Cycling Like a Nederlander in Sydney

I was planning to test ride the Batavus Staccato on Monday after picking it up on Friday.  I had to wait because I was home with two sick kids. I had agreed to look after them while my husband Justin was cycling one-hundred and forty kilometres to our weekender in the Hunter Valley.  If the kids were to improve, I had a trip to IKEA planned for Mothers Day on Sunday. In my mind’s eye, I saw myself escaping from dropping off the kids on Monday and cycling elegantly into the city. 

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I’m sweating under this dress!

When Monday came, I had a shock. I was on Pitt Street near the corner of Goulburn Street and heading in to the city.  I pushed down on the pedal and the bicycle did not move. I was on an incline and clad in high-heeled tall boots. I pushed down on the pedal. Still not moving. There was an unusually patient taxi driver behind me who didn’t sound his horn. He waited.  After standing up and a couple of revolutions of the pedals, I gained momentum and started moving at a snail’s pace. I needed to push hard to ascend the gentle incline of Pitt Street. And then the rattling started. It sounded like a gentle purring of a cat behind me. Changing gears didn’t make the sound go away.  I would find out later that the skirt guard was rubbing against the spokes. Easy to fix!

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Getting used to a new bicycle includes positioning it well to lock up.

The downhill from my home had been beautiful given the weight and stability of the Batavus. On a flat, I could have gone forever! But I hadn’t anticipated how much effort I would have to expend to ascend a gentle incline on one of the major city streets of Sydney. After lunch, I decided to return the Batavus to Omafiets and try a different bicycle.  The mysterious mechanical purr and the weight of the bicycle was disheartening. The return to Omafiets in Redfern was very strenuous. I thought,  “Surely, I haven’t lost so much fitness because of riding the e-bike all spring and summer?”

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Where is the sweet spot for the u-lock?

When I spoke with Chris at Omafiets about my experience, he mentioned that the Batavus is suited to a different style of cycling.  And that’s when it hit me. This bicycle was representative of a country that has a mature cycling infrastructure to support it.  From what I have seen in the Netherlands via YouTube and photos, the cycle paths are well connected and the land is flat. There is no mandatory helmet law. People learning to drive are taught to open the car door with the arm that is farthest away from the door. That and a few other factors makes “dooring” a cyclist nearly impossible. Chris explained further that this bicycle is meant to be extremely low maintenance and as a result the components are sturdy, replaceable and heavy.

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Definitely warm from the push up Pitt Street.

My mind was blown. I was having an “Aha!” moment.  No wonder I was struggling. My ancient Giant Elwood, while inexpensive, is extremely responsive because of it’s lighter weight. I can accelerate quickly and ascend hills without too much trouble.  The topography is varied in our city as we are near the coast. Because the Cycleways do not yet connect, riding in traffic is often necessary to get to one’s destination.  Of course, it’s always possible to choose one’s path and avoid Parramatta Road or King Street in Newtown. But sometimes the most direct route is via Oxford Street or Macquarie Street. I realised that my “aggressive” riding style and the Batavus were not compatible.

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Look! A car.

However, it is extremely stable and rolls beautifully. I imagined “pre-kids,” an easy amble on the weekend with a full picnic basket, wine and my beloved. A blanket and requisite nap scheduled for after lunch.  Maybe a surreptitious snuggle or more on or under the picnic blanket? And then a slow and smooth roll home.

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I love the sky blue colour of this dress and the button details on the cuffs and shoulders. Boots = Winter!

Me? I need something more nimble and responsive to get me to the office and home in time to meet the nanny.  What would be the answer? Chris pointed me towards the Gazelle. I took it home with me that afternoon. And its namesake was certainly appropriate!

The following are details of the Batavus Staccato:

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Batavus Staccato $750 at Omafiets, Redfern. Includes: Rear rack, fenders, mudguard, chainguard.

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Components include: Schwalbe Marathon puncture-resistant tyres, skirt guard (now fixed!), AXA SL7 lock for the back wheel.

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Low maintenance front and back roller brakes set in the hubs. These need little adjustment or replacement and are very sturdy. Front and back lights

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Adjustable and comfortable seat, step through frame, gorgeous wine colour!

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Shimano Nexus 7 internal gear hub, bell, adjustable handlebars.

Pros: Extremely smooth ride, low maintenance with puncture-resistant tyres, very sturdy, lovely practical design, improve your fitness!

Cons: Very heavy, slow response, not a match for my style of bicycling.

Today’s ensemble: Zara dress, fake fur scarf, Cartier Santos, Witchery sunglasses, J.Crew earrings, Lovisa ring, Yakkay helmet, Geox boots, Linus Eleanor Bag, Batavus Staccato, Kryptonite lock.

Happy Cycling!

x Sarah

5 Comments

  1. You wear the most amazing outfits!!! I’ve been fortunate enough to catch a glimpse of you riding through Sydney CBD several months ago. Love those stockings/thigh-highs in these pictures – your husband is a lucky man. Oh and you have a beautiful family!

    Like

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