Maybe the most characteristic thing about Amsterdam is the amount of bicycles on the street. So, when it comes to planning a life in this vibrant city, one of the first things every expat does is to buy a semi ruined bike. Riding a bike is an easy and super cheap way to move around town as well as a very fun and exciting physical activity. Nevertheless one should keep in mind many obstacles before starting an everyday bike adventure.
Buying a bike
First of all make sure that you buy a bicycle suitable for your size. It is important that your heels are a bit elevated from the ground when you are seated on your moveable friend. People are all sizes in the Netherlands so you won’t have a problem finding a bike properly fitted for your physique.
A standard price for your first bike should be around one hundred euros. There is a reason why Dutch people travel around town on almost ruined equipment. Firstly they value functionality above everything else and secondly bikes often get stolen. So, rather than investing in an expensive designer bike choose a strong looking chain.
Buy your bicycle in a store that sells used bikes. It is not recommendable to purchase it on a flea market like Waterlooplein or from someone that won’t provide you with a registration code. The reason for that is that a police officer can demand you to prove ownership of the bike, and keep this in mind: you won’t collect any good karma with a stolen bike.
Photo: My first bike next to a person my size. Needless to say it was too small
Dress practical with an ability to move and don’t over-burden your back with heavy bags. Keep in mind that it is probably windy outside so dress warmly, possibly in layers, at least for the first month of getting used to your new daily routine. You will see Dutch girls in haute-couture dresses and heels fully prepared for the Oscars riding their old bikes. But remember, they had years and years of practice, know every route to their destination and are resilient to rain. Don’t underestimate riding a bike, it is comparable to any other physical activity. It is hard work to move around in an unfamiliar town, especially when you are supposed to turn the pedals, obey the traffic regulations and try to find the right direction in which you are supposed to go.
One of the trends among the Dutchers are bare ankles. You will notice Dutch people wearing their boots with only socks no matter the weather outside. It is not clear that they do that for the bigger movability of their feet or whether it is just a fashion statement but do consider ditching the skinny jeans the first few days around town.
Foto: Me in my boots, socks and pyjamas. Keep it simple, stay mobile.
Don’t starve and drive
There is a reason why Dutch supermarkets are filled with a lot of bready, sugar filled products. They have aisles and aisles filled with pudding (Vla) for crying out loud. The reason? You need energy to drive a bike. Even if it doesn’t seem like a long distance, especially when you are having fun on your bike; Be sure to eat something before you start pedaling. If you drive on an empty stomach you are going to feel exhausted and won’t be able to concentrate on the way you are supposed to go. It won’t take long before you will start to feel like everything is so far away and unreachable. That is not a desirable feeling. And don’t worry about your diet, there is a reason why high sugary carb eating Dutch people are not fat. They eat and drive in moderation.
Moreover make sure you treat your legs at the end of the day like you’ve been working out. Try with cold packs, relief gels and magnesium supplements to restore your muscles for the next day and don’t be surprised if you get a perpetual muscle pain. You’ll get used to it.
Last but not least. Drive on the right side of the bike track and don’t be surprised if you get passed by scooters, old people’s mechanical vehicles, motor cars for disabled people (Canta is a Dutch invented car for disabled people that makes The Netherlands one of the coolest countries in the world) and all sorts of transportation devices. Try to park and chain your bicycle to an unmovable object like a pole or a parking stall because that minimizes your chances of it getting stolen. And remember, you will be the one swearing and yelling at various tourists that can’t recognize a bike track, in no time.