Wheelhouse is a Santa Barbara bike shop specializing in Dutch commuter city bikes. As my first introduction to this breed, I stored my road bike for two weeks and solely used the decked-out beach cruiser—or so it seemed to me—loaned to me by Wheelhouse.
From the moment I laid eyes on this bike, the classic omafiet made by Workcycle, I knew it was quite different than my usual ride. It has the body of a beach cruiser and an assortment of accessories that almost seem ridiculous. It includes front and back lights that are powered solely by pedaling, a bell, a kickstand that can hold a person up, an internal lock, a rear platform to hold another person or anything that can strap on, mud flaps and fenders that allow nothing to shoot up, and a chain guard to prevent pants from ripping. It rides on the edge of just too much luxury.
I was a bit concerned: I hadn’t ridden a beach cruiser in over a year and my last experience ended with a broken chain and a morning jog to reach my class in time for the final. This bike rode far beyond these meager expectations.
To begin with, this bike isn’t for racing. It’s a classic cruiser, with style and gadgets replacing speed. The accessories keep the weight high, but the eight gears help to maintain a comfortable pedaling experience — you can’t pass the hipster fixies but you won’t be covered in sweat at the end of the ride either.
“This bike is a tank,” Evan Minogue of Wheelhouse told me before I set off. As an avid cyclist I was more than willing to put it to the test. It turns out the mud flaps that I thought were a bit over the top come in handy when you miss the bus and have to book it through the marshy hollows of Ellwood during a storm to get to class on time. Not only did I make it, I didn’t have a speck of dirt on my clothes either. After this escapade, I decided to indulge all of my desires to ride on dirt which my regular road bike is quite against; living in Ellwood has never been so fun than during these (attempted) jumps and midnight romps in the wilderness. I couldn’t hurt the bike if I wanted to.
While it is amazingly fun to ride this bike, it takes some getting used to. The stance that the rider has to conform to is very awkward at first and the pedal motion seems reminiscent of a step-master if the posture is off. The maneuverability is also questionable at times as the bike is quite hefty, but it’s a nuance that is quite easy to adjust to. The only other problem I had with the bike is the internal lock: I loved the concept, but the key has to remain in the bike when the bike is not locked; when it’s locked you take it out, of course, but you can’t really keep it on your keychain with the rest of your keys.
Overall, I have to admit that I really enjoyed this bike; I’d give it a C in practicality but an A in overall experience. It’s such a unique bike that a few friends have even begun to call me “Dutch City,” and it was definitely an easy topic of conversation for breaking the ice.