The New York Times recently published an article on dutch styled commuter bikes becoming the latest rage in our recent economic downturn. And why not? They’re practical, not flashy, comfortable, and made for one thing…commuting.
When I began my path in search of a bicycle, the main options I was presented with were road bikes, mountain bikes, and cruisers. All great rides, and each have a specific purpose. The problem was, I didn’t want to race anyone, and wasn’t a fan of sitting in a crouched position for a half-hour commute. I also wasn’t a fan of lugging around a heavy cruiser up hills and a mountain bike seemed a little extreme. My friends were converting old 10 speeds to fixed gear bikes, but the last thing I want when climbing a hill was a single speed bike. What I truly wanted was a simple bicycle that I could go to work downtown on, head to the store with, carry a light load home, and trapse around to neighborhood bars and restaurants on. Seeing the images of throngs of riders in Amsterdam and Copenhagen made me realize that these people had the right idea: the city (commuter) bike.
So with a little help from some BFOC members, I started with a used Raleigh Technium. You can pick these things up for under $100 on Craig’s List (which I highly advise buying used over new for your first bike…but take it to a good mechanic afterward). After cleaning it up, installing some upright handlebars, a Brooks knock off saddle from the incredible Velo Orange site, and a rear rack, I went from this:
I can say, after riding this for two weeks now, that it is so much more fun to ride around the city on. First of all, you’re upright, so you see everything better. Secondly, getting your tote bag off your body relieves more weight on long rides than you realize. Next up, I’ll be installing an internal hub gear, like other dutch bikes, so I can shift immediately at stop lights, and keep the mechanics free from weather.
If you’re intersted in a similar conversion, you might start with the classic Chinese Flying Pigeon:
These are the bikes you see when shown pictures of millions of riders cycling through Shanghai. They’re now being imported in the US by Joe Bike in Portland for $400. They’re retrofitted with better brakes, and other improvements. Or you can pick an original up for under $300 from Flying Pigeon LA and mod it out yourself.