The Lento is a true joy to ride - and far better than taking the bus.
For many years now, I've been unable to understand why anyone would take the bus when they could cycle. Why, I always asked in what I only now realise was a highly superior and irritating fashion, would you prefer to be stuck under someone else's armpit in a traffic jam when you could be nipping through it on a bike and be home in half the time?
Then I moved temporarily to a foreign country and bought myself a cheap secondhand shopper with capricious brakes, a saddle offering all the comfort of a dry stone wall and three gears that shifted when I coughed. And I realised: riding a rubbish bike is no fun at all.
It was against this backdrop that I took delivery of the Batavus Lento. Cycling away that night was a revelation. It was like having sex with somebody who knows how to do it after years with a blundering novice; like tasting real pesto after a lifetime eating it out of a jar.
Turning the pedals was effortless. A light tap on the brakes brought me to a firm yet peaceful stop. The front light, powered by a dynamo in the wheel hub, was so bright that I had enormous fun deliberately dazzling friends while pretending to be Mulder or Scully with their industrial torches.
There was a cute little pump built into the rack on the back, not that I ever needed it. I was in love. Batavus is a Dutch brand, but unlike traditional sit-up-and-beg Dutch bikes, the Lento is a pretty speedy number. The seven gears offer an excellent range, though living in the north German plains, I never needed to dip below number two.
If I was ever in top gear, usually barrelling home down Berlin's ridiculously wide and flat Karl-Marx-Allee, I was really flying. The fact that it looks a little ploddy may be a disadvantage to some, but being underestimated by men on racing bikes is one of my favourite things.
I love swooshing past while they're fiddling with their clip-on shoes at the traffic lights. But like most love affairs, reality kicked in eventually and I started to nit-pick. Even though the frame is aluminium, it was still a hulk of a bike that was difficult to carry up steps and fit through narrow doorways. The back rack was too chunky to clip my pannier on to. I couldn't understand why the back light required batteries. And I resented slightly that the step-through ladies version came only in a tediously girly white or purple, whereas the men's model, with a crossbar, was offered in black or blue.
But those are the sort of quibbles you can live with, a toothpaste squeezing/seat-up sort of violation rather than grounds for divorce. The Lento is a true joy to ride - and far better than taking the bus.
Gears: 7-speed Shimano Nexus
Brakes: Shimano rollerbrakes
Frame: Aluminium (also available as male model with crossbar)
Extras: Mini pump integrated into the back rack, rear wheel lock, lights