Posted on 17 April 2010
Editors note: it was fun going to Europe in 2010, the year of unprecedented snowfall. Many of our customers say it never snows in Northern Europe. Not true. And, it certainly didn't stop people from riding either. Having the privilege of going to the inner sanctum of factories like Koga and Batavus taught us things we still keep today. Proper paint, assembly, and R&D are the hallmarks of a good city bike. We found very much the same commitment (on a much smaller scale) with Achielle, whose focus on quality craftsmanship rather than scale is their chief priority.
- February 2016
The tiny hotel we stayed at served its purpose and I had a good nights sleep. In the morning we were woken up by a hotel staffer actually opening our door, poking her head in, and telling us to check out. Quite rude. But whatever, go with the flow. We got downstairs had a quick breakfast of bread and meat and were out by 11. We went back to Henry had another meeting then checked out a couple museums. The Anne Frank house and the Van Gogh Museum. They were fantastic. Even though we were there for bike business, it's always a good idea to take in some different culture.
After the museums we had a character building ride back to the train station to return our bright red personal bikes. It was so cold. Also, the streets were sheer ice and and cars were driving more manically than usual. It didn't stop us or the tens of thousands of other people riding. The streets of Amsterdam are not the utopia/bike heaven everyone makes them out to be. Yes there are bike lanes, but not everywhere, and the drivers are faster. I was actually just as nervous riding along the narrow streets mere inches away from a Jetta screaming down the road as I am riding along Bloor St. There's barely room for anything but the car. It still doesn't dissuade Amsterdammers from riding though. This is when I realized the key. Having a bike culture is not about the damn infrastructure. The lanes are helpful, but the most important things are the people riding and the bikes they're using. Amsterdam has the masses and the proper bikes for city riding. People can ride year round and remain well dressed the entire time. People can be safe despite the cars and pedestrians taking up room on the streets simply by the way they're riding, upright. I love Amsterdam and need to go back ASAP! Hopefully when it's warmer though.
The next morning we got an early start to take the train up to Heerenveen to see both Koga-Miyata and Batavus. The Koga-Miyata showroom is undoubtedly the nicest showroom i've ever seen. Even though they were still trying to put it back together after the bike show on the weekend it was still stunning. The bikes were perfectly lit up with blue lights. Then the coffee came. And more bread and meat.
This company simply gets it. They are certainly a higher end company and the bikes reflect that. Corners are not cut, they are multiplied to make a more durable and reliable product. Plus, the bikes look sweet!
The Batavus factory is insane! I got a great tour around the factory from Jacob. I got to see how the wheels, frames, and everything in between are made. It was an eye-opening experience. The factory is huge and spotless. Their keen attention to detail and efficiency is overtly apparent. What this ensures is quality. If I were going to see any bike factory this is the one. They just do it right. The wheel building section is incredible. Unlike my usual five hours to build a wheel it only takes these guys about five minutes for them to put the spokes in the hub and lace the spokes to the rim.
The painting of the frames was really cool too. They use eco-friendly water based paint so the workers don’t even need to wear masks. Most of the painting is done by machine but the guys get into the nooks and crannies. I was hoping I’d get to see some testing in action but there was nothing going on that day. They have a machine that takes a bike through an entire lifetime. Pretty awesome.
Finally we got a lift back to the station and came back to Zoetermeer. After a day of meetings and information overdosing at the factory a quick day off was what I needed.
Before we got back to Zoetermeer we stopped in Utrecht for a bite. We went to lovely place off the canal called Toque Toque. Seemed fitting for us Canadians. The food was quite good too. It was pretty late when we finished so we promised to come back and take a walk around the next day before we got the train to Dusseldorf. There is a church in the town that was partially destroyed by a hurricane. It’s still massive though.