Note: This story was originally published online in the Free Press Community Review West under the title “Go Dutch with plain bicycles“.
Dutch bicycles are a new trend in Winnipeg cycling and they are being spearheaded by a social enterprise located in West Broadway. Some people are finding these types of bikes, which have a more upright position than most road and mountain bikes in North America, very comfortable and more suited to a casual style of riding.
West End resident Janis Thiessen ordered a Dutch bicycle through the Plain Bicycle project two years ago.
“It’s comfortable and has been great to bike downtown. I’ve used it to go to The Forks and take my dog to the park” Thiessen said.
She notes that this is quite the improvement over past experiences with biking. For road bikes she used in the past, she had to lean forward and found them very uncomfortable.
Dutch bicycles, also called plain bikes or omafiets, are a more upright bike, heavier, with wider tires and fewer moving parts. They are easier to maintain and intended for everyday uses, like grocery shopping.
“It started at the very early stages of the pandemic” Dan Reihl said, a co-manager with the Plain Bicycle project, of the decision to set up a storefront for the initiative. The move was in response to high demand for Dutch bikes during the pandemic.
The Plain Bicycle project began in 2017, involving pre-orders of plain bicycles from the Netherlands. The project was crowdfunded, with 200 people contributing for the first order. A container of bicycles was delivered to Winnipeg and distributed to the crowdfunders in a warehouse. In August 2020, the Plain Bicycle project set up its first storefront on Sherbrook Street. Project managers plan to establish another location in the Forks.
Thiessen obtained her Dutch bike through a crowdfunded pre-order, but has gone to the shop for accessories like seat covers and lights.
“They have so many neat things that are common in European cycling culture, less common here, but they make your experience so much easier. It becomes biking as a natural part of life, as opposed to an athletic sport.”
Thiessen adds that visiting the Netherlands she was impressed by how much more practical and accessible biking culture was there. Extensive physically separated bikeways and plain bicycles meant the biking experience was more relaxed than in Canada.
Plain Bicycle is a non-profit social enterprise operated by the Winnipeg Trails Association. They offer bicycles, accessories, and repair services at their shop. In the future, they intend to get involved with manufacturing Dutch-style bicycles.
Plain Bicycle sells products at its storefront at 267 Sherbrook Street and online at https://www.plainbicycle.org/.
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