7 Tips for Buying the Perfect City Bicycle

Two of Amsterdam's leading bike designers weigh in.

Counting more bicycles than citizens (over 881,000 bikes for some 810,000 people), it’s no wonder Amsterdam puts an innovative spin on urban commuting. Recently, to address a shortage of bicycle parking space, the Dutch capital announced the construction of a partially underwater garage and two man-made islands to hold its two-wheelers. And with 57 percent of its population using pedal power on a daily basis, the city’s residents have a handle on what makes an ideal bike.

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VANMOOF: The innovators Brothers Ties and Taco Carlier founded Vanmoof in 2009 to simplify the commuting experience with features like GPS tracking systems and lights directly integrated into the bike frame.

ROETZ-BIKES: The eco-conscious designers Combining carefully selected vintage frames with new premium parts, Mark Groot Wassink and Tiemen ter Hoeven founded Roetz-Bikes in 2011 with the objective of repurposing some of the over one million bicycles discarded in the Netherlands every year.

1) Plan before you buy

Think about how you’re going to use your bicycle. If it’s for commuting, a city bike is a good choice because it lets you sit straight up and it’s comfortable. Make sure you have a fully enclosed chain guard so your clothes don’t get dirty.

2) Choose the right material

Steel frames are a good option. They’re very stiff, so the energy you expend while pedalling doesn’t get lost. (If you put a lot of pressure on an aluminium frame, it can curve.) Make sure your accessories, bolts and smaller pieces are of good quality: Rust usually appears on them first.

3) Size yourself up

The inner length of your leg should determine the height of your bicycle frame. When you’re sitting still, you should only be able to touch the ground with your toes. Once you’re in motion, your legs should be straight at the lower pedal position.

4) Swing into high gear

One-speed bicycles are trendy right now because you don’t need to do much to keep them in good shape. They’re fine for flat cities, but you’re better off with five or seven gears for terrain with hills.


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5) Set your wheels in motion

Some people prefer retro bikes with big wheels, so they choose 26- or 28-inch wheels. But they don’t have to be so big: 18- or 20-inch wheels are perfectly efficient for urban commuting. Also, keep in mind that you won’t go as fast if the air pressure in your tires is too low. Make sure to have at least 30 psi at all times.

6) Saddle up

Get a leather saddle. It’ll cost you more, but it will shape to your body just like a shoe and you’ll keep it much longer. Attach it with anti-theft bolts – good saddles get stolen all the time – and use a seat protector when it rains.

7) Avoid cutting corners

Don’t buy a cheap lock – spend at least 10 percent of your bike’s value on brands like ABUS or Kryptonite. U-shaped locks are resistant, but it can be hard to find a proper fence to attach them to. Chains are easier, and there are some good ones on the market.