Electra Bicycles: Townie and Amsterdam Sport

Electra makes bikes well-suited for city cycling, but Trisha and I knew them only by reputation, advertising, and second-hand sightings. Today we stopped by a bike shop to take a closer look. Unfortunately, the shop recently sold its only lady’s Electra Amsterdam, so we were left with a Townie and diamond-frame Amsterdam Sport.

Trisha and the Electra Townie

Trisha and the Electra Townie

The Electra Townie Original 7D is priced around $400 and has a 7-speed derailleur and aluminum frame. The ride was smooth, but the bike is bulky with a beach cruiser vibe, which is not Trisha’s style. Electra touts their “Flat Foot technology,” which is supposed to let you rest flat-footed when you come to a stop, but when the seat was high enough to allow for full leg extension, only the balls of Trisha’s feet touched the ground. [Trisha says: this wasn't a problem since I'm used to not having my feet flat on the ground, but I thought it was strange that it didn't work as advertised for me.] However, during our ride we came upon a woman who owns the 21-speed version and said she loves hers.

Townie Angle

Townie Angle

The Electra Amsterdam Sport is priced at $750 and has an aluminum frame, swept-back bars, 9-speed derailleur, fenders, and no chain case, lights, rack or bell. The shop had only the diamond frame version, but there is a “women’s” version – a mixte frame! I enjoyed the ride on the Amsterdam Sport a lot. For someone looking for a new commuter, I put this in a class with bikes to consider seriously. It’s lightweight and quick, but the ride is surprisingly smooth for aluminum. The seat post angle is more like a Dutch bike, so my legs go slightly forward while pedaling instead of straight down, but the torso position is sporty with the handlebars even with the seat.

Dottie and the Electra Amsterdam Sport

Dottie and the Electra Amsterdam Sport

The experience at the bike shop was … interesting.  I don’t have to add commentary, I’ll simply repeat some choice quotes from the guy assisting us.

“You girls aren’t dressed for test riding bikes.”

“You can’t ride that bike in a skirt…I’m just trying to save you some embarassment.”

“You girls should stay on the sidewalk…be careful out there, girls.”

“How was your photo shoot?” (because Trisha had a camera in her hand)

Skirt and diamond frame miraculously co-existing

Skirt and diamond frame miraculously co-existing

We do this legwork so you don’t have to :)

To see lots of real-world Electra Amsterdam action, check out Girls and Bicycles.

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39 thoughts on “Electra Bicycles: Townie and Amsterdam Sport

  1. Christy says:

    Wow, those guys at the bike shop need to shut their mouths. They obviously don’t know what they are talking about. I bike around Chicago in a pencil skirt on my Schwinn Le Tour.

  2. Attention bike shop: The “Amsterdam” model appears on the Electra site with a woman rider who is wearing a skirt.

  3. with a woman rider who is wearing a skirt

  4. Computers…8%#

    Here’s the Electra link: http://www.electrabike.com/home/

  5. Sigrid says:

    You girls iz so perty in your little dresses! How DID you do it? my, my, my…

  6. Ha ha. What a tool (er, the bike shop guy, that is … of course). Makes me want to show up in a utilikilt.

  7. Karen says:

    Too bad it was the bike salesman’s panties that were showing. He obviously doesn’t realize he could have gotten some nice free advertising. My husband says most bikes hopes really don’t know how to relate to what women want and need because it’s mostly men working there so they sell for speed or rock hopping.

  8. Elaine says:

    A townie was my first bike; I actually learned how to ride only 5 years ago! I love it to pieces, although I don’t ride it so much anymore. Thankfully, the guys at the bike shop were way cooler than that jerk, and really encouraged me to get out there.

  9. Chandra says:

    I personally think those comments are sexist :(
    People all over the world, ride bicycles in all kinds of outfits, LOL!

    In some sense, it is similar to some comments made towards me for riding in my regular shorts. I think some people seriously believe that you can not ride a bike without padded shorts!

    Well, go for it ladies! Ride the bike wearing whatever you want! Bravo!!

    Peace :)

  10. Cosmo says:

    I really like my townie, but the flat foot technology just isn’t my favorite for hills. I thought I was crazy at first but then I tried taking the Gazelle up a hill over near Flying Pigeon LA and it was so much easier and that bike is not light.

  11. Catherine says:

    I have an Amsterdam (the “classic” model, 3 speed, steel frame, with chain guard and full skirt guard). I love it to bits and pieces, and have gotten almost non-stop compliments from strangers about it (interestingly, mostly men. And not in a creepy way if you’d believe that). From a motorcyclist I was next to at a stop sign (one way street with two lanes) who said “pretty bike” to a random homeless guy (“lady, I don’t know what kind of bike you’ve got but you’ve got a NICE bike”), to an older British man (who said he had one like that in his youth) to an Indian taxi driver (who had to come to my and the bike’s rescue the other night when the Metro broke and they were running shuttles with no bike racks) who also said had one like it in his youth)…everyone loves the Amsterdam!

    Here’s my bike: http://freckleddiaries.typepad.com/.a/6a00e54eff4314883401156feaf60b970b-pi

    I have since bought a vintage wire grocery basket and attached it to the rack on the back. It holds quite a bit and looks really very chic (in my humble opinion, of course).

    It’s been a great commuter bike for me–all the space in the basket helps, of course, and even in this not-flat area, the heavy (35 lbs I think) “only” 3 speed bike has been just fine for my 9 mile trek. I (hopefully this week) will be using the hybrid electric bike I bought a while ago (took ages to get up and running for complicated and stupid reasons) for the commute, too, to have the option on the “too tired” and “too hot” days. Amsterdam is for around my town and for everything under 5 miles, plus commuting when I feel like it, electric bike for longer distances/heavier hauls/commuting when I don’t feel like commuting on the Amsterdam.

  12. Man says:

    Thanks for the review and “braving” the bike shop nonsense so others don’t have too.

    Review clarification questions:
    1) Still don’t get what the flat footed technology is supposed to do;
    are both feet supposed to rest at the bottom…?
    2) Is it a lightweight bike good for commuting or not?
    May be it is the other comments on this post that are confusing me.

    • antisociology says:

      Re: the flat-foot technology

      Essentially, what they have done is rotate the rider backwards around the bottom bracket. They have a really slack seat angle, which allows for a short seat tube resulting in shorter reach to the ground so that you can put your feet down.

    • Dottie says:

      Lightweight is good, especially if you have hills on the commute. Heavier bikes usually have a smoother ride, though, especially when comparing aluminum frames to steel frames. The classic Amsterdam is steel and heavier, so the main difference between the classic and the sport is the frame material, which makes the sport lighter weight and better with hills, but not as smooth.

  13. Wow, that’s some slack seat-tube angle on the Townie! The “flat-foot” technology is nice in traffic, but is supposed to be a nightmare on hills and when trying to pick up speed. The bike basically puts your legs and torso in a semi-recumbent position, while the handlebars are designed for an upright position. As a result, fast pedaling pushes you backwards on the saddle. There is a nice article about this here – and notice that the girl pictured on the Townie is not extending her leg al the ay on the pedal either.

    I had considered both the Amsterdam (Classic) and the Townie when first thinking of buying a bike, but for various reasons I am very glad I didn’t.

    PS: Dottie, you look like Alice in Wonderland in that last photo!

    • “her leg al the ay” = “her leg all the way”

      • Trisha says:

        Yes, I didn’t ride it long enough to really get used to it so take this with a grain of salt — but I wasn’t impressed. I didn’t get to put my feet flat on the ground *and* it had the weird seat angle that made pedaling harder. I also felt like I was really reaching for the bars since I have a short torso.

  14. Sox says:

    Those kinds of people still exist, eh?
    Years ago, when I had to replace my 17 year old truck, the fellow at the car dealership asked me, “Are you sure you know how to drive a standard?” I wish I had quick enough to shrug and say, “How hard could it be?”

    I tried an Electra Amsterdam before I bought the Batavus. The pricing was similar, but I like the way the Bat keeps my elbows tucked closely by my side.

    You both look great, as usual!

  15. Mamavee says:

    I can confirm. The townie does not like hills. If pressed I can pump it. But the clear comparison is I’d rather tackle a hill in the sorte with kids then the townie alone. I know my seat is too low so I can maintain the flat foot tech too. I’m going to need to relearn how to ride when I get a better bike. But the townie is a good bike to tool around on.

  16. Cyclin Missy says:

    That guy sounds like kind of a d*ck! LOL

  17. About 13 years ago, I was at a motorcycle show, checking out a Harley. I was just about to swing a leg over when this guy, a good half a foot shorter than myself, comes up to me and says- “I don’t think you can handle that bike. It’s too big. You need a lady bike”. I got on the bike , chucked it off the center stand, looked him in the eye and said “Lady bike? I haven’t seen any with a built on dildo so this will have to do.” He nearly choked.

    I hate condescending twits who think they know something.

    • dukiebiddle says:

      Built on d*ld*’s define a bicycle as a lady bike? Well, color me embarrassed. The guy at the bike shop who sold me mine told me it was a seat stabilizer. So that’s they were all snickering.

  18. Jessie says:

    If you were at the shop I think you were at, I find the guys there to be somewhat unhelpful too. My boyfriend likes to customize and modify old bikes, and when he talked to the guys there about a part he needed and what it was for, they said it couldn’t be done. So he got the part somewhere else and quickly and easily accomplished “what couldn’t be done.”

    And when I went there to buy a helmet and asked to look at the skater styles, the guy helping me basically refused to let me see them (even though they sell them there). So I went across the street to the skate shop and got a bicycle-certified skate helmet.

    My boyfriend and I refer to them as “naysayers.”

  19. Devil's Lettuce says:

    I think you would be happier with the regular Amsterdam. I own one myself (Men’s version) one thing I would hasten to add to these first impressions: The design of some of the accessories is poor. The skirt guards on the Amsterdam have a tendency to suck (Read: Fall off the fender while riding and potentially get caught in the spokes). I’ve since totally removed them from my bike. But if I were a woman inclined to ride in a skirt, I would be a little upset. The other thing I’ve noticed is that the rear fenders need pretty regular maintenance to keep them secured to the bike, otherwise your ride will be accompanied by a pretty constant and annoying rattle. Lastly, the 3-speed internal hub on the Amsterdam is great for around town biking, but a real bear on tough hills.

  20. kmcdade says:

    I test-rode a couple of Electras & decided on an Xtracycle Radish instead, as it was more comfortable for me. But no way would I buy from a bike shop that treated me like that! Sheesh.

  21. twistofdynamite says:

    I own an Electra Amsterdam (women’s) and LOVE it. I have a very short commute to school and take my bike nearly every day until rainy season hits, then it’s a bit more sporadic. I will say that the frame is very heavy, making it hard to bike with my husband and friends who own road and mountain bikes with much lighter frames. But, because I love mine so much, I take my time and enjoy the scenery. Here’s a photo of me with my bike: http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3572/3651145361_50c7f761f2.jpg

  22. [...] Electra Bicycles: Townie and Amsterdam Sport « Let's Go Ride a Bike [...]

  23. Annie says:

    I must admit, I got my Townie a couple months ago and I am absolutely in love with it. It’s just a regular 7D like the one that Trisha is riding except in a different color and my feet also do not lay flat on the ground but I am in love none the less. Then again, I’m just a college student who simply rides to and from classes, though I did do my 5 mile commute on it to work this summer and I thought it was fine!

  24. Katie says:

    I used to have an Amsterdam and I loved it. I ended up moving on to a mixte when I needed more oomph, but it was a great bike.

    I am SO glad y’all went in there with your skirts. While it might not seem like it, you may have changed that man’s ideas of bike-appropriate clothing and biking as a lifestyle. As someone who bicycles almost exclusively in a skirt, what I notice is that people have just never seen it before. Once I explain that it’s really quite awesome, or they see me day after day arrive somewhere in a skirt, they seem to kind of dig the idea.

  25. donna says:

    I love my townie and I have to tackle many hills on my way home from work but I find raising the seat makes it much easier. I was , however, suprised to find out that the Pashley Princess Sovereign actually felt lighter than my townie. I want to get a lighter more compact but durable second bike so for that reason I am looking at the pashleys now. The townie was a great get-back-into riding-bike for me. Now thhat I’m a more confident rider I want an upgrade.
    Here’s my townie http://www.flickr.com/photos/snoopy126/3688922906/

    • Sandy says:

      Re: Donna’s note of 8/29/09. Donna, would you be interested in selling your townie? I’ve been searching for a bike all summer. I haven’t ridden a bike for about 15 years and at age 63, I want to make sure I get a safe bike and one that’s comfortable to ride. I recently won a Trek bike in a raffle for my husband and we want to ride together. You name a town and we’ve driven there to test ride a bike for sale (including a couple of adult trikes – no kidding!). We were in a bike shop recently and they let me test ride an orange Electra Townie 7D and I’m convinced it’s the bike for me! I’m looking for a used one since I lost my job recently and can’t afford a new one. Let me know if you want to sell yours. Thanks!

  26. Nona says:

    I own a Townie 21 and really love it. I live in a very hilly area and have no trouble. I just change gears a lot. I can’t really stand up on it so I actually feel like I get a good workout taking those hills. It’s a fun, comfortable bike. I can put my toes on the ground and that’s all I really need to ride without fear of a quick stop.

  27. Cyndi says:

    I have a Townie 21 and absolutely love it. Being able to put my feet down without tipping the bike makes me feel more secure. I had knee surgery a few years ago and the Townie is easier on both the knees and my back, which means I can ride longer. As for hills, I usually have no problem with them and I live in a very hilly area. That’s what all the gears are for! The only time I’ve had a problem was when we were doing a ride that took us across a mountain known locally as the Polk County Pyrenees. I had to get off and walk, and the bike is heavy when you walk it. It is a great bike for leisure riders.

  28. hectrix says:

    There are lots of people who are riding their bikes for transportation instead of riding buses and their cars because of the health benefits that they get when riding a bike.

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  29. [...] outfit and and being a committed, impassioned cyclist are mutually exclusive. For instance, Dottie from Let’s Go Ride a Bike writes of a demeaning experience at a Chicago bike shop: I don’t have to add commentary, I’ll simply repeat some choice quotes from the guy assisting [...]

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