Bicycle models from the end of the 1950's to the beginning of the 1960's


Many fans of old bicycles believe that the older the bicycle, the more interesting it is. Because you can still see a large number of bicycles from the 1950's and 1960's on the streets, they are not seen as anything special. This is unjustified because the classic Dutch models were produced until at least 1965 while at the same time the modern bicycle was being developed. In this article I would like to discuss the development of the classic Dutch bike in the years 1957 to 1965. First however, a brief look at the prior years.

1945 to 1956 models

The Dutch bicycle industry was greatly damaged during WWII. The occupation forces ransacked many companies so that the business had to be rebuilt from the ground up. Because of the scarcity of materials, only a minimum number of pieces could be produced. There was not much room for innovation, so the models of the 1930's were continued. These pre-war models dominated production until about 1957. These were the classic tour bicycles for men and women with the wheel size of 28 X 1 1/2 inches which was almost always painted in the standard color of black (other colors could be delivered for a surcharge).

      The first post-war brochures were not published until the beginning of the 1950's (Burgers 1953, Gazelle 1951). During these years a couple of new sport models appeared (tire size 28 X 1 5/8 inches X 1 3/8 inches, narrower mudguards, aluminum rims). These were however, merely variations of the classic models. In this area, the Netherlands were certainly not leaders; in England, for example, sport bicycles were increasingly gaining in popularity since the 1930's.

      With the advent of the moped and the car, production increased. Since about 1957, new models suddenly appeared on the market.


Union "Vederlicht-Moment", 1962
Union "Vederlicht-Moment" (1962)

1957 to 1965 new models

In 1957 and 1958, all well-known brands introduced different new models at the same time. These were characterized by:

Batavus Splendid Sport- 26 inch wheels, short wheel base, narrower tires (1 3/8 inches),
- Modernized frame (lugs with artistic shapes, narrower mudguards; some ladies bicycles had new frames (Simplex, Fongers),
- new basic colors (green, red, blue, grey),
- Rich decoration (use of color accents on frames and mudguards, richness of lines, chrome stripes, mudguard figurines),
- Other accessories (decorated chain case, white handgrips, "baroque" rear lights, white brake cables, aluminum rim brakes, two-colored seats, low steering bars with most often loose handlebars),
- Appealing names (Batavus Flying Arrow Splendid Sport, Union Vederlicht de Luxe, Gazelle Grand Sport).

      In short, these were smaller bicycles with a snappy appearance for those times. Gazelle described this in their 1963 brochure like this:

In this new Gazelle brochure you will find the new Gazelle collection. This is a series of models that are adapted to the swing and fire of this time; with snazzy colors, sparkling young exuberance, snappy line design... style and spirit radiate everywhere.

Sales drastically increased in these years of a climaxing cold war, despite growing competition by other means of transportation.

     The modern outer appearance of these models can be seen in cars and mopeds as well. The bicycle attempted to polish up its slightly dusty image with the new line of products, which did succeed partially. At the same time, a lot of the old producers perished, last but not least because of the requirement of huge investments in order to switch over to more modern selection and earnings were declining because of increasing competition and growing production costs. In a sense, the wave of modernization achieved a separation of the good from the bad within the Dutch bicycle industry.

 Batavus Flying Arrow     The trend of the "colorful", smaller bicycles was relatively short-lived and with most brands, ended after 1965-66. In these years even the last producers stopped production of typical classics such as the carrier bicycles or bicycles with cross frames.

     After these times I believe that the great boredom settled in with the Dutch bicycle models. Touring and sport bicycles were offered in the colors of black, green and brown with no remarkable details and often with identical not brand specific parts. The quality of the bicycles from the 1970's and early 1980's was not always convincing.

     I want to claim that interesting bicycles were built in the Netherlands until 1966 and that in that respect it became quiet after that for a long time.

1957 to 1965 models as collectors' items

So far the models described here are in general not considered worth collecting. It appears to me, however, that a greater interest in bicycles from this time period should be appropriate. We are dealing with a very characteristic series of models, which was made for only a short time while at the same time the bicycles were of good quality. By now they are around 40 years old and require conservation, especially since the specific parts are hard to find or not to be found at all.


Fongers achterlicht

Fongers rear light, as of app. 1957


This page is an edited version of an article by Jos Rietveld, which appeared in the club news of the bicycle club "De oude Fiets", Nr. 4/1999. This information was translated by Anja Mancano, U.S.A. Thank you, Anja Mancano and Marty Morris!


Copyright by Jos Rietveld, (c) 2000
All rights reserved.


Last update: 05/24/2000