One century of Dutch Glory

The first real Dutch motorcycle had 1 hp and was shown on the exhibition of the Rijwiel Industrie (Cycle Industry) in Amsterdam, the predecessor of the MotoRai. Roundabout 80 manufacturers have tried their luck since then. A few with success. Finally it is owed to the simple Spartamet (a motor-assisted pedal cycle) that our national history of motorised two-wheelers has completed the 20th century.
The Dutch motorcycle producers had the same problem as Fokker, Daf and Philips. Dutch people do not feel great enthusiasm for home-grown products. Everything that comes from afar is, looks and tastes better. In the dark corners of the mind, the Dutchman has always stayed the sailor from the 17th century.
Despite this, tens of entrepreneurs have tried to found a motorcycle brand. Sometimes with moderate success. That so much of all these successful and failed attempts could be seen at the last MotoRai, is the merit of early enthusiasts, who noticed in time that a piece of Dutch history was rusting away on attics and in sheds. In the meantime the interest in old motorcycles, mopeds and scooters has enormously increased. The boys and girls who have been riding an Eysink, Sparta or Hulsmann in the old days, have come to the age that nostalgia strikes. Furthermore they have the time and money to convert melancholic feelings into a hobby. The same holds also for brands from abroad.
"Until a few years ago motorcycles and mopeds were often offered for free, as long as you came to pick them up", says Hans van Dissel of the Foundation Historical Motor Documentation. "Now much money is paid for them. Ten thousand guilders for a good Royal Nord is no exception. It is madness, but it happens. And if the new owner looks at his classic bike with warm feelings every day, he is quite right too".

Example of a Dutch motorcycle: Vulkaan from 1914

The exhibition "Dutch make" which could be visited at the last MotoRai, consists for a large part of motorcycles, mopeds and scooters beloning to private persons. They give an idea of 100 years of motorised two-wheelers from Dutch production. Also home and abroad built sportsmachines of Dutch motorcyclists have been gathered, like the Eysinck cross motorcycle of Simon Schram, the Laverda SFC of Hans Hutten and the Triumph speedway motorcycle of Jaap Iesbers.
The Dutch motorcycle history is a parade of names that now only shine in remembrance, like Gruno, De Hinde, Eysink, Otten, Vulkaan, Sparta, Cyrus, Kaptein and Hulsmann. Some manufacturers have only built a handful of motorcycles. Especially in the early years a lot of entrepreneurs tried to set up a small motorcycle factory.
Most times only the frame was built in the Netherlands, while the engine came from e.g. Germany or France. Around the turn of the century, the firm Altena from Haarlem was the first manufacturer who equipped his Dutch frame with a Dutch 4-stroke engine. The 2 hp Altena's in 1904 even rode the 1300 km long reliability run Paris - Bordeaux - Paris. Only 26 of the 60 participants reached the finish, amongst which an Altena. This resulted in a nice (Dutch) advertisement - rhyme:

Do you know it already, this Dutch made motorcycle,
That beat Frenchman, Belgian and Prussian, how courageous!
Dutchmen, show your patriotism
You'll show everyone your back if you ride this wheel

But the fame of Altena had vanished already a few years later. In 1906 the production was stopped.
When Altena disappeared from the spotlights, brands like Simplex and Eysinck took over. After the poor 20's the flowering 30's came, because the crisis lead to a demand for cheap transport. Besides this motorcycles lighter than 60 kilograms were exempted from tax. Especially bicycle manufacturers tried to get a piece of the pie by equipping their bicycles with an engine. In 1940 the party was over. It is not possible to say that the Dutch motorcycle industry has had a large share in the world-wide development of the motorcycle, although there were some pretty nice inventions. A small, super strong 2-stroke from Lucas Steenbergen, the engine constructions from Joop Carly and the crankless rotation engine of Leo Kagie. To be honest, the foreigners built motorcycles which were just a little nicer, more robust, and often cheaper than the Dutch. One had to be very patriotic to buy such a motorcycle.

Example of an advertisement from the 50's

Increasing wealth and the coming up of affordable cars put an end to the serious motorcycle industry at the end of the 50's. The manufacturers of mopeds however had a good business because the youth became mobile. The Berini "egg" is a well-known phenomenon for many 50+ people. But in the 60's and 70's also this business fell off because the Dutchmen again choose for mopeds and scooters from abroad.
Brands like Puch and Vespa produced what the youth liked. There was some success for a short time for Jamathi and Van Veen, but after that it became very quiet around the motorised 2-wheelers from Dutch ground. At the end it is the virtue of the Spartamet that the 100th anniversary was reached.

Read for you in the AD (newspaper) of 16 October 1999
(Translation: Paul Essens)


Stichting Historische Motor Documentatie
Snelliusstraat 11
2517 RG Den Haag


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