Spandex-free cycling commute sells in Vancouver, importer finds Cyclists can wear suits and skirts on Dutch-style bikes If you like the idea of cycling to work but are loath to join Vancouver's growing army of two-wheeled, pedestrian-dispersing, 24-speed seawall warriors, there is an alternative.
"And there's no spandex," noted Rob MacDonald, co-owner of a company that's bringing the European way of urban cycling to North America. "We have fashion police out there and we'll find you." MacDonald and business partner Jane Cox own Jorg & Olif ( www.jorgandolif.com ), a Vancouver-based e-commerce company that imports Dutch city bicycles known for comfort, style and convenience.
So far they've sold about 1,000 bikes across North America--300 in Vancouver--but there's not a current storefront in Vancouver and they must be ordered online. The company, which recently closed its local warehouse, is now negotiating a store presence with a Vancouver bike store, where customers can test-ride and buy the bikes.
"The biggest challenge is introducing a new concept to the marketplace," said MacDonald, 36, of Jorg & Olif, his first business venture. "The idea of a bicycle just for the city is relatively new in North America, where [bikes] are mainly for recreation or sport. It's been an interesting learning curve for us to communicate that. And the supply chain has always been a challenge. It's more complicated than we ever imagined."
With just one, three or eight speeds, MacDonald's bikes--made in Holland and Belgium--are not road rockets. But they weren't designed to be. Unlike most traditional North American bikes, they have an enclosed chain and gear mechanism to prevent clothing from catching in the works. That allows people to wear work clothes, including suits or skirts, while cycling to the office. Instead of leaning over the bike, riders sit upright on a comfortable leather seat with swept-back handlebars. For protection from the elements, the bikes have no-slip, rubber-block pedals, an all-season saddle with springs, a skirt/coat guard and mudflaps. ( Read more.)
Interesting article from Vancouver, about the growing appeal of classic Dutch bicycles. In the Netherlands, bicycles are an accepted and integral part of the transportation system, meaning bikes are designed to be practical and durable, just like the famous Flying Pigeons of China, the Atlas Roadsters of India, or the ubiquitous " mami charis" of Japan.
With the growing interest in bicycle commuting in the U.S., is the American bicycle market ready for a heavy, slow, urban bike (complete with kickstands )? There are many differences between the Netherlands and the U.S. (what an understatement): cultural, social, historical. A major difference is simply community design: Dutch cities tend to be compact and dense, with narrow streets and slow average traffic speed; while most American cities are spread out, low-density, with wider streets and faster traffic.
A few American bicycle companies, notably Breezer Bikes, have attempted to emulate European bike design while offering enough performance technology to deal with street conditions in the U.S. For some fortunate bike commuters with short trips, a Dutch bike might great. What do you think? Can you see yourself making your commute on a 40-pound bicycle?