I just wrapped up a week of cycling through The Netherlands and can say, without a doubt, the bike is the way to travel. There’s something so liberating about waking up (even a little sore and tired from the day before) and knowing that you can just get on the bike and go. No trains to catch, no schedules to adhere to–just a map and, in the case of The Netherlands, a series of intricate bike highways that lend their own special touch to any adventure.
We started in the often overlooked city of The Hague (Den Haag). It’s in the south of Holland and is easily accessible by ferry from England. Our rough itinerary looked something like this:
Day 1: Ride from The Hague to Rotterdam and back (about 30 miles round trip)
Day 2: Ride from The Hague to Amsterdam (42 miles one way)
Day 3: Rest day
Day 4: Ride from Amsterdam to Bloemendaal Ann Zee (aka The Beach!) and back (about 30 miles round trip)
Day 5: Ride from Amsterdam to The Hague (42 miles one way)
It sounds like a lot of riding, but when you consider that we took our time and spent most of our day pedaling along the canal, enjoying the scenery and sampling coffee shops as we went, it really is quite accessible.
So, how do you make something like this a reality? Well, it starts by getting comfortable on the bike (here’s a great post about finding the confidence to ride) and picking someplace that is bike-friendly and easy to navigate. Enter Holland. Just as a fun fact, there are more bikes than people in Holland and cycling really does rule. They offer protected bike lanes, specialized “cyclist only” stop lights and crossing signals and the hierarchy goes something like “cyclists, pedestrians, cars”.
Once you’re feeling good on the bike, the question of training comes into play. Luckily for us in the Midwest, The Netherlands is basically flat. We’re talking, really, really flat. All of the riding up and down the hills of downtown KC and through some of the windier flats just outside of the city really come in handy. While I did train right before this trip by putting in some miles on the bike, I was by no means in full “go mode”. I rode casually and kept a good general level of fitness and had no real problems keeping up with my cycling partner or enjoying the riding and the scenery.
The next thing to keep in mind that a basic sense of bike maintenance comes in handy. We were very lucky in that we had no technical problems on our rides but flat tires happen to the best of us and taking a small tool kit along with you is highly recommended. I always carry tire irons for changing a tire, an extra tube, a small hand pump and a patch kit for repairing flats in the event that I don’t have a tube. Having a few allen wrenches on hand is also good but in my experience it’s rare that you’ll end up dismantling your bike on the side of a road unless you’re putting down some really serious miles but, always good to be safe than sorry. I tuck all of this in my jersey pocket and usually forget about it.
In my case, I had an extra safeguard–instead of hauling my bike overseas (something I really, really, really don’t recommend), I rented one from this awesome place in The Hague. It cost me about 120 bucks for the week and included the bike, a helmet and a heavy-duty lock. So long as we were within the city, they could come and rescue us and fix any flat tires or bikes issues for free. All we had to do was call. If we were outside of the city, they would find the nearest bike shop for us and talk us through the directions for getting there. While we never had to use their services, it was nice knowing that someone had our backs while we were out exploring. You’ll find this kind of service at most places that you rent from–remember to shop around and don’t settle until you’re happy.
Whether you’re exploring your own city or the streets of another country, getting out in the fresh air and seeing the world from the back of a bicycle is a liberating experience. It’s fun, it gets you moving and there’s just nothing quite as satisfying as looking at a map and saying ” I rode there!”.
About Larissa Uredi
Born and raised in Denver, CO Larissa moved to Kansas City for college in 2001 and has spent the last 14 years exploring the Midwest, working in and with the bustling KC Arts Community as a jewelry designer and fine artist as well as watching the city grow and change over the years. An active cyclist, climber, runner and general “adventurer” KC provides a great home base for many of her outdoor adventures and wanderings. She currently lives in Westport and will be spending the next several months traveling around Europe and sharing her stories from the road.