Ok… so you’ve arrived in the Netherlands some time ago, the land of tulips, wooden shoes, and bicycles. When you’re reading this article, you’ve probably realized that cycling is the primary mode of transportation in this flat country. At least in cities and for shorter distances. But what do you have to consider when you want to get your own bike? We will give you some advice.
1. What kind of bike should you buy?
In the Netherlands, there is an extensive range of bicycles to choose from. So, what set of wheels is the right fit for you?
The answer to this question depends on what you plan to use your bike for. Do you want to use it for your daily commute? Do you have to travel great distances? Do you want to go grocery shopping with your bike?
If you want a comfortable bike for longer distances, consider a city bike. A city bike is the best way to roll through the city and comfortably get from A to B. An OK city bike will likely cost you around € 500. But you can upgrade yourself with an electric VanMoof for over € 2.000 as well.
An omafiets — which literally means ‘granny bike’ — is a bike you will see a lot in the Netherlands. It’s not super comfy for longer rides, but it will do in the city center. An omafiets will likely cost you € 300.
Are you looking for a bike to carry your children? Then go for a bakfiets. A bakfiets is made to carry a lot of cargo, so it quickly gets you and your children from one place to another. Upgrading your bakfiets to an electric version will make life a bit easier… so consider this when getting yours. The electric version will cost you roughly € 3.000, while a non-electric bakfiets will be around € 1.700.
A vouwfiets — or folding bike — is the perfect solution when traveling a lot by train. You can easily take it on the train and ride it from the train station to your destination. The price of a vouwfiets depends on the quality and looks, but you can have yours for € 400.
2. Where to buy a bike?
There are different ways to get yourself a bicycle in the Netherlands. But the easiest way is to go to a bike shop. There are hundreds of them, and you can find them in every city or village.
The good thing about a bike shop is that they have a wide variety of bicycles, they give you tailor-made advice, and you can make a test ride. But because of the high level of service, they tend to be pricier.
Just like new clothes, you can also buy your new bike online. There are many webshops that sell almost every bike you can wish for. You can easily compare different bikes and prices, but the level of service is not the same as when you go to a bike shop.
Are you looking for a second-hand bike? Then head to Marktplaats, the Dutch alternative for eBay. On Marktplaats, you will find hundreds of two-wheelers. Old, as good as new, sporty, or a fixer-upper. Remember not to get scammed, so always first look for the bike you want to buy in person before sending any money to the seller.
When you prefer to lease a bike, Swapfiets is the way to go! Swapfiets offers bike memberships. That means you can rent a bike for a monthly price, and you never have to worry about servicing your bike anymore. Swapfiets takes care of everything.
Red flag! When you hear: ‘Hey! Wanna buy a bike?’ Don’t buy that bike! Bike theft is a real problem in the Netherlands, so if someone offers you a bike for € 10, the bike is probably stolen. Buying a stolen bike is illegal, and if the police catch you buying a stolen bike… you’re in trouble.
3. How to fix your bike?
Your bike needs maintenance. Period. You can run a flat, the chain can slip off, or you can crash it and break the handlebars. Depending on the damage caused, it is possible to fix a bike yourself.
Do you want to save some money on your bike repairs? Then do the repairs yourself. Don’t know how to start? You can always ask your neighbor or try and Google for advice. Also, YouTube has a lot of tutorials to fix your bike.
Of course, you can always bring your bike to a repair shop. This will be more expensive compared to fixing the bike yourself. But… by bringing your bike to a shop, you can be sure that the bike is fixed the right way, and you don’t have to spend money on buying tools to do the repair yourself.
4. How to secure your bike from being stolen?
You just spent a couple of hundred Euros on your first bicycle. So, the last thing you want is that it gets stolen. To avoid your bike from being stolen, make sure to buy a sturdy lock.
There are many locks on the market, but make sure to buy a lock that’s hard to break for any bike thief. Sure, a thief with the right tools can defeat any bike lock. But you want to protect your precious in the best way possible. A hardened-steel U-lock or chain is always harder to cut than a cheaper, lightweight cable lock.
Always make sure to park your bike at a location where you are allowed to park it. The Netherlands has special ‘parking garages’ for bicycles. If there’s no such location close by, make sure to park your bike close to other bikes and try and lock it to a pole.
5. What accessories do you need for your bike?
An accessory is an object or device that is not essential in itself but adds to the beauty, convenience, or effectiveness of something else. So… in most cases, it’s not a must-have, but a nice to have.
Phone holder: A phone holder is a convenient accessory when exploring a new city. It helps you navigate from A to B easily by using Google Maps.
Bike lights: When you’re riding your bike, safety is essential. Bike lights are a must-have when riding your bike in the dark. You can choose fixed or removable lights.
Helmet: A helmet isn’t mandatory in the Netherlands when you’re riding your bike, only when you ride a speed pedelec. But… a helmet can be a good idea when you feel uncertain about riding your bike.
Child bike seats: In the Netherlands, you will see a lot of young parents with child bike seats. It’s a real Dutch solution to ride your bike with kids conveniently.
Racks / Crates / Baskets: Want to carry a lot of groceries on your bike? Consider upgrading your bike with racks for crates or baskets. Perfect for when going to the supermarket or a local farmers market.
We hope this article inspires you to find the right bike after arriving in the Netherlands. To end this article in style, we have some fun facts about the Dutch and their bicycles:
- According to the latest estimate, there are 22.8 million bicycles in the Netherlands. This means that every Dutch person owns more than 1.3 bicycles, which is unique in the world.
- The Netherlands has 37,000 kilometers of cycling lanes.
- In total, the Dutch cycle about 15 billion kilometers per year. That is more than 880 kilometers per person.
This article is written by Staals, for the WAES Medium blog.