Batavus Fryslan: A Long Term Review

Updated: 2 Nov 2013

The Fryslan was damaged in an accident in 2013, and isn't my daily commuter anymore.

I’ve had my Batavus Fryslan for six months now, and thought it was time to provide a review that was based on long-term ownership and almost daily riding. Previously, I wrote a review based on two weeks of daily riding. I’ll cover many of the same points in this review.

Handling

I’ve become more accustomed to the steering and handling on the Fryslan. When I first got the bike, I thought it was too large and I felt unsteady when I riding it. I fiddled with the handlebar height and seat position on a weekly basis for about the first six weeks until I found something that feels a bit more natural for my riding style.

In my initial review, I complained about cornering and how sometimes it feels as if I’m steering a barge, not a bicycle. That feeling hasn’t completely gone away, but I’ve become more accustomed to it now, and understand that I have to brake earlier and keep more alert than people on more traditional bikes.

I’ve discovered that in order to get the best, smoothest ride from this bike, I have to keep my tires inflated to the high end of the pressure range. If my tires go a bit soft, the bike becomes sluggish and lethargic, and I have to work really hard to pedal the bike, even when it’s in the lowest gear. The good news is I only have to top up the air in the tires about once a month or so.

I’m still quite unhappy with the brakes and don’t find them to be nearly responsive enough. I don’t know whether I’d feel more confident with a coaster brake/hand brake combination, or whether I just need to upgrade the brakes on this bike, but when I’m coming to a stop, I have to start braking about a half block ahead of the stop sign, more so if I’m braking while coasting down a hill. Even then, I have to put a foot down to help myself come to a complete stop. Vancouver is hilly and our pedestrians, drivers, and even other bike riders are somewhat self-involved: they’re not always looking out for me, so I have to be able to react accordingly. I can’t always telegraph a potential incident from a half a block away.

I’d love to know if Fryslan owners with the stock hand brake/coaster brake combination have experienced similar problems, or if other Dutch bike owners who have hand brakes have had trouble with stopping power.

Aesthetics

She still turns heads and elicits positive comments. A colleague once saw me riding on the street and told me I looked “hot” when I ride this bike, which brought a smile to my face. The paint on the fenders hasn’t held up as well as I would have liked, but the scrapes and scratches make her look like a bike that is built for transport, not for fashion. Although, let me be perfectly honest, the main reason I wanted this bike was because I loved how it looked, and nothing about it has disappointed me so far.

While on the subject of aesthetics, you’ll see that I’ve not only replaced the stock saddle with a Brooks B67S (aged) saddle which has deepened to a dark, chocolatey brown, I also replaced the stock pedals with a pair of spiked BMX pedals. I found that the surface of the stock platform pedals were really slippery during the rainy season — especially when biking in heeled boots — so I wanted something with a bit more grip. Now that the weather is changing, I think I’ll switch to a different kind of pedal, preferably something like these Wellgo city pedals.

Maintenance and Fine-Tuning

I missed my free 30-day tune up at Raincity Bikes by about 45 days, but luckily they were nice enough to give my bike the once over. For some reason, the bike developed an annoying whirring/thrumming sound when I pedalled, as if something was stuck in the drivetrain. I couldn’t find anything, but was able to isolate the source of the sound to the crankset. I’d still like to know what caused it, but it hasn’t come back.

The 7-speed hub that was thrown in to sweeten the deal has been a bit of a disappointment at times. It slips out of alignment, which makes it really difficult to shift up to or down from 2nd gear on the bike. Luckily it’s an easy enough fix for me to handle on my own, but I’m annoyed that this problem crops up so often. I suspect that it may be a limitation of an internally geared hub; they don’t like to be shifted while under load, and as long as I’m on this bike, it will *always* be under load.

Dutch bikes frequently come with a rear wheel lock (sometimes referred to as a café lock) that you can use to lock your bike for a short while, or as additional security when using a chain or u-lock. The Trelock that came with my bike worked well, but the keys must’ve been made from tinfoil. About a month ago, I started noticing that both my wheel lock keys were bent. I usually keep them in the interior pocket of my pannier when the wheel lock is engaged, and I hadn’t forcefully turned the keys in the lock or done anything that would’ve caused undue stress.

Within two days of each other, both keys broke off in the lock. I was able to remove one key from the lock, but part of the second is still in my wheel lock and I can’t get it out. I was able to order spares directly from Trelock, but I can’t exactly say this episode instilled me with confidence in this Trelock product.

Routine maintenance on this bike is ridiculously simple. It’s almost enjoyable. I wipe it down after going through puddles, I add air to the tires when they’re running low, and I just recently changed the headlight batteries. It’s nearly ideal for someone who doesn’t like to do a lot of tinkering.

Change Your Life, Ride A Bike

I’ve been thinking lately about how my life has changed since purchasing this bike, and it’s a subject that probably warrants a longer blog post at some point. I will say riding a heavier, slower bike has forced me to make intentional decisions about the trips I’m taking, the amount of energy I want to expend, and to think seriously about the kind of community where I’ll make my home. I moved house at the end of March, and when I was looking for places to live, I wanted to live someplace that was closer to work, that was on relatively flat terrain, and was designed to be a walkable/bikeable community from the ground up. I live in such a community now, a decision that I don’t think I would’ve made had I not purchased this style of bike.

This bike is bringing out the urbanist in me, and riding it has made me much more aware of the kind of society I want to be a part of. I don’t want to be enclosed in steel and shut off from the world, I want to be a part of my surroundings. I want to pass through them slowly and take time to reflect on my community. I want to be visible — I want people to be able to see me on my bike and think of me as a neighbour, not some cycling commando. People don’t recognize my car, but just about everyone I know recognizes my bike. That feeling goes a long way on those days when I’m feeling a bit isolated.

Despite its shortcomings, I’m still pleased with the Fryslan. I would still like to own a slightly less heavy and cumbersome bike for short tours/longer city rides, and that may become a reality someday, but despite the issues I’ve experienced with braking, handling, and gearing, not a day goes by when I don’t think to myself “I love my bike!”

  • http://endlessvelolove.blogspot.com/ G.E.

    I don’t know what brand your 7-speed hub is, but I have found that all my internal hubs seem to have required some rather regular adjustments. Both the 3-speed and 5-speed hubs have had occasions where they just seem to slip and certain gears don’t work. A brief adjustment usually fixes the problem, but you’re right that it does seem to happen more than it should. I had one bike shop fellow tell me that eventually they wear in and it goes away, but I would think your 6 months of regular riding would be enough of a break in time. I suppose it’s no worse (and actually probably better) than having a chain fall of the derailleur instead, which is the alternate side of things, I suppose. Though, I have to say I haven’t had that problem on the Rivendell (knock on wood) yet.

    Glad you’re enjoying the ride, even if you’ve found a few things that aren’t ideal. It’s great to be in an area that you can ride the Fryslan, too. Happy continued riding!

    • Cecily Walker

      It’s a Shimano Nexus 7 hub. I was thinking of upgrading to the Alfine 8, but I’d like to find out if the Alfine is noticeably heavier than the Nexus. The Alfine is a higher-end model than the Nexus, so I was hoping that might improve my performance.

      • Scott

        Weight is overrated as a problem, especially if you aren’t a racer. The combined weight of even a petite biker and bike is 150 pounds, so if you replace the current hub with one that weighs an entire pound more, you’re adding less than 1% to the total weight that you’re pedaling around.

        A friend of mine who commuted about 25 miles round trip said that other friends were pushing him to get a newer, lighter bike. He said, “I do this for exercise. If I got a lighter bike, I’d get less exercise.”

  • http://ramblingrider.wordpress.com/ Lisa

    Found your site via ecovelo. I’ve submitted a commuter profile, and I hope they’ll put it up in the next week or so. I’ve enjoyed the posts I’ve read, and I especially like your photos.

    I hope you’re able to tweak the bike so that it handles the way you want it to. I can relate to your idea of being aware and being part of a community as a bicyclist. I hope you do expound on that thought in a full post– I should probably so the same.

  • Cecily Walker

    Thanks for the comment, Lisa!

    And I have that community post saved as a draft in WordPress. I’ll get around to it eventually. :)

  • Scott

    Sorry to hear that you’re having trouble with your internally geared hub. I ride a Brompton, which also sports internal gears, and I’ve had no trouble with the hub beyond the additional steps required to remove the wheel.

    I’d never had or wanted disc brakes, but I bought a new bike last spring that came with disc brakes, and I’m not sure I’ll ever buy another bike with anything else because the stopping power is so much better and because they stop equally well when it’s raining. Mine are hydraulic disc brakes, and so far they’ve been reliable, but sometime I’d like to try mechanical disc brakes (which have a cable, like rim brakes) just because they seem like less trouble.

    • Cecily Walker

      Thanks for the comment, Scott. Someone else said the problems with the hub should go away eventually, but I’m disappointed that they haven’t. I wonder if upgrading to a higher spec-ed model would solve those problems?

      I’ve never ridden a bike with disc brakes, but I know other commuters who swear by them, especially in Vancouver’s wet climate.

      • Scott

        Alan over at EcoVelo.info ran into some trouble with an internally geared hub that wasn’t lubricated enough at the factory. (I’m not suggesting that you try disassembling and lubricating the hub yourself, as he did.)

        http://www.ecovelo.info/2011/05/28/opening-up-an-internal-gear-hub/

        You could try asking your bike shop whether they’d be willing to rebuild the wheel with a different hub. Internally geared hubs are becoming more popular, and reports of problems like this won’t help business.

        Regarding the braking problem, you might want to take another look at brake adjustment. The pads should almost touch the rim, with just a mm or two of gap. When you pull the brake handle, you still want about a thumb’s width of space between the brake handle and the handlebar.

      • Cecily Walker

        Thanks, Scott. I’m hoping to have a new hub installed once I can afford it. Unfortunately, I’m not in a position to buy a new one just yet. Your suggestions are very helpful, though!

      • Scott

        Given how much trouble you’ve had with the current hub, it might be worth asking if they’d replace the hub for free or for a deeeep discount. :-)