Bleak Prognosis for the Dutch Bicycle?
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.
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.
their take on the French mixte. I look forward to a test ride in 2012.
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.