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Posts from May 2012

Introducing Wilhelmina

Today I got my new bike.  I am in love.

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A week ago Friday, I rode all the bikes on my shortlist and this Royal Gazelle Toer Populair gave me that "you are the bike for me" vibe that I needed to make my decision.

Funny thing is, I saw this bike at Curbside Cycle in early March and was told it was too big for me.  It's a 57cm frame which is for riders over 170cm or just over 5'7" and I'm only 168.5cm--5'6".

So I waited for them to get in the smaller bike and when I rode it, it felt too short.  I rode it again on another visit, and it still felt like my butt was hanging off the back of the seat.

Last week, after riding two Velorbis models (which still kept that bike in contention--but the price really is prohibitive) and a Pashley Princess which was very nice, I asked if I could ride the 57cm Toer 7 speed to see if the gearing worked for me.  I still felt like 3 speeds weren't enough; mostly because the steps in between the gears are so big.  I also live at the top of a pretty big hill and would like a few of the lower gears to help that climb.

I rode the bright white version of the bike (which seemed like riding a tube of toothpaste colour wise) and the bike started quietly begging me to take it home. 

The bike was a bit tall; I can just reach the ground with my tiptoe with the seat all the way down, but the top tube length was just right.

Ally, the very nice salesperson talked me through the pros and cons of a larger frame.  She made some adjustments, let me ride the smaller Gazelle for comparison and then literally, sent me out in traffic (on a Friday afternoon of a holiday weekend no less) to really get a feel for the bike. 

I didn't mention it had a coaster brake.  Suddenly I wanted that too.  I like how you can use it to moderate your speed with your feet instead of your hands and how the bike stops more gradually instead of abrubtly.  I also liked how the front handbrake was on the right side leaving my left hand for signalling.  The whole experience was fantastic.

But, this bike is a limited edition replica of a 1968 model (though this classic Omafiet is pretty much the same frame they made in 1892) and only comes in Premium White (I have this thing about white vehicles) or what's called Rembrandt White, which is more of a hard to describe creamy green colour.  I wasn't sold on those options.

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So I asked about ordering the black 8 speed that doesn't come with coaster brakes, went home empty handed needing to wait on whether a black bike was available.  I thought about the bike all weekend and into the next week.

Thursday I finally managed to get out at lunch and back to Curbside.  I rode the Rembrandt White bike.  Two hipsters commented on it's fine looks while I was rode--I don't really care what hipsters think--I found the whole interchange funny since I'm well, not very hip!  I noticed how the Brooks seat added a nice vintage touch to the overall design.  It was pretty.

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I still loved the ride and really don't mind the colour.  It's subtle but very different.  I probably won't ever see another one like it.  I bought it.

Today I brought her home.  There are beautiful, apparently handpainted, red stripes and accents on the fenders (this spot makes me thing someone really did paint these stripes--they are just a little too human looking),

Around the lugged connectors,

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And on the chain guard (though these look like a machine did the work). Finally a fully enclosed chain guard.  No more dirty pant cuff!

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This bike is beautiful, smooth and a pleasure to ride.  All I need now are some panniers.  I think something red would be lovely.  I've always been partial to these Basil ones.

Emma has already adopted Claudia and I think they'll have a lovely time together.  I will likely ride her again sometimes too, but I can already feel the difference of this bike.  The bumps are less bumpy, the gears are silent and nothing rattles. 

So why is she Wilhelmina? 

I wanted a Dutch name so did some searching and discovered that Wilhelmina is a Dutch royal name which I think suits a big regal bike like this one. 

And I've always remembered this Sesame Street bit for W-W-W-Willamena so I couldn't resist.


W-W-W-Wonderful Wilhelmina!

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So many lovely bicycles

I'm sure many of you remember Claudia, my lovely Electra Townie Bicycle.

Small claudia
I still love her very much, but I also want a new bike.  I have become a true bike commuter and use my bike for some daily errands and general getting about town and because of that I want a bike that *does* a bit more than Claudia and really *is* more.

Like many things in life, you get what you pay for, and a seven speed Townie is relatively inexpensive in the grand scheme of bikes.  After 5 years the quality issues are starting to show.  I've had to replace the back wheel (not the tire, the actual wheel after the bearings failed), the bottom bracket is going--the bearings are starting to grind, I've had to replace all the cables, the back fender is bent (thanks Mr Don't Look When I Turn Right) and it has always rattled and well it's feeling like a bike of "all style and no substance".  

I promised myself that if I rode all winter (when the conditions weren't dangerous) I could start looking for my next bike.  Luckily for me, this winter was one of the dryest and warmest on record and I rode all winter.  I should also add that I'm not someone who "gears up" to ride her bike.  I want to ride in my street clothes.  Here's a winter shot of me in my regular coat.  The only add-on was leggings over my skirt tights because of the temperature.

Also, Emma needs a bike for occasional use and Claudia would be perfect for her.

In March I started the hunt.  Fuelled with excellent reviews and tips from several great bike bloggers like Lovely Bicycle! and Let's Go Ride a Bike, I started to see what bikes I could find in Toronto that had the following criteria:

  1. Full chain guard (I have ruined too many pairs of pants)
  2. Skirt guard (to keep some of the mud off me)
  3. Integrated lighting system 
  4. Internal hub gears (less maintenance)
  5. Internal hub or disc brakes which are better for stopping in wet and snowy conditions
  6. Solid, heavy frame
  7. A proper, solid Vee kickstand (I'm left handed and am always on the wrong side of my bike to operate a regular stand).
  8. Solid rear rack 
  9. Eye-catching.  If you don't love your bike it won't get ridden.

While there were a few bikes I wanted to try that I can't get in Toronto (mainly Batavus and Workcycles) I have test-ridden a number of fantastic bikes.  Here are the current contenders in no particular order.

Royal Gazelle: I thought at the outset that I wanted a traditional Dutch bike and I've ridden a few different Gazelle models yet can't quite fall in love.  I started out trying a 57cm sized frame 7speed because that was all that I could find and it was just that much too big for me.  

The 28" tires make these bikes go fast and they don't want to stop once they get rolling.  The handlebars take some getting used to and they handle very differently than any other bike I've ridden.  It was a smooth easy ride (even though my toes couldn't quite touch the ground).

I also rode a basic 3 speed 51cm size (I'm 5'6" and this is the right frame for me) and while I feel like it's enough bike for me, I'm also considering the long term (Gazelles and all the bikes I'm showing here are meant to be 30 year investments) and might want something with 5 or more gears.  

tour basic

I'm also not super crazy about the coaster brake on the Basic, but know I could get used to it (some people prefer them).  If I did get this bike I would swap the seat for a Brooks saddle.  Since is the least expensive bike in my possible list, that's not a big deal.  Then there's the issue of colour.  The basic black is always nice, but this Tardis-shade of blue is awfully pretty

This 8 speed Toer Populair, is really the one I love.  Those little extras like the Brooks saddle and the mudflap give it the edge on style.  The only thing this model doesn't have is the nifty traditional dutch kickstand, but I could easily add a vee shaped one (I think!).  I would have to order this one, but the frames are all the same, it's just whether I want the extra gears and the extra cost.


Velorbis: This is the most stylish of the bikes I've tried.  The Dannebrog just knocks me out and is definitely in the running.  A Danish company, Velorbis bikes are built in Germany and this one has 5 speeds, leather grips, a leather mudflap, that striking red colour, it *kills* me with pretty.

It's also the most expensive of the lot (I wouldn't buy the optional basket as I'm more of a pannier girl).  I notice on the Velorbis site that this bike now comes with a 7speed Shimano grip shifter--I prefer that to the Sturmey Archer flip shifter (I'm not sure what the technical term is) which might seal the deal.  It's a quick and nimble ride and has everything I want.

Pashley: This is the bike I'm still waiting to try.  It's elegant looking and someone on my commute rides one--i just purrs down the street.  

It's a 5 speed which is probably the right number of gears for me, but also somewhat smaller in stature than the Velorbis and Gazelle so I'm not sure if it's what I want.  The thing is I can't say yes to one of the others until I try this bike out. I'm just waiting for them to arrive at the shop.

I rode a Bobbin Firefly that Curbside Cycle has configured to be almost identical to a Pashley (the one below doesn't have the Brooks seat or lighting system that was on the one I tried).  

Bobbin - Monsieur

It was okay and the price is near the low end for these sorts of bikes at $999 but it didn't speak to me the way I was hoping it would.  

I find that many women's loop frame bikes feel too short between the handlebars and the seat--I find myself riding with my butt half off the seat regardless of what size frame I'm riding (even some that are too big for me). The Bobbin was definitely like that.  If you're more petite, a Bobbin bike might be for you--the Birdie comes in some sweet colours.

So, what will it be?  I keep hoping one of these bikes will choose me but I think with all choices, there isn't a perfect one.  The other hard part is not being able to ride them all in one go (the Velorbis is at Cycle Couture and the rest at Curbside) and the waiting for the Pashley.  I hope to make the purchase soon and I'll let you know how it goes.