A lot of things are bigger and better in America, but in my opinion bicycles are not among them. We’ve been looking around to buy a new bike, since we didn’t bring our old ones when we moved here from the Netherlands, but unfortunately bikes here are nothing like the sturdy and useful bikes that millions of Europeans use daily to shop and go to work. No wonder everyone drives a car around here!
First of all, it seems that 99% of bikes being used and new ones sold in stores are too small for adults. Only a small amount of the more expensive bikes have larger frames that seem the right size for adults, but most of the mountain, hybrid, urban and cruisers have quite low seats compared to the average European bike. Also, the steering wheel is often at the same level as the seat, causing you to be hunched forward all the time, and you can often move the steering wheel up only a tiny bit. I find it very uncomfortable to be on a small bike and leaning forward for a long time.
Sure, people here don’t use their bike for shopping and going to work. Most use their bike for exercise, so I understand that many people prefer a sportier and lighter bike. But what I don’t understand is why the bikes lack so many basic features. Here’s a typical bike you’ll find at a bike store:
As you can see, it is stripped down: there is are no lights, fenders, chain cover, lock or racks. These are accessories you can purchase, but most people don’t and leave the store with a bike that looks just like this. Why? Do people enjoy getting mud on their butt when they go through a puddle? Is it fun to get grease all over your pants from the exposed chain? I don’t get it.
Stores do have fenders, covers and racks for sale, but they seem very light and simple compared to the accessories that come standard with European bikes. And not all models can have these accessories installed. The chain covers that are sold separately are always just a simple piece of metal that doesn’t cover the entire chain, leaving the rest exposed to the elements. And most racks are tiny and can’t handle much weight.
Compare above American bike with a typical Dutch bike:
On this bike, which is sold like this, the chain is completely covered, there’s a sturdy back rack that can hold a lot of weight, the tires are covered with fenders, there are lights on both sides, reflectors on the wheels and tires and a permanent lock under the seat. The steering wheel is also generally higher, making it more comfortable.
Why are there no bikes like this sold here? It seems to me that many more Americans may take their bike instead of car if bikes were more functional and more comfortable. Sigh … I wish we had imported our old bikes when we moved here.