Cyclist in need – go Dutch of course

It seems in cycling there is a Dutch solution to everything.

I am in need of a new position for riding my bike, and the answer as ever is – go Dutch.

Photo by Kevin Mayne

I have a recurrence of an old neck injury that causes me discomfort when I adopt any of my usual riding positions because my body is bent forward, and therefore my neck has to be bent back – actually a quite unnatural pose, but pretty much standard on most modern bikes, even many city bikes.

Photo by Kevin Mayne


It was such a problem ten years ago that I spent six months riding a borrowed recumbent – a fascinating experience but one which convinced me that 200 years of cycling evolution had not surpassed the upright frame.Photo by Kevin Mayne

But the more I have lived and travelled in Europe the more I have identified that the Dutch have a distinctive riding style that just does not translate to other countries. The wheeled pedestrians have stuck to a bicycle design developed and then abandoned by the English (and everyone else) nearly 100 years ago which places the body in a vertical, or even backward reclining position roughly equivalent to sitting in a chair. In particular the design is associated with the swept back designs of Gazelle, but is incorporated in the riding positions of most daily riders in any Dutch city. That should do it, armchair cycling.

Photo by Kevin Mayne

However without the underlying geometry of a Dutch frame I am improvising with a flexible handlebar stem and my normal handlebars shifted gradually further backwards, which certainly has the effect of showing my body into a completely alien upright pose but has the counter effect of making me look a bit of an oddball on the way to the station, even if I still have another few degrees to go before I am anywhere near as laid back as the average Dutch rider.  But so be it – its this or nothing right now.

Photo Kevin Mayne

However I am now getting stuck. My body tells me that forcing all your weight into a vertical column and not spreading it across your arms as well plays hell with the back and the bum, so my aches and pains are just moving about instead of resolving themselves.

Perhaps I need bike number n+1, a second hand Dutch bike from across the border. I have a feeling I should have started this position as a schoolboy and done it for 40 years to train my body, or somebody Dutch needs to tell me the hidden secret of armchair cycling?

8 thoughts on “Cyclist in need – go Dutch of course

  1. Such a complete change is cycling position would be tough to get used to. Whenever I see people in such an upright position, turning the pedals from such a low seat position, I always wonder how they do it. But faced with a ‘change or no ride’ choice, I’m sure you’ll quickly adapt. Keep on riding.😊

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Roadsters can be fast, they can be slow. They’re comfortable too.
    Part of it is the posture but part of it is the handlebar shape. When you hold onto mountain bike handlebars your arms are twisted from their natural positions. All these things add up to a different cycling experience.
    Modifying a mountain bike into an upright type bike is good to do but at some point it’s better to get a bike that was designed that way in the first place.


    • I agree, but I still think there’s an extra element of using those laid back roadsters all your life, Dutch teenagers seem to fit them really well and it stays the same for ever.


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