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Cycling in the Netherlands is, quite simply, part of the culture. But it hasn’t always been so. There was a time when cars dominated Dutch streets, and by the early 1970s there were thousands of deaths each year from traffic accidents.
But the Dutch fought for change, and they won. For decades now, the Netherlands has been a forerunner in the cycling revolution. Amsterdam has long been known around the world as the “Cycling Capital”.
This shows in the statistics. Although Copenhagen is the city with the most actual cyclists (closely followed by Amsterdam), the Netherlands as a whole still has the highest numbers of cyclists per capita in the world.
What Bikes Do Dutch People Use?
The distinctive bikes that Dutch people use have an upright design with high handlebars, a wide saddle and a step-through frame. Known as Omafiets, these bikes dominate the roads in the Netherlands, being the preferred choice for everyday transportation.
There are, of course, other bikes in the Netherlands too. But the Omafiets (which literally translates as “grandma bike”) is by far the most common. And there’s a good reason for this.
Dutch-Style bikes, or Omafiets, are popular because they are built for regular, comfortable use. With close to 40% of Dutch people stating cycling as their preferred mode of transport, and a quarter cycling every day, comfort is the key priority.
The step-through frame enables easy mounting and dismounting, and the high handlebars and upright position result in a super-comfortable and visible riding style. They generally don’t have a huge range of gears, but this compliments a country with few hills, and also means there’s less to go wrong.
I visited Amsterdam a few years ago, borrowed a friend’s bike and was astonished at how comfortable it was. So much so that it made it slightly difficult to return to my trusted (but far less comfortable) hybrid.
If you do ever find yourself in Amsterdam (and trust me, it is well worth a visit), you will see thousands of these bicycles. You will marvel at an infrastructure that doesn’t just support cyclists but actually prioritises them, teeming with separate cycle lanes, traffic lights, bridges and tunnels.
Best Dutch Bike Brands [Top 7]
- Gazelle Bikes [REVIEW]
- Pashley [REVIEW]
- Veloretti [REVIEW]
- Azor [REVIEW]
- Cortina Bikes [REVIEW]
- FabricBike [REVIEW]
- Elops [REVIEW]
1. Gazelle Bikes
For over 125 years. Gazelle has produced high quality and comfortable lightweight bikes. With an impressive number of awards under their belt, including a “Royal” title (awarded by Princess Margaret in 1992), Gazelle manufactures around 300,000 bikes a year.
Gazelle is the leading player in the evolution of the Dutch bike. With an upright design, their bikes are designed for a truly comfortable ride. But this also, as Gazelle feels, “represents an open attitude towards the world around you and the people in it”. The culture of cycling plays a key role in their ethos.
They offer a range of different bikes (from £629 to £1,499) with lightweight aluminium frames and a choice between a low-step or a high-step. Depending on the model, the gears and braking systems vary. There’s certainly no shortage of bikes to choose from.
A growing number of people nowadays want bikes with electric assistance. Gazelle has an impressive range of e-bikes, with a whopping fifteen different models. Most have the signature upright riding position, with the motors built into the frame at the bottom bracket.
The battery range, depending on the model and the mode (from eco to turbo), is approximately between 45 and 155 km.
With all the models available, Gazelle offers something for everyone. But one thing all the bikes undeniably have in common, is that they are very beautiful.
Are Gazelle Bikes Made in Holland?
Gazelle bikes are made in Dieren, a town in the eastern Netherlands, located in the province of Gelderland. Gelderland is not part of Holland (which is formed of two separate provinces).
Pashley Cycles, based in Stratford-upon-Avon, is England’s longest established bicycle manufacturer. Their range reflects traditional English design, and all of the bikes are hand-built by a small team of talented and experienced craftsmen.
Founded in 1926, Pashley offers a variety of classic cycles, commercial cycles and tricycles. In recent years, they have also created products for city and urban bike hire schemes, including those in London and Edinburgh.
The Classic bikes, most with a step-through frame and accompanying wicker basket, are the epitome of elegant, timeless design for relaxed and very comfortable riding. Whether you’re meandering through the park or on your way to work, you’ll get there in style.
As well as being beautiful to look at, Pashley Cycles are incredibly durable. They’re made with sustainable steel – in keeping with the company’s ethos of sustainability. Pashley sources their parts locally where possible, and elsewhere in the UK, to keep their carbon footprint to a minimum.
And back to the aesthetics, these bikes really are stunning, with a range of appealing colours along with classic cream tyres on some of the models. They are also built for low maintenance with plenty of protection from grime. After all, on bikes as comfortable and stylish as these, you really want to be able to wear clothes to match.
Designed in Amsterdam and hand-made in European factories, Veloretti bikes have a clean, chic and timeless design, and are crafted for quality and performance.
Combining simple aesthetics with efficiency, these distinctive and affordable bikes have a huge following. Veloretti aims to make your commute the “best part of your day”. And those who use them might say they succeed in this.
Their City bike range consists of women and men’s versions. Some have step-through frames and they all have swept back handlebars for comfortable upright riding, with single or 3-speed options available.
The frames are made from high quality lightweight aluminium, making them swift, agile and easy to handle.
Making ‘bicycle’ waves now are the Veloretti e-bikes that were launched in 2021. They are cutting edge, and gorgeous too. The minimalist design, with a removable battery hidden in the down tube, results in a sleek and retro look.
The two e-bikes available are fitted with a no-maintenance carbon belt drive, automatic shifter and 250W motor that is virtually silent. They are perfect for stylish, fuss-free city commuting. And with a range of 60 to 120 km on a single charge, longer distances are no problem.
Azor is an Amsterdam bicycle company with a mission to produce bikes that will take you anywhere you want to go in a comfortable, healthy and elegant way…without having to change clothes.
Built for style and practicality, Azor bikes have the traditionally-Dutch comfortable upright riding position. To keep your clothes clean (as promised), they have mudguards and chain guards. Needing little maintenance, these bikes are made with high quality materials and are designed to last for decades.
There are various models available. Each one comes in different colours and sizes and can be fitted with different gears and brakes depending on your preference.
One of the top choices in the Netherlands, Azor bikes are not only reliable and strong, but lovely to look at. The bicycle range has step-through or step-over options, all with the trademark Dutch swept back handlebars for comfort.
Azor also produces Cargo bikes, with stable and robust cargo carriers that are roomy enough for plenty of shopping, luggage…or kids. Perfect for families or businesses.
There are e-bikes available too, with pedal-assist of up to 20 mph. Featuring wide, shock-absorbing tyres, Brooks leather saddles and high quality components, they are built, as all Azor bikes are, with comfort as a priority.
5. Cortina Bikes
Cortina is a Dutch bike brand hailed as representing the “Dutch fashion bike”, with a popularity throughout Europe that gives other leading brands a run for their money. There are numerous models available, all with innovative designs – from classic, modern and retro.
Cortina was set up in the 1970s with a mission to produce reliable, quality bikes. The bikes are for city leisure riding or commuting, and though they are all unique, most have in common the swept back, high handlebars and upright riding position that is so distinctive (and comfortable) in Dutch cycles.
Cortina believes that a bike is an extension of who you are, and this is evident in the care that has gone into each individual design. Some are just beautiful, some quirky, and all are built for practicality too. They even have a double kickstand, so there’s no risk of them falling over.
Take the Cortina Common, for example. In spite of the name, these are anything but ‘standard’ bikes. Available in seven colours, the ladies version has front and back carriers, hub dynamo lights, chain and mudguards. It’s a super practical bike that doesn’t compromise on style.
And there is a ‘luxury’ version too, with a Gates belt drive for low-maintenance along with an adjustable USB stem with a USB port and powerbank. You can even power your phone as you ride.
With so many models on offer and assured quality, Cortina Bikes are certainly deserving of their popularity, which doesn’t look like it will be waning anytime soon.
Where to Find a Cheap Dutch Bike
Budget will naturally determine the type of bike you have. We may not all be able to own our “dream” bike, but nowadays there are many affordable options. You can buy a decent quality bike without spending a fortune.
Best Budget Dutch Bike Brands
The FabricBike Step-City bicycle is a stylish bike, available in a range of colours, with a ladies design. But that’s not to say it can’t be ridden by men – of course it can. In the Netherlands, the classic Dutch step-through frame bikes are ridden by men and women alike, and are regarded as unisex.
The Step-City has 7 speeds and a sturdy steel frame and fork. Weighing 14 kg, it’s not the lightest bike out there but nor is it (even close to) the heaviest. It’s a durable, affordable city bike with a rear rack for adding a basket or child seat.
The upright, Dutch-style geometry of the bike makes it very comfortable to ride, and the lowered down tube means getting on and off is a cinch. The reason this upright style is favoured in the Netherlands is that it’s incredibly practical and safe. You’re visible, and you have good visibility.
But practicality doesn’t mean compromising on looks. There’s a retro, vintage feel to this Dutch-style bike that is very appealing. It’s elegant, fast and comfortable – ideal for urban commuting. And at £281, the price is very appealing too.
7. Elops (by Decathlon)
At £299.99, the City Bike Elops 520 is an attractive bike with an attractive price tag.
Available in three colours, faded denim, navy blue and green, this city bike has a cool, somewhat retro style. It also has a pannier rack, basket and dynamo lights, to make your urban cycling experience even easier.
Decathlon is well known for affordable, quality bikes and the Elops 520 is no exception. Taking inspiration from the Dutch Omafiets – the step-through frame, high handlebars and wide, padded saddle (with a lockable seat clamp) offers bundles of comfort on your ride.
The steel frame and fork of the 520 helps to absorb vibrations from the road, along with the balloon-type tyres. With a 6-speed gear system, it’s perfectly suitable for varying city terrain. It’s equipped with front and rear calliper V-brakes and it also has a reinforced stand to keep the bike stable when parked.
There are some nice safety features too, such as the self-centering spring between the fork and the frame that helps to stabilise the bike with a loaded front rack or basket.
For a budget option, there’s a lot to like here. This is a sturdy, lovely-looking bike that won’t break the bank.
Dutch Bicycle FAQ:
What is the Most Popular Bike in the Netherlands?
The most popular (and most famous) style of bike in the Netherlands is the Omafiets. Royal Dutch Gazelle is the largest brand and leads the market, producing over 300,000 bikes a year.
What Bikes Are Popular in Amsterdam?
Omafiets are popular in Amsterdam and can be seen everywhere in the city. VanMoof bikes are also popular, with their minimalist design and fantastic electric options. The Swapfiets bike subscription service, with 3 bikes to choose from and distinctive blue front wheel, is also a huge success.