Friday, July 4, 2008

Advice on choosing a bicycle...

In our limited US bicycle market, we only have access to a few Dutch and Danish and Normal-Euro-Bicycle options. Because of this, it's easy to get wrapped up in a '08 Democratic primary style battle to determine which bicycle is 'best'. First, it's a silly question. Second, there is no answer. Third, there is a lot of misinformation in the debate. Fourth, one of the bicycles didn't vote for the war in Iraq, so it's not that easy.

And...just because there isn't an answer doesn't mean it's not worth discussing.

I'm not sure where this Azor vs. Velorbis geometry argument really came from or what the motive behind it is, but I will say I have only heard it from one dealer. That dealer posted it here as a comment when I was making my decision and shares that opinion with prospective buyers who contact them. I respect the dealer and their opinion - but I disagree.

Having ridden 3 Velorbis bikes - 3 different models, I can confirm that the Velorbis is a completely upright riding posture when the seat and handlebars are correctly adjusted for your height and inseam.

There is no leaning forward, there is no weight on the hands, one's back is completely straight while riding, the center of gravity is on your seat.

The Velorbis (red) and Henry WorkCycles Azor (blue) frames, superimposed. Note that the frames are exactly the same, the only differences are that the Velorbis seat in this photo was set higher and the hub of the rear wheel is slightly further back (this is an adjustable difference on the Velorbis, not part of the inherent frame geometry as it is on the Azor). There is no difference in the distance or angles between the seat post and pedals, the seat post and handlebar stem and the pedals and handlebar stem. If you choose an upright riding posture - adjusting the seat and handlebar height and tilt will give you this posture OR not, on both an Azor frame and a Velorbis frame. I'm a rider, not a technical bicycle person, so forgive my incorrect labelling of the parts - but you know what I mean, so get over it.

I've ridden bicycles in Denmark, France and other places in Europe over the past 17 years - and all the bicycles I chose to ride were upright. There is a trend toward leaning forward slightly for young men, and this is occurring all across Europe. Because of this trend you will see some Velorbis riders who are choosing to raise the seat and thereby lean slightly forward. But that doesn't reflect the frame geometry. Rather, it reflects the way the seat and handlebars have been adjusted and the size of frame chosen by the rider.

There are many reasons to choose an Azor over a Velorbis or vise versa, but frame geometry just isn't one of them.

When I was trying to decide on a bicycle, I spent months doing research. I would suggest anyone trying to decide on a bicycle contact, by email, all the different dealers and bike shops you can find, both in your hometown and abroad - ask them the same questions and compare the responses. Once you've done this - you can get a good sense of which shops and dealers prefer which bicycles.

I contacted bicycle shops, dealers and manufacturers in Copenhagen and Amsterdam, New York, Vancouver, Portland and more - asking for all of their opinions. When they all shared an opinion, I considered it pretty likely to be true-ish.

And above all, don't forget, guys and gals in bike shops are people just like you and me - and they have personal preferences, likes and dislikes, etc. Keep those in mind and don't forget about your own preferences and likes and dislikes when you're listening to theirs.

If you want an upright bicycle - get a Gazelle, a Batavus, an Azor, a Velorbis or any other upright bicycle - they're all upright, they're all (most models) sturdy steel frames and they'll all get you there in style.


aLex said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
aLex said...

I am a bit confused by the overlay. The tires are 2 inches different in size. How do they line up perfectly?

aLex said...

by the way, it appears that you used a secret service by azor (as evidenced by the bicycle pump attached to the frame). that has a sportier geometry than the azor oma, opa, and transport. not sure if you knew that ...

Michael said...


The Velorbis 'classic' line of bicycles all have the Schwalbe Marathon 700c x 40c tires.

Also, the image I used for the Opa was the one from Dutch Bike Co. Seattle's web site. The site appears to be down now, so I can't check to see if they've updated it, but here's the original image as I blogged it: Azor Opa.

It doesn't seem to have the secret service mods - so unless they have had the wrong photo up on their site, then I believe it's the classic Opa.

As soon as it's back up - I'll do some other overlays - I think they are a resource I could have benefited from when I was going through 'the search'. : )

aLex said...

oops, my bad. i got all confused. i thought that the azor opa had two top bars. that was the transport. i am sure that you grabbed the right photo. how come the boys get the free bicycle pump on their bikes? not that i would ever change a flat ... :-)

thanks for the tire info, too. i thought that the velorbis had 26" tires, not 700c.

with regard to motivations, i think we are all trying to help people (like ourselves) who do not have access to all the brands to test ride. [le sigh] so we do our best to draw out differences, when in fact there may be little to none.

finally, i think the azor versus velorbis question keeps popping up because they are in the same price range (similar to the electra royal 8 versus batavus old dutch versus j&o scout comparison). people tend to go with a price range that they can stomach and then compare across that.

bottom line, we share one thing in common, michael, a love of our rides and truest hope to get people on the bicycle of their dreams - whatever that may be.

i so don't want a velorbis versus azor war. my g'd, the fixies already are giving me looks! i wave my white flag if i have started anything inadvertently. can i blame it on hank? he's not swiss ...

p.s. i think i need that "wheelchair" think for most of the word verifications.