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Gazelle Bloom Review 2 years on - or are Dutch Bikes Expensive?

There are lots of myths surrounding Dutch bikes - one of which is that you cant ride them uphill. Well after nearly 2 and a half years of riding mine around Sheffield almost every day usually with a child on (and occasionally 2) I think we can safely say I’ve disproved THAT one!

But what about “Dutch bikes are expensive”? It’s hard, on the face of it, to argue against that statement, especially with the the pound being so weak against the euro. So superficially it’s true. However, if you re-phrase the statement to “Dutch bikes are excellent value for money” you are much closer to the truth. First there’s all the “bits” which are usually missing from other bikes: fully enclosed chainguard, skirt/coatguard, integral dynamo lights, heavy duty rear rack with bungees, integral lock, mudguards, kick stand etc. Yes, all those “extras” add up if you have to kit out a standard bike (and not many people will go to the effort of bothering - although all the items are obtainable in the UK), but the thing that makes the difference is that the bike is ready to go day in day out. And that is where the difference really lies.

Before, I owned the Bloom, I would ride maybe 3 times a week at most, usually just commuting. Very occasionally I would take the kids out on a “bike ride”. But the Bloom changed all that, and with the addition two child seats I could:

take the kids with me, do the school/nursery run, go shopping, run errands, pick stuff up on the way home from work, take the recycling to the supermarket, have picnics, transport birthday cakes, make trips to Meadowhell, go to the library, transport my daughters to their yoga and dance classes, go swimming, go to the gym, transport youngest daughter’s balance bike, or eldest daughter’s scooter, carry an extra child, go to DIY stores - all these things I have done (and probably more I’ve forgotten).

My bike has become an everyday work horse that can replace my car for many trips. But surely any bike would do? Or could be made to work? Possibly…

For me my Dutch bike is greater than the sum of it’s parts, it’s solid, reliable and because everything is there ready and waiting I don’t have to remember to take anything extra with me. My “extra’s” are a removable basket and the key for my D-lock. If I forget either it’s no big deal. I have panniers for shopping and the integral lock always has the key in, and is adequate for a short stop. And that’s why it works, changes of plan can be easily accommodated, extra shopping, another child, an unplanned stop - it takes it all in its stride.

So how is it holding up? I ride the Bloom most days and must be approaching 4000 miles now. 

The ends of the handlebar grips are looking a little dog-eared, the soft grip material is good for the hands, but does rub off when the bike is propped against the wall.

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The bike does have a tendency to topple over when parked (the stand is too small) and the brake levers tend to bear the brunt of this!

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For some reason this side is less worn than the other.

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Another casualty of the bike repeatedly falling over, is the front light, which sheared off completely.

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However I solved the problem with an IKEA kitchen cupboard bracket!

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My least favourite part of the bike - the stand. It’s just way too narrow and the only safe way to leave the bike is using the stand AND leaning the bike against a wall. The rubber feet have worn through now and aren’t providing any support. I had a problem with the stand constantly coming loose for quite a while, but eventually solved that with two ratchet spanners from a socket set (top and bottom) which finally got it tight enough to hold for about 9 months use.

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No complaints about the pedals, which seem very robust (and I have the bruises to prove it)

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The seat was an early casualty of the bike falling over and the cover tore when it fell into some brambles. Some electrical tape sorted that out.

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Basil Panniers - these didn’t come with the bike but I bought them at the same time. Dutch shopping panniers are amazing things and like the TARDIS can hold much more than you would believe possible. These ones have done excellent service and are still holding their shape well, particularly impressive as they hang off the back of the rear rack as the child seat gets in the way. DB’s Basil panniers purchased a year ago, haven’t been as good (although they were half the price) they seem very flimsy, by comparison, stubbornly refuse to hold their shape and don’t seem to have the same capacity - although they look the same size.

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The only problem I’ve had is I overloaded them and tore the outer fabric. The lining is still intact though, so they are still useable.

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The the bobike child seats were second hand (although the front one looked like it had only been used a couple of times) however, despite daily use the rear one is only a bit scratched from where it rubs against the wall when you lean the bike over.

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My front basket is just under 18 months old. It has had loads of use and I quite often take it with me even when I don’t have the bike! I’ve had lots of comments about it as a stylish bag. Apart from a couple of scratches it is looking pretty good.

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As for maintenance, so far this has consisted of the repairs mentioned above, inflating the tires 4 times, adjusting the handle bars a couple of times (they slowly go out of alignment with all the falling over). I took the bike for a service, but this consisted of tightening up any loose bits and adjusting the handlebars (cost £8.95). I’ve replaced the batteries in the rear light once, and they are due for replacing again now. So far I haven’t ever cleaned the Bloom.

Is this a pretty bike? No. Is it comfortable? Yes. Is it reliable? Yes. 

The GB Cycling Embassy Meeting in Manchester (taking a bike on the train)

On Saturday I attended the second meeting of the GB Cycling Embassy (CEoGB). It was a day of several firsts for me:

The first time I’ve attempted to take a bike on a train, the first time I’ve attempted to ride a bike around Manchester and the first time meeting Mark from IBikeLondon, TheCyclingJim, Sally/Townmouse Kevin from Inclusive Cycling to mention a few. Oh and to complicate matters I had my youngest daughter in tow.

Being a bit of a last minute decision it wasn’t until Friday afternoon that I tried to book my bike on the train. I found a telephone number on the Transpennine Express website quite easily, rang it and got straight through to the right person who reassured me that it would be no problem taking a large bike on the train and gave me a reservation code for the trains I wanted in a matter of minutes. This is easy peasy… 

Encouraged by how straightforward it had been I then rang East Midlands Trains to get an alternative reservation for the trains half an hour either side of the ones I’d already booked as a back-up plan! Not so easy. Don’t bother following the instructions on their website - they are wrong! As is any sensible guess of the alternative options. After about half a dozen attempts which no matter what I tried I was always diverted to National Rail Enquiries. In desperation I selected the “Special Needs” option and finally got through to someone who could make a reservation for me. Once I got through to the right person it was plain sailing, but I dread to think how much my phone bill will be after that pallaver.

Anyway, on Saturday morning youngest daughter and I arrived at Sheffield Station and went to buy a train ticket. Trying to navigate my bike through the queuing system was a bit tricky - in this sort of environment my bike becomes a pushchair, having a toddler on the loose and pushing a bike in a busy and crowded place is not my idea of fun, so she was staying fastened into her bike seat until we were safely on the train.

Having purchased a ticket we headed for the lift. Luckily the first lift at Sheffield Station is a through lift so that was fairly easy. The second lift down to Platform 5 wasn’t but it was generous enough to turn the bike round.

Once on the platform I asked a couple of station staff where to stand for the bike entrance to the train - they both directed me to the middle, which of course turned out to be wrong. I didn’t get any offers of assistance getting the bike on the train (or anyone bothering to check my reservation) but at least the step up from the platform wasn’t too high and I could just about manage it on my own.

Once inside the train I realised there was no way my bike would fit in facing forward and had to turn it round. Luckily there was just about enough space for this manoeuvre, but I’m not sure if it would’ve been possible if there had already been another bike there. 

Gazelle Bloom on the train

Once reversed into place I did have to turn the front wheel 90 degrees to keep it out of the way of the door.

And good job I brought my own bungees - the flimsy bit of velcro which presumably was supposed to go through the rear wheel, wouldn’t reach and I had to attached it to the rear rack instead. Oh and the “wall” this was attached to was a piece of mdf which didn’t appear to be fixed down properly and was flapping about like crazy. Nice combination of quality workmanship and design there…

I used one bungee to attach the centre of the frame to the fold up seat frame and the other to stop the front wheel from flopping around. 

I’m not sure that was really adequate, but the bike didn’t fall over on either the outward or return journey thank goodness.

Anyway we arrived safely in Manchester Piccadilly. Unfortunately the lifts were much smaller than at Sheffield Station and it was a bit of a tight squeeze and I had to reverse my bike out. Going down on the travellator was a lot easier, but a bit crowded in the midst of hordes of football fans and swarms of police. I’m not sure what they made of a small woman pushing a very large bike with a toddler sat up front, but I certainly got quite a few confused looks! Mind you I discovered later it was Wimbledon and Luton playing so they were probably equally baffled by just being in “the North” and hearing people speaking in a strange accent…

I’d promised youngest daughter a trip to the wonderful Manchester Art Gallery. I can highly recommend it for kids, there’s lots of hands on activities and it’s free (donations welcomed) which is handy if you are on a tight budget or your kids have a short attention span! So we set off by bike, I know Manchester City Centre pretty well on foot, but I couldn’t fathom out any way to get to the Gallery legitimately by bike because of the one way streets and no right/left turns. There didn’t seem to be any cycle contraflows or exceptions at all in that area, so we did a combination of pushing and riding on the pavement (slowly) where it was quiet. Luckily when we arrived at the Gallery there was a pair of Sheffield stands on the street corner opposite so locking up the bike was no problem.

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Youngest daughter having a great time and pretending to be a bear.

After lunch at the Art Gallery (and the obligatory “present” for youngest daughter from the shop) we headed back to Piccadilly to meet up with everyone for the Cycling Infrastructure Safari. I tried an alternative route going the back way via Chinatown, but again was constantly foiled by the one-way system.

At Piccadilly it was still busy with football fans, so I was wondering how easy it was going to be to find everyone.  Luckily I spotted a vintage bike and recognised its owner as Mark from IBikeLondon, soon followed by a flock of Brompton’s and their owners. Finally the locals arrived, obeying the rule that whoever has the shortest journey must arrive last ;-) 

Mr C from MCRCycling led the way to show us some of Manchester’s “finest” cycling infrastructure - which first had to be accessed by making a right turn across 4 lanes of traffic. An “interesting” manoeuvre which even with very assertive signalling and road positioning (and a substantial mass of 15 cyclists all doing the same thing) still rendered us invisible to the majority of drivers who were intent on flooring it as they spied the Mancunian Way! The wind had picked up and funnelled by the canyons of high rise buildings made for some difficult conditions. Youngest daughter was not impressed and screamed “too windy” and burst into tears and proceeded to howl for the entire ride! 

It was quite a relief when we finally arrived at our destination.

Time seemed to fly by at the meeting and youngest daughter was mercifully quite well behaved (so long as kept fed and watered and entertained) but we had to leave before the end to catch our train. As we were out near the University I decided it would probably be easier to go back via Oxford Road Station and go for my “back-up” train as we were unlikely to make the earlier one I’d booked the bike on. This meant we travelled on East Midlands Trains for both the outward and return journey, so I didn’t get to try out the bike accommodation on Transpennine Express to see how it compared. I was quite glad we’d gone to Oxford Road because I’d forgotten how quiet it is a the weekend, so it was very civilised compared to the chaos at Piccadilly. Unfortunately the platform is quite low and watching the trains come in I began to worry if I’d get my bike on the train. I asked the guard on the platform if he would be able to help and luckily he was very friendly and offered to lift the bike on for me. In the end another passenger helped me get the bike on, but the guard even came back and apologised for getting waylaid with another matter! Such a contrast with the miserable buggers on Sheffield Station.

Waiting on Oxford Road Station

While I was waiting for our train to arrive an elderly lady got off another train with an electric bike and a shopping basket. She looked like someone’s nan. A normal sight in some countries, but quite a novelty in Manchester.

Another bike on Oxford Road Station

Finally we were on the train home and youngest daughter waved Manchester goodbye.

Waving good bye to Manchester

We decided to get off at Dore on the way back which meant a mainly downhill cruise rather than a tiring slog uphill. On the downside the 40mph stretch was rather intimidating and just to reinforce the point we were overtaken by a Ferrari and a Boxter racing each other on the dual carriage way (more bloody footballers - probably). Youngest daughter screamed “don’t want to go on the road” - a fitting end to the day!

Riding a Vintage Racer

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This is my 1982 Rotary racing bike. My first “proper” bike. Despite my younger brother’s best attempts to trash it, it is in quite good condition. When I got it I was a little bit miffed that I had been fobbed off - my brother had got a beautiful black £90 Peugeot for his birthday and my dad had promised me a Peugeot mixte. I think mixte’s were a lot more expensive than diamond frames, as that idea was soon abandoned and I was taken off to Sale Cycles in south Manchester to look at this bike, which had been advertised in the small adds in the Guardian for £75. june2010_305 june2010_304

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My dad tried to convince me that it was actually a Peugeot with a different badge and was made in the same factory and some of the bikes in the shop did have a Peugeot head badge (although mine doesn’t). I was also promised mudguards and a rear rack (although I seem to recall paying for most of the cost from my pocket money in the end) as the bike was cheaper than my brother’s - things he didn’t have, although I have to say the thing that swung it for me was the bright red paintwork - as the genuine Peugeots came in some spectacularly crap colours that year!

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My father has restored it for my son (new wheels, tyres, mudguards, handlebar tape and the seat off his 1978 Peugeot ). My son is still rather intimidated by the crossbar, although I used to ride it when I was much shorter than he is, so the other weekend I ended up letting him ride my Valetta and I ended up with the Rotary.

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I must admit I was slightly apprehensive after not having ridden it for 19 years (nor anything remotely like it), especially the gear shifters on the down tube. However, within a couple of minutes it was if I it was only the other day I had ridden it, as it all came flooding back to me. I have to admit it is a fantastic bike to ride and it was quite amusing to be able to leave my son and his mate for dust with only the slightest amount of effort!

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[yes I passed my cycling proficiency test!]

The only problems I encountered where that I couldn’t use the drops sitting down as my knees hit my chest, although it was fine standing up. I also had problems with the front shifter and the chain fell off every time I changed up (we sorted that out the next day as the guide had got slightly bent). 

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I was worried that the steering would feel slightly twitchy, especially after the ridiculously relaxed steering of the Bloom, but it was surprisingly forgiving. I did, almost immediately, get into the swing of steering from the hips. It is something I find I do naturally, but on a big heavy bike like the Bloom, very large movements make only a subtle difference. On the Rotary, it is the opposite way round, very small movements make a big difference.

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The other thing I noticed (especially the day after, when I rode in my sandals with no heels) was, that although I can barely straddle the crossbar with my feet on tip toes, getting on and off was no problem. Without thinking I adopted the 45 degree lean position and mounted and dismounted that way. feb0117

[The guy on the left demonstrates the no-hands lean - just imagine the tilt being more exaggerated to get the idea]

I had wondered how I used to ride it when it was way too big. It is a technique which would be impossible on a heavy dutch bike as once they start to lean the weight is too much for me to handle and the bike ends up sending me flying! It was quite a novelty to be able to stop and prop the bike up between my thighs and have my hands free. I get very frustrated trying to do this on the Bloom as it usually ends in disaster, the slightest breeze is enough to upset the balance. Stopping generally requires at least one hand on the handlebars to keep the thing stable.

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We went out for a ride on the off road trail from Caton to Lancaster. The path quality was reasonable and mostly about 4m wide, the main problem to avoid was the frequent horse manure in the way, as the route is also a bridal way as well as a footpath and cycle route. I was amazed at how easy it was to cover the 5 miles to Lancaster (although it was flat) and at the end of the 10 mile trip, I felt I could’ve easily done double. Although I was a bit stiff the day after, I went out and did 5 miles to loosen up without much trouble.

Although my Rotary is about as far away from the Bloom in terms of geometry, I still found it a very comfortable bike to ride, something which puzzled me, especially when I cannot get comfortable on the Valetta. One think I did discover, which may have some bearing on this is the height of the pedal from the ground on its lowest point is only 10 cm, the pedal height on the Valetta is 17 cm. This low height means I can get the seat height right and still (just about) touch the ground even though the seat tube angle is quite steep. That 7cm difference on the Valetta means that I have to have the seat about 7cm lower than I should in order to be able to stop safely. I also find the leaning technique isn’t as effective on the mountain bike, again because of the additional weight it is much harder to control. 

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I must admit I enjoyed riding the Rotary so much I was very tempted to bring it home. Until, that is, I remembered the dreadful state of Sheffield’s roads!

Valetta

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It’s a long boring story, but basically I haven’t been well for about 5 weeks or so and my bike is still at work. I have good and bad days, but generally can only manage to do one thing a day before I am exhausted and need to rest again. Anyway, enough of the boring stuff! It was a beautiful day, the other day and I needed to get a couple of things that we’d run out of from the supermarket. It’s just over a mile, but it’s a pretty boring walk and driving seemed a bit over the top, so I decided to see if I could manage riding a bike. I had to dig out my old Valetta and I must admit, after riding my Gazelle for 18 months, I wasn’t sure how I’d cope with derailler gears and toe clips again; but I remembered I’d gone 13 years without riding a bike at all and managed to remember without too much trouble. april2010_064april2010_063

I was just making excuses because I just don’t like this bike! I retreived it out of the cellar and dusted it off a bit, it was pretty filthy, but I was in no mood (or state for that matter) to be bike cleaning. However, both tires were completely flat so I had to sort that out. I also managed, by some miracle, to locate the key for the D-lock without too much trouble.

So I set off. The first thing I noticed pushing it up the garden path (a 1 in 2 slope) was how light it was. I’d always cursed this bike as it is hardly a lightweight bike, but it is noticeably lighter than the Bloom. Then I got on and realised how tiny it felt. I felt like I’d got on a kids bike. The steering felt twitchy, although not too bad once I got going and the toe clips were second nature, luckily I had left the Valetta in a sensible gear and didn’t have to worry about changing till I was ready and confident. The next thing that really irritated me was having to ride bow legged to avoid the D-lock. It did come with a bracket to attach it to the frame, but that lasted all of a week before shearing off. Great quality from AXA there! I did manage to make it slightly more comfortable, by rotating the D-lock round for the return journey, so it was reduced to a minor inconvenience.

As I went along I was relieved to find I wasn’t finding it too hard going, but the ride is noticeably less smooth than the Bloom and the front suspension really didn’t do much to help the potholes and my wrists were really feeling it by the time I got home. Although I was taking it steady, it was pretty obvious that the Bloom wins hands down for speed, the Valetta is very sluggish, the mountain bike tires probably don’t help much here. Mind you, I was glad of that, as I’d forgotten how crap the brakes are, they probably need adjusting, but the V-brakes were never much good even when the bike was brand new.  As it is, although the Valetta is 6 years old, I doubt I’ve even done 2000 miles on it. Before I go much further, I must explain that the Valetta isn’t a terrible bike, it’s not a cheap supermarket/discount store bike, but it’s not a high quality bike either, although it does say on the frame “Hand built in England” (I suspect this translates to “assembled in Britain” from foreign parts, am I being too cynical?). What I’m trying to do here is work out why it is so unsuitable for me. Maybe I’ve been lucky, but I’ve never had to suffer an ill fitting bike before (apart from the RSW II which doesn’t really count, as of course an adult bike isn’t meant for a child). The Valetta was marketed as specifically proportioned for women and the frame size is for 5’4” and under, so theoretically it should fit. Anyway, I digress, back to the story.

Then the seat began to get me, it’s not a terrible seat, I’ve had worse, but by the time I’d got back I was feeling pretty rubbed. The bike forces you to lean forwards despite my best efforts to change this (more of that later) and  instead of sitting on your sit bones, the most tender part of the female anatomy is taking the weight. Having experienced a much better seat, this one is like torture.

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Now onto posture. One of the main reasons for buying the Bloom (apart from it’s child carrying abilities) was the upright riding position. I don’t particularly like leaning forwards or  the straight bar position on mountain bikes, which puts your wrists in an awkward position. The Valetta grips themselves are quite comfy in soft rubber, but the position isn’t. I think even drop handlebars are better, as at least you get some variety in positioning.

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To improve the riding position I replaced the handlebar stem with an adjustable one and the bike shop added in some spacers (which came in the colours they had lying around - hence the odd turquoise one) to give it a bit more lift. This did at least allow me to ride for an extra month when I was pregnant, but it’s hardly great, as I still end up in a very hunched position, which isn’t great after eating, or if I’m feeling bloated. Riding a bike isn’t much fun if it’s making you feel sick!

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However, it is the seat position I have the greatest trouble with. Even with the seat raised to the point where I can just barely touch the ground with the tip of my toe (about my limit when you have to keep stopping for traffic lights), my knee is still quite bent at the bottom position of the crank. I’ve moved the seat back to it’s furthest position, since I took this photo, but it makes very little difference. From the rust where the paint has rubbed off, I must’ve tried this before, I think I’d had to move it forwards when I had the Bobike Maxi child seat on the back to give a bit more room for my daughter. As you can see, the ATB adapter is still on the bike.

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I’ve never really understood what is meant by bicycle geometry, but reading this post by “Lovely Bicycle” has made it clearer, so I decided to do a comparison of the Valetta and Bloom. They both have 26” wheels so it was a fairly simple job to get them approximately the same scale. The Bloom photo is from the Gazelle website as it’s much easier to see what’s going on without the childseats in the way. Lining them up on the centre point of the front chainring it’s fairly obvious that the seat post on the Bloom is inclined much further back. Although I’ve moved the seat back on the Valetta, I’ve also got my seat moved a similar distance back on my Bloom in relation to the stock photo, so the comparison is pretty valid. The extra couple of inches makes a big difference and I can get my leg much straighter on the Bloom and also set the seat a bit lower to make stopping easier and safer with the kids on.

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Below, you can see the angle of the steering on the Bloom is inclined much further back. This makes it much less twitchy, something which is absolutely essential when you’ve got a wriggling toddler in the front seat!

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Obviously the two bikes are designed for different things, but pedalling on a bike is pretty fundamental to getting the thing to move, so finding a comfortable way to pedal is a fairly important consideration. At least I now have a bike that enables me to do this. Now I just need to find a bike that does this and is aesthetically pleasing too…

I am hatching a plan. More to follow soon (hopefully).

Gazelle Bloom Review

Well I’ve had my bike for well over a year now so I thought it was about time I reviewed it.

As I blogged before here, the main reason for choosing this bike was the fact it was specifically designed to carry two childseats. I’d already tried a trailer and found hitching it on and off a pain as well as how limiting it was to where you can ride with one. Sheffield cycle paths are generally far too narrow for a trailer. A cargo bike would have the same problems and of course it is a very expensive option. Unfortunately, my timing of the purchase wasn’t good, as the pound collapsed against the euro - not the best time to import a bike from Holland! Still even allowing for the poor exchange rate it isn’t bad value for money.

The other option I considered was a Gazelle Impala which can also accommodate two child seats, however having tried one out I discovered my feet won’t reach the floor on the lowest setting (even in heels) so that wasn’t an option. Unusually, for a Dutch bike the Bloom comes in a smaller frame size with 26 inch wheels, instead of 28 inch, which means that it is small enough for someone as tiny as me.

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The Bloom has a number of features not found on an ordinary bike.

Firstly, the handlebars. These are specially designed to wrap around a Bobike Mini childseat  and have padded grips all around for a child to hold onto. In reality though my daughter keeps trying to hold onto  the ends which involves a lot of wrestling her off when you’re riding along! I particularly like the soft grips on the handle bars, which are very comfortable in summer when I don’t need my gloves on.

Then there is the steering lock. In theory this is a great idea you can lock the front handle bars in place to keep the front childseat from swinging around while you load the child into the seat. In reality it’s a bit feeble and doesn’t work very well. It certainly is no match for a toddler tantrum. I also find I sometimes can’t get it off, but this isn’t a problem as you can steer with it on, it just makes for very notchy steering!

There is also a double kickstand a bit like a motorbike one, again this is a bit feeble and I’ve had a lot of trouble with it coming loose. The theory is you can load up two children without having to lean the bike against a wall. This only works if you can find a level surface (almost impossible in Sheffield) so I generally have to work out which way the bike is leaning and stand that side to catch it as it inevitably starts to go as I load on the girls. I’ve also had numerous instances of trying to park up and the bike toppling over because of a gust of wind etc. A bike this big need a much bigger stand!

And finally to size. To accommodate two childseats, and in particular to ensure you can cycle with the front childseat on without banging your knees, the bike is much longer than normal and this does mean it has a large turning circle. Generally this isn’t a major problem, but manoeuvring in tight space is tricky and most of the councils daft cycle junctions (you know the sort, right angled bends, silly chicanes) are pretty much impossible. Bike parking can be a bit tricky especially if the stands aren’t even installed properly as can be seen here.

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The stand is set way too low in the ground and far to close to the wall.

Apart from those niggles I’m pretty happy with the bike. It has all the bits that you would expect from a Dutch bike, mudgards, skirt guard, built in O-lock, fully enclosed chain guard, bell, built-in lights, luggage rack, all weather hub brakes etc. It also has 7 hub gears, which having tested it out thoroughly now I can safely say give just as good a range as the 21 gears on my mountain bike. I’ve done around 1200 miles on it so far so I think that’s a reasonable test. It’s quite a heavy bike, but generally this is pretty irrelevant when you are transporting two kids and luggage. It also is a joy to ride on my own. Then it feels incredibly lightweight and glides along effortlessly on the flat. As for the hills, they are hard work, but then they were hard work on my previous bike too. I think it’s just me. I’m just wondering if I will ever get fit enough to like going uphill?

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And my favourite feature? It has to be the seat! The seat is fantastic - I cannot rave about this enough! It is so comfy and supportive. It is a Gazelle branded Selle Royal gel saddle which is a million times better than the one on my mountain bike also supposedly a woman’s gel saddle by Selle Royal. The Gazelle one though is designed for real women who have wide hips and it makes a huge difference having your pelvis properly supported. It is also set on a suspension seat post which certainly helps with the potholes. What can I say, the bike was worth every penny for the saddle alone!

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Is that an electric bike?

I get a lot of comments about my bike when I’m out an about ranging from (my favourite) “nice panniers” (from a guy I must add), “where on earth did you get a bike with a skirt guard?” and the slightly embarrassing, and what I can only assume is ironic, since it is mainly students who yell this down the street, “coooool - I want one of those!”.

However, the most common question I usually get asked by passers by is:

"Is that an electric bike?"

"No," I respond, "just leg power" as I grin and cycle off…

Clearly, the perception of cycling has got to the point where the general public genuinely believe that you need some kind of superhuman strength to do it and the idea that someone as tiny as me can propel not only herself, but also two children (and a rather large and heavy bike), is clearly preposterous.

I also get a lot of comments from people along the lines of “I don’t know how you do it” and “you’re sooo good, you must be ever so fit” which I have to say is quite laughable. OK, so I’m a lot fitter than I used to be, but me fit? Ha ha! You really have to be kidding! This is the person who was always last to get picked at school sports (even after the fat kids). Have we really become such a nation of lazy couch potatoes that I am now considered beyond what most people can aspire to? God help us!

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As a footnote, I have spotted and electric bike in Sheffield, ridden by a silver haired lady, who I would hazard a guess is in her late 60’s. Certainly beats a mobility scooter…

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