Bike spotting in the Netherlands: 10 types to look out for

You thought a bike was just a bike. No, not at all. Here in the Netherlands your bike says everything about your job, your family and social status and your finances. Here’s a brief guide.

1 The omafiets (the granny or sit-up-and-beg bike) has a distinctive shape with its high handlebars and is much beloved by cycle thieves. The vintage bike model was deemed old-fashioned at one point hence the name but is now particularly popular with expats, who like to take them with them when they go back home.

sit up and beg bike.jpg

2  The electric bike. Today’s omas (and opas) are more often spotted zooming along on an electric bike than a boring old granny bike. In fact, government cycling experts are recommending the introduction of a 25 kph speed limit on Dutch bike lanes to curb the impact of electric ‘super’ bikes which can reach speeds of 40 kph.

3 The vouwfiets, or folding bike has evolved from its 1970s incarnation which was the epitome of uncool at the time.

The folding bike may even have hipster appeal

The folding bike may even have hipster appeal

Today’s folding bike is a snazzy little number favoured by businessmen who park their Audis just outside the city centre to avoid getting stuck in traffic. You see them whizzing past, ties awhirl, in their immaculate suits looking smug.

4 An oud wrak is a bike you pick up for next to nothing or inherit from a friend of a friend. It doesn’t have any distinguishing features.

Needs a little work doing

Needs a little work doing

Try to keep it in an immaculately crappy condition and it won’t get stolen, or at least not in the first three weeks. Put a dinky cap on the saddle to distinguish it from all the other crappy looking bikes or you will take hours finding it again. Believe us, we know.

5 The bakfiets or cargo bike was once used by people who had no money to transport their paltry belongings from one squat to another. They are now used to transport children, particularly by people who live in posh parts of town.

cargo bike

The bakfiets is an irritating thing in bike parks because they take up enough room for five ordinary bikes. Almost as annoying as the bakfiets is the kratfiets, the bike with the large black plastic crate attached to the front which makes them just too big to fit into any bike parking bay.

6 The people carrier. A  variation on the bakfiets, the people carrier allows you to transport several children, your dog, your shopping and a pushchair by adding hundreds of euros worth of accessories to an ordinary bike.

7 There are two sorts of company bike. One is the bike with the advertising on it, as in hip and trendy start-ups.

Forget the company car

Forget the company car

The other is the company bike which you get from your employer – now declining in popularity because the government has stopped the tax break. Incidently, if you ride your own bike to work, you can claim mileage of 19 cents a kilometre. See 10 questions about the Dutch and their bikes.

8 The eco bike. Dutch designer Jan Gunneman will make you a wooden bike (well, almost) from sustainable wood. The only question is how to keep it safe in a world full of people with chain saws.

eco bike

9 The recumbent bike. We’ve never quite understood the appeal of a recumbent bike (liegfiets) especially in traffic when you are at perfect exhaust fume height.

The recumbent bike has been around since at least 1934

The recumbent bike has been around since at least 1934

10 Bierfiets. It’s a bicycle made for ten, plus a big vat of beer. Locomotion is achieved by increasingly slow and erratic pedaling. Everyone hates the bierfiets except their owners, the stag nighters who rent them and Amsterdam city council who seem to think they contribute to the city’s tourist facilities.


Almost as bad as the bierfiets are the yellow bikes used by large groups of wobbly tourists on cycle tours. See 10 things which drive us mad about tourists in Amsterdam.



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