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AlexHKU 02-18-14 06:27 PM

Research in bike culture.
Hello guys,

I'm a student in Amsterdam, studying product design. One of my current projects is the bicycle culture, which im researching at the moment. Let me start about telling what kind of bike culture we have in Amsterdam.

Well in the Netherlands we have a sort of disposable bike culture, at which one simply thinks of his or her bike as a replacable way of transportation. This isn't ofcourse always the case, since some people grow attached to their bike they've had since a while ago.

I myself, had my share of bikes in the past, but since all of my own store-new bought bikes got stolen, i've had given up hope on ever owning a nice shiny bike without worrying it might get ripped every moment i don't see it.
Most of the students in Amsterdam and other large cities here own bikes that they've either found and restored, or bought from a "street vendor" for a margianal price like 25€. So people rather not grow attached to their bikes, because of the not so uncommon bike-theft here.

I'm interested in what people around the world think of their bike culture, and their bike.
For instance, if you've ever grown attached to a bike, and why. And what kind of bikes or the most common in your area of cycling. In Holland, we got the mighty "grandma bike" which pretty much dominates the markets over here.

So, i'm asking you guys to write a short story (few sentenses should be fine) about your experiences and love/hate relationship with bike's..
This would help me allot in my research!

Kind regards,

J.C. Koto 02-19-14 12:22 AM

Here's a better idea: instead of lazily soliciting people to do your homework assignment for you why don't you browse around the forums, try to learn, formulate good questions and ask them at opportune times, and generally try to join the forum community.

xenologer 02-19-14 01:03 AM

asking in this forum will bias the data since the members already have an interest in bikes, frankly this is bad research.
here in the USA for example, there is not so much a 'bike culture' as there is a 'car culture'. you will have a more accurate representation asking on a car forum
something like -most bikes get ridden 3 times and spend the next 20 years in the garage rafters till they are sold in a yard sale for 50$ to a local community college student

yeah, do your homework

Machka 02-19-14 01:08 AM


Originally Posted by AlexHKU (Post 16507234)
I'm a student in Amsterdam, studying product design.

What's the product?

AlexHKU 02-19-14 03:47 AM

Well, i was interested in the stories people can tell outside of my home country. I could ask more basic questions, but i was curious about how people think of their bike on this forum. Since people are indeed interested in bikes already here, i thought people might be motivated to tell something about it.

For example,

For are the advantages of cycling for you?

Do you rather cycle alone or with a group?

What kind of bike(s) do you own?

these kind of questions i find boring. But they do tell something.


Originally Posted by Machka (Post 16508092)
What's the product?

well its hard to say, since im not developing a product. The goal is rather to harvest knowledge other people oversee or dont notice.

J.C. Koto 02-19-14 04:07 AM

I shall note,
For your edification,
You still didn't answer
Machka's question.
Burma Shave.

Machka 02-19-14 04:42 AM


Originally Posted by AlexHKU (Post 16508176)
Well, i was interested in the stories people can tell outside of my home country.

well its hard to say, since im not developing a product. The goal is rather to harvest knowledge other people oversee or dont notice.

Harvest knowledge ... for what purpose?

And what is your home country?

AlexHKU 02-19-14 04:46 AM


Harvest knowledge ... for what purpose?

And what is your home country?
Well i was born in Russia quite some time ago, but my homecountry is the Netherlands. Well to begin a product i have to study the subject first, cycling culture.

Here are some pictures that show how the bikes are being treated in amsterdam.

And every other year a boat comes by to pickup all the deserted bikes.

To bring the bikes to the bike graveyards, called the depots.

Machka 02-19-14 05:08 AM

Yeah, I know the bicycle situation in Amsterdam. I've been there.

So ... let me sum up ...

1) Your professor has informed the class that they need to design a new product. He/she might have even suggested that it should have something to do with bicycles.

2) You don't have the faintest idea what you're going to do for your project, perhaps you don't know much about cycling ... and time is running out.

3) So you've come here to get some ideas.

Am I on the right track? :)

AlexHKU 02-19-14 05:17 AM

We don't have to design a product, its for research . We're just got set off to do research into the bike culture.
And i was thinking about using the internet as a resource, and one of the advantages of using the internet is the communication with people from around the world.

So i had the idea to post here, i thought you guys would be interrested in helping me. But fair enough. I might have rephrased my thread intro better, but its rather vague what i'm researching at the moment. Getting some ideas or things to think about from stories of people abroad, would be interesting.

One of the core aspects of a culture are the people and their own personal view and dealings with it. Sole research on this topic wouldnt get it just far enough.

bradtx 02-19-14 05:26 AM

Alexander, In N. America bicycling is primarily recreational, somewhat akin to golf. While some have a sentimental attachment to their bicycles, a larger percentage of cyclists either want the latest and greatest or are content with a reliable, occasionally rode bicycle.

Read through the various forums here to gain a broader information base.


Machka 02-19-14 05:34 AM

Alex, I have to give you credit for responding to us. Most product design students (and there are heaps of you who post here), don't respond to anything we ask.

I'll second Brad's suggestion about reading through the various forums here.

When you've done some reading, you might decide to narrow your question/focus. There are many different aspects to cycling and many different cultures within.

velonista 02-19-14 06:40 AM

Submitted for your approval
I don't mind helping a fellow student kick-start their research with my offer to you of a subject that always intrigues me: Chinese Carbon Replica Frames.

Why do owners of exorbitantly marked-up store-bought "name-brand" bikes get so irrationally enraged by people who buy "reverse-engineered", "placebo" bikes that cost thousands of dollars less than what the angry buyers paid for their "real" bikes?

Taking the IPR factor out of the equation (which, after all, only really matters to the trademark registrant anyway; NOT to any individual buyer) - why would one individual buyer get so murderously enraged at another individual buyer who opts to spend/save his money as he chooses?

Aren't bikes just commodity product? Or are they class-defining status symbols?

Is one culture's anger based on what they perceive as the "clones'" debasing of the status symbolism they've bought into? Is the opposing pro-Chinarello culture's laissez-faire approach simply a sign of the times?

If a Dutch bike buyer paid, say, €6,000 for their "original" grandma bike, would they lash out in blood-thirsty rage at another buyer who paid only €25 for an identical-looking clone of the €6,000 grandma bike? If there is any difference in that "grandma bike" context compared to the "Chinarello" context, then why is there a difference?

I suspect an exploration of those kinds of questions could inform a product's design by gaining insight into how consumers' emotional investment into a product shapes that consumer's perception of the intrinsic value of a product.

The above are rhetorical questions by the way; offered to the OP as candidates for questions he might consider addressing in his research. Therefore, please do not flame this post with off-topic, emotionally-charged vitriol raging against IPR-infringement. You won't be saying anything that hasn't been parroted a trillion times already.

phoebeisis 02-19-14 08:28 AM

In the USA we -in general-ride for fun-not for transportation.
They are fun devices-fun machines- so we LOVE them-just like we loved various toys when we were kids.
Same reason we LOVE motorcycles-fun.
To some extent cars aren't just transportation devices to many of us-they are "fun devices" so we love some of them(my prius-not lovable).

In countries where bikes are mainly used for TRANSPORTATION- your country,china,most of asia,-owners don't "LOVE" their bikes-
hell they don't maintain them according to a member who went to china-they fix flats have repairs done as needed-but none of this compulsive maintenance like the folks here do.

Yeah-Transportation BIKE COUNTRIES- bikes are appliances-not objects for fun-

Biking for fun countries-people LOVE their bikes
Bike for transportation countries-they don't

Oh-noticed you were IMMEDIATELY introduced to the "you are doing it wrong and are lazy police" officious forum members-ha,ha welcome to the forum!
PS- so plenty of thieves in the Netherlands-hmmm guess thieving is universal-in the USA we sometimes take EXTREME measures-4 lb locks etc- to try to prevent thievery-it discourages biking for transportation- professional thieves have battery powered angled grinders that can defeat ANY lock in 30-60 seconds or so.

I think bike transportation is just 1/1000 the people miles of car transportation in the USA-so.....we don't really use bikes much for transportation
the 1/1000 maybe off a bit-

In some USA cities-maybe San Francisco maybe NYNY- folks transportation ride more-and in those cities there is PLENTY of pedestrian vs bike riders ill will-same story cars vs bikes plenty of ill will-both sides-those are walking cities,so pedestrians aren't happy to be dodging bikes.
How do pedestrians view bike riders where you are?

Artkansas 02-19-14 08:35 AM


Originally Posted by AlexHKU (Post 16507234)
I'm interested in what people around the world think of their bike culture, and their bike.
For instance, if you've ever grown attached to a bike, and why. And what kind of bikes or the most common in your area of cycling. In Holland, we got the mighty "grandma bike" which pretty much dominates the markets over here.

My oldest bike is a 72-73 American Eagle/Nishiki 10 speed. I first started riding it when I borrowed it from a friend maybe in 1975-76. I bought it from him for a load of wood in 1978. It was my main commuting bike for many decades until I arrived in Little Rock. Little Rock was just too hilly for a 10 speed. So I started riding an old mountain bike 1988-89 model, which I converted to a street bike with slick tires, racks, shopping panniers, lights etc. It works well here. For longer rides, I like my Bachetta Giro 20 recumbent.

The bicycle market is pretty varied here. Lots of road bikes and hybrids. Many, many cheap bikes from Walmart. That's to be expected as Arkansas is where Walmart got started. Most are 21 speeds or more.

I don't know how you define experiences... Do you mean how I feel on a 10 mile commute on a freezing winter morning, or riding through forests and swamps down by the river, or being run over by a car, or riding in 48 degree desert heat, or hammering along a cobblestone bike path from Vlissingen to Rotterdam. There is no love/hate here. Just love.

rydabent 02-19-14 08:39 AM

Why give this poster grief. Personally I think it is great that someone in the design field would actually come to product users. IMO too many times product designer design what they want without basic information on what is wanted or needed. Example the Tesla car. It costs upwards of $100,000 and is prone to fires, has a limited range and must be constantly recharged. Not a good design.

That said, many including me definately are attached to our bikes or trikes. For me they represent a big chunk of money, so I never let them out of my site. After having a bike stolen right out of the back of my garage, I even lock it up in my locked garage.

Lastly I might add as I have stated, I ride a recumbent bike and trike. I ride for fun and exercise. I do not buy into the whole fully kitted roadie scene. I ride recumbents because they cause me no pain no matter how far I ride them in a day. Since I do not have to buy expensive clothes to protect me from my bents, I ride in t-shirts, and inexpensive rugby shorts. Basically I do my own thing. I have been a member of the local bike club for 30 years, and ride with a very friendly bike club in Omaha.

yugyug 02-19-14 09:07 AM

The OP is conducting whats known as online ethnographic research. Funnily enough I did the exact same thing when I was doing post-grad research in the Netherlands, though I have to admit I didn't cop the same kind of stick he has, but it was a different online community.

Anyway, there are various ethical positions with this kind of research. One is that its better to introduce yourself as a researcher and then use data which results from questioning, rather than appropriate data from the community by 'lurking' without recognition. In that sense, the OP has done the correct thing, and I'd point out to those that accuse him of laziness for not utilising the rest of the forum - you don't know that he hasn't.


Originally Posted by J.C. Koto (Post 16508179)
I shall note,
For your edification,
You still didn't answer
Machka's question.

I think the other thing the OP might have now learned is that there is not just a different bike culture between his country and the US/Australia but that there is also a different design culture. Why should a design researcher need to have a product in mind before embarking on research? Why shouldn't a design researcher turn to a biking forum for information as the first port of call, rather than an act of last minute desperation as some implied? IMHO industrial design schools in the US and Australia (typically, there are exceptions) are far too concerned with solving specific functional or manufacturing constraints serving industrial/commercial purposes. As a result, nothing changes in the social, and its to the detriment of the environment. It really is better for a product designer to NOT choose a product to design first and then figure out how to design it, but rather do the research first to discover whether a product is even needed in the first place.

I'm interested to find out what the OP concludes about his answers. I can only hope he doesn't choose to design something for a global market just because its a global market. Designers should serve their local conditions first.

IMHO I would love it if my city became 1/10 as cycle friendly as Amsterdam, though I cringe at the increase in bike theft which may come with it. But, it would be worth the increase in safety. I might revert to riding sub 200 dollar frames but my wife would sleep easier at night.

Coluber42 02-19-14 09:13 AM

It seems to me that you might consider the distinction between what is sometimes called "bike culture" and the attitudes about bicycles in the larger culture.

"Bike culture" is the collection of assorted genres and subcultures in the cycling community. Different groups of cyclists (roadies, randonneurs, commuters, MTBers, downhill riders, messengers, etc) tend to have their various aesthetics, tastes, attitudes, vocabulary, magazines, heroes, villains, etc. You'll find lots of that here on this forum.

Then there are the more general aspects of how the entire culture treats bicycles and bicycling in general. You won't find that here, because almost no one comes here if they don't participate in some aspect of the above. And while it's true that over all, the United States is built around cars and doesn't usually consider a bicycle to be a realistic transportation option, attitudes about it are very different from one area to the next. There are some cities where bicycling for transportation really is quite common and is a perfectly useful way to get where you're going, and others where everything is too far away and only connected by freeways. A friend of mine commutes by bike in a smaller city in Middle America where there's hardly anyone else in the whole town who does so. He says that from time to time someone will see him riding his bike and say, "It's OK, I lost mine once too. You'll get it back!", thinking that he is riding a bike because his drivers license was suspended for DUI. Another time, he was stopped at a light and a kid was very curiously looking at him through the car window, and finally rolled down the window and said, "Are you poor?" since that was the only conceivable explanation for a grownup on a bike. There is one bike shop in the whole metro area. And that is still in a city; in many rural areas the differences are even more extreme.
Where I live neither of those incidents would *ever* happen. Lots of people commute by bike, on everything from imported Dutch Oma bikes (Yes, people pay $$$$ to ship them overseas) to racing bikes to $25 street corner bikes. Some people leave their bikes outside all the time, some people lock them outside of stores but bring them inside at home or at work. There is a bike shop practically every half mile and the police periodically go around to clean up the abandoned ones.

And keep in mind that the United States is a big and varied place. There is not just one bike culture. The friend of mine I mentioned lives farther away from me than you do from Kiev, Ukraine; and that is still only halfway across the country.

Personally, I have my commuting bike which I did spend money on, but it is not hugely expensive. I do a relative minimum of maintenance on it, although it lives inside at night. I ride it everywhere I go and would be pissed off if it got stolen, but I am not hugely attached to it. I also have my "fun" bike, which I take on longer rides and which I am very much attached to. I keep it clean and well maintained and do not leave it locked up outside if I can help it. And I have several others for various other purposes. That's a common approach for many cycling enthusiasts, but not the only one.

teddywookie 02-19-14 09:17 AM

My bike is a tool to get me to work and to run errands. It is old and busted, but if it was stolen, I would happily murder the person who took it. Not because I like my bike, but because I need it.

You ever see one of those guys proceeding along slowly, perhaps on the sidewalk - low income, purple MTB/hybrid, backpack, generally not white? That's mostly me, except I don't ride on sidewalks.

AlexHKU 02-19-14 01:11 PM

First of, thanks bradtx,velonista,phoebeisis,artkansas,rydabent,coluber42 and teddywookie. This info and questions i can use. Not to derive a conclusion from it, but for ideas in further research and such.

The product design im studying is visual design, not industrial design. So indeed im using this information to get insight into how bikes are looked upon and treated in our civilization.


How do pedestrians view bike riders where you are?
Well, in every not-citycenter place in the Netherlands, the cycleroads and pedestrian sidewalks are quite wide, so there is almost no interaction between the pedestrians and cyclists. In a city center like Amsterdam though, its a little bit more cozy, i only got roadhit once by a cyclist and that was many years ago, i dont say im lucky cause i got hit only once, but its fair enough.


On these streets cyclists are fouly looked upon, its one of the busiests streets in Amsterdam so thats no wonder. Usually only tourists with freshly rented bikes are found ringing their bell on these streets.
People rather cycle around these streets, or walk trough them with bike in hand.

Coluber42 02-19-14 02:18 PM

Of course bikes are not welcome in a pedestrian area. Bikes aren't allowed on sidewalks in commercial areas with lots of foot traffic in American cities. They aren't allowed on the foot paths of the Boston Public Gardens. They aren't allowed in a Fußgänger-zone in a German city. But that's a different issue from how they're viewed more generally.
Bikes are a bit of a lightning rod in many places. Many places are in a transition period where population density is increasing as people move closer into the city, or the city grows. Congestion gets worse. Parking is at a premium. Fuel prices go up, and public transit is often behind the curve. So more and more people see bicycles as a viable alternative. And as traffic gets worse and interactions between cars and bicyclists increase, people who drive are more likely to blame their troubles on the most convenient scapegoats, which tend to be bicyclists. Bicyclists, having fought an uphill battle for so long for recognition, rights on the road, etc, can often be rude or defensive. While slowly making my way through downtown Boston traffic, I had someone yell at me once, "No one can drive here anymore, and it's all you bikers' fault!" (even though there are still far, far more cars than bicycles and it's the cars that are gridlocked).

So you end up with a situation where people seem to either think that bicycles are urban scourge incarnate, or they think bicycles can single-handedly solve all the problems in the world.

And in places where those trends have not yet reached, bicycles are either toys for children; a sport that you're fanatically devoted to (but you strike abject homophobia into the heart of anyone who sees you in spandex); or the last resort of the desperate, the unemployed, the alcoholic, the hippie, the immigrant, and the rest of the Great Unwashed.

So take your pick.

Dudelsack 02-19-14 03:21 PM

This short clip captures the essence of cycling in North America:

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