The other week I was in the French city of Lille to visit Europe’s biggest antiques market. As I made my way through an endless parade of bric-a-brac, my eye caught a bicycle shop called Le Hollandais. VENTE DE VÉLOS HOLLANDAIS D’OCCASION, it said in the shop window – a reminder that when it comes to designing and producing sturdy bicycles, the Netherlands has a reputation to keep up. And rightfully so! In a country where there are more bikes than people, you can count on it that anything on two wheels is held to a high standard. And although us Dutchies are not known to be overly nationalistic, we do seem to prefer bicycles that are actually designed locally. After all, as the American saying goes, it ain’t much if it ain’t Dutch. A while ago, I interviewed designer Arif Veendijk, who is currently in the process of taking an already great Dutch bicycle brand called Cortina to even greater heights. In exchange, I received a Cortina Blau city bike (thank you very much!) that I’ve put to the test just for you. Is it really worth forking out over € 1,000 for a new bike when all you really need is a cheap and reliable way to get from A to B? Let’s find out!
As you can see, the Cortina Blau is clearly a bike for design lovers. Definitely a big step up from my old €100 second-hand bike!
The Cortina Blau Reviewed: Cycle the City in Style
First things first: I’m sure you’re wondering why I didn’t get an electric bike. I have to say that thought crossed my mind as well. But Cortina really, really wanted me to try out the non-electric version of their Blau model. And to be honest, I’m totally fine with it. When you think of it, the main purpose of owning a city bike is to get around town quickly and easily. Does that mean your bike has to be electric? Well no, not necessarily. My old bike, a beat-up yellow mountain bike I bought second hand for € 100, does that job just fine. I’m not really sure how many speeds it has, but suffice to say that when I’m really in a hurry, I can ride it faster than I probably should. Besides, I’m 53 years old – an age at which the chances of developing a bit of a belly are real and so I love the exercise cycling gives me (he wrote as he took another bite of the slice of cheesecake he just got from the Moroccan pastry shop around the corner). Long story short: I don’t think you need an electric bicycle if you live in the city and want to stay in shape.
Two thumbs up for the Cortina Blau saddle!
Another obvious question I’m sure you have is, won’t your new city bike get stolen in a New York minute? And I hear you. In fact, my ex once bought a brand new bike that vanished in thin air the first night he had left it outside here in Rotterdam. When you think of it, though, it all depends on where you leave your bike when you’re not around. Here at home, I keep mine safely in the hallway. Sure, it might be a little in the way, but hey, it also looks kind of cool. What’s even better, my bike is always there for the taking. So much more convenient than going all the way down to my building’s basement storage space! When I take my bike for a ride, it’s almost always during the day and to a short list of tried and tested destinations: the train station, the city center or the gym. All these locations have pretty safe bicycle parking facilities, so I don’t think my new bike would get stolen too easily. Besides, you can always get insurance for your bike as long as you get a decent lock. I did a little research and based on the price of the Cortina Blau and the postal code in my neck of the woods, I can insure my bike for €13,99 a month. And that includes 24/7 roadside assistance and a GPS tracker in case someone does decide to ‘borrow’ your bicycle without you knowing it. Not bad, right? A little personal tip: if you live in the Netherlands, get a lock that has at least a two-star ART rating. I’m pretty sure other countries have something similar, so I’d say do a little research before you throw out your old clunker and invest in a brand-new bike.
A very clean looking steering wheel and a nice yet subtle Cortina logo.
Now, the Cortina Blau – which is an odd name for a black bicycle, if you ask me – is the quintessential city bike. It’s designed to be sturdy, practical and easy to ride around town. The first thing you’ll notice is that the wheels and tires are partially white. Love, love, love it but it will probably take a little cleaning if you want everything to stay as white as the day you first got the Cortina Blau. You can see that a lot of thought has gone into the design. The tubes that make up the frame are not fully round, like on most other bikes I know. Instead, they’re more elliptical and feature the brand name in raised letters. Very fancy!
Understated yet fresh – that’s the Cortina Blau in a nutshell
The matte black finishing gives the Cortina Blau an understated yet fresh look. Even the smallest details look like they’ve been reimagined by Cortina’s design team. The pedals, for instance, look streamlined yet firm. The front light is integrated into the frame so that it turns wherever you go – a feature that should be obvious but actually isn’t. The rear light is a futuristic-looking little flap that comes out of the very comfortable saddle. The Cortina Blau also features a plastic belt drive, a God-sent if you’re like me and have never been able to repair a broken bicycle chain because a) you have two left hands, b) you can’t be bothered or c) both. And then…gadget lovers, take note!
The Cortina Blau has 7 speeds – ideal for navigating the city!
Some, but not all, versions of the Cortina Blau feature an integrated USB-A port just under the handle bar. That means that – gasp! – you can charge your phone as you ride. I mean, how cool is that? My bike came without the USB port, but that’s totally fine by me. I always keep my phone safely in my pocket anyway while I ride my bike. It’s the law, folks! Besides, I have my Airpods to listen to navigation directions if I do decide to go to a part of town that I don’t know.
The Cortina Blau belt drive – no more broken chains!
The first thing I noticed when I got my Cortina Blau is how bigger it was than my previous bike. It felt so big, in fact, that I wasn’t even sure if I had received the correct frame height. But once I actually started riding the Cortina Blau, I quickly realized that all those years I must have ridden a shoddy second-hand bicycle that is basically too small for me. I did, however, need some time to find the right way to put the Cortina Blau in my building’s average-sized elevator. I had to turn the front wheel sideways and then lift the rear wheel juuuust a bit before I could close the elevator door without it hitting – and potentially damaging – the fender. Once I got the hang of it, though, getting the Cortina Blau in and out of my building was a breeze. Oh, and talking about fenders…you may not realize how hard you need them until you ride your bike on a wet street and all the water splashes up from the rear wheel straight to your behind. Been there, done that (and it’s not a pretty sight)!
The partially white tires and wheels are what makes the Cortina Blau stand out.
With its 7 gears, the Cortina Blau makes for a smooth and easy city ride. The gear shifting system on the handle bar is extremely easy to operate. What a difference compared to my old clunker! Now I don’t know about you, but I have a bit of a competitive side to me. Whenever I’m waiting at a traffic light, I like to put my bike in a low gear so that I’m the first person to start riding when the lights go green. And needless to say, I make sure to switch to a higher gear when I’m cycling on a long and uninterrupted road and want to ride as fast as possible (although it’s still oh, so frustrating when a little old lady on an e-bike overtakes me when you’re pedaling like my life depends on it). In this respect, the Cortina Blau did not disappoint me.
So clever! The Cortina Blau’s headlight turns together with the steering wheel.
Other than that, the only thing I can say about riding the Cortina Blau is that it does what it does, namely getting me from A to B quickly and reliably. And that’s all that I want from a city bike, folks – nothing more, nothing less. To make my ride even better, I might invest in a matching Cortina Blau rear carrier and some stylish side bags. The Cortina Copenhagen Dubble pannier bags look particularly well-designed and ideal for a spontaneous ride to my local supermarket.
Et voilà! My new Cortina Blau in all its glory.
In conclusion, I can say that it’s a HUGE joy to own a brand-new bicycle for the first time in my life. With its seven gears, navigating the city on a Cortina Blau is an effortless and smooth experience. And let’s not forget you’ll be cycling in style! Yes, buying a Cortina Blau is a bit of an investment at €1,149 – especially if you want to upgrade your bike with carriers, baskets or bags. Most employers in the Netherlands offer attractive bicycle plans, though, so chances are you can get to ride a new bicycle without having to cough up a huge sum of money all at once. In any case, make sure you get a good lock, decent bicycle insurance and you’re good to go. Ring ring!