Nineteen Century British Design. The so-called ‘Dutch’ bike, isn’t really Dutch at all. For all intents and purposes, it is simply a ‘robust refinement’ of John Kemp Starley’s 1884 Rover Safety bicycle. This is beautifully illustrated by Carlton Reid’s justaposition of a 1897 Dunlop Ladies bike with a contemporary ‘omafiets’. The only obvious differences between the two are flexible brake cables and rear wheel ‘splash plates’ on the modern spin.
Robust and heavy by choice. Perhaps the most significant difference between the modern Dutch bike and its British antecedents, is that the contemporary machine is robust and heavy ‘’by choice’’ — unconstrained by the limitations of nineteenth century road surfaces and metalurgy. This practical ‘tank’ is built to last, with virtually no maintenance or running costs — because it’s the right thing to do.
Easy, practical and safe to ride. The ‘step-over’ frame allows you to ride in any sort of clothing — no need to take off your kilt, kecks or skirt to don fat-hugging Lycra. The chain guard, mudgards and rear splash plates keep your kilt, briefcase and groceries pristine. But to my mind, the Dutch Bike’s most valuable attribute is it’s ‘’long steering tube’’ — placing the handlebars well above seat height and allowing the rider to sit very nearly upright.
Seats too low? Sure, many Dutch riders set their seats too low — so their leg muscles to do more work than is strictly necessary. But that’s partly a matter of personal choice — losing some mechanical efficiency to gain a more comfortable riding position. And it’s an entirely rational decision for short, utilitarian rides from home to work, shops and places of entertainment.
There’s nothing to stop you raising the saddle to save energy on longer rides. It’ll still be way more comfortable than most British road bikes, mountain bikes, hybrids or folders.