so many beautiful paths, so many possibilities!
so many beautiful paths, so many possibilities!
i’ve had quite a few bikes throughout the years and the countries… but i had never had a real dutch bike. i dreamed of it, so pretty and elegant… so, when we came to berlin, i made a point that this would be the country where i would choose a dutch bike. well, here she is, straight out of a nearby second hand shop:
it’s actually a raleigh, which means it’s a british bike, from one of the oldest bike companies in the world. but nevertheless, the concept is pretty much what i wanted: a simple & sturdy bike, with pedal brakes and a sort of moustache handle, that i can ride upright (and not bent forward, like on mountain bikes).
it’s been a pleasure to ride it around :)
Relics of old Yugoslavia, Rog bikes are still all over the place in LJ (local slang for the Slovenian capital). You can hear varying degrees of metallic rattling emanating from these hunks of stainless steel, and of course the unmistakable trill of their antique – and more or less obligatory – bells. The point is, there are actually still loads of the older models trundling around Ljubljana’s cobbled back-streets and major thoroughfares, which, 18 years and counting since the factory closed, only confirms the communist engineering ethic: ‘build it like a tank’ – build it to last.
Perhaps Rog’s most cherished model, the Pony, with its dinky frame and comically undersized wheels, is definitely the cutest. You see everyone, from petite female students to lanky businessmen in three-piece suits to centenarian grandmothers, perched on their springy seats. You see these prancing Ponies in every colour, sometimes having been painted over numerous times.
from Ljubljana in your pocket guide.
ever since a friend told us about pony’s, i’ve been seeing them everywhere i look, obsessing about these cute little bikes. we searched bolha.com for days, until we found a couple of them in mint condition, and relatively cheap. (why are bicycles so ridiculously overpriced these days?)
anyway, it was practically love at first sight! mine is a more recent rog model, slightly bigger than the more typical ponys, but just as charming. i plan to put a lot of mileage in it :)
now we only need a couple of locks and a basket, and off we go!
(an insight on the Groningen and Dutch lifestyle, through bikes)
The first thing that hits you as you leave Groningen train station is probably going to be a bike. If the Netherlands is the country of pedal power, then Groningen is the city of cycles par excellence, and the students, making up almost a third of the city’s population, have turned saddles ‘n’ spokes into an art form. To own a brand new bike is horribly passé, and it sticks out like a sore thumb to thieves. A bike must have a bit of character.
Hastily spray painted to protect it from its previous owner. A bit of a clatter to the back wheel, a bit of a wobble to the front one. A flat tire looks good, and so does some large object precariously pinned to the pannier (a girlfriend or boyfriend or family pet). They are either piled up ten deep outside the cafés and bars in the evening or whirring by, dynamo powered lights, catching unwary pedestrians with legally required bells. Others are chained to lampposts picked clean like carcasses of their vital parts: wheels, seats, handlebars and the like. These bipedal locomotive devices are not the trim and sophisticated superfast flying machines on which Day-Glo lycra clad Chris Boardman wannabes race around the English countryside, but rather a more casual unpretentious mode of travel that is wholly representative of the Dutch way of life.
For a start, the Dutch ride bikes with a strange ungainly expertise, like Norman Wisdom walks, a sort of shaky perturbed stutter what won’t fall over. An imminent collision is always avoided by a seemingly unintentional lurch to the left or right.
These bikes are robust and strong constructions and can be bought on any street corner. They usually have no gears or brakes, which makes them simple yet ingenious in design. What is the point of elaborate gears and brakes in a country without any tiring geography? It’s a question of practicality which sits well with the pragmatic sense of humour, for the Dutch find illogical things amusing – a bike with fancy gears but no mudguards is positively hilarious!
Having no gears would also suggest that speed is not a consideration, and this is also true of Dutch life. There is a sense or organised patience to the Netherlander that seems at first infuriating and then relaxing to the visiting Briton. The Groningen cyclist does not sit hunched over braced into the wind, they sit high on their saddle like Kermit the Frog looking as if no effort was being afforded to the activity, watching life as it flies by them a little above walking pace.
This attitude is carried into the education system; it is efficient in its leisureliness. There isn’t that whiff of Victoriana which still hangs in the air of British education. The liberal attitude of the Dutch people is felt throughout the whole system. Lectures are scheduled on the hour but by unwritten agreement, they do not start until a quarter past. During exams, a tea lady trundles through with hot drinks and biscuits. To the Dutch cyclist, racing about is presumed unproductive because you do not enjoy the experience of getting to your destination.
Kerry Hagan (BA (Hons) English Literature, 2001)