes seem hugely impractical to me in many cities, including my own. I don't know how anyone here can own one other than as a status symbol.

    It is certainly this way in Berlin. Having a Hollandrad is definitely a fashion statement.

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  37. Snarkypup says:
    "To pay nearly $2000 for a bike that one can't ride up half the hilly streets in the city seems like a huge waste of money."

    Or carry upstairs two/three floors like a lot of people have do here if they want to wake up still owning their bike.

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  38. Lets face it, all bikes are statements about their owners aren't they ?

    At least I know that I can use a good quality upright bike to its full practical potential and have it last a long time with a bit of style and comfort, without becoming any more dated than it is now. I enjoy my Gazelle just as much when no-one is looking because it rides so well. Weight isn't always a bad thing.

    Plenty of people I see spend as much ( or much more ) on performance bikes that they will never use the full potential of.

    I have old beaters saved from the street waste collection to use where it's risky to park. I don't mind being seen on those either.

    Hopefully companies like Gazelle know where their market is and aim to keep their quality high. As Sarah says "the devil is in the details".

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  39. Re cost of bikes, practicality, etc... I feel it is a tired argument. I also think it is somewhat ill natured to suggest that a particular type of bike is nothing but a fashion statement just because it does not work for us. We all live in different environments and have different needs, and each person should be able to ride whatever bike makes them happy without being judged.

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  40. Thought I'd point out that Azors/Workcycles bikes are priced from less than 600 Euro if you're buying over there. Dutch buyers also get government subsidies.

    The extravagant prices we pay here reflect transport and import duties, but mostly we pay a lot because the bikes arrive in tiny quantities. We all talk a lot about them but it's just not many bikes. It's massively inefficient and there's too many people wishing they could make a living off a handful of bikes.

    At the margin the price is worth it to some buyers because the best of the bikes are completely thought out to the final degree, a very finished product only possible if the design and practice are very very mature.

    If you buy marketing you can spend all your money on marketing and still not have a bike. Some people like to buy marketing and a lot of people don't feel safe spending their money on anything unless it's been heavily marketed.

    If you want a good traditional city bike for less than $2000 it's entirely possible, you just gonna have to work at it. The bike I've got is sadly no longer available in US but new, at retail, a DL-1 clone with installed cantis, Sugino RD crank, B.33, Dyad 700C w/ Wheelsmith db and on and on was $450.
    That was a good deal. There are other good deals.

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  41. V, I didn't mean Dutch bikes in general. I meant owning them in a place where their geometry, weight and gearing make them totally impractical. To own a Dutch bike HERE in Seattle seems like a fashion statement to me, because it would be virtually impossible to *actually ride it anywhere* much less with any cargo on it. Owning one where it's flat would be smart, I think, if one needed a good transportation bike that was tough and attractive. I think the Gazelle Toer Populaire is one hot bike. It's gorgeous, at least in the versions I've seen.

    I don't think owning a $2000 race bike you never ride is smart either. Folks should do some research, think about where they plan to ride, and get a good solid entry-level bike to ride until they really know what they want. That's what I did.

    Until I bought my second bike, which is as heavy as a Dutch bike, and yeah, was an impulse buy. It was heartily stupid, though I wasn't quite out $2000. Would I buy it again? Nope. Did I buy it because it was pretty and expensive and lugged and I looked good on it? Yep. And now I have to hoist it up on my car rack! Stupid me.

    So yeah, I think it's silly to buy any really expensive thing before you know if you'll actually use it. Trust me, this is the silly voice of experience talking :).

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  42. snarkypup - Sorry, I didn't mean to call you ill-natured, I was speaking generally, myself included. I think other people's bikes are stupid/impractical all the time, then mentally smack myself.

    BTW: While at Interbike I had dinner with the couple who runs the Seattle blog Car Free Days. Do you follow it?

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  43. Regarding the question of joinery, the only faux lugwork that I can see on the Cocoa is on the headtube. This is easily accomplished by taking a tube with uniform diameter and sufficient wall thickness, and turning it on a lathe (or using a CNC machine) to reduce the diameter and wall thickness of the middle part of the tube.

    Instant straight-edged lug look with perfect shoreline. Of course, the large caterpillar welds attaching it to the adjoining tubes really kill the illusion.

    -Matt

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  44. One thing not mentioned in the comments is what it's like to buy bikes here in NL. Gazelle is under extreme competition in the omafiets department. Every Halfords, Hema, Gamma, Praxis and Lidl carries a cheap basic omafiets, often under 200 euros. For station bikes and bikes that have a high chance of getting stolen, no one wants to buy anything more than 300 euros. Many university students must chain their bikes outside and so won't buy a higher priced bike.

    My husband works in the old Fongers factory (in translation, it's no longer a bike factory) and has heard rumor that Gazelle will be bringing back the Fongers name, probably on a basic cheap line of bikes. The bike you see branded as a Gazelle for the US market will possibly be the bike branded as Fongers over here. I don't know yet.. just going by rumor.

    http://www.halfords.nl/shop/fietsen/omafietsen/805077 The halfords 179 euro Omafiets that goes on sale every quarter for 129.00 euros.

    http://www.hema.nl/winkel/Fiets/dames-en-herenfietsen/omafiets-dessin-28-inch-(41121748) The Hema omafiets which you can see at all the school yards.

    Union has a lions share of the electric bike market over here and Gazelle and Batavus have catching up to do. Electric bikes are becoming a very popular product among all age groups because you do not need a license for it, yet you do need one for a moped. Many average people who can afford a bike over 1,000 euros will get an electric one.

    Please understand also that I'm speaking from the Groningen region and not Amsterdam, Rotterdam or Den Haag. Conditions in Amsterdam may be totally different. I live in an area with a high number of immigrants and low income families, farmers, the elderly and working class.

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  45. FWIW my experiences with recent Gazelle has been positive. My wife rode daily, rain, snow or shine, her Toer Populair for 18 months before we even open the chaincase. zero maintenance (but tire pressure), parked outside during the day, and it run like new. A clean and well tensioned chain, smooth tolling bearings, everything nicely tight.
    I've put 7000 kms on a Chamonix in 2 years without any issues but a couple of loose spokes (I'm 200 lbs) and no maintenance either.
    That's on par with what I've experienced with my Azor and what I expect from a daily commuter.
    The lug work may be lacking but the reliability is still there, in my experience.

    Now, it's true that for 2000$, the perspective is different. You may expect some extra bling. In France, a Toer Populair cost half that price (MSRP).

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  46. Strangely enough Trek's Cocoa is advertised on their Dutch website as a German quality product. The frame is certainly Chinese with German geometry characteristics, as are most aluminum Dutch bike frames nowadays, simply because the German market is much bigger.

    I'm so looking forward to WorkCycles' new Gr8. Should be out shortly.

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  47. As someone 5' tall I welcome the Trek. I could buy a real Dutch bike, but I could never ride it--unless a pink and crappy children's model.

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  48. Personally, I see the arrival of the Trek "dutch" bike as a sign that stylish city cycling is hitting the mainstream, and that makes me very happy. There are many people who know nothing about "dutch" bikes and perhaps Trek's new bike will start the conversation about these types of bikes and get people shopping around.

    I think it is really important to remember that the vast majority of people who will consider this bike (and linus, public, bobbin, etc) do not read blogs like this one and simply want a bike that looks great, offers the romanticism(sp?) of a "dutch" bike, and fits into their budget.

    Gateway drug is a good description for this bike (and the other cheaper brands) and that is nothing but a good thing.

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  49. *facepalm*

    Can't believe I forgot to mention Workcycles' fr8...
    (especially considering what I'm riding these days!)

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  50. Did the Toer Populaire change at all?

    I dont know how to compare my Toer to my 1968 Dutch Spitz....it rides like a cadillac compared to the vintage bike. I had the sprocket replaced with one from a Raleigh because it got bent somehow and started crunching against the plastic chainguard.

    Both have lugs, both have drum brakes, etc. The Toer is fully upright while the Spitz has a different geometry and you lean forward a bit more. Because of this, it's actually easier for me to ride up hills and easier to stand up pedal on the bike than the Toer.

    I never wanted Dutch bikes because of the beauty of their welding. I fell in love with them because they had everything that almost every bike I previously rode did not. This includes me ruining pants on chain grease, not being able to carry everything I needed, horrible seats, leaning forward way too much and causing my hands to hurt, dishing out money for batteries or battery lights where the connection would get dislocated if I run over a large bump and I can't fix it because the top has to be unscrewed, easily rusting, etc among other things. The Dutch bike pretty much addresses all of these issues for me in one convenient package.

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  51. The Trek Cocoa is also advertised at 549 euros on the Dutch website- http://www.trekbikes.com/nl/nl/bikes/town/urban_utility/cocoa roughly the same price point as the Gazelle Toer Populair at 549 euros. The Gazelles with the simpler fork are shown at 399 euros under the name "Basic R". I'm not sure how well the Trek Cocoa will sell here at that price point, not when you can get the Toer Populair for the same price.

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  52. @ Lady Enoki

    "The Dutch bike pretty much addresses all of these issues for me in one convenient package."

    Yes.
    Yet there are plenty of non-Dutch bikes that do exactly all of this for way less money. Some people out there need the other option for financial reasons.

    @ Bikebike

    "Personally, I see the arrival of the Trek "dutch" bike as a sign that stylish city cycling is hitting the mainstream, and that makes me very happy."

    Absolutely. And I am pretty dismayed to see this is not really generating more enthusiasm.
    Talk about wanting to see cycling expand!
    Sometimes I wonder whether cyclists really want to see their ranks increase or whether they are just another social group more eager to keep cycling as their own little "pré carré".
    Not seeing that 2000$ is a serious barrier to entry for a lot of people, especially women is... I don't know actually. Maybe those who argue that this cycling renewal is a white-middle-class bourgeois thing aren't that wrong after all.

    In here, the capital of cheap cycling, I have only seen 2 Dutch bikes despite all the hype and the hooplah. And when you ask people, they all tell you they won't spend that much money on a wheelset, especially girls. And our cycling culture is a LOT stronger and and LOT bigger than places in which these bikes are being worshipped.

    I personally cannot wait for this Cocoa to hit the second hand market. I am sure this can become the bike of choice for loads of teenage girls and girls in their early 20's.

    @ Velouria

    Re cost of bikes, practicality, etc... I feel it is a tired argument.

    Well, for a lot of people interested, currently considering, testing waters, sitting on the fence etc. That argument is not tired yet.
    Do we want them to start cycling or not? If yes, we should be happy to see an affordable option on the market.

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  53. Montrealize - It is a bit outdated, but have a look at this earlier post.

    The way I see it, the drawback of cheap (not only in terms of cost, but *cheaply made*) bikes, is that often times they actually turn people off from cycling because of the myriads of problems they have. I get so many emails about this, you have no idea. Usually the person feels like it't their fault that the bike breaks or does not work right, and they simply stop cycling. Well made inexpensive bikes? I am al for them.

    Also, I don't know where this $2000 for a Dutch bike figure came from. You could get a Gazelle 3-speed when they had the lugged fork crown for $850.

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  54. @ Rona

    I am not sure to what extend Trek is really serious about seducing the Dutch market. I was under the impression that this bike was aimed at the North America market.

    However, The Cocoa is proposed at 669,99 CAD in here.

    The cheapest Gazelle you can find in here in the only shop that sells them is at 935,10 CAD *on sale*, normal price 1 039 CAD. It's a one speed. The Toer Populair 3 speed goes for 1 259,10 CAD, *on sale*.

    http://www.dumoulinbicyclettes.com/fr/velos-bikes-bicycles.html?cat=38&manufacturer=477

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  55. M - Oh I would not be surprised if they are serious about selling it in the EU. I see Electra Amsterdams over there and people buy them at high prices just for the novelty factor and because the ads are effective.

    Re Gazelle pricing and availability, I was speaking for the US. As Todd pointed out earlier, at $850 the Gazelle Basic is still a better deal than the Trek at $600, and both are available here in many major cities.

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  56. @Rona: The Trek website is not entirely clear in its specifications, but I noticed that fenders, stand, dress guards and chain guard are listed as extras - unless Trek means to say that those are additional over their normal offering. Lights are an after sale addition anyway and there is no mention at all about racks, front or rear. As such equipment is considered essential and normal in NL, Trek shoots itself in the foot and the Cocoa has a chance equal to the proverbial snowflake in hell on the Dutch market.

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  57. @ V

    "Also, I don't know where this $2000 for a Dutch bike figure came from."

    I think those are the Velorbis/Azor/Beg prices once they arrive on this side of the pond.
    I have been quoted such prices over the phone from Toronto/Vancouver. And I would still have to have them sent to me to Montreal.
    when I looked into having sent over to me directly from Europe, it came to the same price, excluding the custom taxes which would come on top.

    Now of course, if you travel physically and bring one back as part of your luggage, then it is much cheaper, you only pay some 100$ at the airport (Which is what I was going to do when I learned I was being donated grand-parents' vintage bikes). How many people can do that?

    Now regarding cheap bikes, it does not necessarily turn people off.
    I live in a place where everyone proudly rides junks and bitches at paying more than 75$ for a wheelset (except sports bikes of course). When everyone is like that, believe me your notion of poorly made bikes is otherwordly. That might be the reason for our oh-so-dynamic bike shop culture. Anyways.
    I myself started out on a 100$ Canadian Tire bike. I found it very (uncomfortable but) fine for 2 years. Of course they make a good 10% of the bikes on the streets! Never had a technical problem.
    Then, you move up. And you keep your first one locked in the street as a beater until you forget about and the police cuts it off.

    If you are all isolated or in an environment where cycling is weak, then maybe yes, you could get frustrated and stop.

    Yet in terms of mainstreaming cycling this Cocoa is an opportunity. That 100$ Canadian tire clunker is right now on my mom and sister's balcony. It is not convincing enough for any of them. All I need for my sister to cycle is to replace it with some vintage mixte or some old Raleigh.
    Yet, my mom would required some second hand Cocoa. She is the target of all cycling activism right? 60 years old lady with very high comfort and safety needs. She could start with a Cocoa. I know she would.
    Once hooked then maybe she'll spend more.
    Let's get her hooked first.

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  58. I fear the $2000 Dutch bike figure being bandied about here might be a reference to the price of our current stock of WorkCycles bikes, which happen to *start* at that price. Then we have a few less expensive choices going down to the Gazelle Basic at $8-hundred-something and the Linus bikes below that, if you allow the comparison.

    I'm a little bugged by the suggestion that the same bikes cost vastly less in the NL, and that middle-man markup is excessive. They don't and it isn't. Our margins on the WorkCycles bikes are lower than most other bikes we sell, and bike-trade retail margins are already very low compared to other retail sectors. This is likely the reason there aren't more North American dealers.

    Our WorkCycles bikes are relatively expensive because we order them with only the highest-spec stuff on them, some of it exclusive to us, like the NuVinci N360 gearhub, B+M LED lights, and IM-70 roller brakes even on the "Classic" series. We always order the "lux cargo" packages, a whole collection of little details that make them uniquely suitable as serious cargo bikes. We don't market these bikes as mere personal transporters, but as family car replacements. If you don't indicate need to carry passengers, we don't even steer you toward them. You don't need so heavy a bike and robust a feature set merely to transport yourself, unless perhaps you are Very Large. They are frankly much better than 99.9% of bikes most people actually use in the NL, where lack of hills, high theft rates, and higher urban density make much simpler, less expensive bikes much more sensible.

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  59. I step into the fray of this conversation with great trepidation, but I’ll add my thought nonetheless. On one hand it is great that an upright European-inspired alternative will be available in many bicycle stores right alongside road, MTB, and comfort bikes. This bike will do wonders to get consumers a low-priced alternative to what we’ve redundantly seen for decades. While it would be tempting to argue all the reasons I would not select one for myself it does offer a nice alternative for those who may be considering those rather conspicuous options that Target has begun offering, or find no better suited, local, low-priced alternatives to meet their needs.

    The name Cocoa is apt for this bicycle, although I tend to think of it more as milk chocolate. Especially perhaps the kind that’s often available just down the hall. It’s inexpensive, immediately available and satisfying for the moment. It may make some of us feel a bit queasy, but there are certainly more people buying Hershey’s than Lindt these days. Some of us just prefer our cocoa a bit darker, less sweet, and if possible, with a brand identity we like. I tend to think that many of us here really want the best possible chocolate wherever it may be found, and will pay steep prices to have it, but most folks just want some candy. Perhaps for now they like Cocoa, and in time some of them will want the Green & Black’s.

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  60. If I'm gonna buy a high end Dutch bike as a family car replacement I might expect to go into a dealership with all the tasteful refined decor of a used car dealer. Maybe at best like an old time Chevy dealer. Instead I walk into the local Azor store and it looks like a place where I could get a $200 haircut. Some of the older Mercedes-Benz outlets in this town are not so swank.

    Then I look around and figure they've spent all this money building out a storefront but out of town money hasn't even thoroughly researched the location. They're in the wrong place. Couple years later, decades before they might've amortized upfront decorating costs, they up and move.

    Staffing level at that store was completely disconnected from the volume of sales or repairs being done.

    The local Velorbis dealer, I dunno. Went there three times, place looked pretty fancy. Never got in the door, someone couldn't be bothered with opening shop at posted hours.

    Some of the problems with Dutch bikes are unavoidable. If you can't ship the bikes by sea in full containers, and book those containers months in advance, you can end up with per unit shipping costs equal to what Dorel or Trek pay for a complete landed bicycle. Competing on price from that starting point is just not possible. OTOH some of the players in the game seem quite determined to shoot themselves in the foot. I am amazed we have access to these bikes at all at any price.

    The Trek Cocoa has too little seattube and too much headtube. Few riders will find a comfortable or effective position on that thing. They might fix that, but I doubt it. I've seen Trek midyear variances that went in the right direction, and others that made the original problem worse. They sell because they're Treks, not because they're any good.

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  61. You can't get the Gazelle Basic for $850 anymore. Gazelle recently raised their prices : http://www.gazelle.us.com/brands/yepp-products/yepp-maxi-standard?page=shop.product_details&flypage=flypage_gazelle.tpl&product_id=161&category_id=35

    The Basic is $1000. I recently watched as a nearby shop sold their old floor model Basics for $100 off ($750), and I sobbed on the inside as I can't afford a bike at the moment. Now that they've sold them, I know I won't encounter a deal like that again.

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  62. I recently started riding a bike again after many years and purchased a second hand HUFFY beach cruiser for $40. I've had a great time riding it and am looking to trade up to a "budget" three speed. I think that $600 price point will be the end for me and not the beginning. I like the look of the Cocoa but plan on buying a Felt Cafe at about $500 because it has wider tires and I like the ride.

    I don't understand the posters who think that if I buy a bike like this then I will trade up. Why do they care how much I spend for MY bicycle. I have no plans to trade my Ford for a Mercedes either.

    I can't imagine having much more fun than I've had on the Huffy though I'm looking forward to a lighter bike with some gears. I see a lot of people on bikes purchased from big box stores who look perfectly happy as well. They probably don't read the bike blogs.

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  63. The real value of my Oma is not its looks, but its absolute sturdiness and toughness. Three Chicago winters and very lazy maintenance (i.e. no maintenance) on my part has done no harm to the bike, which has to be parked outside, year-round, during the work day. I don't know exactly where each part of the workcycles is produced, but the quality is definitely far above the Trek, for sure, as well as above any other bike I've experienced. If mainstream bike manufacturers want to produce Dutch-looking bikes, that's great, as long as those bikes serve the consumer well enough for the price, but I don't see that as a replacement for true quality, which is still out there.

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  64. The reason I list so many of these prices and links is that I'm trying to wrap my brain around why Gazelle is starting to go with a lower quality product. These subtle changes might be one or two this year.. but will they turn into two more changes next year and another two the year after, culminating in a vastly inferior product. What price point and market are they going after? If Gazelle wants to go after a new price point and low-end market, then why not advertise it and say as much? Why sneak these down grades in and keep the same prices?

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  65. Here in Seattle, Workcycles run $1700 without tax at Dutch Bike, Gazelle's run from $1000-1300. See Dutch Bike's site for "proof." With tax, a $1700 bike is pretty close to $2000. Just saying.

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  66. On a completely surface level, I am pleased this bike exists. It says a lot about where the US has come in the last 5 years. If it is this or a mountain bike, I say why not this.

    If we want to scratch deeper than the surface, that's a whole different ball game.

    Oh when I think back to my Dutch-style bicycle search how things have changed in such a short time...I thought it not possible. Kudos to those band-wagon jumpers who are trying.

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  67. Those who read German (I know V does) might find this interesting:
    http://www.derby-cycle.com/de/investor-relations/veroeffentlichungen/corporate-news/einzelansicht/view/derby-cycle-ag-gibt-business-combination-agreement-und-geplantes-oeffentliches-uebernahmeangebot-dur.html
    Derby Cycle is the biggest German bicycle manufacturer, with headquarters in Cloppenburg in Northern Germany on the Dutch border. They have agreed to a takeover by Pon Holdings which in Holland is best known as the Volkswagen importer and which also owns Gazelle. Gazelle doesn't do well as the Dutch market is mostly saturated and Gazelle finds it hard to compete with the cheap Chinese imports. It will be interesting to see where this venture goes. Dutch newspapers wrote that Gazelle might profit from the technical knowledge of the Germans in the field of electric assist bikes, a rapidly growing market especially among long distance commuters who are growing ever more tired of standing still in traffic.

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  68. Todd wrote on September 19: "I'm a little bugged by the suggestion that the same bikes cost vastly less in the NL, and that middle-man markup is excessive."
    He is right. Henry Cutler, WorkCycles' owner, recently showed a custom Fr8 on his Flickr page. This was only slightly better equipped than the bikes Todd says he offers, and costs 2000 euros in Amsterdam: http://www.flickr.com/photos/henryinamsterdam/6068624284/in/photostream
    2,000 euros is quite a bit more than 2,000 dollars. For a totally utilitarian bike.

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  69. azor frames are actually not made in the netherlands, only assembled there, at Azor

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  70. Azor frames come from Belgium and China. The only factory i know actually making frames in Holland is Nijland.

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  71. If anyone is looking for a Gazelle bicycle at really good prices, my dealer is Matt Forbes of ArcLight Bicycles from Atlanta Cycle Chic. He can get you better prices than at any of your stores because he has no overhead-works out of his house. And he has a lot of incentive to sell it to you at a better cost. He has some really nice Limited Editions of the Populaire right now! Email is matthewforbes at charter dot net

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  72. Trek has been making bicycles for the Dutch market for years!

    http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_SuzJWKxFeyQ/TUOp6X5RuEI/AAAAAAAAAVU/kq4qWfz277U/s1600/100_3868.JPG

    A friend of mine and Shawn's bought that in the Netherlands. It's aluminum.

    It might not be what we'd consider a "Dutch" bicycle (it's not nearly as pretty, uses a derailer, no chain or skirt guard), but on our tour we met a former Trek employee, and he says that Trek makes different bicycles for different markets. We did ask him why they didn't sell something like this in the states, and he said they probably thought there wasn't a market for it.

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  73. Well I own a Linus I love it it was first in style and still is and is a beautiful ride and has an elegance . It's my commuter workhorse, feels like a modern classic jaguar

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  74. "which is not surprising, because as of several years ago they are being produced in the same Chinese factories." You obviously have not been to the Gazelle factory in Holland.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R7dJdaGKmkw&feature=player_embedded

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