The Netherlands, with over 22,000 miles of cycling paths, is famed for being a nation of cyclists. It is not surprising, then, that the Netherlands is also home to a number of respected bicycle manufacturers. The oldest and most famous is Royal Dutch Gazelle.
The company was founded in 1892 by Willem Kölling, postmaster in the town of Dieren, Gelderland. Kölling began as an importer by ordering one bicycle from England. It was an inauspicious start, as by the end of 1892, Kölling had sold only three bicycles.
While walking in the woods around Laag Soeren and Dieren one summer, Kölling spied a roebuck crossing in front of him. Admiring the swift, smooth grace of the creature, Kölling hit on the idea of making bicycles under the name ‘Gazelle’. He partnered with ironmonger Rudolf Arentsen, established the Gazelle name in 1902 and commenced factory production of bicycles.
Gazelle innovations in the inter-war period include a folding delivery bicycle, a tandem, and an electric bicycle produced in partnership with Philips which appeared as early as 1937!
In 1954 Gazelle sold its one-millionth bicycle and became a public company. The company produced its two-millionth bike in 1966.
Gazelle and Dutch cigar maker Willem II sponsored a professional cycling team in the 1960s, which won among other races Paris–Tours and the Amstel Gold Race classics in 1968 and the 1969 Flèche Wallonne.
Gazelle’s royal title was conferred by Princess Margriet in 1992, the centenary of the founding of the company. That year also marked the completion of Gazelle’s eight-millionth bicycle, a number that now surpasses 15 million.
In the Netherlands, Gazelle is regarded as the Mercedes-Benz of bicycle brands.
For more extensive coverage of Royal Dutch Gazelle, read issue 35 of Dutch the magazine.
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