When I think of Dutch bikes I think utilitarian, plain, heavy, slow, retro. While there’s nothing wrong with that list of characteristics, what if you took that general Dutch sensibility of design and made a sexy looking fixie or a flat bar road bike? The answer to that is easy, you’d have one of Lekker’s Amsterdam range of bikes.
While I’ve given up on the idea of the one bike that can do it all, I haven’t given up on finding the perfect commuter bike. The perfect commuter will have a rack so that can carry a set of panniers, a set of mud guards, and it will require very little maintenance. I currently address this problem by riding a fixie/single speed, with a rack and room for mud guards. I love the simplicity, I love the aesthetic, and the upkeep is almost non-existent. Ride it, stick it in the garage, ride it again the next day, and the day after, and the day after. What I don’t love is the walk of shame up a 20% slope or the way my legs feel after a long commute at the end of the week. Ideally I want a single speed with gears, and this lead me to Lekker.
Lekker’s bikes solve my problem with internal hubs, something we haven’t really caught onto yet here in Australia, but somewhere we really should be going. The Amsterdam comes in a variety of flavours, single speed/fixed, 2-speed, 3-speed, and “infinite” speed via a NuVinci 360 Infinity hub. They can actually do more speed combinations, such as a 7 speed or 11 speed, depending on the hubs they have in stock at the time. What they’re basically doing is taking one cleverly designed frame and letting you pick how many gears go on it depending on your riding needs and budget.
I got to ride the 3-speed version of the Amsterdam for this review, but since it’s the same frame for all of the “speeds”, I’ll talk about the frame separately from the hub. Before I get to the bike itself, however, I really need to compliment Lekker’s quality control. I’ve assembled lots of boxed bikes, sent straight from the warehouse to me, and this was the best packed and put together one I’ve ever unboxed. Every component and tube was padded and wrapped, all parts were firmly held together for shipping, and I didn’t find any loose bolts that were meant to be tight when I went over it all while doing the small amount of assembly required to get it ride ready. The Amsterdam even comes with a cute tool bag with tools for assembly and roadside repairs.
Once I assembled the bike, the first thing I noticed about the brushed metal Amsterdam was that it was shiny – very, very shiny. I have a real weakness for bare metal bikes, but the Amsterdam takes it to the logical extremes with deep shiny rims, forks, seat post, crank, bars, stem – the whole works. It even has clear brake cable housing which shows off the metal mesh beneath it. It accentuates all of this shininess with a classic-look leather seat and matching grips which are available in a variety of shades to suit your taste.
The other colours in the Amsterdam range also look great on the bike and I think it’s because of the understated Lekker decals. Aside from the stylish Lekker logo headtube badge, the only visual “noise” on the bike is the small Lekker name on the top tube near the saddle. I like it that way, but if you wanted more Lekker-ness, the bike is supplied with a bunch of stickers that you can add to suit your taste. I really wish all manufacturers did this.
Apart from the paint job, or lack thereof for the bare metal version (yes, it does have a clear coat, but you know what I mean), the other noticeable feature of the Amsterdam is the bent seat stays. They’re not overt at all, they subtly deceive the eye. I don’t know if they affect the ride characteristics or the geometry, but they visually set the Amsterdam apart from other flat bar roadies.
The Amsterdam comes in two sizes, 52cm and 58cm, and even though it has an internal hub rear wheel, the whole bike is only 11kg thanks to the all aluminium construction (seriously, it’s almost impossible to attach a magnet to this bike). The brakes and brake levers are the quality Tektro ones that people use on bikes when they have mud guards and need brake reach beyond what the typical road groupsets provide. I’ve got the same brakes on several bikes and they do their job admirably. The tyres supplied with the bike are Kenda 32s and they gave me zero trouble for the two months I rode on them.
As far as the feel of the bike goes, the slightly longer wheelbase and gentle geometry of the Amsterdam give it a very cruisy feel and great stability. It was easy on the hands and back and even the saddle was comfortable, something I don’t always see with stock saddles. The saddle, of course, is reminiscent of the Brooks range of saddles and that would be an obvious eventual upgrade that wouldn’t wreck the look.
Speaking of not wrecking the look, let’s talk accessories. Lekker supply a complete range of sensible complementary accessories for the Amsterdam to allow you to customise your ride. I chose the rack for practical purposes and was pleasantly surprised to find that the rack, firstly, has curves that complement the curved seat stays of the Amsterdam, and secondly, has an integrated rear red light. You can customise further with a front porteur rack, shiny mud guards, seatposts with built in LEDs and so on. Everything has a function and everything looks good.
As mentioned previously, the Amsterdam range is pretty much one frame with lots of gearing options; yes, there’s a step-through version and the NuVinci version is slightly different, but the rest of the models are the same bike. I haven’t ridden a NuVinci hub yet, but I have ridden all of the higher Nexus speed options at one time or another, and the Amsterdam gave me the 3-speed experience to complete the set. As such, the following comments about the 3-speed hub can be applied to other Nexus hubs in most cases.
All of the Nexus hubs give you a reasonable gear range when paired with a single chainring. The 3-speed was paired with a 46 tooth chainring and while I thought the gear range was suitable for most Sydney commuting, I found the three speeds to be at all the wrong places. The late, great guru on everything cycling, Sheldon Brown, said that three speed hubs should be set up so that the top gear is your cruising gear, then next one is the accelerating gear, and the lowest is your climbing gear. That would have been perfect for me; the default top gear on the Nexus hub was just a bit bigger than I could comfortably sustain and the middle gear was just a little low for cruising for my taste.
A bit of calculation based on my current fixie gearing told me that I could have the Sheldon setup with a simple rear cog change. The people at Lekker said they could do that for their customers before shipping, which is excellent if you know your preferences beforehand, but doing a chainring change or cog change is something any bike shop can handle or something a handy rider could do themselves. If you do head down the 3-speed pathway, dialling in your optimal gearing will make your riding so much more enjoyable. If you opt for more speeds in the hub, this problem will be much less noticeable.
The Nexus hubs have come a long way over the last few generations of the product and I found the shifting to be quick and responsive, though it didn’t like shifting down when under load, like heading up a hill. It takes a little bit of practice to get the ease-off/shift combo down, but once you do internal hubs are lovely to use. One of the best things about them is being able to shift while stationary, which means you’ll never have to worry about being in too big a gear when you’re trying to take off uphill from a set of lights.
One of the big issues I have with any integrated hub (i.e. motorised hubs, dynamo hubs etc.) is that they’re not always easy to get on and off the bike when you need to change a tyre or load them into a car. The Nexus hubs are pretty fool-proof though. The front and rear wheels of the Amsterdam are nut mounted (i.e. not quick release), so you’ll need a shifter or a spanner for removal, and to remove the shifting mechanism for the Nexus hub, you’ll need an Allen key. Undo the hex-bolt on the shifting mechanism and remove the end of the shifting cable, undo the wheel nuts, pop the chain off and your wheel is free. It’s almost as easy as not having a hub there at all.
While there were lots of things I did like about the Amsterdam, there were some things I didn’t. Firstly, it’s too pretty. I’ve always loved the clean metal look and this bike has it all the way. This bike makes me drool, but unfortunately I suspect it will also make thieves drool. I could “uglify” it, like I’ve done with previous commuters, but it’s too damn gorgeous to defile, even with obnoxious stickers. I’d be worried about locking this up at the train station or in the city all day.
Secondly, the nexus shifters and cables are ugly. This is not Lekker’s fault, Shimano have really let Lekker down here. The black cabling contrasts with the pretty shiny brake cables and I don’t like grip shifters. There are better third party shifting options for some internal hubs, but not the Nexus 3-speed. This limits the bar configuration to the flat bar. Lekker’s single speed/fixie versions of the bike can be tricked out with drops, flats, or bullhorns, all with suitable bar tape and brake levers, but if you have a Nexus hub you’re limited to using the grip shifter. Shimano – pick up your game.
Lastly, the cable retention system on the Amsterdam failed, sort of. The internal hub cable runs down a channel on the bottom of the downtube; this is a great idea, a sensible design feature, and I’m all for it. The cable is kept in place with some simple metal clips however, and several of these popped off on a ride and the cable ended up swinging and entangling my foot, almost causing a crash. Luckily I always have a couple of zip ties in my saddlebag, so it was easily fixed, but I think Lekker can do a better job with the clips.
The Amsterdam is an excellent commuter and it passes the “would I buy it?” test. When my current fixie wears out (or when I get sick of it and need a change), I’ll be looking carefully at the Amsterdams. I may even go for one of the geared versions. These bikes fulfill all of the criteria I have for a commuter and then some. What’s even better is that you get serious value for your money.
I think the only way these bikes could fulfill my needs more is if there was even less maintenance involved with them, and the NuVinci hubbed model may be the answer; it has a carbon belt drive instead of a chain, so no lubrication required! I was going to be reviewing one of these Amsterdams (which have a slightly different rear triangle in the frame due to the belt drive), but Lekker are having problems keeping this model in stock. If you’re serious about your commuting, or if you want a flat bar touring bike, then you should keep an eye out for when these are back in stock.
Lekker make some very fine looking, value for money, sensible bikes that are going to be serving their riders for many years to come. The Amsterdam is sitting at the top of my list as a replacement for my current commuter. Have a look at Lekker’s range at lekkerbikes.com.au. The 3-Speed Amsterdam reviewed here is the 2nd Generation Amsterdam and retails for $748 for the brushed metal model and $698 for the other colours.