Tag Archives: dutch bicycles

Cycling Symphonies with ‘Koor de Stemming’

8 Aug

In what must have been the sunniest weekend this year, Amsterdam choir ‘Koor de Stemming‘ visited Dublin. To mark the occassion ot their visit, bear bicycles and the Dutch Embassy Dublin organised ‘Cycling Symphonies’ — a hit-and-run a capella concert tour through Dublin; on Dutch bicycles and delivery bicycles.

Here’s the video:


And here’s a look behind the scenes.

Before you watch this, it’s good to know that before the choir started its tour, one of its singers helped inflate the bicycle tyres of some bikes to well beyond the maximum capacity. When you then add in those tyres subsequently got to roast in the sun for several hours (causing them to expand), you’ll see the result is a ‘blowout’ (in Dutch: ‘klapband’).

Our filmmaker Paddy Cahill captured its sound, and the ensuing looks on several soprano faces.

A Classy Commute – Adriaan Waiboer, Curator for the National Gallery Ireland

13 Jul

Adriaan Waiboer, curator for the National Gallery Ireland (© Photographer: Roy Hewson)

Adriaan Waiboer is curator for the National Gallery Ireland. Adriaan holds a  New York University PhD; he has received fellowships to do research at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and at the National Gallery of Art in Washington; and he has won various awards and distinctions for his work. In short: Adriaan knows a thing or two about art.

The fact that he’s Dutch, means he also knows a thing or two about cycling. His knowledge of art and cycling recently landed Adriaan a job in Bear Bicycles’ Cycling Art Jury for a competition to win a Dutch bike.

Win a bike - competition

However, Adriaan’s life abroad has made him lose some Dutch traits. Adriaan does still cycle to work like a Dutchman. However, there is nothing Dutch about his cycling-attire. Adriaan is – in his own words – “a MAMIL; a Middle Aged Man In Lycra”. Where a Dutchman would cycle in his regular clothes, Adriaan wears a shiny spandex suit. In his defence: he does ride a racer, and his commute from Bray to the National Gallery is over 20 km.

Adriaan has also unlearned his Dutch habit of planning months ahead. As a specialist in Dutch Old Masters, Adriaan deals with Dutch colleagues on a regular basis. Only recently did Adriaan discover he does not share his fellow countrymen’s devotion to setting up schedules and spreadsheets, memo’s and meetings. The Dutchman in Adriaan still likes to plan ahead, but his time in Ireland has also shown him how too much planning kills originality. Adriaan’s initial difficulty with Irish inability to plan ahead, has given way to the view that the Irish approach can also produce nimble problem solvers.

Adriaan hasn’t completely lost touch with his Dutch roots, though.

When our talk was over, we informed Adriaan we would be meeting in September (i.e. two months after the interview) to at the Summer Cyclin Celebration party we are organising.

Adriaan said he was happy to attend.

He also pressed us to send on the exact date, because his calendar for September was quickly filling up.

Wooden bicycles by Jan Gunneweg

1 Jul

Jan Gunneweg was 3 years old when he started woodworking. Growing up on a typical Dutch house boat in the north of the Netherlands, Jan joined his father at repairing the boat in the summer. It was his first contact with wood; and it set the course for the rest of his life.

At the age of 10, Jan had built an armada of wooden model boats. Each time Jan finished a new boat, he would hold it up to his mother and say he wanted to go to the Woodwork Academy, to learn how to build a real boats. And indeed, years later, Jan did go to that same academy. But he did not end up building boats; he started building bikes instead.

At the Academy, Jan lost interest in boats. Jan – who had been a semi professional ice skater until an injury forced him to quit – had been gripped by road racing like a boa constrictor grips its victim, and he poured his passion into his profession. For his graduating masterpiece, Jan set out to build a wooden race bike. To demonstrate wood can rival steel and carbon, Jan participated in national races – where he easily kept up with competitors.

His hobby and passion evolved into his business. Jan creates wooden bikes, wooden sunglasses, wooden poker tables. Students work in his workshop, eager to learn from Jan’s mastery of the trade. Jan shows them what to look at: grains in the wood must be straight as an arrow, blurry grains deliver blurry products; cherry wood and walnut are best for stiff, rigid racing bikes; ash is better for flexible road bikes.

Currently, Jan and his team only make bikes to order, and consequently prices start at EUR 6000,–. But they are working on a line of bikes to be produced on a larger scale, and at a lower price. Jan expects those bikes will be a success: the bikes are easy to ship, and easy to assemble – ‘somewhat like IKEA’, says Jan.

Then he smiles, and turns back to his work bench. He brushes away wood shavings, picks up his scraper, and continues smoothing the surface of a cherry wood bike frame.

IKEA is still a long way to go – and we’re glad it is.

The Bicycle Inventor

4 Jun

Bicycle Inventor at Work

Elian Veltman’s inspiration for building bikes came from a car.

While studying car engineering, Elian worked for Donkervoort – a sports car manufacturer in the Netherlands. In Donkervoort’s small, light filled factory in the Dutch polder, Elian noticed how Donkervoort leaves out electronic aids to simplify motoring. No ABS, no ESP, no power steering and no traction control. Instead, Donkervoort focuses on simple and functional elements: an ultra stiff chassis, simple design, low wheel suspension.

bicycle inspiration

Elian was so caught by Donkervoort’s simplicity he decided to abandon his passion for cars for something even simpler: the bike.

Elian left Donkervoort and became a bicycle inventor. Elian had worked in his uncle’s bike repair shop ever since he was a child, and he could build bikes blindfolded. But his lessons at Donkervoort gave him his true epiphany. He set up a small bicycle factory in Culemborg, and filled it with machines he bought off Dutch and Belgian factories that had gone out of business 30 years ago – unable to cope with competition from the Far East. Elian started building bike prototypes devoid of all frills, in a quest to forge a frame as austere as a Calvinistic Protestant church service.

Elian’s first bicycle became a delivery bike, called ’01-cargo’. The delivery bike weighs approximately half of what normal delivery bikes weigh; each unnecessary nut and bolt has been omitted, each excess gram of steel has been shaved off. The 01-cargo’s front load carrier looks like a horizontal hoisting crane, and gives bike an appearance as urban as a derelict Dublin construction site. With his second bicycle, the ’02-commuter’, Elian has built a dressed down version of the traditional diamond shaped bike frame – and in doing so improved the simplicity of a geometrical form that hasn’t changed since Pythagoras.

Elian doesn’t plan to stop at these first two bikes. His girlfriend currently rides an old concorde (a ladies racing bike), and Elian is working hard to get her a new bike – built by him. Soon after that, his 1 year old son will be needing a bike as well.

Asked what he would like to do 20 years from now, Elian says he secretly wants to build a plane.

As if his bikes don’t make you fly already.

Cargo bicycle by Elian Cycles

the 02-commuter

Elian working on the 02-commuter

Bloom in the Park: Irish Crafts and Dutch Bicycles

7 May

a touristy Ireland poster

When we first arrived in Dublin, we used to browse through tourist shops a lot. Learning what the tourism industry sees as the country’s unique selling points, is a good way of getting your bearings in a foreign country.

Being Dutch, we hardly ever bought anything, but we did fall in love with Ireland instantly. Not because of those posters with rolling green hills, that give the impression you can bump into Gandalf the Grey here at any given moment.

Gandalf the Grey

No – we fell in love with Ireland because of the country’s attention to its traditional crafts. Where Dutch tourist shops are stacked with plastic windmills made in China, Irish tourist shops reserve the prime spots for hand knit Aran scarves, woodworked gardening instruments, or relish from Ballymaloe.

As we spent more time in Ireland, we learned the love for traditional crafts isn’t confined to tourist shops either. At the Electric Picnic music festival last year, we were surprised to find woodcutting workshops, embroidery classes and slow food sit-ins – a welcome change to dancing to loud rock music amidst a lager-fuelled crowd of hipsters.

And now, the traditional crafts are coming to Dublin, with ‘Bloom in the Park’; a festival that brings the best of Irish horticulture and food.

This Friday, we were at Bloom in the Park’s opening photo shoot. Ceramist Colm de Rís, garden designer Jane McCorkell, broadcaster Ella McSweeney, and Bord Bia show manager Gary Graham were riding matte green Dutch bicycles, with crates overflowing with food and flowers.

broadcaster Ella McSweeney and elves in the Phoenix Park

Little girls were dancing around them, dressed like elves – their high laughs accompanying the rustle of the leaves in Phoenix Park’s ancient trees. In a blur, the bicycles seemed to transform to horses, and the little girls seemed to float around them, arms waving and wings flapping.

It may have been our imagination, but for a moment, in the background, we thought we saw a tall man with a grey beard and pointed hat standing among the trees – almost as if Gandalf had also turned up for the  photo shoot.

(l-r) Colm de Rís, Ceramicist representing Crafts Council of Ireland clients, Jane McCorkell, 2010 Bloom Garden Design Winner, Ella McSweeney, Broadcaster and MC of the Chef’s Summer Kitchen at Bloom and Gary Graham, Bord Bia Show Manager

Bord Bia’s Bloom which takes place over the June Bank Holiday Weekend for five days from Thursday June 2nd to Monday June 6th

Bikes and Dikes

6 Jan

Daan – my dad – could put a press clippings service out of business.

Ever since we moved from Amsterdam, he has cut-out, stamped, and posted to Dublin any bike article he reads. Recently, my dad’s clipping service ventured into new markets — it now also offers vintage bike books.

Flying back from Amsterdam, I read the vintage book my dad gave me for Christmas: ‘Dikes and Bikes’ – written by Nel Slis and Hugh Jans, published in 1953. It’s a comprehensive foreigner’s guide to the Netherlands.

It describes ‘the Netherlander’ as:

… stiff, but not hostile; reserved, but not unfriendly; serious, but not somber; devout, but not fanatical; uneffusive, but not cold; plodding, but not unimaginative.

It goes on by describing the Netherlands’ main cities, alliterating Amsterdam as follows:

… the steep-staircased, canal-cut capital of the Lowlands, thriving on business, bohemia and ‘broodjes’“. (broodjes = Dutch sandwiches)

Finally, the book describes Dutch bicycle culture (I am copying the enitre artcile below).

Apparently, the five-and-a-half million people using a bike in 1953 were cursed by motorists.

Nowadays, Holland has 18 million bicycles, and 16 million inhabitants.

With that, the cursing also seems to have gotten less.

Dikes and Bikes - Dutch bicycle culture

Dutch bicycle culture - Dikes and Bikes

Bicycles in Japan

2 Dec
Dutch bicycles in front of windmill

Dutch Windmill 'De Lelie'

In the Netherlands, Japanese tourists are warmly welcomed — they are probably our favourite visitors. The thousands of Japanese visiting the Netherlands each year bring in good business and have a flattering appreciation of Dutch culture. Their interest in flowers and windmills has even resulted in a Dutch theme park being built in Japan. Huis ten Bosch (named after the Dutch royal palace in The Hague) lies on Hario Island, and features canals, amusement rides and a park planted in seasonal flowers.

However, Japanese not only take interest in our windmills and flowers. Dutch bicycles are also popular. Cycling through Amsterdam, I often see Japanese tourists taking pictures of typical Amsterdam bicycle rental shops. In the past, such a sight always made me wonder: how long will it take before the Japanese take home this aspect of Dutch Culture, just like they did with Huis ten Bosch?

Bicycles in Japan

Japanese cycling commuters

It turns out I was being ethnocentric. From my recent contacts with Japanese bicycle specialist Shuichi, I learned cycling has been part of Japanese culture all along.

Bicycle and child seat

Mother and Daughter having fun

As in the Netherlands, Japanese cycling culture focuses on functionality. Every day, the Japanese ride their bikes to get to work or to bring kids to school, and they do it their every day clothes. The bicycle is also a part of Japanese family life; special Mama Bicycles, with V shaped steering wheels that fit foldable child seats, are becoming more popular.


Bicycle with child seat

The foldable child seat is placed in the steering wheel

I warmly recommend a visit to Shuichi’s Mama Bicycle blog; it gives a great idea of cycling in Japan. And Shuichi or his daughter (in the picture) are happy to tell you more.

Bicycle seat Japan

Shuichi's daughter; happy to give more information

Hats of Snow

28 Nov
Dutch bike and girl

Dutch bike and girl


A muffled sound of wings,
As from its branch a crow
Shakes down on me
A cloudy spray of snow.

The spider’s web a fishing line;
Floaters of white hang, stable
Waiting for sun to set them free,
Like birds perched on a cable.

Streets with icing sugar,
Bicycles and railings show,
How a city turns pretty,
When it dons a hat of snow.

– PDR –


Snow on spider thread

Snow on spider thread


Dutch bicycle with crate, fallen over

Dutch bicycle with crate, fallen over


Snow hats on fence, Dublin 8

Snow hats on fence, Dublin 8


Bicycle, snow, railing

Bicycle, snow, railing


Georgian doors in the snow

Georgian doors in the snow


Two bicycles, railings, snow

Two bicycles, railings, snow


ding dong bell

ding dong bell with hat of snow


Dutch bicycle

Dutch bicycle, railing, snow


Dutch bicycle Dublin

Dutch bike and girl, Synge Street


Morris in snow

Morris car, snow


black cat, snow

black cat in snow


Dutch bicycle at dolls boutique

Dolls boutique




A muffled sound of wings,

As from its branch a crow
Shakes down on me
A cloudy spray of snow

The spider’s web a fishing line;

Floaters of white hang, stable

Waiting for sun to set them free,

Like birds perched on a cable.

Streets with icing sugar,

Bicycles and railings show,
How a city turns pretty,

When it dons a hat of snow.

A Classy Commute – the Recently Retired Trinity College Biochemist

15 Nov

Mike McKillen’s love for cycling did not start with bicycles; it started with a motorbike.

In his younger years, before he became lecturer in Biochemistry at Trinity, Mike participated in motorbike trial riding. Trials is a sport where riders steer motorbikes through bogs, across streams, over boulders and up rocky hills. It’s not a race, but a game of skill – the goal is to stay on your motorbike and not put your feet down once. It was the thrill of riding his Bultaco 250cc through Wicklow’s countryside, which eventually got Mike cycling.

Mike discovered cycling shows him the world around him. And Mike, who is also a mountaineer and ocean sailor, likes to feel the elements. As a mountaineer, he heads to the Alps every summer, for a 12-day camping trip. Last summer, he camped near Grenoble, at the base of Mont Pelvoux. Each morning, he would get out of his tent to be greeted by a different setting – be it butterflies hovering over rusty-leaved Alpenroses or snow blowing in from the glacier. Mike feels at home in changing weather conditions. And the best place to appreciate the changing Irish weather, he feels, is on his bike. Also, it awakes him almost enough to confront the day ahead.

And so it is with anticipation Mike sets out to Trinity each morning – no matter if his breath clouds accompany him in the crispy cold, or if he can take off his jacket to let his arms be warmed by the sun. Mike starts his journey on Seaview Terrace and then shoots onto Angelsea Road, heading towards the traffic lights at Donnybrook Bridge. If the light is red, Mike watches the river Dodder from that bridge. It’s a spate river; he can tell by the height of the water level whether the Dublin Mountains to the south have been getting rain. Mostly, the grey heron is there as well; standing like a statue, looking for fish, oblivious to traffic above him.

Continuing his journey, Mike passes the American Embassy on Elgin Road. Its modern architecture commands his respect, but also instils a sense of loss for the Georgian house the building replaced. Further on, near the D4 Hotel, Mike waits for another traffic light. On the adjacent triangular traffic island – more a stopover for crossing two streets, really – sits an O’ Brien’s coffee kiosk. The smell of coffee makes Mike eager to press on to his first coffee of the day, awaiting him in Trinity’s canteen.

After crossing the Grand Canal and cycling through Lower Mount Street – a uniform modern streetscape similar to those seen in old socialist cities – Mike arrives at Trinity College. His office is his city centre oasis; where intellectual renewal and challenging students confront him every day.

But first, it’s time for coffee.

<!–[if !mso]> <! st1\:*{behavior:url(#ieooui) } –> And so it is with anticipation Mike sets out to Trinity each morning – no matter if his breath clouds accompany him in the crispy cold, or if he can take off his jacket to let his arms be warmed by the sun. Mike starts his journey on Seaview Terrace and then onto Angelsea Road, heading towards the traffic lights at Donnybrook Bridge. If the light is red, Mike watches the river Dodder from that bridge. It’s a spate river; he can tell by the height of the water level whether the Dublin Mountains to the south have been getting rain. Mostly, the grey heron is there as well; standing like a statue while looking for fish, oblivious to the traffic above him.