A new Dutch bicycle brand has arrived in Chicago, and you know I was all over them faster than you can say “Dottie is freakishly obsessed with pretty and utilitarian city bikes.” The Gazelle Toer Popular and Gazelle Chamonix Pure are now at Dutch Bike Chicago. The names are unweildy and hard to pronounce, but everything else about them is lovely.
The Gazelle Toer Popular is a super traditional Dutch bike with gorgeous looks, a sturdy steel frame and all of the expected features.
The stand-out feature that distinguishes this bike from other big English and Dutch models is the rod brakes. See the curved metal under the handlebars? That’s the brake lever and one pull on either side engages both front and back brake simultaneously. This feature is great for one-handed riding. As Lovely Bicycle notes in the comments below, the rod part is just for looks and the rod simply controls the drum brakes.
The skirt guard keeps skirts and coats out of the wheel, as well as anything that may dangle off the rear rack. Fenders and a front mud flap keep the gross road gunk off your cute boots. The O-lock provides low level security by immobilizing the rear wheel.
The chain guard fully covers the chain, protecting it from the weather and your clothes from it. There is a 3-speed internal Sturmey Archer hub. Platform pedals accommodate any shoe. The kickstand provides pretty good balance, although the bike is still susceptible to tipping over and it requires a tiny bit more effort to move the kickstand entirely out of the way.
A bottle generator powers the classy front headlamp, while the back light is battery-powered. A dual internal dynamo hub on both the front and rear would be a better set-up. The big honking bell is my absolute favorite “DING DONG!” bell, very similar to the Pashley’s. The rear rack is heavy duty with strong elastic straps to hold your cargo down. The sprung leather Brooks saddle speaks for itself, and your bottom will say, “Thank you.”
Enough with the bells and whistles, how does she ride? Very well! There’s a reason this design has been around since the beginning of the safety bicycle and is still going strong. This bike sails smoothly and easily. The three speeds limits the usefulness to cities that are not super hilly, but in most places you won’t have any problems.
Surprisingly, the ride feels quite a bit different from the ride of my Azor Oma. Although they look similar, there are subtle differences in the geometry – we measured! On the Gazelle compared to the Azor, the handlebars sweep back two inches less, the seat tube is closer to the stem by one inch, and the stem is one inch shorter. As a result, I felt perched on top of the bike, rather than enveloped by it as I do with my Azor. This feeling was more comparable to how I felt riding the Pashley Princess and Sonnett.
For someone trying to decide between a Gazelle and a bike like the Azor, I have two thoughts. First, which feeling would you prefer: more nimble or more enveloped? Second, how tall are you? I think part of the difference in feeling is due to my height, 5’7. Someone like Trisha riding Gazelle may feel as enveloped as I do on my Azor. Along that line, someone who wants a Dutch bike but feels that the Batavus Old Dutch or Azor Oma is too overwhelming may feel right at home on the Gazelle Toer Populair.
The Gazelle Chamonix Pure is a modern and sporty version of the Toer Populair. The accessories and general design are the same, but the Chamonix Pure has an aluminum frame, making it much lighter. If you want a Dutch bike but need to carry it up stairs and on public transportation or live in a hilly city, this is the type of Dutch bike you need. The bike reminded me a lot of Trisha’s Batavus Entrada Spirit.
A distinguishing feature compared to the Toer Populair is the handlebars. While they do not sweep back quite as far, they are fully adjustable back and forth, up and down, round and round with a quick release latch. This ensures that you’ll find the exact right fit.
The gearing here is a 3-speed Shimano internal hub. The brakes are internal roller brakes. Neither the gears or brakes are affected by weather conditions.
Both the rear and front lights are hub generated. Pedaling powers them, not batteries.
It’s also equipped with a rear rack with straps, O-lock, skirt guard, chain guard and platform pedals.
The ride on the Gazelle Chamonix Pure felt very similar to the Toer Populair. The positioning felt almost identical, despite the difference in handlebars. The biggest difference is that the Chamonix Pure is lighter and therefore a bit faster. Also, the ride is not as smooth due to the aluminum frame. Generally, I’m not a fan of aluminum frames because I can feel every little bump but the Gazelle, like Trisha’s Batavus, is incredibly smooth for an aluminum frame. Just not quite as smooth as steel.
If you have any questions, I’ll try to answer them. Yay beautiful bikes!
You can check out our entire “Beautiful Bicycles” series here.