It’s transport rather than sport. It’s an essential part of Dutch culture. It’s something many of us learn just after we start walking. It causes muscular thighs and an abhorrence of walking. There is, however, much more to Dutch wheeling than just this…
A quick course in Dutch cycling
When prowling around the district on your bike you should invest in a few bike accessories. Dutch cyclists can’t do without the following:
1. A heavy bike lock, preferably a steel chain. The simple rear wheel circle lock simply won’t prevent thieves (fellow students whose own bike got stolen) from lifting up this wheel and simply walking away with it. People passing by won’t say a word as it is also the way to deal with carrying your own bike home when you’ve lost your key.
2. A bell to warn pedestrians, or more commonly, vent frustrations on fellow cyclists. (Utrecht Bicycle rush hour)
3. Removable bike lights because the lights on your bike don’t usually work (get them for €2.50 at Hema and buy 4 packs at once, so that you can leave them on your bike and you have spare ones in case they get stolen).
4. A promotional saddle cover that you can put on when you saddle is wet. You could also opt to leave it on so you can recognise your bicycle more easily among thousands of others. Free covers are regularly put on as advertisement for some company.
Optional accessories include: rear wheel cycling bags, baskets, plastic grass and flowers, beads, knitwear, stickers and basically anything you can attach to your bike.
The only definite no are helmets. If you do come across a helmeted cyclist in the Netherlands they’re probably Danish or German.
And you might spot these on the Dutch streets:
– The beer bike, which looks more like a wooden wagon or pub on wheels. They are omnipresent at the start of the academic (university) year, when student societies consider beer-cycling an appropriate way to welcome (or test) new members.
– The cargo bike. With a huge basket on a low front wheel, the ‘bakfiets’ transports anything from children and pets to furniture and groceries!
– The recumbent. Kind of cool. Imagine whooshing through the traffic so close to the ground. Not for scaredy-cats though.
Did this inspire you to enjoy the summer on a bike, but you can’t tell a valve from cranks and spokes? This is a handy help to find the right velovocabulary (in 19 languages!). In what ways is cycling different (or the same) where you live? Do people cycle at all?