Sunday, July 20, 2008

Hangin' With Electra

We've had our Electra Amsterdam Classic 3 for about a year and a half now, so it's time for a little review. (By the way, Electra Web designers, I didn't link to your Amsterdam page because I hate sites that resize my browser window for me for no apparent reason. Hint, hint.) So far, it's been a bit of a mixed bag.

The Good:
This bike sure is fun. Not only is it a change of pace, but a change of pace that reminds me of my first experiences on a bike. It's got a more laid-back ride even than many of the Schwinn cruisers I've ridden, and has really wide, tall handlebars that encourage a tall sitting position and relaxed arms. The crank-forward design makes it pretty easy to put both feet down at stops, though not as easily as with a Townie.

It's also a very pretty bike and gets lots of compliments. The paint and trim are mostly very pleasing and really do give it a city bike feel. The leather mattress saddle and ergo grips are very nice. No complaints about the Shimano 3-speed internal hub with coaster brake. The rack is pretty useful, as is the stock lighting setup.

The Bad:
A while back, the rear wheel broke 4 spokes in about a day. To Electra's credit, they covered it under warranty, so maybe this doesn't belong in the bad category. It just didn't belong under good.

The Ugly:
I realize that bike companies have to make compromises to hit certain retail price points, but there are a couple of things on this bike that could have been better. Notice that the stock skirt guards are nowhere to be seen. They were plastic, with a very flimsy set of plastic clips that were supposed to secure them to the fender and seatstay. Um, back to the drawing board for those. The fenders, chaincase and fender trim also make a holy racket like a tin can full of gravel on any but the smoothest of roads. 

The seatpost is a steel swag type with separate clamp. I guess that's fine, except that with the seat angle being so slack it has bent a little in the middle, so it can't be lowered for shorter people now. A sturdier alloy post might have helped.

Bottom Line:
Overall the positives outweigh the negatives and I like the bike quite a bit. It's fun having a bike around with a kickstand and only 3 speeds. Something a person can ride short distances in regular clothes. 

Given to do over again, I'm not sure I would have purchased an Amsterdam had I known that the same shop was about to start stocking the Batavus Old Dutch. That bike is a real Omafiets, complete with integrated wheel lock. Maybe next time.

Of course, I can never leave well enough alone, and replaced the stock front lighting with a hub dynamo and aftermarket headlamp. (The taillight is a very nice fender-mounted battery LED.)  The Sturmey-Archer X-FDD dynamo hub with drum brake has worked out pretty well. I especially like the drum brake, which is very smooth, works well in all conditions and is a good supplement to the coaster brake. The dynamo function works as I had expected, though the Planet Bike 2.4 watt headlamp has been sort of a disappointment. Because it's designed to work with either a 3W or 2.4W source, it bleeds off the extra .6 watt produced by the 3W dynamo. And the beam pattern isn't that great. Word has it that PB is working on an LED headlamp, and I must say that I hope it's better (I'm sure it will be.)


Anonymous said...

have you considered the Victoria Classic from Velorbis?

Joe said...


How's the X-FDD working? Did you build the wheel yourself?

On the other side of Madison,

Mauricio Babilonia said...

The drum brake works just great. I haven't used the dynamo much, but it's worked just fine when I have used it. More drag than the Shimano DH-3N70s I have on my Cross Check and Fat Bike, about the same as the NX-30 on my winter bike.

Joe said...

Great news. I'm building up a winter bike with that hub and the sram spectro p5 internally geared hub with drum brake.

I've never built wheels before. I hope this goes well.

Mauricio Babilonia said...

Sounds like the ideal winter bike hubset. Drum brakes are pretty much weatherproof—or at least their performance is unaffected by rain and snow.

Good luck with the wheel build. It's one of the few bike-related things I don't now how to do...

Joe said...

Hi again,

What type of brake lever are you using for that drum brake? I have linear pulls, but I'm not so sure if that's the right path to take.