Bike Trio: Dutch Dreams

The Trek Cocoa from Sweet Pete's, above.

Story and Photos by Kaitlyn Kochany

Bike Trio: Dutch Dreams

Step-through frames make for practical, pretty bicycles. They're easy to mount, easy to stand astride, and easy to load up with baskets and racks for determined city errand-runners. Many offer protection from bad weather, like internal hubs that won't get wet in the rain, or skirtguards and fenders to protect your clothes from spray. They're also nice to look at, with curvy frames and riders who sit upright in traffic. Here are three Dutch-style bicycles we think are dandy.

Bobbin Firefly
I'm not going to lie: the Bobbin Firefly made me feel like I should have a basket stuffed with flowers on the front of my bike, and a jaunty scarf snapping in the breeze. It features the smooth, swoopy lines of a classic Dutch cycle, and has practical features like a rear wheel mudguard, a full chainguard and Sturmey Archer internal hub-brakes. There are classy touches, like the leather grips, that make riding the Firefly a distinctly old-world experience. The step-through frame made dismounting an uncommonly elegant experience.

I found the trigger gear shifter, usually a reliable system, to be finicky - what was supposed to be five speeds felt more like three. And the bike's steel frame means anything more than a gentle hill will be a challenge. (Confidential to folks living in fourth-floor walk-ups: hauling this bike up and down stairs will be a workout. You've been warned.)

Bobbin, an English company, has clearly designed this bicycle for people who ride like they do in Copenhagen, and the result is a stylish and long-lasting bike made to stand up to heavy use. Available in Toronto at Curbside Cycle.

Trek Cocoa
The Cocoa is just so much fun to ride: the step-through frame helps it feel like a Dutch style ride, but it also glides like a beach cruiser and manoeuvres like any city hybrid would; and it's all in one two-wheeled package. The aluminum frame and 700c tires combine to give riders a quick start - indispensable in stop-and-go city traffic - and the swept back handlebars are easier on the shoulders when pressing forward up hills. You lose a little of the classic bolt-upright, elbows-down posture that defines the Dutch design, but the bike is easier to ride.

Not to mention pretty to look at: stately art-deco detailing subtly decorates the frame, and the glossy black paint job keeps everything classy. The full-coverage chainguard, fenders, and skirt guard, all designed to make riding in inclement weather easier, help keep you and your clothes pretty too. There are a couple flaws, like eye-catchingly heavy welding joins on the frame and rubber grips that leave hands sweaty, but the bike is so easy to ride that it's easy to forgive its beauty marks. Trek has created a great bike for city riders. It holds its own in traffic, and would be equally lovely on a lakeside path. Pack a picnic and get pedalling. This bike is available at Sweet Pete's.


Public C7
This bike is so pretty, I expected construction workers to whistle at it as I rode by. Designed in San Fransisco and modeled after European bicycles, this Public bike looks great and rides beautifully, even when it's fully loaded with racks and baskets. Design nerds will swoon over Public's minimal, branding and eye-popping colour schemes. Available in bright orange or a more sedate off-white, the C7 has seven speeds, a Dutch-style step-through frame, and a light and easy feel when riding. This glossy and stylish bicycle looks like a fashion item, but it rides like a solid, classic city bike.

Somewhat unusually for a Dutch-style bike, the C7's seven speeds are exposed -- the rear cassette isn't internal like the Cocoa or the Firefly. The bike does come with fenders, but this is a sunny-day bike, for sure, with plenty of basket space to carry your load; plus you'll feel like a total babe as you ride. Bring your sunglasses! Public bikes are available at Cycle Couture.

Many thanks to Sweet Pete's Bike Shop, Cycle Couture and Curbside Cycle who provided the test-drive bikes.

Public bike (above) with public art.

Bobbin Firefly from Curbside.

NB: Gwendolyn MacEwen described herself cycling in the city in her poem "Me and the Runner".


Also on the dandyBLOG: a previous dandy bike review triptych here.


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