Beautiful Bicycles: WorkCycles Secret Service

As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, I recently got my paws on a WorkCycles Secret Service Step-Through bicycle from J.C. Lind Bikes in Chicago. (The bike is also available in a diamond-frame version.)  Naturally, I have lots of thoughts after riding the Secret Service around for a few days.  If you’re interested in learning more about this Dutch bike, read on!

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For those of you who are not familiar with WorkCycles (where have you been?!), they are a true Dutch bike company  with unfailingly high quality. Dutch bikes, of course, are known for their practical utility.  WorkCycles shines on that front, offering bikes loaded with bells and whistles that make for a comfortable, all-weather ride.

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I have been interested in trying the WorkCycles Secret Service for years, because the Secret Service is billed as a lighter, tighter, more compact version of the WorkCycles Oma – aka my big baby girl.  As such, I will frame my thoughts about the Secret Service as they relate to the Oma.

First of all, the Secret Service profile is noticeably slimmer.  This is a result of slightly lighter tubing, narrower tires and handlebars that swoop back less dramatically.  The body positioning while riding the Secret Service is straight up, with legs motioning down and not slightly forward as with the Oma.  Oddly, I was not able to place a foot on the ground comfortably at stoplights; I had to dismount instead.  Note that I test rode the 53″ Secret Service and my Oma is a size 57″.

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The sturdy steel frame and sprung Brooks saddle together make for a smooth ride – almost like my Oma, but not quite as smooth. The pace of the ride is also similar to my Oma, but definitely a bit peppier.  I don’t think I got anywhere faster than I would have on my Oma, but I used a bit less energy.  Some people are thrown off by the front handling of the Oma, feeling that the front wheel way out front is too unweildy.  Those people would not have that issue with the Secret Service – handling is definitely more nimble and responsive.

Like any respectable Dutch bike, the Secret Service holds a substantial amount of cargo.  The integrated rear rack is rated to carry around 65 pounds, while the built-in bungie straps are useful for fastening all sorts of stuff on the rack.  There is an option to increase the cargo capacity significantly by adding a front rack that is rated for up to 50 pounds.  (Same as Oma.)

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Shimano roller brakes in the front and rear are excellent in any weather.  Since they are covered, they are not affected by rain or snow.  With roller brakes, your days of taking twice as long to screech to a stop in bad weather are over.  (Same as Oma.)

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The sturdy wheels are 28″ with Schwalbe tires.  Schwalbes are the best!  The ones on my Oma have never gotten a flat after almost 5 years – knock on wood.  (Same as Oma, but the tires are narrower on the Secret Service.)

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For gearing, there is a Shimano internal hub with 8-speeds.  The bike is also available with a 3-speed hub.  This Shimano Nexus shifting system is a joy to use – transitions are super smooth and allow for changing gears while completely stopped.  (Same as Oma.)

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There are several components that work together to keep your clothes clean and safe. The chain case will prevent your clothes from getting dirty, greasy or eaten by the chain. The fact that the chain is fully covered majorly cuts down on maintenance and helps make this an excellent all-weather, all-season bike.  (Same as Oma, but with a center cut-out and overall lighter look.)

The skirt guard will prevent your skirt or coat from getting caught in the wheel spokes while riding.   (Same as Oma, but smaller and see-through.)

The sturdy two-footed, center-mounted kickstand holds the bike up no matter what. A sturdy kickstand is especially helpful while loading and unloading.  (Same as Oma.)

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Heavy duty fenders are included – an essential for all-weather riding, especially in nice work clothes.  Remember: friends don’t let friends get skunk stripe.  (Same as Oma.)

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The bike is equipped with integrated front and rear lights, which are essential for safe daily riding.  The lights are hub dynamo, which means they are powered by your pedaling and batteries are not needed – a huge benefit!  I really cannot overemphasize the usefulness of integrated lights.  Few situations are more dicey than biking home in the dark after your battery-operated light runs out of juice or is stolen.  (Same as Oma.)

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A sprung Brooks B67 saddle is standard.  This saddle really contributes to the smoothness of the ride.  I can attest that these are absolutely the most comfortable saddles out there, after a short breaking in period of only a few days.  (Same as Oma.)

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The rear wheel comes with a wheel lock, a useful extra that immobilizes the bike – unless someone wants to carry her away.  (Same as Oma.)

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The platform pedals work well with all kinds of shoes, helping to prevent slippage.  (Same as Oma.)

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There is a built-in tire pump that I find to be an odd addition, as I much prefer to use a floor pump.   The chain case makes fixing flats on the go a huge pain and Schwalbe tires rarely get a flat, so a mini pump does not seem very useful.   (Oma does not have a pump.)

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In summary, the set-up of the Secret Service is the same as Oma’s, except the the skirt guard, chain case, and tires are slighter; the handlebars are not swept back as far; the tubing is a tad thinner; and the weight is a bit lower. In exchange for a smaller size and peppier response, the ride is not as smooth and the overall feel is not as luxurious as Oma’s. Those who find the Oma ill-suited because she is too big or heavy would do well to check out the Secret Service. (I’m talking to you, shorter peeps!)

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The WorkCycles Oma is firmly in a class of her own. She reigns as Queen of Citybikedom.

The WorkCycles Secret Service is a first-rate bike with excellent quality, utility and beauty, but could be considered in the same general class as the following:

Gazelle Toer Populair
Pashley Sonnet Bliss
Velorbis Victoria / Dannebrog
Pilen Lyx

Riding the Secret Service reminded me more of those four bikes than of the Oma. Oma is like a Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade Float or a glider rocker on wheels; the other bikes are like very nice bikes.

I would recommend the Secret Service over the Oma for anyone who feels overwhelmed by the size of the Oma, who dislikes the sometimes-unweildly front handling of the Oma, or who travels longer distances or encounters the occasional hill.

As always, I recommend trying to test-ride as many different bikes as possible before deciding which bike is best for you. If you’re in Chicago, you can head over to J.C. Lind Bikes in Old Town (and soon, because he’s getting only one more small shipment of WorkCycles for the rest of the year).

Finally, here is a quick video I put together that hopefully gives you a better idea of the bike.

P.S. Read about our visit to the WorkCycles shop in Amsterdam here.

{As always, we at LGRAB receive nothing for our reviews except the joy of spreading beautiful bike love.}

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38 thoughts on “Beautiful Bicycles: WorkCycles Secret Service

  1. Oldbikerider says:

    Hi Dottie – welcome back!
    I was riding along a local bike trail with Sparkles the Pit Bull Terrier the other day on my flat bar, 7-speed, Motobecane road bike converted to city bike.
    Dozing along in my own world of flotsam – as much as you can while riding with a Pit Bull Terrier – i suddenly came face to face with a woman who oozed Royalty. She was riding an Oma-like bicycle which put her in that elegant, stately, upright position – gliding through the present, on her way to something REALLY important, no doubt about that. I was speechless as the moment passed, but continue to be haunted. I never thought much about that style of bicycle but OMG, it’s an experience for everyone, not just the rider.
    Thank you for spreading the word!

  2. Another fantastic thorough review! Nice job!

  3. Great, thorough review. I borrowed Streetsblog Editor-in-Chief Ben Fried’s Secret Service when I visited NYC this winter and had a blast cruising around Manhattan on it. One quibble: is WorkCycles a “true Dutch company” when it’s owned by a transplant from New Amsterdam, albeit a super-cool dude?

    • Dottie says:

      Well, the company is based in Amsterdam with Dutch employees making the bikes in the Netherlands. :) But the point I was trying to make with that statement is that WorkCycles are serious and sturdy bikes (true Dutch bikes), in contrast to bikes like the Trek Coco that simply copy the look of a traditional Dutch bike.

      • OK, that makes sense. I suppose we can add the Electra Amsterdam to the list of bikes that seem to promise Euro-style utility and reliability but only go halfway – a Dutch treat, if you will.

        • Dave says:

          Mhm, I started off with an Amsterdam, and within 6 months, I had to rebuild the wheels, get a new light, new dynamo, etc as I was breaking spokes and many of the ‘accessories’ were falling apart. Those bikes are definitely intended for casual use.

  4. David P. says:

    Good review. Do you find its handling and feel to be at all like your Bett Foy, or more like Oma-lite? I’m curious about bikes like these since they’re so different from what I ride. Oma-type bikes, in particular, seem like battleships to me.

    The frame pump does seem slightly curious, but if nothing else it makes it easier to top pressures up if you’re not at home. I’ll note that it is not strictly necessary to remove the wheel to repair a flat, though I can’t imagine that roadside flat repair is going to be common among the typical demographic for this bike.

    • Dottie says:

      The handling is not at all like Betty Foy. Maybe like Oma-lite. But the big difference is that the Secret Services does not have that “battleship” feel. The front does not feel so separate from the rest of the bike, as the front of the Oma does, especially for newbies. I put the handling more on par with my Velorbis than with the Oma or Betty Foy.

  5. David P. says:

    Good review. Do you find its handling and feel to be at all like your Bett Foy, or more like Oma-lite? I’m curious about bikes like these since they’re so different from what I ride. Oma-type bikes, in particular, seem like battleships to me.

    The frame pump does seem slightly curious, but if nothing else it makes it easier to top pressures up if you’re not at home. I’ll note that it is not strictly necessary to remove the wheel to repair a flat, though I can’t imagine that roadside flat repair is going to be common among the typical demographic for this bike.

  6. LGRAB says:

    Great review! I would love to try one of these bikes in the class you mentioned. Or d you think it’s similar to my Bat as well?

    • Dottie says:

      Hm, not really similar to your Bat. Maybe a little in the front handling and pedaling position, but they feel quite different to me.

  7. Dave says:

    There have definitely been a few moments I’ve wished the frame pump on my Raleigh wasn’t rusted solid. You can often patch a flat without removing the wheels, but then you still need something to re-inflate the tire with.

    Not sure if it’s still the same or not on newer models, but it might be worth mentioning that the front light does not have a standlight (that is, it goes off as soon as you stop moving, rather than storing a small charge and staying on for a little bit).

    I’d also agree that it reminds me of the Pilen more than the WorkCycles Omafiets.

    I can give a little input on the optional front rack, as my wife has a Secret Service with the front rack, and I’ve ridden it some. Because it’s frame-mounted, it doesn’t effect the steering much at all (other than just changing the weight balance of the bike overall with stuff loaded on it), and it is very solid. We had to fidget a little to install it on the Secret Service, as there’s a little plastic cable-router that has to be moved for it to fit, and I feel like we had to futz with the steering-stabilizer spring to make it work, too, but it all worked out.

    Those brakes on it are super strong – I’ve occasionally locked them up and skidded (one time I freaked out a pedestrian nearby), as the drum brakes on my bike are not nearly as strong.

    The one issue we’ve had with the bungees is that they stretch out and then stay that way. I’m not sure what the deal is, maybe the elastic just loses its elasticity being exposed to weather and such, as our bikes live outdoors 24/7 all year.

    Overall though, it’s been a very solid and reliable bike – we’ve had to do basically nothing to it but put air in the tires for the couple of years we’ve had it, and everything still works great.

    • Dottie says:

      Thanks so much for offering your perspective, Dave! I meant to link to your blog as a great resource for more first-hand experience, but by the time I finished writing this at 2 a.m. last night, it had slipped my mind. :)
      Everyone: check out Portlandize for more info!

      • Dave says:

        No worries, other than specific experience with the front rack, I wouldn’t have a whole lot to add, other than perhaps that both my wife and I prefer the more swept-back handlebars on the Omafiets. But that’s just a matter of preference :)

  8. Alisa says:

    Have you ever tried the WorkCycles Kruisframe? I love your descriptions of the Oma … you’ve pretty much sold me on it … but the aesthetics of the step-through cross-frame are more my style. Do you know if the Oma and the Kruisframe ride the same/similarly?

    • Dave says:

      Alisa,

      I’ve ridden the Kruisframe for a couple of days, and while that’s not a huge amount of experience, I have to say that I preferred the Oma for the most part, in terms of handling. The Kruisframe put me in such a relaxed posture that at times I felt almost like I was tipping backwards, and starting out, it was quite easy to unintentionally pop a wheelie if you weren’t careful, because the center of gravity of the bike is so much at the back.

      Aesthetically it is great, and it’s not that it’s a *bad* ride, I just preferred the Omafiets overall. The frame on the Kruisframe is much stronger though, so if you have to carry another person, or a lot of heavy things, the Kruisframe will take a lot more abuse – I think you would be hard-pressed to break it even if you tried your best.

      • kaceyandalisa says:

        Thanks Dave! Yeah, it’d be my main ride – I’m car-free and haul a lot of groceries (and, in several years, probably kids … I hear a WorkCycles should last that long!) So the sturdiness is a selling point for me.
        I’m surprised to hear it’s more relaxed than the Oma. Few bikes really feel relaxed to me … I’m 5’11 with a 34″ inseam, so to get good extension I usually have to raise the seat so far I’m tipped forward, even on a tall ‘men’s’ bike. So maybe that’ll be a good thing? I’m visiting Amsterdam this month and plan on trying them both out! Thanks!

        • Dave says:

          I have also talked to Henry, who owns WorkCycles, and he said he’s never heard of an Oma frame breaking either, even carrying kids and other adult passengers, so I don’t think you have to worry too much about that. Not only will a WorkCycles bike last you a few years, but barring any major catastrophe, your grandchildren could be riding it one day.

          The Dutch are statistically the tallest average nation in the world, so naturally, they also have large bicycles :) I know people who are over 6′ tall, and ride perfectly straight up on WorkCycles bikes with larger frame sizes.

  9. Bettina@Books, Bikes, and Food says:

    I have to say these frame pumps can come in handy at the most unexpected moments. Often when you have a flat you can still ride to safety if you have one handy to top up the air (that is, if the hole isn’t huge). My past bikes have all had them and my new one doesn’t. While I haven’t had a flat yet, the lack of a pump has definitely had me thinking about what I’d do if I did get one.

  10. Duncan says:

    Great review of the Secret Service bike! I really enjoy riding the bike, and wanted to add that the Secret Service I purchased from Clever Cycles was outfitted with a NuVinci hub, which is remarkable-no notched shifing, rather you rotate the gear handle forward or backward and you seamlessly transition from low to high gear ratios.

  11. Jennifer in Scotland says:

    Really great review Dottie. I’ve sometimes wondered whether I should have bought the Secret Service instead of Oma because of the hills in Edinburgh. I would miss the ‘Oma glide’ though. You’re right – there’s nothing like it.

  12. Dennis Hindman says:

    The details that are incorporated for utilitarian use on most city bicycles made in the Netherlands are fascinating and sadly lacking on bikes designed for the U.S.

    A few points that you may not have brought up before:

    The reason that bike seat designs get wider as you sit more upright is that more of the fatty padding of the derriere is being used. Road bikes have the narrowest saddles because much of your weight is put on the tender area in-between your legs and less on your rear as you lean forward. Road bike designs have you leaning forward simply for better aerodynamics, which is important when your in a race, but the trade-off is increased discomfort.

    The rear rack of the Oma is built like a tank. I have a German designed steel Tubus rear rack which one online retailer states has the highest load capacity of any rear rack that he knows of at 88 lbs. Workcycle states the load capacity of the rear rack on the Oma is 110 lbs–or an adult passenger. So, instead of just hiring a Sherpa to carry all of your purchases, you can invite that special Sherpa who you are dating to hop onto the rear rack while they are carrying all of your groceries. The Secret Service rear rack holds a more modest 66 lbs.

    The Secret Service uses a newer model of roller brake from Shimano that is much more powerful than the brakes on Oma. That large disks on the hubs of the Secret Service are cooling fins to dissipate heat.

    Roller brakes are almost unheard of for bicycles designed for the U.S. market. The dominant braking technologies in the U.S. are lighter weight wheel rim or disk–which are usually only sold on sport bikes in the Netherlands. Roller brakes are a big reason why Dutch bikes are so heavy. Another advantage besides protection from rain or snow for roller brakes is that they do not accumulate oil or grease on the braking surface and automatically adjust as they wear–unlike most road bike rim brakes.

    The handy rear wheel lock is also rarely sold with bikes in the U.S. When you think about it, wouldn’t you like to occasionally just lock the rear wheel of your bike close to a front door of a store for a quick purchase, instead of having to find a fixed object to attach your bike with a heavy lock?

  13. BigBlackBike says:

    I’ve ridden a 61 cm Secret Service diamond frame all over hilly San Francisco for 3 years. Love the bike. I ride it in all kinds of weather. Nice review. The only comment I have is that SF has suffered from two decades of deferred maintenance of its roads–and as a consequence the pavement is horrible here, and glass is everywhere. I get flats quite often, and like your review, I don’t mess around with the carry-on hand pump. You can rent these bikes from WorkCycles when you visit Amsterdam.

  14. Jeff says:

    Dottie and all, thanks for the very helpful reviews and comments. My comfort frankenbike is anything but and in the process of researching alternatives landed here and found a lot of useful information.
    I live in a village of 400 where the dogs and cats have right-of-way over all traffic and rarely encounter even a dozen cars on my 10 mile joyride on the surrounding roads. It’s not the sort of riding some of you hardy souls do, in the winter, in Chicago, I mean really. I lived in the western suburbs in the 60’s and still remember what that kind of cold is.
    Still, I have a half mile of rough, dusty gravel lane to ride just to get to the southern version of pavement. And being damned tired of watching the ground pass under my front wheel I found the idea of sitting upright on a sturdy, practical bike pretty compelling. The choices narrowed quickly and in the end I have ordered a Kruisframe step-through from Jon (J.C. Lind Bikes). It won’t arrive until late summer but when it does I will return the favor and post some remarks on it.

  15. Sibelius123 says:

    I’m thinking of ordering a workcycles secret service and wondering what size I should have? I’m 6’1″ and my inner leg measurement is 32 1/2, approximately. I wonder how high the cross bar is on the 57 vs 61?
    Thanks for any advice – unfortunately I don’t have a dealer nearby so I need to order online.

    • Dave says:

      My first thought is you’d probably want the 57cm, but I’m not an expert by any means, so you might take that with a grain of salt. Based on your inseam, I suspect the 61cm might be too high.

      • Sibelius123 says:

        Thanks Dave – I think you’re probably right. I was leaning toward getting the 57cm anyway, just to be safe , but like bigger frames so wanted to see what people think…

        • LGRAB says:

          Thanks, Dave. I wish I could offer some advice myself, but I wasn’t able to test the 57 cm. I’m 5’7 and the 53 cm was too small for me on the step through version; didn’t try the cross bar version. For exact measurements, you could contact Henry directly. There’s an email on his website.

  16. alissa says:

    Thanks for this review…I ride a Linus Roadster 8 speed and am new to urban biking. We live in Calgary and today was my first ride in colder weather which got me thinking about my commute come fall when the weather takes a turn. I’m concerned my Linus will be too light and flimsy in the winter months and have looked into bikes like your “Oma”…my only large issue is that we live on top of a steep hill and I have to deal with it come everyday after a long day at work where my energy level is zero…

    What are your thoughts…have you tried a LInus…do you agree it’s not the right ride for rougher winter terrain? Would something like the Secret Service offer more safety and comfort? How’s Oma on hills?

    Thanks for your blog..new to riding and have found it inspiring.
    Alissa

    • LGRAB says:

      I’m not too familiar with the Linus. The Oma is very difficult on hills. I think the most important characteristic of a winter bike is to have a covered chain and internal hub for brakes and gears. If your Linus has that, it should be decent in the winter. Hope this helps!

  17. アリエル オウスト says:

    I’m seriously thinking of starting to ride a bike if I can possibly get bus service of some kind to the local train station which takes me to school. I really have no desire to use expensive fuel to drive my car to the train station. For right now however I purchased a Razor scooter and am using that because it’s about 3x faster than walking. I’m also looking at a really inexpensive Motobecane Bistro 7V on ebay ($410) which I’m sure is an Asian copy of the Oma. It’s also cool to have myths dispelled as far as getting dirty, and safety (not being safe on a bike).

    I also passed (an older than me) man on as I deboarded the train at school whom gave me a smile as he was on a bike, and I was riding my scooter on the platform, which made me smile. Kind of made a rider to rider connection/sign of respect and “you go girl!” So I take it that it’s a sign I should continue what I’m doing with the bike/scooter choice.

  18. Thanks for such a helpful review. It’s frustrating how difficult it is to get good information (or even images) for these bicycles. I ride a ’62 3-speed Raleigh but am looking for a newer, more low-maintenance bike for both commuting and child transport. If only there was a Workcycles dealer in DC where I could try these out. I really would like some firsthand knowledge before making a purchase. For now, I’m trying to get as much info as possible from blogs like yours. Thanks again!

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