Blazing a trail from Seattle to Chicago

By Meryl Fulinara

One bike company based in Seattle is bringing its imported European bikes to the Second City.

Dutch Bike Co., 651 W. Armitage Ave., just opened its doors on Oct. 18, giving Chicagoans a taste of Europe.

Stephan Schier, a company partner, said Dutch Bike Co. had a lot of people in Chicago asking when a store would open up in the Windy City. He said they had a customer from Chicago who flew all the way out to Seattle just to test ride a bike.

“Our bikes are designed so that people can walk out of their home in the morning with their business suit on or whatever their clothes are and just ride to work,” Schier said. “They are not fitness bikes, and they’re not for racing around town. They are actually designed to just get you somewhere, be durable and comfortable.”

The Dutch bikes start at $1,589 and go up to $1,789. The store offers more stylized handmade bikes from Germany that cost $2,139. Schier said he wouldn’t call them commuter bikes, rather beach-cruisers.

“People have been waiting for us just to come to the Midwest so they can actually ride our bikes before they buy them,” Schier said. “It’s an expensive bike so it’s not an easy thing to buy over the phone.”

One customer, Schier said, drove down from Evanston, Ill., and another came from southern Illinois to purchase a cargo bike. He said people have already come from Minnesota and Missouri to buy bikes.

“We also ship a lot of bikes all over the U.S.,” Schier said. “Yesterday I sent out eight bicycles. Our business isn’t confined to Chicago.”

Eric Blankinhip, a 21-year old sales associate at Cycle Smithy, 2468 N. Clark St., said people go to certain shops based on what their needs are or what they think their needs are.

“Eighty percent of people that come in to buy a bike are just trying to get to work or class and need a simple bike,” Blankinhip said.

Dutch Bike Company’s philosophy is to sell transportation to people, not to sell sporting goods.

“The bikes themselves are very different than [what] most people ride,” Schier said.

The bike is designed for riders to be able to sit completely upright so their spine is straight. The chain case is completely enclosed, and the bikes feature a built-in head lamp and tail lamp that are powered by a built-in generator.

“There are different types of bikes for every type of person out there,” Blankinhip said. “Chicago has every single type of bike rider out there on the street. They are all different, and each one of them is looking for something [that suits their needs].”

Ron Ashley, owner and manager of A Nearly New Shop, 3826 N. Broadway St., said most riders in Chicago want road bikes, single-speeds and cruisers.

“Chicago is a really great cycling city,” Schier said.

Compared to the rest of the country, Chicago is ahead in terms of being a city that thinks about cycling, especially in terms of its infrastructures, he said.

“There are a ton of cycling lanes here, and people really take advantage of them,” Schier said. “Cycles move a lot faster than cars during rush hour.”

Schier said there is a lot of advocacy for bikers in Chicago and Mayor Richard M. Daley is a big part of that. He said Daley is a huge cycling advocate.

“Chicago, Seattle, New York-there are huge bike scenes in the big metropolitan areas,” Blankinhip said. “The bike scene is really big everywhere there are a lot of people out there that love the idea of being self-sufficient-not having to pay for gas and deal with traffic.”