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Dutch bicycles from the past are known for their quality craftsmanship, long-lasting durability and classic design. They are celebrated for their contribution to cycling culture and their enduring popularity among enthusiasts worldwide. Here is a brief history of ten vintage Dutch bicycle brands.

Batavus

In 1904, Batavus started off as an assembly company. However, it wasn’t until 1917 that they established their own factory in Heerenveen. Initially, they produced a limited range of ordinary bicycles catering to the local market.

It wasn’t until the 1950s that Batavus experienced significant growth. This propelled them to become a leading brand in the industry. In the 1960s, they expanded their product line to include folding bicycles and shared bicycles.

During their most productive years, Batavus acquired several other companies and employed 700 people at their 350,000 sq ft (33,000 m2) Heerenveen plant, producing 250,000 bicycles annually. They exported 55 percent of their production, while the remaining bikes were sold within the Netherlands.

Although they no longer manufacture frames themselves, their Heerenveen factory continues to operate successfully. Today Batavus is among the most popular and reputable Dutch bike brands.

Batavus bicycle head badge

Burgers

Deventer’s Burgers was not only the ENR, but also the very first bicycle factory in the Netherlands. Established in 1869, this company paved the way for the bicycle industry in the country. Burgers produced a wide range of bicycles, including high-bicycles, shaft-driven bicycles, and cross frames. 

Their bikes were known for their exceptional quality, affordable prices, and distinctive features, like the iconic fenders with a ‘slot’ introduced in 1938. However, after 1945, Burgers faced challenges and shifted their focus to manufacturing mopeds and sports bikes. Unfortunately, the business didn’t thrive, leading to the closure of the factory in 1961. 

Although Burgers bicycles still bear the name today, they are no longer produced in Deventer.

Vintage Dutch bicycle brand Burgers head badge

Empo

Herman Emsbroek from Vorden started a small bicycle shop in 1904. He founded the company Empo (EMsbroek & POesse) together with Hendrik Poesse in 1913. Even though Emsbroek and Poesse went their separate ways shortly after, the Emsbroek family decided to keep the name Empo.

Empo gradually transitioned to producing its own bicycles, introducing the Royal Empo brand in 1929. The establishment of a new factory in 1937 marked Empo’s growth as a prominent bicycle manufacturer. Despite this, parts trading remained a key aspect of the business. Notable models included tandems and cross frames, with a surge in the classic grandpa and grandma bicycles production in the 1970s.

Unfortunately, Empo declared bankruptcy in 1979.

EMPO bike head badge

Fongers

Fongers was established in 1884 in Groningen. But it wasn’t until 1897 that they made a big impact.

They adopted the latest English technology and produced bikes of exceptional quality. Interestingly, Fongers didn’t make many innovations after those initial successful years. They stuck to their tried and tested models, which became easily recognizable over time. 

Despite their conservative approach, Fongers managed to stay at the top of the market for a long time, thanks to clever marketing strategies. However, in 1961, they merged with Phoenix and Germaan, and sadly, the Groningen factory closed its doors in 1970.

Batavus acquired the old brand names and used them until the 1980s. The brand was reintroduced by Batavus around 2000. In 2020, a bicycle manufacturer from Waalwijk brought the brand back to life.

Dutch bicycle Fongers head badge

Gazelle

In 1902, Gazelle in Dieren started producing the first bicycles and quickly became one of the biggest Dutch factories due to their high quality and wide range of products. 

They manufactured various components like drum brakes and three-speed hubs, which were also purchased by many other brands. Gazelle continued to expand after 1945 and became the largest Dutch factory. 

They were known for their excellent bicycles, ability to adapt to market trends, and effective advertising strategies. Despite being acquired by Raleigh in 1971, the brand persevered. In 2001, the factory in Dieren returned to Dutch ownership and has been under Pon Holdings since 2011.

The company is arguably the most popular brand in the Netherlands today, manufacturing over 275,000 bicycles annually.

Gazelle bicycle head badge

Magnet

In 1909, two ironmongers from Amsterdam, Leman Velleman and Abraham Verdoner began to sell bicycles from the English brand “The Magnet.” By 1923, they established their own factory and their bikes simply became known as “Magnet.”
Unfortunately, a fire forced the company to relocate to Weesp in 1928. Magnet made a significant move in 1934 by forming the first Dutch professional cycling team and introducing sports bicycles inspired by foreign models. These sports bikes brought Magnet great success throughout the 1950s and 1960s.
Despite their prosperous business, Magnet eventually lost its independence. In 1969, Batavus took over production, and by 1976, all remaining trading activities came to a halt.

Magnet brand bicycle badge

Phoenix

The Phoenix bicycle factory was established in Joure, but it didn’t take long for them to relocate to Leeuwarden. 

Phoenix was known for producing sturdy bicycles and occasionally introducing innovative features like the Mutaped three-speed gearbox in the bracket. After 1945, their angular fenders and front fork crown became distinctive style elements. They also had another unique characteristic: instead of using rivets or transfers like other manufacturers, they opted for two brass screws to secure the head plate onto the head tube. 

Phoenix thrived and in the early 1960s, they acquired Fongers and Germaan to create PFG. This brand also enjoyed success, but in 1970 it was acquired by Batavus, marking the end of the factory in Leeuwarden.

Phoenix Bicycle badge

Simplex

Simplex first built bicycles in 1890 in Utrecht. Six years later the factory moved to Amsterdam. The brand introduced the cycloid bearing, which resulted in a very smooth-running bicycle. Later it came with its own drum brake.

This all contributed to an extremely solid bicycle that could last a lifetime. Simplex’s cross frames are particularly well known now, but the factory also made many sports bikes in the 1950s and 1960s. 

In 1952 Simplex merged with Locomotief. In the sixties, the company started to go downhill and in 1965 production was outsourced to Apeldoorn. The factory closed in 1971. The Shortly after the Simplex brand name was sold to a German wholesale company. 

Simplex bicycle head badge

Sparta

Sparta was already a well-known ‘sticker brand’ when wholesaler Verbeek en Schakel in Apeldoorn decided to venture into bicycle production in 1917. Initially focusing on bicycles, Sparta later expanded its range to include motorcycles and mopeds.

There was a period from 1958 to 1967 when no bicycles were manufactured. However, in 1967, Sparta made a strong comeback with the innovative ‘growth bike’ designed for riders aged 8 to 80. Subsequently, they introduced a bicycle with a single-tube frame, along with unique creations like the Spartamet, a bicycle with an auxiliary motor.

Today, the factory is still operational as part of the Accell group, focusing entirely on electric bicycles.

Union

Union has been in the bicycle manufacturing business since 1911. They were known for their wide range of reliable and unassuming bicycles. 

Interestingly, they found that offering affordable options was the key to their success. While there weren’t many groundbreaking innovations, they did introduce the unique Strano model in 1964, although it was only produced for a period of two years.

Union adapted to the market and managed to stay afloat for a significant amount of time.  In the early 1970s, the company went through a turbulent phase of leadership changes and negative publicity.

Eventually, in 2005, the factory closed down, leaving only the Union brand name behind. Similar to Gazelle, Union is now a part of Pon Holdings.

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