Cycle Like The Dutch – Bike Riding In Holland

Fiets (bicycles) are a very common sight in Holland. They are a popular mode of transport and it is estimated that there are more then 16 million of them in the country. This number may or may not include the mangled, rusting, one-wheeled, non-roadworthy bicycles found chained to lamp posts, bridges or sunk at the bottom of the canals around the country. Even if it does there are still a lot of them in use every day.

Some bicycles look like rusty old frames that have been handed down through the family generation after generation. In most of these cases the locks seem to cost more then the bikes themselves and there is no need for a bell since the squeaking of the wheels is enough to give any pedestrian a fair warning. Some Dutch people like to paint or decorate their old bikes as well. When visiting Amsterdam it is usually guaranteed that you will see at least one bicycle chained to a bridge somewhere that has been decorated with plastic flowers or painted with bright circular patterns to make them more unique. Another reason for this could be to turn away bicycle thieves.

Where is my bike?

Unfortunately, Holland has a big problem with bicycle theft. It’s not unusual to see a shifty looking junky walking around with a stolen bike asking, “Fiets kopen?” (“Buy a bike?”). If they are able to sell it to someone for 10 or 15 euros it does not take long for that person to then lose the same bicycle to another junky later. It’s a perpetual cycle (no pun intended). It is said that having your bike stolen makes you a true Dutch person and it is a right of passage for all expatriates. I have not had my bike stolen yet but I did have it taken away once when the authorities thought it had been dumped (I got it back though).

Despite the risk of theft there are some more modern looking bicycles around (as well as the old) but the one thing you will hardly ever see is a mountain bike. This might be because you will hardly ever see any mountains, hills, valleys, declines or inclines in Holland and using a mountain bike for speed bumps would be over excessive. Holland is a very flat country but this is also part of what makes it a very good place for cycling.

There is over 4,500 miles of cycle path through out the country and a surprising amount of tourists mistake them for foot paths. This intrusion of territory (as they see it) is not always met with understanding by some cyclists. Some will leave it until the last possible second to ring their bell to let pedestrians (victims) know of their stealthy approach. When this happens the best thing to do is to pick a direction and jump because you won’t have any time to look around and judge the right direction to dodge anyway.

A Dutch Person And Their Bike

For a Dutch person a bike is not just a one person vehicle either. The rack on the back can be used as a second seat for a passenger who is willing to sit sideways and risk having their knees knocked off by any passing objects. I myself have accidentally jammed my feet into the back wheel of a bicycle (that I was the passenger on) in the past because it got too close to sign posts and parked cars for comfort.

It’s hard to say why cycling is so popular in Holland (compared to other countries). It could be because traffic laws favor bicycles over cars or that it is a way of staying healthy. It could also be that they are an easy way to get from one place to another and when all the available parking spots are full there are still lampposts, bridges, fences and other city objects that bicycles can be chained to. Maybe they simply like to terrorise pedestrians with them or they all liked the song Bicycle Race by Queen. Whatever the real reason is the Dutch seem to love their bicycles.

I’m not the only one who has noticed this either. A fellow ex-pat has also written about the Dutch fondness of the two wheeled transport.

Check out the next part in our hilarious look at how to cycle like the Dutch – The Trouble With Bicycle Racks

16 responses to “Cycle Like The Dutch – Bike Riding In Holland”

  1. whitney davis says:

    Bicycle Race by Queen DOES make one want to jump on their bike… do you happen to know if Queen is particularly enjoyed in Holland?

    So… the real question is.. have YOU taken out your rusty old bike and had a spin around Holland? You can’t use the excuse that you don’t have a bike, because it seems they are pretty easy to come by there.

  2. Charlemagne Stavanger says:

    My company gave us one each for free :D

    Do you work for microsoft, ’cause they do that too.

    well, I enjoy the idea to cycle around the windmill countryside. perhaps I will do that when I visit someday and ring the bell on some fellow tourists ;)

  3. Bonestorm says:

    Riding bikes sounds like hard work. Some friends got me into mountain biking a couple of years ago and I quickly got out of it after suffering numerous crashes and bouts of exhaustion… although it’s probably more demanding than riding on flat roads. ;)

  4. roxanne says:

    I love that song…it’s on my list of “walking tunes”. Of course it’s also one of those that gets stuck in the head ALL DAY LONG.

    If I ever come to the land of fiets, will you go for a ride with me? I’ll remember to bring along my super industrial strength lock. ;)

  5. Invader_Stu says:

    They are very easy to come by. My company gave us one each for free :D

    I’ve not used it for a little while but I do enjoy cycling to the beach with it.

  6. nothing really matters says:

    Yay i rodemy bike today!

  7. JaG says:

    I’ve lived here all my life and my bike has NEVER been stolen. Does that mean I’m not Dutch??? Boohoo!!

  8. Tenakalaz says:

    Holland is also the only country where you can turn up to pick up a girl for a date with a bicycle, tell her to hop on the back and she won’t spit at you and slam the door in your face.

    Chances are , she will just saddle up wrap her arms round your waist and get her bits jiggled all the way to your destination. I still love seeing young couples heading out together one hanging on for dear life to the back of another peddaling for their life.

  9. zed says:

    belgium (another fairly flat country till you go further south) is good for cycling in too – and cyclists have priority over drivers. if you cycle to work rather than drive i believe the government gives you some sort of bonus, but i could be hallucinating yet again.

    a colleague of mine has had 4 bicycles nicked in the space of 5 years. so far, i’ve been extremely lucky. i love cycling around the fields here.

  10. Panda says:

    I haven’t been on a bike in years and years. Last time I tried it, I crashed into a fence. :/

  11. Invader_Stu says:

    Bonestorm – You’ll have to come to Holland and try again :p

    Roxanne – Sure. Don’t forget the very loud bell for scaring the life out of pedestrians either.

    JaG – I didn’t make up the rule. You better get your bike stolen quickly before you are deported.

    Zed – I can see why a bicycle bonus would get more people cycling.

    Panda – The first time I got my company bike I crashed it into a fence too because I did not realize breaking was done by back peddling. I was used to having the breaks in the handle bars.

  12. VallyP says:

    You’re not going to believe this Stu, but I’ve just done a post on bicycles too! I hadn’t seen yours..honest! I love my bike and couldn’t survive in Rotterdam without it, but I love what the Dutch do with their bikes even more. Nice post Stu..same subject but different angle. I’ll put a link from mine to yours for more about the re-cycling of bicycles!

  13. JaG says:

    I have THE BEST lock!!

  14. Todd says:

    Nice post, Stu!

    I also have a “Dutch” mountain bike, (it has the back rack so’s I can cart a girl around) it’s overkill when you consider that we have no mountains of any sort, but I love riding it here!!!

  15. Invader_Stu says:

    Hehe. Everyone is posting about bikes. I found a few others as well.

  16. marycub says:

    My dad’s prized racing bike and my hired bike now either sit at the bottom of the canal near madurodam or have passed many hands and are being ridden by unknown dutch folk.
    Theft is so bad there that we’ve had a few bikes nicked off our porches, despite the wheel locks being on.

    The wrack at the back is also good for baby seats :) or connecting a long wheely sit for older kids. It’s so cute when the dutch take their whole family out on bikes!

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