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Bromfiets in de Nederlands *

by David Stevenson

That should say "Cyclemotors in Holland" but whether it does, I'm not quite sure *.  This illustrates one of my problems in writing this "What I Saw on My Holiday" essay.  It's easy to get by in the Netherlands without any Dutch since almost everybody speaks some English (although we were clever enough to find two or three who didn't); it's harder to be sure that you have really understood what you've seen.  Everything I am about to say should therefore be taken with 0.5 grammes of sodium chloride.

In my view cyclemotoring is holding up better in the Netherlands than it is in France (or at least the North of France which is the only bit I've visited recently).  In France moped riding appears to be restricted nowadays to the young, the poor and the eccentric.  In Holland, however, the new generation of cyclemotors powered by the Sachs Saxonette motor-wheel appears to be attracting the middle-aged and the elderly of a broader social group, allowing them to continue using their bicycles for shorter journeys.  We camped near an affluent suburb of Utrecht and were very pleasantly surprised to see obviously quite wealthy people using bicycles in this manner.

I picked up the Sparta bicycle brochure, and while I can't tell you what it says about these cyclemotors, I can give you some idea of prices.  The 'Spartamet', a standard Dutch type sit-up-and-beg with the Sachs power unit will cost you 1869 Gilders (£655.79, €848.11) and is available in three styles: man's, lady's with deeply stepped frame tube or lady's parallel frame tubes.  The De Luxe version of any of these is fl 1969 (£690.88, €893.49).  These machines are hand started with a cable pull like an outboard.  The Rolls-Royce of the Sparta range with electric start will cost you fl 2569 (£901.40, €1165.76).  We saw a secondhand basic model for sale at fl 750 (£263.16, €340.34).

If you fancy something a little more unconventional then the Sparta 'Rabbit' is right up your cycle track.  Available in a natty two tone colour scheme, the Rabbit has a 20 inch front wheel and the 26 inch Sachs rear wheel.  The extra space over the front wheel is taken up by a lightweight wire basket and there is that little platform above the pedal bracket for putting your feet up on so beloved of Continental riders.  A Rabbit will set you back fl 2019 (£708.42 €916.18) The bike I want Santa to squeeze down my chimney this Xmas is however the Tandemet.  A double ladies' tandem in two tone grey with the Sachs unit for a back wheel.  This will set my Mum and Dad back fl 2599 (€1595.12, £9ll.93 - all sterling equivalents calculated on the basis of fl 2.85 to the pound courtesy of Mrs J B Smith, the maths adviser, using one calculator, the backs of three A4 envelopes, ten fingers and ten toes.  Yes folks, she really did take her shoes and socks off.)

We saw several other interesting cyclemotors in Holland.  Outside a cycle shop in Enkhuizen we examined a true modern autocycle, the Italjet 'Tiffany'.  Its moped engine is attached to the bottom bracket of a lady's type bicycle frame.  The tank is in the space behind the saddle tube and the upper chainstays.  The forks are of a bicycle type but end in short leading links.  An attractive machine with a practical air, its classic silver-grey appearance was belied by such items as the chaincase which was plastic.

The most unusual cyclemotors we saw were the Apollo trucks.  Three-wheelers, with a large open box mounted on two small wheels, they are propelled from behind by half a moped.  The design is based on a similar carrier bicycle which is on show in many Dutch museums.  The Apollo is much like the old Dot carrier which used a Villiers 125cc engine.  Steering is by a bar on the back of the truck body and the engine is fan-cooled, presumably to aid its over-stressed working surfaces.  We saw a couple of these derelict and a real beauty selling ice cream outside the RijksMuseum in Amsterdam.  Later we saw it travelling home with the ice-cream salesman and his assistant mounted on the moped part.

They seemed a very civilised people, the Dutch.  One does not see the huge waste of land and resources that we in the semi-derelict industrial North of England, with its acres of blighted ex-industrial land left to rot, suffer from so badly.  That efficiency has had its effect on their transport system which seemed much more on its way to becoming a properly integrated structure with good facilities for both bicycle and moped users.  Not only is there a designated system of cycle and moped tracks but also these tracks have their own signposting system giving directions and distances.  Where there are not designated tracks then cyclists and cyclemotorists are often directed onto quieter back roads which again are properly signposted.  Larger motorcycles have to use the ordinary road system but, since there are an awful lot of Harley-Davidsons about, whatever kind of two-wheeler you are interested in, you come back from Holland dead jealous.

First published - December 1993
Prices in Euros added in December 2001

* [David's brave attempt at Dutch was not quite right.  The correct literal translation of 'Cyclemotors in the Netherlands' would be 'Bromfietsen in Nederland', but it is better translated to 'Nederlandse Bromfietsen'.  My thanks to Bas Vossen for this lesson in Dutch syntax.  - Editor]

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