Bicycles (Dutch: fiets) are a widely used mode of transport in The Netherlands as they can get you around the city for free quickly and safely. It is a widely known fact that there are more bikes than residents in The Netherlands! With Netherland’s vast network of dedicated cycling paths and infrastructure in place to safely park your bike near your destination, a bike is a convenient means of transport.
Buying or Renting a Bike
Bikes can traditionally be purchased and more frequently rented. Generally, if you intend to reside in The Netherlands for over a year, you are better off purchasing and reselling your bike at the end of your stay. There are pros and cons to both and this section runs through both options.
Variety of Bikes
Bikes come in many shapes, sizes and colours. When it comes to selecting one to suit your travel needs and lifestyle, it is best to be aware of these differences. Below is a list of common bike types you will find:
- Omafiets (Granny’s bike) or Stadsfiets (City bike) – The most common bike that is reliable, practical and cheap. These unisex bikes are as basic as a bike can get and usually come with no gears and use coaster brakes which takes some getting used to.
- Racefiets (Racing bike) – These are light, slender bikes that are better for biking long distances at high speeds. The racing bike is expensive and not the best choice to leave around unattended at public bike stands due to their value.
- Elektrischefiets (Electric bike) – A city bike fitted with a battery powered electric motor that provides assistance making the ride less strenuous. As The Netherlands is a windy place, people with electric bikes in headwind can ride away in a breeze without breaking a sweat.
- Vouwfiets (Foldable bike) – These small, portable bikes are used when part of your journey requires you to take your bike on the train or bus. Contrary to other bike types, foldable bikes can be carried for free in public transport.
For students or young professionals, a omafiets or stadsfiets (common bike) is the recommended option. Make sure to try before you buy as a comfortable bike is essential for your daily commutes.
Bikes can be purchased new or second-hand. New bikes usually start at €100 and go up as more features are added. Second-hand bikes can be found online and through student facebook groups. Below is a list of recommended websites;
- New bikes
- Second hand
Bike rental schemes allow usage on a yearly, monthly, daily or even hourly basis. Recently bike sharing programs have become very popular whereby the user does not own a bike but simply temporarily rents any available bike in their area. If you will only regularly use your bike or don’t want to deal with the hassle of maintaining your own bike, rental might be an option.
- NS OV-fiets – daily bike rental (24 hours) – need a public transport OV card
- Swapfiets – monthly bike rental – contract basis with student discount
- Mobike – hourly bike rental - app based bike sharing
- Ofo bikes – hourly bike rental – app based bike sharing
Please check the links for the latest information and pricing.
With so many bicyclists, it may be daunting to go on your first ride. In general, keeping to the following rules will set you on your path;
- Bike on the right side as all traffic moves this way in The Netherlands
- Slow bikers should stay towards the side of the bike path
- Pass bikers on the left
- Before turning off the bike path, gesture it using your hand
- Bike lights (white front, red back) are required from sunset to sunrise (night time). Failure to use lights can result in fines.
Taking Care of your Bike
The bike may be a student’s most prized possession as they bring you to places quickly and at no cost. However, taking care of your bike is an important task often overlooked by people. Given the popularity of bikes, it is common for people to lose/forget their bike or have it stolen when they leave it unsecured. To make sure you only need one bike during your study/stay in The Netherlands, follow these tips:
- Whenever you leave your bike for an extended period, take note of a landmark or take a photo so you can find it back. Tip: get creative and make your bike unique and stand out!
- Make sure to lock your bike frame to a solid, immobile object whenever you park your bike. Never only lock your bike’s front wheel to the object as thieves can easily unscrew the wheel and take the rest of the bike. Ideally use a long chain (kettingslot) with which you can lock your frame and front wheel to the object in combination with a back wheel U lock (ringslot).
- Regularly check and oil your chains to ensure smooth running of your bike.
- Regularly check and top up the air in your bike tires.
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