Bicycling is a very popular pastime in the Netherlands. It has the highest amount of bikes per capita, and essentially everyone cycles here, especially in cities like Amsterdam and Groningen. In fact, cycling is the main form of transportation in the country.
Choosing a bike
Since the Netherlands are pretty much flat when it comes to terrain, you can do with any ordinary city bike. Having a few gears to choose from when having to cycle with your face first into the wind is recommended but not mandatory. Typically, your choice should go between a stadsfiets (city bike), often defined by model; a herenfiets (gentlemen's bike) will have the additional bar between the bike seat and the handlebar, whereas a damesfiets (lady's bike) does not. To get on a herenfiets, you would have to swing your leg over the backside of the bike, which wouldn't be the case with a damesfiets. If the bike does not have multiple gears, then the Dutch language counts it as outdated, which makes a herenfiets an opafiets (grandpa's bike) and a damesfiets an omafiets (grandma's bike). The latter usually set you back around €8 per day per bike, while stadsfietsen can cost around €2 more per day per bike.
E-bikes are often also available. These are more expensive, but are motorized to help you get up to speed. They can be rented for €15 to €20, but prices may vary depending on the rental service you're using as well as the region you're in.
Tandems are often an option in more tourist-y retreats, such as the West Frisian Islands, but can often be found at most major rental services. They can be obtained for just €16, or the price of two regular bikes. Tandems can fit two people at the same time.
Child seats (kinderzitjes), transport creates and bags (fietskratten and fietstassen) can often be obtained for an additional €2. Bikelocks are most often not necessary outside of the large cities. Most every bike is equipped with a simple lock underneath the bike seat, but chain locks may be provided by default in the larger cities.
Travelling with a bike
Rarely any bus in the Netherlands will reject you if you try to bring a bike along for the journey, but they can be taken on train journeys. Bike supplements sell for €6,20, which is a cost that gets added onto your regular ticket.
Of course, Amsterdam is world renowned for bicycling, but here are some cities that have won Fietsstad (Bicycle City) awards. They are generally good places to go biking:
The Achterhoek is also a good area to bike.
The Netherlands is littered with routes made specifically for cyclists. Most domestic recreational cyclists will use fietsknooppunten (Cycling nodes) to stitch their own route together by linking several nodes. All of these nodes as well as the roads connecting them give a near-infinite variety of routes and are all surprisingly well documented through roadside signage. More enthusiastic cyclists may want to use lange-afstandsfietsroutes (long distance bicycle routes) or landelijke fietsroutes (national bicycle routes), both abbreviated as and referring to the same LF-routes.
Fietsknooppunten (Cycling nodes) are a lot of nodes on a map that you can cycle between. These points and the road to get there are well-signposted. These nodes and the map for it can be obtained from ANWB-stores, but are also found at most cycling nodes. You can also download the Fietsknoop app available for Andriod, iOS and Windows Phone. To use the network, simply find a node close to your starting location, and plan out a route from there, following signage to get from node to node. A lot of routes are also pre-loaded on the app.
LF-routes can be found in the Netherlands and Flanders and often have nicknames. Below is an overview of the labelled routes that are well-documented in the Netherlands, as well as the cities they connect to:
- LF1 - Noordzeeroute (North Sea route); Den Helder — Boulogne-sur-Mer
- LF2 - Stedenroute (City route); Amsterdam — Rotterdam/Gouda — Antwerp — Brussels
- LF3 - Maasroute, Hanzeroute and Rietlandroute;
- LF4 - Midden-Nederlandse route; Enschede — Utrecht — Den Haag/Scheveningen
- LF5; Brugge — Thorn — Roermond — Niederkrüchten
- LF6; Diksmuide — Maastricht — Venlo
- LF7 - Oeverlandroute; Alkmaar — Amsterdam — Utrecht — 's-Hertogenbosch — Thorn — Maastricht
- LF8; Ommen — Borculo
- LF9 - NAP-route; Bad Nieuweschans — Groningen — Meppel — Zwolle — Amersfoort — Utrecht — Breda — Loenhout
- LF10 - Waddenzeeroute; Callantsoog — Bad Nieuweschans
- LF11 - Prinsenroute; Den Haag — Breda
- LF12 - Maas- en Vestingroute; Maassluis — Nijmegen
- LF13 - Schelde-Rijnroute; Middelburg — Breda — Tilburg — Eindhoven — Venlo — Duisburg
- LF14 - Saksenroute; Enschede — Assen — Groningen — Lauwersoog
- LF15 - Boerenlandroute; Egmond — Alkmaar — Enkhuizen — Urk — Kampen — Zwolle — Enschede
- LF16 - Vechtdalroute; Zwolle — Darfeld
- LF17 - Rijndeltaroute; Gorinchem — Doorn
- LF18; Ommen — Denekamp
- LF19; Deventer — Holten
- LF20 - Flevoroute; Haarlem — Flevoland — Heerenveen — Groningen
- LF21 - Zuiderzeeroute; Amsterdam — Zurich (Friesland) via the Afsluitdijk
- LF22 - Zuiderzeeroute; Zurich (Friesland) — Lemmer — Kampen
- LF23 - Zuiderzeeroute; Kampen — Harderwijk — Het Gooi — Amsterdam
- LF30 - Schelde-Deltaroute; Brouwersdam — Bossuit
- LF35 - Kempenroute or Hageland- en Haspengouwroute; Tilburg — Sint-Truiden
- LF38 - Dender-Waaslandroute; Hulst — Onkerzele
- LF40; Geesteren — Zwillbrock
- LF50 - Jeugdherbergroute; Bergen op Zoom — Voeren
- LF51 - Kempenroute; Eindhoven — Antwerp
Unfortunately, bike theft is a common occurrence in the Netherlands, especially in bigger cities like Amsterdam. It would be best to invest in a bike lock.
If bicycling in an area with canals, avoid falling into them. As silly as it sounds, thousands of bicycles fall into canals in Amsterdam every year, and the same caution should go for any other city that has canals.
Although most of the cyclists in the Netherlands don’t usually wear knee-pads, helmets or any other safety measures, don't feel afraid to use them if you're not too sure about your own qualities when it comes to cycling. Cycling, including urban cycling, takes a bit to get used to, especially if you've only used a bike a few times in your life.