By Justin Steiner
The Electra Bicycle Company believes a bike should be more than just a tool for transportation; it should be a fun and functional extension of your personal style. As a result, they’ve carved out a niche for themselves as purveyors of posh and pleasurable cycles.
Electra’s Amsterdam line represents the company’s take on the iconic Dutch city bike. The modus operandi of the Dutch bike is to provide comfort and utility with minimal fuss. An upright riding position, full coverage fenders, internally geared hubs, drum brakes, enclosed drivetrain, and a generally indestructible demeanor make this type of bike an ideal choice for daily utility. Electra recommends the Amsterdam for those blessed with flat topography and commuting distances less than ten miles.
Two differences from traditional Dutch bikes stand out: a lightweight aluminum frame and Electra’s signature Flat Foot Technology (FFT); designed so you can put your feet flat on the ground while seated and still achieve proper leg extension when pedaling. To achieve this, Electra moves the cranks further forward relative to a traditional bike, and lowers the seat accordingly.
The Amsterdam line is geared toward the urban commuter, ranging in price from $580 for the Original 3i (the base model three-speed), to $1,150 for the Royal 8i (tested). They are available in two sizes, split by sex. The men’s version fits riders from five-foot-five to six-foot-three, while the ladies’ step-through model fits riders from five-foot-two to six feet.
Swing a leg over an Amsterdam for the first time and your perception of the riding position will likely depend on your level of experience as a cyclist. It’ll feel a bit foreign to seasoned riders, but those new to, or re-entering, the sport will find it quite confidence inspiring. Both will find it supremely comfortable. The high, rear-swept handlebars reach back to greet you, providing a very upright stance. So, sit your butt down on that huge tractor-style seat and bask in the glory—no cycling shorts needed on this rig.
Once underway, the Amsterdam provides a ride that’s a nice compromise of stability and agility. FFT requires a slacker-than-normal steering geometry with increased fork offset. The resulting steering feel is different than a traditional bike, but quickly becomes second nature.
As is often the case, comfort comes at the sacrifice of out- right pedaling efficiency. Within the scope of the Amsterdam’s intended use, you’ll not feel any worse for the wear, but greater distances and/or climbing hills are not the Amsterdam’s strong suits. That said, a slow, deliberate spin will get you up just about any hill within reason. Once up to speed on flat ground, the Amsterdam cruises gracefully and efficiently.
There’s nothing to fault of the Amsterdam’s mechanical performance. This bike operated flawlessly throughout the test, requiring just a few post-break-in adjustments. The Shimano roller brakes and internally geared hub are well-suited to this application, and show all signs of performing perfectly for years to come. Future Royal 8i models will feature a dynamo hub in place of the bottle generator on my test bike, which will be a nice upgrade. The included lights, a generator- powered incandescent headlamp and a battery-operated LED tail light, are a nice touch for being seen, but should be supplemented with additional lighting in my opinion.
Having ridden the Amsterdam both within and well outside its intended use (it’s a surprisingly capable bike in rough terrain given the robust 700x40c tires), I’ve walked away impressed with the performance and value. Those of you living in cities with little elevation change would love hopping over to the bar or coffee shop in decadent comfort and posh style.
Overall, I see the Amsterdam bikes being perfectly suited to the task of getting more of us ‘Mericans to use bikes for everyday utility. Its style transcends pure functionality while providing a comfortable and functional vehicle. Within the scope of its intended use, this bike gets a hearty two thumbs up from this tester.