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Old 07-24-06, 05:15 PM   #1
Cosmoline
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Why No Love For Utility Bikes?

A recent thread in the commuting forum got me wondering--why is there so little love and attention paid in the US to the humble old utility bicycle? The interest seems to be on touring bikes, racing bikes, mountain bikes, and a myriad of other special purpose bicycles. But the bike that does it all is regarded as an antique. This is especially odd given that of all the world's bikes, at least 90% or more are utility bicycles. The European nations seem to be way ahead of us on this, and have developed some truly fantastic utility designs. But stateside it's tough to even find a bike with fenders! And any suggestion of riding a bike with a heavy steel frame is scoffed at.

I wouldn't mind so much if I could actually buy the European utility bikes, but I've been trying for over a year now to no avail. There's one outfit that imports old Dutch bikes from time to time but it's a long way from here. My efforts to get a group buy for old Finnish military bikes fell apart over extremely high shipping costs.

Are people simply ignorant? Or is this a matter of Americans wanting the ultra high tech xtreme solution to problems that don't really exist?
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Old 07-24-06, 05:22 PM   #2
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Breezer makes (or made) utility bikes. I don't often see them, but then again I'm not looking. Here in Portland everyone winds up retrofitting in order to get a bike that is utilitarian. I agree that it is quite a shame that our culture doesn't embrace the utility bike. As a culture we don't seem to think of a bike as a transportation medium.
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Old 07-24-06, 05:58 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cosmoline
A recent thread in the commuting forum got me wondering--why is there so little love and attention paid in the US to the humble old utility bicycle? The interest seems to be on touring bikes, racing bikes, mountain bikes, and a myriad of other special purpose bicycles.

Are people simply ignorant?
Touring bikes? Sheesh... look at the bikes offered by major lines and "touring" may show up as a bike or two, period.

Are people ignorant... or is it marketeers?

I have a custom "utility bike" that was build for me in 1984. A few years ago I was looking for a replacement. No shop had anything even close. They were all either MTB or hard core light road bikes. When I suggested something in between, I was pointed to the "hybrids" which looked like they wouldn't do anything well. In retrospect, the "hybrids" might be as close as America gets to utility.

Looking at the commuter forum, it seems that many there build up their own "hybrids" or utility bikes from other frames and set up the bikes to meet their commuting needs... some with fat tires to cover trails and a bit of off road, others with narrow tires for strict road and long distance commutes.

Perhaps the distances within our cities make a general "utility" bike as a target a bit harder to hit compared to the smaller size of European cities and the utility bikes there.
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Old 07-24-06, 06:06 PM   #4
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They aren't as popular as road and mountain bikes, so it's hard to find a nice one. The only ones I ever come across are the old department store models, and no one within a 500 mile radius stocks anything like a Breezer.

As a matter of fact, I get a lot of my stuff for a song, like finding a Bell Metro helmet for $30 and Kryptonite New York lock for $20-according to the LBS owner, I'm one of the few people who ever buy this stuff, so he doesn't keep it in stock. Most customers drive to and from rides, with their mountain or road bike on top of the car, so they never use u-locks.
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Old 07-24-06, 06:44 PM   #5
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I've built a quasi utility bike from an Electra beach cruiser, but it's far from ideal.

I think this is a huge untapped market, left unfilled because of the assumption that Americans only use their bikes for recreation. If the Chicoms or another Asian nation marketed a larger version of their standard urban bikes, they could make a real killing here.
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Old 07-24-06, 07:04 PM   #6
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It's quite simple, really. Utility bikes are neither "extreme" nor sexy. Hence the marketing black hole.

Pragmatism only sells insurance and savings bonds.
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Old 07-24-06, 07:40 PM   #7
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I think it's more because we in America think of the bicycle as a piece of sporting equipment rather than as a daily vehicle for the most part.
I was admiring one of the little Kona "Smoke" models, set up with fenders, street tires, rack, and so forth. A perfect bike for the kiddies commuting around campus. But it's the only one I've ever seen here; most of the kids buy mid-priced mountain bikes with knobby tires, suspension, etc. This to go from dorms to campus and back.
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Old 07-24-06, 07:45 PM   #8
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When I think "Utility bike" I think something like this:



Now that is beautiful, I'd ride that everyday if I could find one.

Those days are over, people like crap these days.. havent you noticed? Just look out the window. Even if someone decided to reproduce something like in the above image they'd completely ruin it with flashy paint job, tons of stickers advertising the name of the company that made it, derailers, cable brakes, plastic fenders, 7000 spoke "rimz", etc!

Although looking at the above image more closely it doesnt look like it may be that old, although all the rust on it would make me think otherwise.. who knows!
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Old 07-24-06, 08:05 PM   #9
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Bicycles in America have been "toys" for many years now for both
adults and kids. In parts of the world where cars are NOT the main
means of transport bikes are only transport for the masses.

Big oil, big auto business & their political stooges all keep bike use in
America from growing in utility use. However, the fact that you ask
the question and that there is now a start up company trying to import
Dutch bikes ( http://www.dutchbikes.us/ ) means that more people
are getting squeezed out of cars onto bike by high fuel cost.

It's about damn time.............
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Old 07-24-06, 08:05 PM   #10
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By "utility bike" I assume the OP means the type you see in photos of Amsterdam. Similar threads have been posted numerous times in various forums here. I don't think a bike has to be made of steel gaspipe and painted black to posses utility. Heavy steel one- or three-speeds with a bolt upright riding position work OK in a flat environment like Holland where the rider needs to ride only a few miles at a time. But they are pretty uncomfortable in most other scenarios. A mountain bike or hybrid with 700c wheels and a rack installed, can be used to commute, and can haul about the same stuff as a heavy Dutch city bike, but if you want you can also take your bike for a long ride out in the countryside, even in a hilly or mountainous area. And a touring or cyclocross bike with a rack installed will do all of the above, and extend your range to over 100 miles. So why limit what's available in U.S. bike shops, especially considering our varied terrain, to something that's used in a very flat part of the world ? I like the big variety I see when I cruise through bike shops. And I do see a fair number of heavy city type bikes along with everything else. Examples would be the Breezers, Novaras with internal geared hubs, and Treks with internal geared hubs. Granted that most of them are aluminum instead of steel, and most are not painted black.
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Old 07-24-06, 08:22 PM   #11
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Ugh.. there were bicycles like that they have in holland and not uncommon in the 60s and 70s, the 3 speeds, many different companies made em, and you can probably find a descent one for $0-15 bucks.

Beats the $1000 price tag for a dutch bike if you ask me. Who would seriously spend a thousand dollars on a bicycle? Thats sick. Its funny how you used to be able to buy a quality brand new bicycle in the old days for like $49.95.

A thousand dollars.. haha.., hahaha..... ha.
Yeah, I wonder why people dont take bicycles seriously.

Last edited by divineAndbright; 07-24-06 at 08:28 PM.
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Old 07-25-06, 07:05 AM   #12
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Maybe you didn't know about A.N.T. bikes. Made in Holiston MA. USA
http://www.antbikemike.com/
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Old 07-25-06, 07:11 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by divineAndbright
... Who would seriously spend a thousand dollars on a bicycle? Thats sick.
I'm feeling like I'm coming down with somthing. I need a doctor.
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Old 07-25-06, 07:22 AM   #14
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I love A.N.T. bikes, but their frames alone are usually over a grand. I don't quite get the love affair with the Dutch bike, myself. It is not hard to put together a bike that makes a great commuting bike with what is available out there. It may not be 100% commute ready off the peg, but I am a tinkerer and customizer anyway.

Old Raleighs and Schwinns are fairly cheap and plentiful, if you want used. If you want new, just buy an upright riding bike that will accept a rack & fenders and slap on a chain guard. Ta da. Paint it black if you must. If you are feeling very fancy, buy a dynamo hub or a SA 8 speed internal gear hub.
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Old 07-25-06, 08:12 AM   #15
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If you're a person who wants a pure utility bike at a price well under
a grand custom built just for you then check out........

Worksman cycles of New York City ,N.Y. !!

A Worksman crusier with a 7 speed hub will satisfy many who just want a
bombproof hard working utiity bike. They've been making them for over 100 yrs
for industry right there in NYC. Worksman will build a crusier for you then
ship it to your door so give'm a look.

http://worksmancycles.com/shopsite_s.../cruisers.html
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Old 07-25-06, 09:54 AM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nachoman
I'm feeling like I'm coming down with somthing. I need a doctor.

Apparently, I must be dead. $1000 for my last bike. My next bike is going to be something like $1500.
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Old 07-25-06, 10:48 AM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DataJunkie

Apparently, I must be dead. $1000 for my last bike. My next bike is going to be something like $1500.
Hmmmmmm.....I take it that you have no other hobbies or habits to support and........

you are not married?

Must be nice.
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Old 07-25-06, 10:59 AM   #18
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High quality, well designed, well built utility bikes have always been rare in the USA. Very few people have owned such a bike. Few people have even seen such a bike. Hard to like something you don't know anything about.

The other problem is price. A first-rate utility bike is not cheap. You can buy a decent mountain bike for half the price. So, a guy thinks "this $400 mountain bike is a good way to get to work, and I can use it to stop for groceries on the way home". Hard to convince him to spend twice that amount for a bike designed to be good at short urban commutes and shopping trips.

I have a four-speed Trek that I have converted into a utility bike by adding a rear rack, saddle bags, front and rear lights, etc. It has big wide fenders, a sealed shifting system, and coaster brakes, so it works well in the rain (and has worked well riding through a foot of water during Houston's tropical storms). But, I got looks from people when I'm riding it that say "Why is that old geezer riding a forty pound bike when he could be riding a 19 pound "wonder bike"...doesn't he know 19 pound bikes are waaay faster and waaay cooler looking?"
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Old 07-25-06, 11:35 AM   #19
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Coworker has trek L300, which might even have been imported from Holland, manual was written in some low-country language or other anyway.
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Old 07-25-06, 12:12 PM   #20
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Originally Posted by Tightwad
Hmmmmmm.....I take it that you have no other hobbies or habits to support and........

you are not married?

Must be nice.
um..... you couldn't be more wrong.

I am a 31 year old etl programmer. Married for 10 years with a 3 year old son. I am also remodeling a house at the moment.
Hobbies:
cycling
do it yourself home repair
freshwater fish
dog
cat
reptiles (in between reptiles at the moment. My gecko died
Books
beer
and a few other hobbies I can not remember.

I can justify my cycling expenditures due to the fact I do not have a car and my work is 30 miles away.
Besides, I've had something like a 30% raise in the last two years and a promotion. Considering that a new car costs north of $15,000 + title + taxes + gas + maint + insurance, a $1000 bike is a steal. Actually maybe 3 months of car payments. So anyhow.....
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Old 07-25-06, 12:14 PM   #21
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I think there are loads of potential utility bikes on the market. People just like different things and then tweek them how they want.

This bike was about $200 brand-spanking-new at a bike shop. I added good seat, rack, fenders & bar ends (another $95). Now I'm running it as a 1 x 8. Very practical and it can haul some groceries, take the rain, and bomb along on sidewalk rides with my daughter. It is very much a utility bike. I guess it's original category was comfort or city or something.
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Old 07-25-06, 01:47 PM   #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nachoman
I'm feeling like I'm coming down with somthing. I need a doctor.
Buy two bikes and call me in the morning.
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Old 07-25-06, 02:35 PM   #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DataJunkie
um..... you couldn't be more wrong.

I am a 31 year old etl programmer. Married for 10 years with a 3 year old son. I am also remodeling a house at the moment.
Hobbies:
cycling
do it yourself home repair
freshwater fish
dog
cat
reptiles (in between reptiles at the moment. My gecko died
Books
beer
and a few other hobbies I can not remember.

I can justify my cycling expenditures due to the fact I do not have a car and my work is 30 miles away.
Besides, I've had something like a 30% raise in the last two years and a promotion. Considering that a new car costs north of $15,000 + title + taxes + gas + maint + insurance, a $1000 bike is a steal. Actually maybe 3 months of car payments. So anyhow.....
Good for you, mate. Lots of worthwhile stuff on your list. You're also correct that NO car means
MORE money in pocket for the finer things in life ........like a custom bike.
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Old 07-25-06, 02:43 PM   #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by barba
I love A.N.T. bikes, but their frames alone are usually over a grand. I don't quite get the love affair with the Dutch bike, myself. It is not hard to put together a bike that makes a great commuting bike with what is available out there. It may not be 100% commute ready off the peg, but I am a tinkerer and customizer anyway.

Old Raleighs and Schwinns are fairly cheap and plentiful, if you want used. If you want new, just buy an upright riding bike that will accept a rack & fenders and slap on a chain guard. Ta da. Paint it black if you must. If you are feeling very fancy, buy a dynamo hub or a SA 8 speed internal gear hub.
Where do you buy the chainguard? Those things can be hard to find too.
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Old 07-25-06, 03:04 PM   #25
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I need to move to a city and remove motorized transportation from the equation

5 bikes will do fine , and one just like the one on the picture to carry drunk girls home.
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