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History

1892: Willem Kölling, working as a post office agent in the Dutch village of Dieren, resigns and starts a bicycle trade by ordering one bike in England. His trade expands prosperously. Kölling starts a co-operation with the hardware and stove retailer Rudolf Arentzen from Dieren.

1902: Arentzen and Kölling buy new premises at the site of the present factory, and start the production of bicycles. In the same year, the first complete, Gazelle branded bicycle is sold.

1903: Gazelle introduces its first motorbike, which however, was not made by Gazelle itself.

1905: Despite the prosperous trade Arentzen withdraws himself from the company. His place is taken by Hendrik Kölling, a brother of Willem Kölling.

1912: With a big expansion of their original premises, and with the modern, specialised machinery, their own production plans can be fully realised. They specialise in the fabrication of complete bicycles. Meanwhile Gazelle's wholesales activity becomes increasingly important.

1915: The Köllings and their nephew Jan Breuking rename the company to "N.V. Gazelle Rijwielfabriek v/h Arentzen en Kölling".

In the next twenty-five years the company grows steadily. The domestic outlet as well as the international demand increase significantly. This is also due to the growing market for Gazelle bikes in Indonesia, at that time a Dutch colony. Besides standard bicycles, several kinds of motorised bicycles, delivery bicycles and carrier tricycles were produced for various sectors of industry.

1930 of 1931: Gazelle introduces the cross frame models 9X and 8V.

Gazelle cross frame

Gazelle cross frame

1931: As a value variety the brand Invicta appears in the Gazelle catalogue. Meanwhile the brand Gelria is introduced, too.

1935: Gazelle introduces the first tandem, which is extremely popular in the years before the second world war. In the year of its introduction, 600 tandems are sold instantly.

1937: An electric bicycle powered by a 12 V accumulator and designed by Philips, is taken in production with five well-known Dutch bicycle makers. Amongst them, Gazelle is the most important one and they produce 117 of these bicycles. However, they never become very popular.

Like for many other Dutch companies, the war is a difficult period for Gazelle. Most of the plant equipment is being dismounted by the German occupying forces and transported to Germany. The remaining machinery is blown-up just before the arrival of the Allies. Furthermore, the factory of Willem Kölling suffers severe damage from the war fighting.

In Augustus 1946 the first post-war Gazelle bicycles are available, and in 1950 the first Gazelle with clip-on motor. The production of carrier bicycles and tricycles is being continued.

1954: The former private company Gazelle is turned into an incorporation. In the same year, Gazelle builds the 1,000,000 bicycle.

1963: In early 1963, Gazelle mergers with Batavus from Heerenveen. This cooperation couldn't fulfill the underlying expectations and was broken-up after two years.

1964: Gazelle is the first Dutch bicycle manufacturer to introduce a folding bike named the "Kwikstep". In contrary to virtually any other common folding bike construction, the Kwikstep is folded around a horizontal axis under the bottom bracket instead of a vertical axis.

1966: Gazelle reintroduces a tandem model, this time in a modern, less heavy version. In the same year the 2,000,000 Gazelle bicycle is built.

Gazelle 3-speed hub with drum brake1968: Gazelle takes over the Juncker, Simplex and Locomotief brands as well as the well-known moped brand Berini.

In addition to the Gazelle branded drum-brake front hub, which is still in production today, Gazelle also builds a three-speed rear hub without and (in most cases) with drum brake in the sixties. After having built some 45.000 - 50.000 units, the production is ceased by the end of the sixties because of the high costs.

1971: Gazelle is taken-over by Tube lnvestment (TI). The name of the firm is now "Gazelle Rijwielfabriek B.V.", a private limited company.

1987: TI sells its bicycle division to Derby Cycles Corp. This multinational corporation with headquarters in New York nowadays also owns bicycle manufacturer Raleigh, cycle hub producer Sturmey-Archer as well as the well-known German bicycle brands Kalkhoff, Rixe, Winora and Staiger.

1992: Gazelle celebrates the 100 years anniversary. In the same year, the cumulative total production reaches 8 million units.

1999: In april, Gazelle reaches a new milestone: the 10 millionth bicycle leaves the factory. The Gazelle works now employ 550 people and produce over 300.000 bicycles a year. Gazelle is one of the few bicycle manufacturers of this size which still build most of the frames themselves. 20 % of the total production is exported to Belgium and the neighbouring regions of Germany.

2001: Derby Cycles Corporation sells Gazelle to the Dutch investment funds 'Gilde Buy Out Fund'. Gazelle does very well, but Derby is in big financial troubles. The annual production is about 380.000 units, while Gazelle's market share amounts to some thirty percent.


Today, Gazelle is still the figurehead of the Dutch bicycle industry. Gazelle bicycles have been built in large numbers and are known to be very sound and comfortable - the Mercedes Benz of the Dutch bicycle brands.


foldable Gazelle carrier

Foldable Gazelle carrier (first built in 1930) with foldable carrying box and convertable the chassis; 
and modern Gazelle Cabby (2008) with foldable and detachable box for children transport.


Frame numbers

Gazelle bicycles can be dated quite easily. There is a list of frame numbers for the period 1916 - 1950, derived from the Gazelle files.

     Gazelle worked with straight-forward frame numbers until 1974, when some 3,2 million units were made. You can find a formula for calculating the age of a Gazelle bicycle made between 1950 - 1974 by clicking
here.

     Between 1974 and 1981, Gazelle used coded frame numbers starting with two letters (the first one is the letter "G") and followed by up to six digits. The first digit refers to the last digit of the year of construction. Since 1981, Gazelle works with frame number with seven digits.

 

Have you got an old Gazelle bicycle? Then add the bicycle to the bicycle database and get feedback about your bike. For more information click here.

Translation partly by Mark de Vries. Thank you, Mark!

 


Click on one of the brands

Batavus Empo Germaan Magneet Sparta
Burco Fongers Juncker Phoenix Union
Burgers Gazelle Locomotief Simplex Veeno

 

Copyright by Herbert Kuner, © 2000 ...
All rights reserved.

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Last update: 03/31/2009