Dutch bicycle manufacturer Santos has landed in Australia, launching its unique range of commuter, touring and mountain bikes. This is not Santos, as in the Santos Tour Down Under, rather this Santos brand was founded in 1997 by Hollander Robbie Rutgrink and all of the bikes appear to follow the theme of functionality and travelling. I was invited for a closer look and a bright orange Santos Trekking Lite became my trusty steed for a few weeks.
On first impressions the test Trekking Lite appears eminently practical. The Rohloff hub, belt drive, hydraulic rim brakes, mudguards, leather Brooks saddle and 28mm commuter tyres come together to form a dream package for a commuter or touring cyclist. The Santos earns its trekking moniker through a range of fixing and mounts, with the test bike fitted with a robust and elegant rear rack.
Taking a closer look, the quality of the build is clear. The well-finished frame is complimented by high-end components, with none of the common corners cut to rein in costs. The resulting package is far from cheap, but represents strong value if used as intended – as a true substitute for a car or public transport.
For a bike clearly not built for speed, the alloy-framed build weighs in at a more than respectable 11.5kg. This contributes to a sprightly and effortless ride, with the Santos happily loping along with the commuter peloton or equally well suited to a multi-day tour.
While the Santos’ performance was a welcome surprise, the most overwhelming sensations came from the Gates belt drive. Partnered with the Rohloff internal gear hub, this system delivers a silent and smooth driveline through the most sodden, gritty and foul conditions. The tragically short-lived pleasure of a freshly cleaned and lubed chain are solved through belt drive systems, with the Santos promising to run quietly and efficiently every day, in any conditions, with the bare minimum of maintenance. This is a particularly attractive quality for an all-weather commuter.
It wasn’t immediate clear whether the fitted hydraulic rim brakes offer any advantages over the more popular hydraulic discs, but they have plenty of power and a vastly superior feel to any cable system. The simplicity of this style of brake fits the ethos of the Santos package, but it remains debatable whether a disc arrangement would be preferable to protect rims from the grinding paste a commute/tourer will navigate.
The ride itself is smooth, comfortable and relaxed. The combination of components and geometry intangibly reduces urgency to travel from A to B, inspiring a greater awareness of surroundings and reducing temptation to join the wacky racers. These sensations were striking and enjoyable when the Santos took the place of an aggressive road bike for a week of commutes.
The combination flat and SPD pedals, chain guard and upright geometry removes the necessity of bicycle specific clothing, which encouraged short daytime trips around Melbourne’s CBD to be made by bicycle rather than public transport or cab.
The Trekking Lite provides lively performance, but was clearly designed to be a durable tool. The bike feels robust, dependable and certain to provide many years of faithful service.
The upfront cost is not insignificant, but represents a worthy investment in an active and non-car dependent lifestyle. More affordable derailleur and chain builds are available, but lack the appeal of the Rohloff and belt driveline. The Trekking Lite is a unique, high-end commuter or touring bike which I feel is well worth test riding.
The Trekking Lite ranges from $3800-5400 depending on your preferred specifications. For more information visit Dutch Cargo Bike