I remember the first time I saw a couple in Amsterdam sharing a bicycle. She was perched sidesaddle on the luggage rack above the rear wheel, one hand around her date's waist, the other holding an umbrella to deflect the Dutch drizzle. He was whispering to her over his shoulder, the light breeze fluttering his hair. Perhaps the pot I'd smoked earlier that day was gauzing my brain and turning me soft, but right there and then I fell deeply in love with classic Dutch bicycles.
That said, the same attributes that limit the Batavus also make it an utter joy. The heft creates inertia, smoothing out the ride. The elongated wheelbase handles potholes and curbs with ease. The forward placement of the pedals allows a more natural body position when you're riding at a casual pace. Put it all together, and you get the Rolls-Royce of bikes. You just won't find a more luxurious cycling experience. To ride this bike on flat ground is to hear a voice in your head let out a "Wheeeeeee!" that is without end.
Slate's D.C. office is full of commuting cyclists, so I lent the Batavus out to a few of them and asked their impressions. They all acknowledged the bike's evident craftsmanship and the lushness of its ride. But there seemed to be a philosophical stumbling block that prevented them from fully enjoying their time with it.
It turns out my colleagues view urban cycling as a Darwinian contest, in which the cyclist who weaves most daringly between the delivery trucks is the glorious victor. Thus they chafe at the configuration of the Batavus, which does not encourage or enable aggressive pedaling. I, on the other hand, like to pretend I'm a European—rolling around the city at dawdling speed, occasionally dinging the bell to alert inattentive pedestrians to my presence. If you're like me, you'll adore the Batavus. If you approach cycling as a vicious blood sport, you likely won't.
Do any forum members own a Dutch bike? Tell us about it. :)