The sweet spots for cycling in Amsterdam are around the central canal ring and through Vondel Park. But the sweetest of them all is the tunnel under the Rijksmuseum where buskers often play. I go out of my way to incorporate the museum into my route and to have a classical music accompaniment, if only for five seconds.
We went to a ballet at the KoninklijkTheatre Carre on Thursday. When it finished, much of the crowd dispersed on two wheels. The benefits of bikes are many, and that their small size allows for more compact parking is just one of them. Plus cyclists are allowed more unorthodox spots. We squeezed ours behind a caravan and chained them to the side of a bridge. We cycled away with a silent whoosh, weaving around those on foot.
There were a number of 30 degree days this summer, and I got into the habit of applying make up at work, so that I could wash my sweaty face first. In autumn and winter that habit has to stick. The fresh cold air makes my eyes run and, as I cycle, I’m constantly wiping at them with a gloved hand. Trust me, mascara, it’s better this way.
I haven’t lived through that entire winter yet, so I can still say that cycling is my number one favourite about living in Amsterdam. We’ll see what I say post- wind, rain, snow, hail and below freezing January.
For the days that are rainy but above 8 degrees, I have the brightest yellow rain jacket to keep out the damp. Matt has one too, but a more subtle forest green. I feel like a rubber duck when I wear it, but I love it.
We cycled together into the city centre early one morning last week to do some admin tasks. It was two degrees below zero and the streets largely empty – the Dutch don’t head out en masse until after 8.30. The clear light was so beautiful. The street lamps had already been switched off before we left the house, but at this time of the year the Christmas lights stay on all day. The numb toes I had by the time I arrived at work were worth it.
There are frustrations in cycling, too. Having to be so careful when crossing tram tracks is one – they are just the right size to catch a bike wheel and pitch the rider over the handle bars. Tourists are another, who treat the central city as a pedestrianised zone and step into streets and dawdle in the middle of bridges without looking. I lived with a non-functioning bell for the longest time and would silently seethe behind friends and couples who slowly rode side-by-side.
Bike security in Amsterdam involves purchasing a lock that costs almost as much as the bike itself. I had originally thought that the importance of chaining the bike frame and front wheel to something permanent was because of the risk of it being thrown into a canal. Matt has since informed me that it’s actually due to professional bike thieves, who drive around in a van and collect any bike that is unattached. This they do for the amount of metal in the bike chain, rather than the bike itself.
We have friends who have just finished the most epic marathon of a cycle tour through Asia. Our cycling prowess is nothing on theirs (and we envy their adventurous ways), but we love our daily expeditions just the same. You should check out their blog, they’re quite impressive, and much more regular with new posts.