Bikes in the Netherlands (Holland)

As a visitor I can attest to the fact that there are billions of bikes in Holland. Just how many?

The Dutch love affair with the bicycle is well chronicled – there are 22.5m of them in a country of 17 million people – but has moved up a level, according to a study by the RAI Vereniging, an organisation representing the automotive and cycling sector. More than 1 million bicycles of all types were sold last year (2018) in the Netherlands, up 5.7% on 2017, and at the same time Dutch consumers appear willing to spend big on their bicycles, particularly on e-bikes, statistics show.

E-bikes (bikes that generate electrify that is stored in a battery used to assist the biker when needed) accounted for €823m of €1.2bn in bicycle sales in 2018. It was the first year that overall sales passed €1bn and the first time more e-bikes were sold than standard bicycles (excluding racing and children’s bikes). In terms of units, 409,400 e-bikes were sold, up 40% on 2017. As a result the average price of a bicycle in the Netherlands rose by about €200 to €1,207. In 2011 the average was €734.

Asked whether rising prices would begin to put the Dutch public off the two-wheeled mode of transport, RAI’s Floris Liebrand said: “Not in the Netherlands. It is in our culture, in our bloodWe are bike country No 1 in the world so we are used to investing in innovative bikes so there is difference there compared with other countries, including the UK. For us it quite normal to spend €1,000 on a bike. An average for an e-bike is over €2,000 but that is in our culture. We believe in the quality of our products. There are e-bikes of €700 or €900 but they are from south-east Asia and the quality is lower. But Liebrand said there had been a change in the Dutch mindset as electric bikes have moved on from being seen as the choice of older people. “In the future we will not talk about e-bikes, but just bikes,” he said. “E-bikes will be the new normal, I think, within 10 to 15 years. We think that all bikes will be supported by small electric engines.

In the Netherlands, 60% of those who work live within 15km [9.3 miles] of their work and that is perfect for an e-bike. “There are consequences. We have fewer traffic deaths but an increase in severe injuries because people cycle more and [are also doing so] when they are older. People cycle when they are 80.”

Dutch bikes don’t look like American bikes at all:

A typical Dutch bike

A typical Dutch bike

A Dutch bike, sometimes called a “City bike,” is a multipurpose bicycle designed to ride easily and reliably in a variety of settings and weather conditions. A Dutch bike typically has a solid frame and comes tricked out with a full range of accessories designed to provide riders with a safe and convenient riding experience. A Dutch bike is also ideal for the casual or commuter rider because a Dutch bike owner can ride one of the bikes in almost any type of attire, thanks to its various design features. A Dutch bike is also a resilient bicycle due to its engineering. Riders can rely on the bike for many years.

Certain features are standard on a Dutch bike.

The most characteristic trait of a Dutch bike is its upright seat. Unlike the seat of a sport or racing bike, where the design encourages riders to move up and forward over the handlebars, the Dutch bike seat encourages a straight sitting position. A Dutch bike seat typically has a wide rear for full support of the sit bones and often features padding for a comfortable ride.

Dutch bikes come with a fully enclosed chain case, or drive chain. The typically plastic cases protect the bike’s chain from the dust and water that the bikes can encounter on the road. They also serve to protect a rider’s clothing from becoming stained by the grease on the chain or from being torn from the teeth on the gears. An added benefit is that bike chains tend to last longer with this type of protection.

Unlike a derailleur gear in which the mechanism of the gear is exposed, the gear on a Dutch bike is an internal hub gear in which the gears and components are enclosed inside a shell. That serves to protect the gears and extend the life of this critical bike part. Some bikes use rim brakes, which clamp down on the rim of a wheel to slow the bike down. A Dutch bike uses either a drum brake, a coaster brake, or a Shimano roller brake, enclosed in a case. Those designs are more effective than rim braking and, as with many of the design features in a Dutch bike, designed to protect components from the elements.

Dutch bikes typically feature a full, steel fender on both the front and rear wheels. The fenders are often used in tandem with tail lights, mud flaps, and a bumper on the rear fender. Some Dutch-style bikes may use plastic fenders or aluminum fenders coated in plastic to create a lighter bike. The frame of a Dutch bike is traditionally made from steel and has thick frame tubes. That makes the bike resilient and heavy-duty, but it also makes the bike weigh a good deal. For that reason, some modern manufacturers might use an aluminum frame, which is lighter weight but not as sturdy.

A Dutch bike often has a full lighting system for illuminating nighttime rides and running a signal/warning system. A bottle generator may run the lights on some bikes, but many modern Dutch bikes also use LED lighting systems as an alternative. LED lights are very bright and last much longer than bottle-generator halogens. A Dutch bike always has a built-in wheel lock. Modern versions may feature an opening in the integrated wheel lock that allows the rider to feed a flexible chain lock through the bike. A Dutch bike’s “kickstand” is actually a two-pronged center stand. That provides the most stable base for the heavy steel frame of a Dutch bike. A stubbegrenza, a stand on the front wheel, may also feature on a Dutch bike and stabilizes the wheel during mounts and dismounts.

The wheels on a Dutch bike have stainless steel spokes and either stainless steel or aluminum rims. Some modern Dutch bikes may feature a wide aluminum rim painted to match the bike, but those options are not always as resilient as the traditional Dutch rim design. Traditionally, Dutch bikes used 28-inch wheels. Today, however, consumers have a wider range of options.

A bike with all mod cons

A bike with all mod cons

Unlike cars bikes don’t make much noise at all so you REALLY need to keep your wits about you when you are out walking. On roads where adjacent bike paths or cycle tracks exist, the use of these facilities is compulsory, and cycling on the main carriageway is not permitted. Some 35,000 km of cycle-track has been physically segregated from motor traffic, equal to a quarter of the country’s entire 140,000 km road network.

Bikes wizz along. Hand signals don’t seem to exist.You can ride on either side of the street or if you so desire down the middle to dodge pedestrians. “Mum” bikes with a front carrier for kids or goods are just as fast as the rest. It is not unusual to see a mother with two little people in the front and one on a seat in her rear. The little people seem very happy and chatter away.

 A mum bike with a covered "box" to carry one or two little people

A mum bike with a covered “box” to carry one or two little people in front and one on the back

At the train stations there are racks and racks for bikes:

Bikes parked at a small train station

Bikes parked at a small train station

I haven’t taken too many photos of bikes – I could have taken a million. Here are two I like:

A simple Dutch Bike

A simple Dutch Bike

A nice blue one

A nice blue one

There are very few tandems but I thought ………