Cycling Tips

Many students coming to study in the Netherlands have little experience with cycling, or at least cycling as much as Dutch people do! Here are some tips for cycling in The Netherlands:

  1. Lock your bike!

Always lock your bike, no matter what!

Actually, double lock your bike! Bikes have the back lock that stops the back wheel from spinning, but you should also get a chain lock! You should try to lock it to something solid, like a pole (of course, a pole you’re allowed to use!). If you can’t lock it to a pole, use your chain lock and loop it through your front wheel and the body of the bike.

Also make sure that you put your bike in a legal place! If you park your bike where it is not supposed to be, it is possible that it will be collected by the municipality and you will have to pay to get it back!

‘How do you stay pretty whilst cycling, or after you’ve stepped off your bike?’ I’ve heard this question so many times, solely asked by internationals. And this is the day I, a real Dutch-bike-girl, will give you the answer. After reading this blogpost, you’ll know exactly how Dutch girls manage to keep their hair, make-up and outfits looking great after a windy bike ride.

2. Use your lights!

This is very important for biking at night! You need a white light on the front and a red one on the back! Make sure you turn them on when it’s getting dark.

You can get little emergency ones at bike shops or other stores so that you always have extra lights in case! This is for not only your protection, but for the protection of others.

3. Know the biking norms!

When you’re biking, make sure to stay to the right of the lane so that people can pass you if they need to. Use your bell to let people know that you would like to pass them and so that they can move to the right.

Use hand signals when making turns and be careful making your turns! Be mindful of others when on your bike, especially when others are on mopeds.

4. Be prepared for the weather!

I knew to expect a lot of rain in the Netherlands and that I would have to bike in the rain, but I did not realize that I needed more than just a rain jacket when riding my bike in the rain!

Many people have pants that they put on over their pants when biking and these are called “rain pants.” You can grab a pair at a bicycle shop and they help stop your pants from getting wet while biking in the rain. Trust me, these are definitely a good investment if you plan on biking in all kinds of weather!

And even when it’s not raining, but it is cold, make sure to bundle up! I always wear a scarf when I bike in the cold and that way, I can have my neck and ears covered. Once you have been biking in the cold for awhile, you start to warm up and a scarf makes it easy to unbundle a bit as you ride along.

It is also a good idea to have a spare rain poncho in your bag in case it starts to rain when you least expect it (which happens often!).

You should also get a bicycle seat cover. You can get them for cheap prices in stores or you may have already been given one for free! If its rainy, you can put it on your bike when you park it.

Another great tip I have for you once it comes to be prepared for the Dutch weather is to use modern technologies. Download the ‘Buienalarm’ app, which will tell you exactly at what time it’ll rain on your location. You can even decide to get notifications shortly before it’ll rain. So if you’ve got class or a meeting, just check your phone in advance to see if you should leave a little earlier to avoid getting soaked.

5. An additional special for all female cyclists, when it comes to fighting the Dutch weather!

As most females have longer hair, we know the struggles of keeping them in style, especially when its a rainy and windy day. And do not even get me started on long and loose locks which will turn into a tangled mess while riding a bike in such conditions. I for example just tie my hair up in a low ponytail, and untie it when I get off my bike. Easy as that. Or just opt for hairstyles that are more resilient against the wind: a high Doutzen Kroes-like ponytail, or the trendy half-updo with tiny bun. Just pick a hairstyle that will require nonchalance, and you’re good.

Secondly, I want to share my tips of making sure my make-up still looks reasonable once I reached my final destination. Make-up is actually pretty easy: choose waterproof versions for rainy days. And if you use powder on your skin, try applying a foundation or primer first. That way, the loose powder won’t fly off your face whilst cycling. 

6. Get bungee cords or a basket for your groceries or bags!

If you are cycling a lot, chances are that you are also cycling with your personal items. Depending on what bike you have, you may have a basket or just a frame on the front of your bike.

You don’t need a basket if you have bungee cords! I strap my backpack to the front of my bike’s little frame with a bungee cord and I am good to go! If I have groceries, I can easily strap them to the front by tying the straps of the bag(s) to the frame and then using the bungee cord.

If you want a basket or bin, you can get them at places like the HEMA and you can secure them with zip ties. It’s a little bit of an investment, but it could be helpful for you, especially if you don’t really have any other ways to secure your items to your bike!

7. Enjoy cycling!

You don’t need to be an amazing cyclist and go bike the Tour de France after your time in the Netherlands! You don’t need to be super fast or have a super fancy bike to enjoy cycling and get where you need to be!

Cycling is really fun and it is really good for you.

It gets you out and moving as well as it is much faster than walking! It may be a little longer than taking the bus, but it is cheaper and more eco-friendly! Plus, you get to enjoy a large part of the lifestyle of the Netherlands!

Happy cycling!

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