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.
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!
For some reason this side is less worn than the other.
Another casualty of the bike repeatedly falling over, is the front light, which sheared off completely.
However I solved the problem with an IKEA kitchen cupboard bracket!
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.
No complaints about the pedals, which seem very robust (and I have the bruises to prove it)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.