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Feedback on city/dutch-style bike, especially gearing: Brooklyn, Biria, Public

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Feedback on city/dutch-style bike, especially gearing: Brooklyn, Biria, Public

Old 09-16-14, 07:12 PM
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Feedback on city/dutch-style bike, especially gearing: Brooklyn, Biria, Public

Hi all -

My husband and I both have hybrid-bordering-on-road-bikes that we used to use for longer commutes and now use to haul a kids bike trailer. We're going to get a city/commuter bike (which we will share) for short-ish (3-6 mile) commutes, quick trips to the store (1-2 miles) and low-key rides (bike-path and side streets) with our toddler in a front seat (Yepp mini) and later, when she's bigger, a rear seat (Yepp maxi). (The toddler is the main motivation for the new bike, as neither the front or rear carrier really work with our current bikes, but we're also looking forward to a more upright, regular-clothes biking option.)

We've looked at Public bikes (C7 loop frame, 7-speed derailleur), Biria bikes (Citibike loop-frame, 3-speed internal hub and 8-speed derailleur), and Brooklyn Bicycles (Willow and Franklin step-through frame with 3-speed internal hub or 7-speed derailleur, respectively). I love the looks of the Public and Biria but we're actually leaning toward the Brooklyn bikes because while I can ride all of them comfortably in their largest size, my husband felt the Brooklyn was a more comfortable fit for him than the others. Plus, they have a handlebar that seems especially well-suited to riding with a front-mounted child seat, as it's a bit more swept-back than the others.

However, there are other differences and I have a few questions specific to this type of riding that I'd love some feedback on, never having shopped for this type of bike before, that would help us decide.

1. All of these bikes have fenders, and chainguards above the chain, but not all of them have a chainguard on the chainring. Is this actually something we will miss (we plan to ride in regular clothes, including skirts) or does it not matter? Or should I not be looking at these bikes at all and only go for some sort of vintage bike with a full enclosure over the whole drivetrain or is the guard over the chain top likely sufficient?

2. I'm not sure what type of gearing to get. I've read all the arguments for an internal hub (lower maintenance, less grimy, etc.) but again, how much am I really going to notice the difference? This is not an attempt to get someone to reassure me that I don't need one; I'm honestly asking - the idea appeals to me, but realistically, we're not going to ride in terrible weather or the winter; we walk/take the subway or bus, or drive, in cases where it's really raining or extremely cold/unpleasant to be outside and I imagine that'll continue, especially with a toddler. The thing that probably appeals to me most about the internal hub is the ability to shift gears while stopped, but I also wonder if it'll be tricky for us to switch back and forth between our bikes if one is an internal and the other a derailleur. Finally, do you think that a 3-speed internal hub is sufficient for biking around Boston (specifically Cambridge/Somerville if you're familiar with the area), with the extra weight of a kid and possibly a pannier/bag on the bike? We're not a hilly city in general, but it's definitely not always flat; I'd say there are lots of very gradual hills, with the occasional steep incline (College Ave. in Somerville, going over bridges, etc.). I guess the hesitation I have of going with the derailleur is that it will somehow make it harder to ride in regular/nicer clothes. Any thoughts on this?

3. Does anyone know where I can find a front rack similar to what comes on the Biria, if we don't get that bike? Does this even exist, if your bike doesn't have rack braze-ons halfway up?

4. I'd love any feedback in general on these particular bikes, especially the Brooklyn Willow or Franklin (formerly Brooklyn Cruiser) since that is sort of what we're leaning toward.

Thanks for any thoughts you have!
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Old 09-16-14, 09:25 PM
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Nothing specific on these bikes - I hadn't heard of any of them before reading your post - but my wife and I have been through the growing toddler to kid stages with a couple of different bikes and trailers and tagalongs, and we commute frequently, so a couple of your points/questions did prompt me.

Re, number of gears: if you live somewhere flatish, a 3 speed should be pretty adequate for most purposes - but pulling a trailer isn't most circumstances. And if you may be pulling a trailer with a kid and some groceries up a hill, you will want a very low granny gear indeed.

The more I ride, the more I think much of bike purchases and types are aesthetic choices. MTB, hybrid, fixed gear, roadie; they'll all work for most of what any of us do. Minor trade offs here and there, but it's mostly a question of whether this or that bike matches your style. Does looking at that color just make you want to ride? If so, you'll probably like that bike.

Most of the bikes you cited are quite similar types of bike. In such a case, I think two major factors come into play far more important than brands. 1) go ride them and see which one simply feels/fits better, and 2) which one(s) is/are carried by the bike store that's local to you, has good mechanics, and gives you good service. My favorite LBS carries a few brands of road bike. The place across town carries different brands. Nothing on any of those brands is nearly as much a factor in my long term cycling experience as the good store that argued with Cannondale and got me a free wheel upgrade when the original stock wheels didn't work for me (for instance).

The chainring guard on my commuter broke off ages ago and I haven't missed it - but I do wear bike-friendly clothes and change when I get to work. It may make more difference if you're wearing regular clothes (bell bottoms?).

I can't see internal hub vs. derailleur making any difference vis a vis your clothing.

Unless you and your husband are remarkably similar in size and fit, I'd lean toward getting two different bikes. These are some fairly spendy bikes you're looking at; you could probably get each your own bike better suited to your size and preferences (not to mention saddle fit) for the same money. Probably not as stylish as these, though

Finally, as for anything that involves parenting, be ready for all the needs to change. You will have this all figured out, and then turn around and your kid is riding his/her own bike. But not very far, so you have to ride along with them until they get tired, then stow their bike on top of the trailer on your husband's bike while the kiddo rides a tagalong behind your bike. Then when you think that's all figured out, they'll change again. So 'flexible' needs to be your new favorite word.

Last edited by alathIN; 09-16-14 at 09:31 PM.
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Old 09-17-14, 08:33 AM
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Old 09-17-14, 08:41 AM
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I am in love with the Bakfiet bikes for hauling kids. I might get one. christiania bikes®
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Old 09-17-14, 08:59 AM
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I lived in CPH for a while and can answer your questions.

Here I am moving with a Christiania bike!



1. I'd go with a full chain guard if you're wearing regular clothes.

2. I'd go with a Nexus8 that's what was on the Christiania bike and it handled 100kg + me (75kg) or about 400 lbs with no issues. I could easy go from 0 to 20km/h (standard speed in CPH) fully loaded in street clothes with now issue (I did 30km that day!)

3. Any generic front rack would work. I won't select one for you because you may want a certain colour.

4. The bikes are quite funny. Like an American implementation of a Danish/Dutch bike. Anything you buy should have a dynamo and front/rear light built in. Especially at that price range. Those bike look like they're design by people how have seen a Dutch/Danish bike in a photograph but have never used one. It should also have a rear wheel ring lock.

The best option in the US is the Breezer Uptown 7/8:

ladies:

Breezer Bikes - Uptown 7 - LS - Bike Overview
Breezer Bikes - Uptown 8 - LS - Bike Overview

mens:

Breezer Bikes - Uptown 8 - Bike Overview
Breezer Bikes - Uptown 7 - Bike Overview
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Old 09-17-14, 09:06 AM
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Originally Posted by gdhillard View Post
I am in love with the Bakfiet bikes for hauling kids. I might get one. christiania bikes®
I bought a practically-new Christiania trike off CL recently and it is terrific for hauling the little ones. A long-john cargo bike is also a great option.
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Old 09-17-14, 09:10 AM
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Originally Posted by Cyclosaurus View Post
I bought a practically-new Christiania trike off CL recently and it is terrific for hauling the little ones. A long-john cargo bike is also a great option.
FWIW, It's called a "box bike."

Calling it a trike is insulting to what it takes to get the manufactuared by hand in a micro-nation
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Old 09-17-14, 10:05 AM
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The Christiania types do have 2 wheels in front on the sides of the Box , and 1 in back.

Danish for thing with 3 wheels is .. ?

NB: Bakfiets is a box bike too, in Dutch.

Last edited by fietsbob; 09-17-14 at 10:12 AM.
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Old 09-17-14, 10:23 AM
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I concur with others thinking a Christiana is the way to go with kids and or groceries. The downsides are costs, and the room needed to store it. As for the bikes you mentioned, anyone of them will be fine as long as you have the gearing. To me it will be range and number of gears that should dictate the choice especially when you are hauling children. Then again when I am in Japan I see woman with single speed bikes "mama chari's" and they seem to pedal those things with two kids on board though many are moving to pedal assist bikes now. Myself I wouldn't get anything less than 7 speeds.

Also any of those bike can be modified with fully enclosed chain guards (which I would not do since most come with a chain guard that works), front racks, lights etc. I would get the one that has enough gearing and fits your husband and yourself reasonably well and go from there. Make sure you have a good double kickstand especially when loading the kids. You can make any of those bikes work for you. Buy the one that speaks to you the best.

Good luck.
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Old 09-17-14, 10:27 AM
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Originally Posted by blakcloud View Post
I concur with others thinking a Christiana is the way to go with kids and or groceries.
I agree and I think most people underestimate how nice it is to have a continuous conversation with the "passengers" while riding compared to a trailer ... ugh.
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Old 09-17-14, 11:39 AM
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Originally Posted by gdhillard View Post
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Maybe the LB of 3 years ago...now the blog is more about 300 km brevets and rusted out vintage road bikes with poorly functioning rod brakes.
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Old 09-17-14, 11:59 AM
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Originally Posted by acidfast7 View Post
I agree and I think most people underestimate how nice it is to have a continuous conversation with the "passengers" while riding compared to a trailer ... ugh.
long tails are far more functional for non-cargo tasks. i've even considered asking a local shop to make a custom carbon long-tail frame...

Last edited by spare_wheel; 09-17-14 at 06:07 PM.
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Old 09-17-14, 12:00 PM
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1. Chainguards that run along the top length of the chain have always been sufficient for me. I'd start riding with the top chainguard and then shop for a full-coverage guard if you find the original isn't doing the job.

2. I find the learning curve to be pretty short on most shift systems. Once you get it down (usually less than a day for me) it becomes pretty hard-wired, and and you should be able to hop between the different bikes without issue (sort of like switching between manual and automatic transmissions in cars). I also think being able to shift while stopped is a big advantage, as is the low-maintenance nature of internal gear hubs (IGH). Another advantage is the IGH always maintains a straight chainline (the angle of the chain relative to the frame.) With IGH, the chain runs parallel to the frame, nice and straight from the front chainring to the rear cog so it pedals very smoothly. On derailleur systems, the chain can run diagonally front to back when certain gears are engaged. This puts more friction on the chain which makes for less smooth pedaling and faster wear. The chain on an IGH is also tighter, so you don't get that chain noise (or chain slap) over big bumps as with the relatively loose chain on a derailleur system. A disadvantage with the IGH is they can be heavy, but that's not much of an issue on a load-hauling city bike. They are also kind of pricey compared to derailleur systems, but that decision is up to the individual. As to how many speeds, a 3-speed should be fine for normal riding, but you might want to step it up to more gears since you are planning on load hauling.

3. A link to the front rack you are referring to would be helpful. Rack selection depends on more than size and load capacity. It also depends on which bike you get and what sort of braze-ons it has (mounting points on the frame/fork).

4. Haven't ridden any of these myself, so can't speak too much about how good they are.

Last edited by Brennan; 09-17-14 at 07:00 PM.
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Old 09-17-14, 01:14 PM
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The Gazelle Toer Populair is the quintessential Dutch utility bike. Solid and heavy at 50 lbs, its a durable commuter workhorse.
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Old 09-17-14, 01:21 PM
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Originally Posted by fietsbob View Post
The Christiania types do have 2 wheels in front on the sides of the Box , and 1 in back.

Danish for thing with 3 wheels is .. ?

NB: Bakfiets is a box bike too, in Dutch.
THey do have a very nice two wheel bike 2wheeler
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Old 09-17-14, 01:24 PM
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Great video of kids in a Bakfiet. Lots of companies make these, some here in the US. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hL9xva7XfO0
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Old 09-17-14, 02:10 PM
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I'll weigh in on your second question. I use a Shimano Nexus 8 and love it. I have found the ability to change gears when not pedaling really helpful. My commute involves a lot of stop and go traffic, red lights, and cross streets where I have to wait for traffic to clear. I often don't know if I'll have to stop until nearly the last minute. It has been very, very handy not to have to worry about down-shifting before I have to stop. My other bike has derailleur gearing. I use it for long rides along roadways or bike paths that don't involve frequent stops. I don't have any trouble switching back and forth between the two systems.
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Old 09-17-14, 09:03 PM
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+1 on the 8 speed IGH. My wife and I prefer fully or nearly fully enclosed chainwheel for riding in civies. One cuff caught in the chain is all it takes to convince one of the advantages.

I am becoming convinced that most modern interpretations of Dutch bikes are poor substitutes for real Dutch bikes. Certainly nothing I have ever ridden comes close to the comfort and convenience of my Azor. Something to do with geometry I suspect.

A cargo bike with whatever number of wheels does not seem necessary to shlep one kid around.
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Old 09-17-14, 09:39 PM
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I agree with the recommendations of buying as much as you can afford. If the likelihood of theft isn't too great, the bike is an investment which will give you a return. Dynamo powered lights are fantastic. I have too many bikes, and I'm in the process of putting dynamo lights on most or all of them.


you can get a chainguard on a bike with no front derailleur. This means a 1-by-something derailleur system or an IGH. Having a chainguard means you don't have to bind your trousers. Just jump on and go. It's a form of freedom.
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Old 09-17-14, 09:45 PM
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Originally Posted by gdhillard View Post
Great video of kids in a Bakfiet. Lots of companies make these, some here in the US. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hL9xva7XfO0
That was fun! I wish I had one. Amazingly, people have started using them here in downtown Manhattan! Things are very tight here. There's no space in our homes, and there's no space on the streets. Some people park their cargo bikes outside 365 nights a year because they can't bring them inside. I don't know how people do it with their bakfietsen, but they manage somehow. And they look like so much fun!
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Old 09-18-14, 04:38 AM
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Originally Posted by noglider View Post
That was fun! I wish I had one. Amazingly, people have started using them here in downtown Manhattan! Things are very tight here. There's no space in our homes, and there's no space on the streets. Some people park their cargo bikes outside 365 nights a year because they can't bring them inside. I don't know how people do it with their bakfietsen, but they manage somehow. And they look like so much fun!
Just leave them outside like other bikes. In CPH and Frankfurt this wasn't as issue. Outside bike parking was included with contents insurance.
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Old 09-18-14, 06:00 PM
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Originally Posted by noglider View Post
Dynamo powered lights are fantastic. I have too many bikes, and I'm in the process of putting dynamo lights on most or all of them.
Absolutely. Now that I have one bike with a dyno hub, I'm convinced that I'll never buy another bike without one (or without adding one right away).

To the OP: My daily commuter is a steel dutch-style step through with roller brakes, a dyno hub, fenders, chain case, etc. It's an Achielle Oma. I got it here: Achielle - A Street Bike Named Desire. They shipped it to me for $150. I have about 400 miles on it now, and it is working out really well for me. Good luck in your search.

Edit: By the way, this bike isn't as heavy as some of the other dutch-style bikes are. It weighs about 39 pounds.
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Old 09-18-14, 06:35 PM
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While we're on the subject of dynamos, I've recently put antique sidewall dynamos on several bikes and connected them to modern fancy LED lights. The setup works great. It costs less and weighs less, and there is no drag when not in use. It's not perfect, but it's worth consideration if a dynohub wheel is out of the question.
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Old 09-19-14, 07:19 AM
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A lot of good info here. A few thoughts.

There is a vast difference in a Dutch city bike and knock-offs like Brooklyn, Electra, etc. I think you'd be happiest with a Workcycles, Azor, Batavus, Gazelle, Velorbis, or similar. Differences in in both quality and geometry. More info here: City Bikes | LocalMile

Bakfiets are wonderful (we have two) and I highly recommend them, but you don't necessarily need one. You'll like the Yepp (or sticking a seat on the top or down tube behind your handlebars). If you're thinking about a trailer, then definitely get a bakfiets instead. I'd stick with bakfiets.nl or workcycles. Christiania trikes are really good but their bakfiets is a bit strange (though not as bad as others). Other bakfiets like the Bullit and such are not recommended either for quality or strange handling/geometry.

If your husband is man enough, consider a step-thru (Oma or Gr8/Fr8) rather than step-over.

Everyone I've talked to who's purchased a good Dutch city bike (hundreds of people) have loved them and found that they became their primary bike (there's a reason they're so popular in northern Europe). Plan for a second one after you and your husband are done fighting over the first one :-)
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Old 09-19-14, 07:25 AM
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Originally Posted by CrankyOne View Post
A lot of good info here. A few thoughts.

There is a vast difference in a Dutch city bike and knock-offs like Brooklyn, Electra, etc. I think you'd be happiest with a Workcycles, Azor, Batavus, Gazelle, Velorbis, or similar. Differences in in both quality and geometry. More info here: City Bikes | LocalMile

Bakfiets are wonderful (we have two) and I highly recommend them, but you don't necessarily need one. You'll like the Yepp (or sticking a seat on the top or down tube behind your handlebars). If you're thinking about a trailer, then definitely get a bakfiets instead. I'd stick with bakfiets.nl or workcycles. Christiania trikes are really good but their bakfiets is a bit strange (though not as bad as others). Other bakfiets like the Bullit and such are not recommended either for quality or strange handling/geometry.

If your husband is man enough, consider a step-thru (Oma or Gr8/Fr8) rather than step-over.

Everyone I've talked to who's purchased a good Dutch city bike (hundreds of people) have loved them and found that they became their primary bike (there's a reason they're so popular in northern Europe). Plan for a second one after you and your husband are done fighting over the first one :-)
What do people find strange about the Christiania? If I bought one in the UK it would either one of theres or one from nihola.

Family -ladcykel til let og stabil transport af børn
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