A Roetz omafiets

For a while now, we’ve been looking for a bike for my other half. She hasn’t owned one since she was a child, but she’s started enjoying cycling again when we’ve been on holiday. We’ve hired bikes in the Netherlands, where she’s been able to ride without any difficulty at all, despite being off a bike for decades, and we’ve also hired them in Bath, where we’ve made use of the Two Tunnels path to get out into the countryside in traffic-free conditions.

She wanted something that was quite small and easy to manage, but also something that was obviously practical. A good number of modern Dutch bikes didn’t really fit with her – they looked clunky and heavy. She liked the look of old-fashioned bicycles, with more slender steel tubing. Peering at bikes as we walked around Dutch cities, we did spot some candidates – in particular, this bike we saw on the Oudegracht in Utrecht.

Screen Shot 2016-02-18 at 19.05.43It was just right. Cute-looking, old-fashioned, small and nimble (and – to my eyes – practical!)

We spotted another one of these bikes in Gouda, and a bit of investigation revealed that they are Roetz bikes. It turns out that the reason these bikes look old-fashioned, despite being new, is because they are old. They are recycled bikes. The frames are second-hand, and have been restored, and fitted with new components. It’s a really nice idea – giving an old or discarded bike a new life.

So once we got back to the UK we set about ordering one of these omafiets! You can choose your frame colour, and what kinds of components you want. We opted for a basic black, and chose the ‘geared’ option (as opposed to a single speed, coaster brake version, which she didn’t feel she would be comfortable using, and is probably legally suspect in the UK), along with a practical rear rack.

It was quite a wait for it to arrive from the Netherlands, but it was well worth it, because it’s a really beautiful bike.

Screen Shot 2016-02-18 at 19.16.43It looks, well, like an old bike, partly because it is (the frame being recycled), but also because the modern components are in keeping with it.

The hubs, gearing and brakes are all Sturmey Archer, and feel satisfyingly dependable. The brakes are drum brakes, within the hubs, meaning there’s no messy brake dust mucking up the wheels.

It’s a five-speed rear hub, with a clunky, certain, twist grip on the handlebars.

Screen Shot 2016-02-18 at 19.19.51The chain is fully enclosed in a Hebie Chainglider, meaning there’s no need to worry about clothing getting oily or greasy.

Screen Shot 2016-02-18 at 19.21.04

There’s a convenient AXA wheel lock with the ability to ‘plug in’ a chain, meaning you can either take the key out and leave the bicycle parked up (but unable to be ridden), or lock the wheel in combination with chaining it to a suitable object.

Screen Shot 2016-02-18 at 19.22.04The saddle is lovely and comfy, a Dutch-made sprung leather affair. The rear rack (as you can see) comes with elastic straps to hold items on the top.

All the cabling is completely enclosed, meaning it’s protected from the elements. And there are some lovely details that give this bike a real ‘vintage’ feel, particularly the shiny handlebars and bell, the laminated wooden mudguards, the cream tyres, and the cork handlebar grips.

Screen Shot 2016-02-18 at 19.25.55

I have made a couple of ‘upgrades’ since it arrived. It did come with a kickstand, but a single leg one that, while perfectly adequate, isn’t quite as good as the Hebie ‘twin leg’ design that’s now fitted.

Screen Shot 2016-02-18 at 19.29.35The other was to change the lighting. The bike came with some really good Spanning lights, mounted solidly (and permanently) on it. They were battery-powered, and nice and bright. It wasn’t really necessary to change them, but I wanted a fun winter project, so I offered to change the bicycle over to dynamo power, meaning the lights will just come on as soon as she starts pedalling, with no need to worry about switches, or ever replacing batteries (she was worried about being forgetful!)

The change was simple enough, but did require rebuilding the front wheel with a (Sturmey Archer) hub dynamo. (I like building wheels). The Spanninga lights were switched for a B&M Secula rear light and Lumotec front light, in a ‘classic’ housing, shown below.

Screen Shot 2016-02-18 at 19.34.43This is the light I’ve got on my own omafiets, and it really does the job – it’s nice and bright, with a standlight meaning it keeps running for at least five minutes once you’ve stopped, and even a ‘sensor’ system that turns the light on automatically if it gets a bit gloomy.

With the reflective strips built into the (Marathon) tyres, the reflectors in the pedals, and the front and rear reflectors, this is a nicely visible bike under all conditions, despite its vintage appearance.

Screen Shot 2016-02-19 at 09.46.23It’s a modern machine, built around a classic frame.

My omafiets is larger and heavier, so on the few occasions I’ve been able to ‘borrow’ it I can say that it’s a really fun ride, a smaller, bouncier version of my own bike, but still upright and comfortable, with the classic riding position that we basically got right in the 19th century.

The only problem now is that we just need to find somewhere for her to ride it. The choices of routes in Horsham are (sadly) pretty limited (or even non-existent) for someone who really doesn’t want to ride on busy roads. It’s frustrating seeing her enjoying herself on the (reasonably) quiet residential streets around where we live, but being unable to go anywhere else in the town, without walking. It’s a bike that deserves to be ridden, on quality infrastructure.

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27 Responses to A Roetz omafiets

  1. DW says:

    You’ve left out the most important thing, the price! How much did the bike cost?

  2. Paul Luton says:

    An upright posture is OKish until you get a headwind. I gather the Dutch put their elbows on the handlebars to try to get round the problem of poor design.

    • Dre says:

      When you ride into a headwind, you cross your arms on the handlebar and you’re as aerodynamic as Greg Lemond on the Champs Elysees. Brilliant design, although some people will never get it.

    • Niels S says:

      Something designed with comfort and safety in mind is not poor design. Netherlands is actually a very windy country, due to it being flat and near the sea, even below sea level. I’ve been cycling upright just fine all my life here. Then again, backwind is great on an upright bike.

  3. Dan B says:

    Why would a coaster brake be “legally suspect in the UK”? As long as you run it with a front brake too there’s no problem. It’s the same as with a fixed-wheel bike – you must have 2 independent braking systems.

    Lovely bike btw!

    • meltdblog says:

      For a country where you can register all sorts of marginal motor vehicles, a requirement to have two brakes on your bicycle seems a little unfair! I do enjoy the simplicity of a coaster brake on a town bike.

      • Dan B says:

        It’s incredibly unlikely that anyone would notice if they could even be bothered to look anyway. I have a bike with rod brakes – bloody useless, but legal…

    • The problem is that it doesn’t come with a front brake, just the rear coaster – like the bike in the first picture.

      (FWIW my omafiets has a rear coaster brake, and a drum brake for the front wheel.)

      • neil says:

        I thought it was clear-cut. You had to have 2 separate brakes. Your sentence was confusing as it implied you were accusing the coaster brake as being the problem, not the lack of second brake

        The obvious question, are there any modern lightweight Dutch frames, or was this the only way. I realise you like this bike, just wondering what choices there were.

    • Niels S says:

      I’ve cycled with just a coaster brake all my life, no front brake. As long as you don’t cycle in hilly areas it’s fine.

  4. James Barker says:

    On the subject of refurbished classics, have you seen the Elephant Bike?

    Refurbished Royal Mail bikes, for every one they sell they will send another to Africa.


  5. hushlegs says:

    Beautiful bike.
    I presume the mounting for the light being on the left is due to its continental frame. I wonder if that will cause problems with the wheel blocking the light to oncoming traffic.
    Maybe it would be better to mount it on the front – you could probably co-opt the mudguard mount on the steerer.

    • Ben Harris says:

      Even if it doesn’t cause practical problems, the law in the UK does require that a front light be on the centre-line or the right-hand side.

    • It’s mounted there so it won’t foul with a front crate that can be added.

      My own omafiets has a similar mounting position (to the left of the front wheel), and I did worry (before I bought it) about precisely this issue. In reality it’s not a problem at all. The tyre only obscures the light at a distance of a couple of feet or so, from the front; the kind of distance that doesn’t really matter. You want drivers to see you at greater distances than that. The triangular beam pattern of the light passes well clear of the front wheel (in fact I happened to take a photo of this a while back!)

  6. Nice bike. Why not send the council a picture of you and your girl riding your two bicycles together and asking them directly where a safe path you two should be able to ride it on to get from A to B can be found?

  7. niko says:

    No “jas beschermer” can bedangerous with a long shawl.

  8. rdrf says:

    I recently treated myself to a Fahrad Manufaktur http://www.bikefix.co.uk/S300 . More expensive than your bike, but this is explained by having hydraulic brakes, built in dynamo and 8 (top 3 redundant) gears. Something nice about having a stately upright position.

  9. David Cohen says:

    Lovely looking steed – Love those wrap around bars – perfect posture for the arms

  10. Congratulations . Very nice bike. When I was young, I loved those colourful skirtguards on bikes like your wife’s. I have never got one, only because I was a boy.

  11. Notak says:

    Looks a very nice and interesting bike. And I wasn’t aware Sturmey Archer were still producing hub dynamos! Incidentally, are those Lepper saddles available in Britain? I know people who are always looking out for something like a classic Brooks but at a sensible price.

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