Cycle Like The Dutch – The Trouble With Bicycle Racks

There is something very undignified about losing a fight with a bicycle rack. Even if you do manage to win you still can’t walk away without feeling more than a little humiliated.The problem is that there are just so many bicycles in Amsterdam and so few bicycle racks to park them in. Bikes end up being forced in to them and tightly jammed together at all kinds of odd angles. And because it is often impossible to find anywhere else, you have no other option but to add your own bike to the tangled mess when you want to chain it up somewhere.

Parking and Locking Your Bike

Parking your bike in to a bicycle rack is an exercise in brute force and perseverance and it is very important that you don’t mind (or care) if a few things get broken in the process. Peddles get trapped in wheels and handle bars become entangled with brake cables. It’s like trying to force two unrelated jigsaw puzzle pieces together with a hammer (if they were both made out of sharp, rusty metal). It’s a task that would send even the most calm and serene of people into a blind rage. Even when you have managed to do it (and the urge to murder has started to diminish) the real trouble has only just begun.

Because you have now ‘successfully’ forced your bicycle between its two rusty neighbors there is even less room for you to manoeuvre and you still have to somehow lock your bicycle to the rack.

Reaching over the handlebars won’t work because you can no longer squeeze yourself between the bikes to get close enough (even when awkwardly stretching over while standing on one leg).

This often leaves you no other option but to crouch down and squeeze yourself awkwardly between the bicycles as you reach out, chain in one hand and the keys in the other, trying to lock bicycle and rack together and remain calm. However, as if this situation was not infuriating enough already you will inevitably find your goal frustratingly just out of reach when your coat or backpack suddenly becomes caught on some random bicycle part which you are now unable to free yourself from. At this point it’s worth questioning how much you actually like cycling and if it is all worth it.

But eventually, after much frustrated and annoyed struggling, you finally manage to reach and successfully lock the chain around the front of your bicycle and the rack. You can relax. You have been successful…

But then you try to stand up.

Trapped In A Bicycle Rack

Whatever random bicycle part you became snagged upon while trying to lock your bike is now the same one stopping you from backing out as well (and threatening to pull half your clothes off over your head if you try). It’s like being a fly trapped in a spider web made of bicycle chains and break cables.

It is then, after a while of unsuccessfully struggling to get free a very embarrassing realization starts to settle in. You are a grown man (or woman) trapped in a bicycle rack and you have only two options open to you. Remain trapped for several hours or face the humiliation of of having to call out for help from a random passerby (which should not be too hard because by now you’ve already drawn a crowd of on lookers).

And as if that was not enough you know that whichever option you choose you have to do the whole thing in reverse when you want your bicycle back.

Check out the next part in our hilarious look at how to cycle like the Dutch – Giving a Lift

23 responses to “Cycle Like The Dutch – The Trouble With Bicycle Racks”

  1. kiks says:

    So recognisable. Lately when I am meeting people of importance, such as a handsome man, I park my bike around the corner to avoid being seen doing the awkward writhing that comes with locking one’s bike…

  2. Deepa says:

    I have a cruiser with extra wide handlebars, so multiply this struggle 10x for me. It does seem to make my bike theft-proof, since the wide handlebars so farking hard to wrench free from the rack. Better than a bicycle lock, really.

    Can’t wait to do this whole shtick with a pregnant belly.

  3. Invader_Stu says:

    Kiks – That’s a good idea. It’s hard to impress someone when they have just witnessed you throw your bike across the road in rage.

    Deepa – And another 10x when it’s on of those racks where you have to lift the front wheel up. You don’t have it easy.

  4. Laura says:

    This is exactly why it hate those racks. Very well written, Stu!

  5. Invader_Stu says:

    Laura – Thank you :)

  6. Alison says:

    Or, after the manoeuvring, you realize you’ve included someone else’s bike when you finally managed to get yours locked up …

  7. Invader Stu says:

    Alison – I did that once and left it there for three days :s

  8. dragon lady says:

    It might be easier just to take the tram

  9. Invader Stu says:

    Dragon Lady – It often is :p

  10. Likeahike says:

    So you’re one of those decent people who still use bicycle racks? ;-) I just park my ride anywhere I like, preferably right at the entrance to the railway station. Technically it’s not allowed, but my bike has only been removed once so far. Alas, the fine is going up next year, so I’d better start learning the dance too.

  11. VallyP says:

    Oh Stu, this is me every day with my bike at the university! But I think getting it out again is even worse than forcing it in – because by that time, a dozen others have been through the same process of cramming their bikes in between yours and the ones you’ve jammed yours into….talk about being dragged through a hedge backwards…I think they should change the expression to being pulled out of a Dutch bike rack! The contortions I go through and the daily rages of frustration make me wonder why I put myself through it all!

  12. VallyP says:

    PS, brilliant post by the way!

  13. Invader_Stu says:

    Likeahike – I don’t know if I’m still using bicycle racks out of decency or stubbornness :p

    VallyP – Thank you :) I agree. Trying to get the bike out again is much worse. Sometimes it’s even just impossible to see all the bits it’s stuck on and untangle them with out it getting caught on something else.

  14. Hm. I still say that eliminating bikes under the Holland 305 Project was the way to go. That or produce more bicycles racks in a multi-level car park-style.

    Your Minister of Transportation

  15. Wezz6400 says:

    In Rotterdam there’s usually plenty of space, so it’s not much of a problem. We do get those stupid bars instead of decent racks though. They’re easier to lock your bike to, but they allow for way fewer bikes to be parked, resulting in a mess.

    “That’s a good idea. It’s hard to impress someone when they have just witnessed you throw your bike across the road in rage.”
    Actually, I’d be pretty impressed if I saw someone throw a bike across the road and cause an accident in doing so. Maybe that’s just me though. ;-)

  16. GamerGrrl says:


    My last bike had a brilliant gear system, unless you park your bike in public racks that is. Since the breaks were also the gear shifts, it was a very temperamental beast. If someone nudged the break/gear shift a little while wrestling with their bike, and I hop on being none the wiser, the chain would fall off if I was lucky. If unlucky, it broke. THAT was always a nice treat after a long day of work, especially when it was pouring down rain.

    Of course, I think the best part of the public bike racks is having long hair and getting yourself hopelessly tangled on some random bike bit while practicing to be the world Twister champion. Then either having to choose to rip the hair out of your head to make the train on time, or admit defeat and pray the random stranger you’re begging for help actually acknowledges your presence. o-O

  17. Invader_Stu says:

    Barb the French Bean – You’re going to love this then :p It’s just outside Amsterdam central train station:

    Wezz6400 – True. It would be impressive to see someone Hulk-out but I’d never want to upset them.

    GamerGrrl – Owww. I’d hate to think how much worse it must be to get your hair caught. Thank god I have short hair. With that and gears it sounds like you have it much worse then me.

  18. iooryz says:

    And now try doing so drunk and with student bikes. It won’t look pretty ;-)

  19. Invader_Stu says:

    iooryz – The time I did it drunk was the same time I locked my bike to some else as well as the rack :p

  20. Andrew says:

    A bit different to this story but saw this just now and thought of you.

  21. Invader_Stu says:

    Andrew – I can see why :p Damn. That Nick guy beat my record… but maybe I should be happy about that.

  22. Just saw the multi-level car park for bikes. WHOA. o_O

  23. Corinne says:

    It is because of this dance that I often walk when taking my fiets would be so much faster My Dutch boyfriend can never quite understand why it takes me so much longer than him to get my bike unlocked and untangled; I still can’t understand how he manages this feat so quickly every time.

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