Imagine you’re wandering down auto-alley to buy a new car. After deliberating on the size of the vehicle, your driving habits, the colour, the style and your budget, finally you choose the car that feels right. Imagine then that the car dealer looks at you and asks “so would you like to get some lights and a lock to go with your new car?” This statement would be absurd for any car buyer and yet this is exactly what we ask new bicycle owners every day. How many drivers would fell compelled to attach their car lights on and off every time they parked their car? How many drivers would tie their vehicle to a street pole? A sturdy kick stand, securely mounted lights, fenders, racks and integrated locking mechanisms were once a common feature on new bikes. However, as our society has come to see bicycles mostly for sport and leisure, such design functions have been removed and are now mere accessories. Modern bicycle lights may be infinitely lighter and more powerful than their predecessors but how many of them have been designed to attach to anything more substantial than cheap plastic handlebar mount. Accessorising a bicycle can be a lot of fun, but like tiresome home renovations, such ventures can be expensive requiring a lot special tools, time and knowledge. Not everyone wants to be a gadget geek. More often than not, the best bicycles are designed from first principles up with a view to the total functionality of the machine.

I was recently given the opportunity to testride one such bicycle that came from an older tradition of building complete bicycles for everyday mobility. This bicycle was the 2008 Gazelle ‘Fuente Plus’. Gazelle Bicycle is one of the largest bicycle manufactures in the Netherlands and has produced over 11 million bicycles since it was founded in 1892. Unlike many better know sporting manufacturers, Gazelle bicycles are built exclusively for everyday/utility cycling. The Netherlands is no small bicycle market – it is the country in which cycling is part of its national identity. 25% of all journeys in the Netherlands are taken by bike each day compared with 1% in Australia . Given this unique heritage, I was interested to see what kind of bikes people would ride in a country in which ‘bike culture’ was a normal part of everyday life.


The basic set-up of the bike the Fuente Plus is not that dissimilar to many mid-range hybrids. It has a 24 speed Shimano Acera/Alivio groupset with V-brakes. The frame is made from 6061 Aluminium and is not particularly light but very study. The Fuente Plus comes with the options of uni-sex step though frame and a traditional diamond frame with a horizontal top-tube. The wheels are well built with double walled alloy rims, 32 spokes laced in a unique 8 x 4 pattern as well as good quality Vredestein tyres.

Looking at the basic specifications of the bike: its weight, the frame materials, and the groupset, there is nothing especially remarkable about it, however this is where comparisons end.

Firstly, unlike most hybrid bicycles, one rides a Gazelle in an incredibly upright position on the bike . “So, you mean ones doesn’t have to hunch over when I ride a bike?”. Being a modest 5 foot 10, I felt like I was almost 7 foot when siting with a straight back on the Fuente Plus. I also felt more visible in traffic and like I was riding with some different leg muscles engaged. The handlebars are positioned high on the frame in a ‘Euro’ style touring shape allowing for multiple hand positions.

The stem can be adjusted without the need of multi-tool. It is made from high quality stainless steal and does not flex when put under pressure. The Selle Royal RVL gel saddle was wide and flat placing me squarely on my sit-bones. The Fuente Plus also comes with a tough plastic chainguard protecting the chaindrive from rain and road grit as well as your clothes.

The bike also features quality front and rear fenders as a standard. The rear rack has the excellent addition of built-in elastic straps that allow you to secure items to the rack without need of panniers. The advantage of elastic straps is they are always there giving you the freedom to carry things on unexpected occasions.

I carried a small box and a rug home with no problem. The Fuente Plus also comes with excellent front and rear lights. The futuristic front light is bright enough to illuminate unlit streets. It is mounted to a bracket on the crown of the fork leaving the handlebars free from clutter.

The rear light attached to the rack projects a non-flashing red light and is incorporated with large red reflectors for extra visibility. My absolute favourite feature of the Fuente Plus is the rear wheel locking mechanism. Coming with its own special key (a bit like a fancy car), the Fuente Plus allows you to effectively deadlock the rear wheel making the bike unrideable.

This is perfect for all those occasions when you need to pop into a shop for one minute but don’t want the hassle of finding a bike rack or pole to lock your bike to. This feature is handy when you're in a rush and don’t want to look around for bike lock, you just jump on a go. The locking mechanism also comes with connecting chain for more secure long-term bike parking. The top quality kickstand means that the bike is completely stable and is never in danger of falling over. Another addition to the bike is a pump is designed to fit on its own mount under the rear rack. Again, the visual clutter of attaching the pump to the down tube is removed through sensible design. Simple things like the brakes and gear cables have been covered up and routed through the frame in a way that makes the bike look far more attractive.

There are however some problems with the Fuente Plus. Firstly there is the unnecessary front fork suspension adding an extra 1kg of weight to an already heavy 18kg bike. The suspension did little for comfort but significantly detracted from performance when riding up hills. Thankfully the 2009 model of the Fuente Plus comes with a straight fork. Another concern with the Fuente Plus is the absence of a bidon cage or mounts on the frame. This feature is found on the diamond frame model but is strangely missing on the step through frame. Why? Another disappointing feature of the Gazelle is that it comes with a “Dunlop” or “Woods” valve. The rims will fit a Presta valve with no problem but this should be standard. The final concern with the Fuente Plus is the price. Costing $1,759 rrp in Australia, the Gazelle is probably far cheaper in Europe where there is a much larger bicycle market as well as a 14% import duty on all non-EU bikes. So how many Australian consumers are ready to spend that much on an everyday bike when most people are used to spending only $500 on a hybrid from China or Tawain? More intrepid cyclists would be far more likely to buy a fully kitted touring bike for this price. However, the Fuente Plus is worth it in many respects when you add up all the extras and the quality of ride that it gives you. At the lower end of the market the Fuente Plus has far cheaper competitors with bikes like the Gofa 1.0 and 2.0. At the more fashionable retro-chic end of the bicycle market, there is the Danish Velorbis or Swedish Skeppshult bicycles. The Gazelle Fuente Plus is placed nicely somewhere between these ends of the everyday utility bike market and is a welcomed addition. It places a serious challenge to other bicycle manufacturers to design more functional and practical bicycles for everyday life.

Tags: Fuente, Gazelle, Plus, Product, review:

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Hi Adrian,

Paul from Gazelle here. Thanks for doing a write up of the bike.

Of course I can't help myself to 'add' a few points!

1. "Another disappointing feature of the Gazelle is that it comes with a “Dunlop” or “Woods” valve. The rims will fit a Presta valve with no problem but this should be standard."

I haven't found it a problem that the bikes come with wood's valves. Presta pumps still work on wood's valves and since the bike comes with it's own pump you won't have any issue running on slightly flat tyres! If and when you ever replace tubes you can always put presta tubes in if you wish. For around $2 (@ ur LBS) you can also buy an schrader adaptor if you wish to use the the pumps at the service station.

2. "Another concern with the Fuente Plus is the absence of a bidon cage or mounts on the frame. This feature is found on the diamond frame model but is strangely missing on the step through frame. Why?"

The step through frame doesn't have the bottle holder because I guess it detracts from the ease of actually 'stepping through' the frame which women love. I just carry a bottle of water in my bag hanging off the rear rack. Simple as that.

3. "Costing $1,759 rrp, the Gazelle is probably far cheaper in Europe where there is a much larger bicycle market than Australia as well as a 14% import duty on all non-EU bikes."

I think you'll find this with just about every quality bike sold in Australia! ;)


4. For the price you get a bike that includes components found on much more expensive bikes. Heavy gauge DT spokes, quality hubs, rims, Selle Royal saddle, etc all mean that the bike is made for reliability and comfort.


Also, it rides sooo much better than a $500 hybrid ;).


Thanks again Adrian for taking the time for the review,

Paul.
Adrian and Paul, the bike really appeals to me for my next commute/local-shopping bike. The price wouldn't put me off for what you get for the money. So many of the features are unique and desirable - like the locking back wheel in particular.

My only hesitation is the weight! Wow, once I put my shopping on it as well as me and try to cycle home over the hills around my suburb, I would need cleated shoes and a change of clothes.

Paul, why does it have to be so heavy - the chain guard is only lightweight and I have most of the other features on my Specialized Cirrus Comp at about 13kg.......?
Hi MadameBike,

Thanks for the question!

Here are a few reasons why this bike weighs more than your current bike;

1. Frame size - Dutch bikes are bigger than average. The frame is made very solid for years of abuse.
2. Thick tyres - Many standard hybrids save weight by putting lightweight tyres on them.
3. Double walled rims - these are 'city rims' i.e. strong and reliable
4. Heavy gauge spokes - DT
5. Skirt guard - Thick plastic
6. Pump
7. Super solid kickstand - This is actually a substantial unit!
8 Front and rear lights - in this case battery powered.
9. Heavy duty rack (25kg cap.)
10. Axa wheel lock (This lock weighs 1.5kg on it's own - it's a proper lock!)
11. Chain guard -This guard is made of thick plastic....it's very solid.
12. Adjustable handlebars - no tools needed
13. Mudguards - again solid quality
14. Suspended front fork - as Adrian said the 2009 is better and saves 1.5kg by having the fixed fork.

Also I will add that picking up a bike is one way of testing a bike. Because of the design and riding position of this bike, it is easier to cycle on than a 12kg cheaper hybrid. One of the first things people say when they hop on a Gazelle is how well it rolls.

By the time you add the weight of bike, rider, and bags full of shopping, the difference of a couple of kilos is going to hard to define when reliability, comfort and cycling efficiency will be more valued.

We also supply lighter weight models however these cost more and have all the fancy carbon bits if you want the lightest possible Dutch experience!

I had a quick look on the web at your bike and it seems that it has a carbon front fork and seat stays and semi-racing wheels and general set up? This obviously helps make the bike lighter than a standard Dutch 'City' bike.

You are welcome to drop by office and have a go on one. That is the only way to test a bike.

All the best and cycle safe,

Paul.
Yes, I will do that - after the credit card recovers from Christmas and the January holidays!
Adam from Cheeky Transport here.

Yeah, you really should try these biikes. Luxurious, smooth riding.

When you're actually riding, weight doesn't actually make that much difference as far as speed or effort goes. It's wind resistance that slows yoiu down.

Obviously if you need to carry your bike up stairs, weight is important.
Yes, yes, I know. If I could lose 5kg off my bum, everybody would be happy (especially me). Maybe riding a heavier bike is the extra exercise I need! :o)
It is a gorgeous bike but I have to say the weight of it would be a deciding factor for me. I live on the second floor of a block of units and 18kgs is a lot for a girl to lug up and down stairs everyday.
Traditional Dutch roadsters are single or 3 speeds. Those bikes are not designed for Sydney. This bike is 24-speed so hills are not a problem. As for carrying this bike up stairs, the trick is not to try and pick the whole bike off the ground, but to lift it enough so the wheels roll over the top of the steps. This way the bike still rolls and the stairs take some of the weight.
Thanks for your input Adam...the cheque is in the mail. ;)
G'Day from Australia!
Thanks for the message and what's going on in your part of the world.
Hope you like your new bike and hope you get many years of happy riding on it as well.
All the best, Paul (Sydney)
I was really interested about it until I found out about the price!

It is a complete bike for going around the city.

Still, I'm not prepared to spend that much on a bicycle.

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