Buying a secondhand or used Dutch Bike?
If you can’t quite manage to reach on the cost of buying a new Dutch bike, purchasing a secondhand Dutch bike, or used Dutch bike can make for a great and usually cheaper alternative. However, be careful, in fact be very careful as when purchasing a used/secondhand Dutch bike, you may be buying a whole load of expensive problems.
The Dutch ride more miles than any other country in the world. They ride their bicycles every day of the year in all weathers and often the bike is shared amongst family members, friends and colleagues. So a used bike, imported from Holland will have been well used. There’s a buoyant used market in Dutch bikes in the Netherlands, as many Dutch consumers trade bikes in for newer models, similar to buying new cars. No doubt, there are many quality used Dutch bikes on the market for sale, but in my experience, this is for Dutch buyers buying in Holland not necessarily those buying in the UK.
The UK market isn’t as savvy as the Dutch are when buying a used Dutch bicycle, so in this short feature, I’m going to share with you some tips on what to look for when buying a secondhand Dutch bike.
Main areas you really need to concentrate on:
- Age of the bike
- The Seller
AGE of the Dutch Bike
When it comes to secondhand Dutch bikes you need to be aware that in the Netherlands bikes are ridden extensively; every day, in every weather. So when it comes to wear and tear, they really do take a pounding. While Dutch bike frames might last for a lifetime, components don’t. Remember this when you’re looking at a used Dutch bike. Ask the seller how old it is? A good buy would be somewhere within 5 years. Anything after this and the chances are you’re going to have to have lots of the components replaced. Fine if it’s just tyres, but it you’re talking gears and brakes then you’re really talking big money. I will come to gears and brakes in a moment.
The reason I choose up to 5 years as a good benchmark is that this is the age where the big Dutch brands tell me that their customers change their bikes. Five years seem to be the lifetime for many, as at this point the bike still might have a small trade-in value against a new one, and it’s at this point that things can usually be expected to need replacing.
On the other hand if you’re Dutch bike has been imported new at some point into the UK, it will usually have had far less use that were it in Dutch ownership. So you could then look a bike anywhere up to 10 years.
10 years should be your limit when it comes to age unless you’re an enthusiast looking to collect as quite a lot of advances have been made in the construction of Dutch bikes, for example, gears and hubs. It’s also unlikely that like-for-like parts can be sourced for your bike – for example, chainguards, mudguards and so forth.
We regularly get emails beginning “We have just bought an old Dutch bike and we’re looking to restore it..” Then follows a long list of parts that they want all painted in original colours, and oh, would we mind providing them with the original manual. The Dutch Bike industry in the Netherlands is enormous with over 2 million new Dutch bikes being sold every year generating fierce competition amongst rival brands. The idea that there’s a small little factory somewhere with a couple of blokes wearing clogs who will be happy to provide you with the original parts for your elderly Dutch bikes isn’t realistic. A bit like phoning up your local Ford dealer and asking for a set of rear doors for your mark 1 cortina.
Most Dutch bikes, or at least the ones imported to the UK will have hub gears.
Hub gears are very common in European bikes. They were at one time very common in UK bikes – think back to the Raleigh chopper with its 3 speed Sturmey Archer gears. The benefit of hub gears is that they’re easy to use – for example, you can change gear when stationery and they’re also typically require less maintenance.
The downside is, they cost significantly more than the typical derailleur gears found on most ‘Dutch Style’ UK bikes, or hybrid bikes.
For example, a 7 speed Shimano nexus hub gear can cost circa £150 just for the hub itself without fitting it to the wheel.
Easy to see then if you’ve bought a used Dutch bikes and the gears aren’t working – or nearing the end of their useful life, you’re looking at splashing out on a new hub and fitting. You may also find if the original hub may need a new handlebar changers which are an additional cost.
So – if you’re buying a used Dutch bike – make sure you test ride the bike and ensure all the gears changing correctly. It may be that they require some minor adjustments to get them working again – the usual line given by some unscrupulous sellers – “just take it to the bike shop for a quick adjustment..” Or it may be that it requires a new hub.
My advice, if the gears aren’t working correctly – walk away.
If they seller says they can be ‘easily fixed.’ Get them to ‘easily fix’ them.
Our workshop gets calls every week from people who’ve bought gears that are beyond their useful life. Repairing them is uneconomic. Without exception they’ve all been told ‘they’re easily fixed.’ Just remember if the seller can’t demonstrate to you a working bike – in every way – you’re going to have face further costs to put these things right.
Our labour rate is £45 an hour. Many other bike shops, particularly London bike shops charge upwards of this.
As with gears, brakes also should also be in full working order when you inspect the bike.
Take it for a test ride and see how effective they are. There shouldn’t be any grinding sounds coming from the hub. Braking should be smooth and progressive.
Most modern Dutch bikes (less than 10 years old) will be mostly using Shimano roller brakes. These are easily serviced and repaired. So if the bike has these fitted and the braking is poor or soft, a good bike shop with experience of working on these types of brakes will be able to adjust them for you. Or worst case scenario, have them replaced.
If your Dutch bike pre-dates these and are using the traditional Dutch Bike brakes with shoes, then you have to be careful. Many of these systems are pretty antiquated and beyond economical repair. Also many used asbestos in the linings and therefore we would be unwilling to work on them as they pose a risk to our staff.
Again, the old mantra applies – if it ain’t working, walk away…
Wherever possible, you should always aim to buy from a private seller, preferably one whose owned and ridden the bicycle they’re selling. Be particularly aware of the bulk importers of Dutch bikes, many of whom simply buy the stock the Dutch bike dealers can’t sell. In our Dutch bike shop we regularly get offered bulk deals from Dutch bike shops in the Netherlands and the deal is you buy the job lot, good and bad…Rarely if ever do I see these bulk sellers do any work on these bikes, they simply sell them on with the advice that if there are any problems your local bike shop can easily sort them out for you. Which, dear reader, let me assure you, is not the case.
Buying Privately or from a Dealer
There are lots of good used secondhand Dutch bikes out there. We’ve sold many new Dutch bikes over the years – we’ve probably sold most of them originally as new bikes… So they are around. If you’re buying privately, you’ll probably get a good bike that’s relatively new. Unless of course, you buy privately from someone who has bought a secondhand Dutch bike to begin with. This is quite common, so you need to be aware and check what you’re being told.
Buying from a dealer – dealers make money that’s the nature of business so beware that it’s not in the interests of the dealer to invest money in a bike to re-sell. Many will want to just turn around what they’ve bought. So beware of this when viewing.
I’d never recommend you buy a used Dutch bike online and have it shipped to you without first seeing the bike unless of course it’s from a reputable dealer.
If the dealer isn’t part of a bike shop, be very careful. We’ve regularly been offered batches of used Dutch bikes by dealers in the Netherlands that they say are suitable for the UK. Of course they’re suitable for the UK as few in the Netherlands would buy them given their uneconomic state of repair.
Be as careful buying a used Dutch bike as you would a used car.
Best advice when buying a used Dutch bike is to
- See the bike ‘ in the flesh’ so to speak.
- Make sure gears and brakes are working correctly
- lights and all accessories are working
- tyres – these can be replaced, so if the tyres are worn – factor this into your costs and reflect this in your offer.
- Above all, remember that if the bike has originated from the Netherlands, it most likely will have been ridden extensively. Component parts – gears and brakes wear with usage as do tyres and so forth. It’s unusual for us to meet customers who have paid upwards of £300 for a used Dutch bike which requires substantive money being spent on it to bring it up to a ride-able standard.
About the Author: Dutch Bike Shop.Paul Power is the Director of the