18 November 2014

The biking gentleman

According to the famous proverb one should do as the Romans when in Rome. This is something I usually like to follow, and at the moment I'm spending a few months in the Netherlands and I've decided to do as the Dutch.
I don't think there's a country in the world with more bikes per capita than the Netherlands and I have gone and bought myself one as well. Buying a bike is something I've been thinking about doing for years but there's always one thing that has stopped me and that is space. Being a city dweller, I don't have too much excess room for storing a bike. Leaving it outside is of course an option, but not necessarily a good one; if the weather doesn't ruin it after a couple of years, someone will probably have stolen it. So, why did I buy one now? Because I found the perfect solution for this problem, a foldable bike. When it's folded together, it is not much bigger than it's 24" wheels and that is much easier to handle for  a flat in the city.
The bike I bought was the Dahon Briza D3 which is a 24" bike with 3 gears (bought from the excellent people at The Cool Biking Company in Amsterdam). For a foldable bike, the Briza is quite large, though much smaller than a normal bike. The reason I bought the Briza was that, although I wanted a foldable bike, I also wanted a bike that would ride like a normal bike and I also wanted the option of mounting a child seat on it. The Briza fulfills all these criteria and I am indeed very pleased with having bought this bike. In addition to the three gears configuration I opted for, the Briza is also available with 7 or 8 gears. Except from the number of gears, the main difference between the Briza with three gears and the others is the presence of a chain guard. For me, it was of major importance to have a chain guard as I will mostly be riding this bike wearing a suit. I would hate my trousers to get dirty from touching the bike chain or even worse, get stuck in the chain. The chain guard provides this protection and I'm more than happy to drop a few gears for that.  
Having got the bike, I would, or course, also need a helmet. A lot of people seem reluctant to wear a helmet, but I definitely think it's a good insurance to have. Helmets haven't always been particularly stylish and most helmets aren't these days either, but some very interesting developments have come on to the market in recent years. Now you can get helmets looking like all kinds of different hats, from broad brimmed summer hats, to caps, to winter hats with cosy flaps to keep your ears warm. In fact, you can get all of the above with only one helmet. With changeable helmet covers, you can make your helmet look the way you want, depending on the season or your mood. There are several companies making such helmets but the one I decided to get was a Casqu’en ville helmet bought from Beg Bicycles. The helmet is actually quite comfortable to wear and when it's disguised as a tweed flat cap, it really doesn't look too bad either.
This bike is, by no means, a sports bike and that is probably what I like the most about it. This bike is about getting from one point to the other in comfort. I find it remarkably satisfying riding the bike wearing a suit and tie, and an overcoat if required. It is liberating to enjoy the gentle exercise without the need for sportswear. I don't feel particularly comfortable in a track suit, and I struggle to imagine a situation where I would find it appropriate to put on a pair of bicycle shorts. The coat tails flapping in the wind while paddling along in third is much more to my liking.
There's something satisfying about riding a bike wearing a suit and tie. So much
more comfortable than any sportswear.
Photo: AGL  
Wearing an overcoat is no problem when riding this bike, and the flat cap
helmet is rather stylish, I think.
Photo: AGL
The Briza when folded up.
Photo: AGL