Buying a Dutch Bike

A Dutch BikeBuying a bike is one of the first things to do when you arrive in The Netherlands.

Without a bike, you just wouldn’t be Dutch at all (there are more bikes here per capita than anywhere else in the world except China) and you’d be missing out on a cheap, easy and fun way to get around. After all, you can do anything on a bicycle. Just watch the locals.

There they are, talking on the phone, driving the kids home from school and balancing a TV on the back all at the same time. Star-crossed lovers cycle effortlessly while holding hands by the canals. Perky teenagers pop wheelies on impossibly heavy bikes.

So, now that we’ve convinced you, here’s your primer to buying a Dutch bike…

What to get: Unless you have a lot of cash to spend, the basic theme is always the same. Dutch bikes tend to be heavy, retro-looking affairs with 1-3 gears, a big seat and handlebars that let you sit upright as you ride. They might not have handlebar operated brakes and the most common ones go by the name Omafiets (or Opafiets for men) – literally ‘Grandma Bike’. It’s something like the Cadillac of bicycles, a real cruiser, and the weight doesn’t matter so much on the flat land of Holland.

A back rack is generally included with the bike and if you’re willing to splash out you can get a Bakfiets – a bike with a large wooden cargo area in front for carrying children and groceries around. These bikes in particular hold their value and are always in demand.

At the same time as you buy your bike, pick up the best lock you can find. Bike theft is practically a national sport and having at least one bike stolen is almost a rite of passage here. The little lock that comes standard with most Dutch bikes and fixes the back wheel in one place just isn’t enough, especially for the big cities like Amsterdam or The Hague. Happily there are guarded bike parking areas in the cities but with the generally small house size, you may not be able to store your bike inside at night.

The cost: New bikes start around €150 euros but can, of course, easily top €1,000 if you want something fancy. Contrary to what you  might expect, the used selection in bike shops isn’t great and when you do find a few used bikes in stock the price tends to be heftier than you’d expect – generally around €150-200.

Where to buy: A great way to find a used bike is to scour the classified ads online at Marktplats (the Dutch version of eBay) and posters at places like your local grocery store. Find out where the local second hand store is – they often have great buys. That’s where we ended up getting our bikes, for €75 each and with a 6 month guarantee! Ask your friends and colleagues too if they know of any bikes for sale and ask if the local police department will be holding an auction anytime soon.

If you want to check out shops, there are a few worth visiting. Try:

Amsterdam

  • Bike City – 68-70 Bloemgracht, Tel. 020 626 3721
  • De Fietsenveiling – 214 Westerstraat, Tel. 020 638 6294
  • Fietspiraat – Spaarndammerstraat 83, Tel. 062 034 0098
  • Holland Rent-A-Bike – Damrak 247, Tel. 020 622 3207 (very close to the train station, open 7 days a week)
  • Recycled Bicycles – Spuistraat 84a, Tel. 065 468 1429

Den Haag

  • Eerste Hulp Bij Fietsproblemen – Mient 160, Tel. 070 323 9451 (we passed by this shop by chance, seems to be a small one-man operation with a few bikes under €100)
  • Fietsverhuur – Noordeinde 59, Tel. 070 326 5790
  • Mammoet – Stationsweg. 36, Tel. 070 389 8964
  • Reva Fietsen – Newtonstraat 234, Tel. 070 362 2184 (call first to see what’s in stock)
  • Rijwielshop Hollands Spoor – Stationsplein 29, Tel. 070 389 0830
  • Second-hand shop – Fahrenheitstraat, near the post office (many bikes for the cheapest prices we saw anywhere, with a 6 month guarantee)

Road rules: There aren’t any! Just kidding. Of course there are rules, but sometimes it’s hard to believe when you see cyclists going every which way. The main one is that you must have front and back lights for night riding. Helmets aren’t mandatory and definitely aren’t fashionable. If there’s room you can ride two abreast but be prepared to pull over and let other cyclists past. They’ll ring their bells if they want to get by.

Beware the thieves: Watch out for stolen bikes. If someone is offering you a bike for a few euros in a busy downtown area, chances are it’s someone else’s and a junkie is trying to sell it for the next hit. It’s illegal to buy a stolen bike and the police can charge you if they see it happen but more importantly, do you really want to perpetuate the cycle of theft and the drug addict’s bad habit?

Once you get a bike, consider parking it in the Biesieklette – guarded enclosures found in cities. The cost is  quite cheap, less than €1 a day and only about €50 for a whole year of peace of mind.

Comments

  1. Tweedehands Fietsen
    30th June 2011 at 3:24 pm #

    The Westfriese Beurs is also a great place to buy second hand bikes. It’s located at:

    De Westfriese Beurs
    Oosterblokker 12
    1696 BH Oosterblokker
    Phone: 0229 – 26 22 75
    http://www.westfriesebeurs.nl/artikelen/fietsen/25/

    Have fun cycling 🙂

  2. Julie
    12th October 2011 at 4:55 pm #

    For 145-165 euros you can purchase a new bike at Blokkers, Gamma or Karwei. I have and it’s superb!

  3. Marc
    7th July 2012 at 4:49 pm #

    Thanks, great tips. We’re moving to the Netherlands for a few years (work) and I was wondering if we should buy bikes here and transport or once we get her. I think a used bike on auction sounds perfect. Thanks!

  4. Isabel
    10th August 2012 at 12:32 am #

    Nice and useful article! Thanks!

  5. Kobus
    12th September 2014 at 4:04 pm #

    Rijwielshop Hollands Spoor is not right to call it a good one. Central Station is marvellous, HS widely known as far too expensive in any Repairs !

  6. Vivian
    19th September 2014 at 9:51 am #

    Hi there

    I see that you moved in 2012 what did you do in the end? Get a bike from where you lived before or a bike in amsterdam? We are moving over in a week so would like to do which was the best option.

    Thanks

  7. Roland Debenham
    28th October 2014 at 2:57 pm #

    I don’t know if my comments are too late (it’s 2014 now, but here they are: I can’t ride British bikes unless I greatly modify them. Leg bone lengths don’t seem to figure in British bike geometry. With very “upright” rear tubes and bottom brackets having been raised for ground clearance, I found,as I got older, that I needed, was a “feet or crank forward” bike. With the usual “off the peg” machines,if I raise the seat so that I can do a 360 degree rotation of the pedals, I cannot reach the ground, my feet dangling three or four inches clear.

    I have an inside leg measurement of about 26 inches, but with a rather shorter than average femur, so the way I have attempted to solve my problem, is to buy a Raleigh Caprice ladies bike with a 16 inch frame and 26 inch wheels and fit a very “laid back” seat post which looks likes a hockey stick. This enables me to move the saddle back considerably more than a straight seat post would allow. I have looked into the possibility of buying a Dutch bike, because the rear tubes on them often lay back at a much greater angle than British bikes. The only trouble, for me is, the Dutch must be, as a race, much taller than my 5′ 6″, because their bike frames seem not to be smaller than 19″, with wheels of 28″ (even 26″ would not work for me if the frame is over 17″). For those who suggest I shouldn’t bother trying to reach the ground round when I stop at lights (for example)but should simply slide off the saddle, I’m afraid at pushing 80, this is not any longer an option, ‘though I could have done it up to about thirty years ago, So, in conclusion, I would ask the British bike industry to consider the elderly and physically impaired generation, who may not want to ride 3 wheel tricycles. As for the Dutch, I would be interested to learn if do produce bikes with 16 or 17 inch frames and 26 inch wheels, ‘cos I need the exercise to help stop me falling off my perch. Thank you.

  8. Malcolm
    12th July 2015 at 3:45 pm #

    Can anyone tell me if hotels and bed and breakfasts in Holland have overnight parking for bikes?

    • andrew.grant
      13th July 2015 at 10:41 am #

      Yes, most of them will be able to give you a safe place to store the bike.

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