In the picturesque country of windmills, tulips, and canals, there is one iconic feature that stands out on every street corner - bicycles! The Netherlands has earned its reputation as a cycling haven, and it's no surprise that the Dutch are famous for their love of bikes.
It does not matter where you are going in the Netherlands, you will always see bicycles around you! When you are going on a bike safari to spot as many as you can, you will notice that one is not like the other. We will specify the different types of bikes that you will find in the Netherlands in this blog. Let us explore the different types of bicycles, each designed to suit various needs and lifestyles.
The classic Dutch bike, known as the "Omafiets" (grandma bike) or "Opafiets" (grandpa bike) (note: the grandpa bike has a rod in the middle), has a timeless charm. This type of bicycle has no gears and a back-pedal break instead of hand breaks. It might take some time to get used to. Why is it called grandma bike? The name dates back to the 70s and is a nod to the old fashioned look of the bike, as they resemble the standard bikes of the 1950s.
You can recgonize these bicycles by their simple and sturdy design, mostly fully black, with a step-through frame that makes mounting and dismounting effortless, even when wearing skirts or dresses. These bikes usually do not have a gear system. It has a comfortable saddle, and often a front basket for carrying groceries or other items, (bonus points if you find a dog in a bike-basket!).
City bikes, also known as "Stadsfiets," are common bikes found in Dutch urban areas. They offer a balance of comfort, practicality, and functionality. These bikes often come with more gears than the traditional ones, making it easier to navigate through city traffic and ride comfortably over varied terrains. City bikes may also have a rear rack to carry panniers or attach child seats.
What makes the city bike different from the oma-fiets? 'City bike' is more of an umbrella term for a sturdy bike for shorter distances, the oma-fiets can be seen as a type of city bike. However, a more standard city bike will come with gears unlike the omafiets.
The Dutch have fully embraced electric bicycles. Where it started as a good option for older people to go for long bike rides, they are now favoured by all ages.
E-bikes, or "Elektrische fiets," have an integrated electric motor that assists the rider's pedaling efforts. They are excellent for longer distances, hilly terrains (you know, because the Netherlands has so many hills) and for when there is too much wind. Or just for making your daily trip to work a little faster! The e-bikes allow people of all ages to enjoy cycling without too much physical effort.
Dutch parents often transport their children to school or daycare using cargo bikes, known as "Bakfiets." These unique bicycles feature a large cargo box in front, capable of carrying one or more children, groceries, or even pets. Cargo bikes are an eco-friendly and efficient way for families to move around the city, avoiding the hassles of traffic and parking.
The Dutch also have a thriving cycling sport culture, and racing bikes, or "Racefietsen," play a significant role. These lightweight, aerodynamic bikes are designed for speed and performance. Many Dutch enthusiasts enjoy taking part in road races, cycling events, and club rides, fueling their passion for the sport.
Folding bikes, or "Vouwfietsen," are highly practical and convenient for urban commuters. These bikes have hinges and joints that allow them to be folded into a compact size, making them easy to carry onto public transport or store in small spaces. They are particularly popular among those who need to combine cycling with other forms of transportation. Your best chance of spotting one in the wild is by taking the train.
Recumbent bikes, or "ligfietsen" in Dutch, offer a unique and comfortable riding experience. Unlike traditional bikes, riders sit in a reclined position with their legs extended forward. These bikes often have three wheels, with two in the front and one in the rear, providing stability and a lower center of gravity. Recumbent bikes are popular among cyclists seeking a relaxed and ergonomic cycling posture.
Since air resistance is the main braking factor, the faster friend of the recumbent bike is an enclosed one. These aerodynamic velomobiles have reached speeds of up to 90 kilometers per hour.
The most romantic one. Isn’t it everyone’s dream to bike with your loved one on a shared bike? Going through the dunes with the wind in your back. Pedaling in collusion.
Tandem bikes, or "tandems," are designed to accommodate two or more riders, cycling in unison. They come in various configurations, with the most common being a two-seater, where the riders sit one behind the other. Tandem bikes are a fun and social way for friends, couples, or family members to explore the Dutch countryside together.
The lushes Dutch mountains are asking to be biked! Of course, the Netherlands doesn’t have mountains, but there are some mountain biking roads in forests to accommodate for this hobby. So you might see some mountain bikes even in the flattest country in the world.
These types of bike are designed specifically for off road cycling. Mountain bikes have thicker, sturdyer wheels for better grip on different terrains. The suspension systems in these bikes are made to absorb shocks and bumps.
Do you want to know where you can mountain bike in the Netherlands? Check out this article for some of the best routes for Dutch 'mountain' biking! (it is in Dutch, so turn on your translate tool).
What is better than riding a bike? Letting someone drive for you! The tuktuk is actually from Thailand, where the driver rides a scooter with two passengers on a bench in the back. In the centre of Amsterdam you can spot some tuktuk bikes. The same idea, but the driver pedals his way around the city, instead of using a motor. It is more a fun thing to do to discover the city than a traditional Dutch bike.
A combination of two Dutch classics: beer and bikes. This huge bike can be rented out for groups up to 16 persons. With a sober coureur on board you do not have to worry about driving under the influence. You just pedal, and drinK! The coureur is steering and guiding the bike. It is a bar on wheels!
We saved the best for last 😉. A fatbike is a bike with big wheels, good for comfort and grip. The KNAAP bike combines tough urban design, fat wheels that can not get stuck in the Amsterdam tram tracks, comfortable sitting and: a long lasting sustainable battery for easy cruising. Reaching a maximum speed of 25 km an hour. Fatbikes combine the most important factors from the the bikes mentioned before, the only thing missing is a build in bar like the beer bike!
In the Netherlands, cycling is not just a way of transport, it is a way of life. When visiting Amsterdam, a bike tour is unmissable! It is the best way to get a feel for the culture. And you will definitely turn heads on your Fatbike – the coolest bike in town.
Since biking in Amsterdam can be a bit chaotic, the best way to get familiar with the infrastructure is to find a guided bike tour. This way you can ease into it. You do not need to worry about the directions. This way, you can enjoy looking around and spotting all the weird bikes of Amsterdam!