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Old 09-15-09, 09:02 PM   #1
strrygrrl
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Looking for a good commuter bike, educated but confused

Hiya. I am a tall girl 5'9" looking for a good step-thru (ladies in the US) commuter bicycle. I am not one who really wants a vintage bicycle (not interested in an old schwinn or Raliegh, love them though). What I am looking for is a European city style bicycle.

I will state...these are the ones I have considered, but also have doubts. I live in the DC area (northern virginia).

1. Electra Amsterdam Royal 8i. - I heard electra's have reliability problems. I also heard they can rust, though i am not sure this is the case here since its an aluminum bike. They are prolific in bike shops in dc though. I like thier positioning, but the build of most electras seem rickety. I have never seen a royal 8 though...so that may be different design with better components and brakes. Not sure if anybody had any experience with these.
2. Batavus Frysland - This is my personal favorite in terms of looks, also i never heard problems with Batavus bikes and seem reasonably priced compared to other Dutch bikes in the US.
3. Biria Eazy Boarding Bikes - Kind of curious...but not in thier dutch ones. Rather their German designed U frames.
4. Kronan 5 speed - I heard Kronan had rust issues, and I heard they were not as reliable as dutch bikes. But I like this 5 speed, especially the red one. Also taking its aluminum I thought it might be less prone to rust. It also has drum brakes...a feature i would prefer.
5. breezer bikes - I am considering this because breezers were designed more for north american cities, basically where it may be a little more hilly. I do not like of the handle bar layout.
6. Kettler Bicycles - Expensive as batavus and I know nothing about them other then they seem to be from germany. They seem nice though.
7. Pashley Princess Soveriegn- Very pretty bike, but not sure if its really worth more then the Frysland. Has the same utility though.

Let me be straightforward. I do want a chainguard, but a partial 9 shaped one is fine. I think I have come to the conclusion that I need more than 3 speed, but 5 would probably suit me fine. The commute I have is one and a half to two miles to a metro station. I would need the five speed for recreational riding with my boyfriend. My budget is ideally under $1000, though I can go to $1200. This bike will be my only form of transportation.

I should note, I am not interested in Gazelle or Azor, they seem overpriced compared to the Batavus bicycles.


Right now my mind is divided between a Batavus Frysland and a Kronan 5-speed Aluminum. I was wondering if anybody had any opinions on these bikes from personal experience.

Last edited by strrygrrl; 09-15-09 at 09:06 PM.
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Old 09-15-09, 10:03 PM   #2
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Check out the FlyingPigeon website. He has some cool bikes, though I think he's only here in Los Angeles.

I have a TREK WSD7000. It's a step through. It's a lower end Trek but love it. I find it a little heavy to carry up to my apartment but definitely not heavier than the ones you're mentioning. Trek has other similar step throughs from what I recall.

Good luck!
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Old 09-15-09, 10:13 PM   #3
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New for 2010 - Trek and Specialized are starting to play in this market as well.

Personally, I'd worry that the European bikes mentioned above would be thief magnets if left at a metro station all day.

http://www.trekbikes.com/us/en/bikes...bellevillewsd/

http://www.globebikes.com/us/en/glob...sp?pid=10HAUL2

http://www.globebikes.com/us/en/glob...sp?pid=10LIVE3
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Old 09-15-09, 10:59 PM   #4
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How about: http://www.dahon.com/us/ciaop8.htm
You just fold it and bring it on the train with you.
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Old 09-16-09, 12:32 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by BengeBoy View Post
New for 2010 - Trek and Specialized are starting to play in this market as well.

Personally, I'd worry that the European bikes mentioned above would be thief magnets if left at a metro station all day.

http://www.trekbikes.com/us/en/bikes...bellevillewsd/

http://www.globebikes.com/us/en/glob...sp?pid=10HAUL2

http://www.globebikes.com/us/en/glob...sp?pid=10LIVE3
+1 that new trek is great looking. Some of the dutch style city bikes are really really heavy, I don't know what the Trek weighs but it's worth looking into.

The other cool thing about the trek, it comes with a 3 speed hub but has a derailleur tab so it is flexible in gearing options.
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Old 09-16-09, 01:20 AM   #6
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Did you consider Breezer's commuter bikes ?
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Old 09-16-09, 02:47 AM   #7
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This is probably the most interesting "which bike" thread I have read in this forum.
Some observations for you (strrygrrl) to consider:
You seem to be better informed about dutch style commuter bikes than 90% (or even 99%) of the regular posters here. Most of us only have first-hand-knowledge of "american style" commuters, that is why most of the replies you will get will be suggesting that you get one of those instead.

About the bikes suggested:
Reliability is premium since this will be your only form of transport. But please be selective on which info to believe in. The original dutch style bikes like Kronan (originally Swedish) and Batavus have served europeans well for the last 100 years or so. The later modifications (e.g. internally geared hubs) are the points to be sceptical about.
Rust is natural on the dutch style bikes. Of course aluminum frames will not rust, but some of the components will if the bike is stored outside for years (or decades). E.g. the chrome lights, handlebars etc. but this will not change the functionality of the bike.
You mention that a partial chainguard is enough, you probably realize that a full chainguard will be better in protecting the chain from dirt and thus reduce the need for maintenance.
I believe that Kettler is quite big in German commuter world, I would imagine that they are reliable.

Please let us know what you decide to get (and post some pictures ).
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Old 09-16-09, 03:00 AM   #8
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Observation:

I have commuted for several years in the northeast US (Maine). My commute is 15 miles each way, over rolling terrain. I have evolved to have very specific desires for the commute bike which I use. I also spend one week or more each year in Amsterdam, where I get around on a bike - other than the fact that both vehicles have two wheels and are human powered, the two bikes have virtually nothing in common, yet each is very well suited to the environment where I ride it. I could never manage my commute in Maine on an Amsterdam bike, nor would it be easy to negotiate Amsterdam streets on the machine that I have in the US. Reading between the lines of your post, you are new to the DC area, and I would suggest that if you can manage to borrow or rent a bike for a while, get more accustomed to the routes, and see if what you think the best bike for you will change.

I am in the process of moving to the San Francisco Bay area, where the bicycle will be my only form of transportation. I have been thinking of adding a bakfiet to my stable - but will wait until I have a better feeling for the terrain.
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Old 09-16-09, 03:15 AM   #9
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I live in Alexandria and commute with my wife daily to Union Station DC....about 15 miles each way.

We ride Bianchi milano parco bikes -- kind of retro, but styled a bit more contemporary. You might check those out too.
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Old 09-16-09, 04:53 AM   #10
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I can speak for the reliability of the Shimano 8-speed hub, and it's priced less than any 5-speed hub when sold separately. Also, the Breezer looks to be about 9 lbs. lighter than the Batavius - aluminum really makes a difference with these heavy duty frames.
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Old 09-16-09, 06:32 AM   #11
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I've been riding a Kettler Silverstar with a step-through frame year-round in the DC/Northern Virginia area for over eight years. I put in equal milage on my car and bike, and the bike is more reliable than the car, in terms of scheduled and unschedualed maintenance as well as down time. I treat the bike like a car - hop on and go, take it to the shop for all repair work, fiddle with it only in an emergency.

To get this reliability, you will need to fit Marathon Plus tires with Mr. Tuffies inside.

The area is fairly hilly. I think you will need at least seven speeds. Then again, I frequently haul a trailer with over 100 pounds of groceries or a child on a Trail-A-Bike, so I may have more need of gears than you.

Get a bike with a hub dynamo. Sidewall generators require fiddling and will drive you nuts.

DC has a freeze and thaw cycle in the winter, so studded tires are a good idea. I use Nokian 106.

Drum or disk brakes are much less trouble than rim brakes.

After eight years, the rear fender is rusting out. The bike is aluminum, but the fender is steel. Can't say I care for steel. The saddle wore out after a few years, so I replaced it with a Brooks B67. That one is showing no signs of wear. Otherwise, the bike has held up well for over 20,000 miles.

Full chaincases are hard to find. Still, fenders and a partial chainguard result in over 5,000 miles per chain. That's not terrible for a chain that rarely gets any attention.

Kettler is the second-best German bike. Utopia is the best, but they are way over your price range and you would have to import it yourself. In terms of transportation utility, though, the bikes are equal.

In summary, my Kettler has the utility of the Dutch bikes but is much better suited to hilly terrain. I find it the ideal vehicle for this area.


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Old 09-16-09, 07:29 AM   #12
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I understand you don't want an old three speed, but I'll suggest this anyway. If you got an old bike and upgraded the wheels to aluminum rims with a modern 8 speed hub and maybe a dynamo in the front, you'd have something as good or better than any modern bike on the market for a lot less money, and it would probably be less inviting to thievery.

That said, do try out a folding bike. I commute exclusively on folding bikes, saving my old three speed for recreational purposes.
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Old 09-16-09, 07:35 AM   #13
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I think some of the raleigh bikes are very cool:

http://www.raleighusa.com/bikes/hybr...erbe-roadster/

There's also the regular roadster without disc brakes.
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Old 09-16-09, 07:53 AM   #14
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Thanks PaulH. On the information on Kettler. Very helpful.
Also for the people suggesting Trek, Bianchi and Specialized. This is not the type of bike I am looking for and not the type of design I am looking for. They are not european city bikes and do not serve my purpose.

I also hope to make clear I have a SHORT commute. 2 Miles, not 15. The goal is to get to the metro station, not to ride into DC. The bike will be used for short commutes and lazy sunday rides. Hopefully that helps.
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Old 09-16-09, 08:19 AM   #15
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I wouldn't spend $1000 on a bike I intended to leave at a Metro station 8+ hours a day. Do they have bike lockers?
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Old 09-16-09, 08:35 AM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by strrygrrl View Post
1. Electra Amsterdam Royal 8i. - I heard electra's have reliability problems. I also heard they can rust, though i am not sure this is the case here since its an aluminum bike. They are prolific in bike shops in dc though. I like thier positioning, but the build of most electras seem rickety. I have never seen a royal 8 though...so that may be different design with better components and brakes. Not sure if anybody had any experience with these.
Aluminum will not rust. I have an Electra Townie 3 700c and it is very solid -- not rickety at all. I suggest that you take an Electra bike out for a test ride.
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Old 09-16-09, 08:44 AM   #17
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Thanks PaulH. On the information on Kettler. Very helpful.
Also for the people suggesting Trek, Bianchi and Specialized. This is not the type of bike I am looking for and not the type of design I am looking for. They are not european city bikes and do not serve my purpose.
Just buy the one that suits whatever image you're trying to portray then. As you said, it's two miles. You could ride anything.
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Old 09-16-09, 09:11 AM   #18
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Just buy the one that suits whatever image you're trying to portray then. As you said, it's two miles. You could ride anything.
Unicycles have incredibly low maintenance, and really help in the image portrayal dept. No chainguard but since there is no chain, this shouldn't be an issue.
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Old 09-16-09, 09:28 AM   #19
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Let me state a couple of things. First is Step-thru (ladies) bikes are not stolen nearly as often as diamond frames in the US. Secondly, most bike thieves don't have an esoteric knowledge of European womens city bicycles to make them a target, they may be expensive, but they are also often little known. In fact I know they are less theft prone then $300 mountain bikes. Most thieves usually steal mens diamond frame mountain and road bikes. With that said, I am one for buying $100 locks for bikes for a reason.

In addition, bike theft is not nearly as pervasive in the US as it is in the EU. Yes bikes get stolen, but honestly most people i know who were victims of bike theft were pretty stupid about the lock they had for the bike.

This is not necessarily for image. But it is for my own personal comfort. When I say type of design, its more about the position of the rider. Thats what I meant by style. I don't like being arched over the bike and prefer to be an upright position when I ride.
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Old 09-16-09, 09:31 AM   #20
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If it is what you want then it is what you should get. You seem to have a very precise image of what you're looking for. Find a local shop that carries a bike you like, ask for a test ride, ask for a free 90 day tune-up and adjustment, ask for a 30 day not damaged return policy, buy the bike and be happy.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Eu...keOmafiets.jpg

If what you get is steel then have some framesaver put into it before you bring it home.

Enoy the ride.
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Old 09-16-09, 11:19 AM   #21
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When I say type of design, its more about the position of the rider. Thats what I meant by style. I don't like being arched over the bike and prefer to be an upright position when I ride.
Well then if you had actually looked at the links provided concerning the Trek and the Specialized Globe bikes you would have noticed they are in fact DESIGNED for an upright position. Don't be so quick to dismiss a bicycle because the manufacturer is known for its race bikes. Both Trek and Specialized put out very respectable commuter bikes that are centered around an upright riding position.

Also, if you plan to do any riding at night to your local restaurant or to a local night event at the park then I would suggest getting a generator hub in your front wheel. They are amazingly maintenance free and reliable.
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Old 09-16-09, 12:16 PM   #22
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Well then if you had actually looked at the links provided concerning the Trek and the Specialized Globe bikes you would have noticed they are in fact DESIGNED for an upright position. Don't be so quick to dismiss a bicycle because the manufacturer is known for its race bikes. Both Trek and Specialized put out very respectable commuter bikes that are centered around an upright riding position.

Also, if you plan to do any riding at night to your local restaurant or to a local night event at the park then I would suggest getting a generator hub in your front wheel. They are amazingly maintenance free and reliable.
From what I noticed, they are not. Look at the geometry of the bike and how the riders ride the bike.
Notice how in pictures people riding those biked are more like this <. This is where how the handle bars and seat are angled come into play. In those bikes the angling is like a road or mountain bike. the handle bars are ultimately angled toward the front wheel and then curve out towards the rider. European City bikes angle the handle bars more towards the rider. The result the person the rider is more of an L shape. Electra played on the european geometry a little more. I could go on, but there is some very large differences between the geometry of the bikes to the features which really segregate these american urban bikes, which are really modified road/mountain bikes when it gets down to it, not that different from hybrids, from European city bicycles. They FEEL very different from geometry to design. The best comparison is vintage 3 speeds, because those ARE based on european designs and geometry.

So when I say, they are not comparible, I meant it, it is very obvious to me what the major differences are between a european city bicycle and an american urban commuter. In reality a beach cruiser shares more with a european bike than an american urban commuter. The geometry of the rider is very similiar.

Breezer bikes combine from design elements from both btw. It has riders in a position inbetween the < and L positions.

I am not even going to go into the other issues I have with these bikes, and leave it at the fact these are not what I am looking for and are not going to be on my list. But please realize, I am not looking for an american urban style bike. European city style bikes are really the only type that I am interested in, and ones with proper step thru frames.
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Old 09-16-09, 12:27 PM   #23
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I have an electra townie. The crank forward build is really comfortable. I don't have experience with any of the other bikes you listed, but I recommend any of the electra bikes.

That being said, there's no way I would lock my townie at a commuter station. Get the folder and take it with you.
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Old 09-16-09, 01:07 PM   #24
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I have an electra townie. The crank forward build is really comfortable. I don't have experience with any of the other bikes you listed, but I recommend any of the electra bikes.

That being said, there's no way I would lock my townie at a commuter station. Get the folder and take it with you.
The incoveniance of a folder during DCs rush hour is not worth it. A, I don't want to carry a bike around on the train. B. This is what high security locks are for. I don't share folks attitudes with folding bikes. I generally don't like them, and provide a significant inconvenience of lugging around, especially up and down steps on the metro dealing with crowds. To much of a pain. Pass.
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Old 09-16-09, 01:15 PM   #25
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Two people at work here have an Electra cruiser and a Batavus Old Dutch. From what I've seen, and talking with coworkers, the Old Dutch is a very solid bike but it is quite heavy and not great for carrying up or down stairs. The Electra is not that old but is in terrible shape - had problems with the gears and chain. The Batavus is great in traffic - feels safe, very upright postion - but isn't very fast. I'm not too impressed with the Electras and our LBS stopped selling them due to quality issues. A Dutch bike is on my to-buy list, after I win the lottery.
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