LOADING RESULTS ... searching process

9 practical tips to follow when renting & riding a bike in Amsterdam

9 practical tips to follow when renting & riding a bike in Amsterdam

By Benjamin Garstka


Amsterdam is full of beauty: the picturesque canals, the small streets interspersed with bridges, 


peaceful parks and century old churches all come to mind. Adding to the aesthetic pleasure of the 


city is the seemingly endless stream of bicycles getting residents from place to place. The bicycle is 


essential to Dutch life; without them, the city would simply overflow with cars and public transport 


would be far too crowded. 


One of the best parts of visiting Amsterdam is seeing the city by bicycle. At first this can seem 


intimidating to visitors or inexperienced urban cyclists. Fear not! 


Bicycling culture is ingrained in the mentality; from separate bike paths to taxis and automobiles 


that actually yield, the cyclist has priority. To every potential visitor, I wholeheartedly recommend 


renting a bicycle. Even if just for an afternoon, being in Amsterdam means getting on a bike. 


For those who are planning on bicycling in the city, I’ve compiled a list of 9 helpful hints for first 


time riders or tourists that will help you in adjusting smoothly and quickly.


1.) Use your bell, but sparingly


Most of the major rental shops will offer you a bicycle equipped with a bell on the handle bars, 


usually on the left. As most tourists are welcomed by the endless “bing, bing” just outside of 


Centraal Station, you’ll quickly understand why they are essential to urban cycling. The only 


problem I see with first time cyclists in the city is that they abuse their bell privileges. Viewing it as 


a novelty, I can’t count the number of times I’ve turned nervously only to see a smiling group of 


Italians in Heineken shirts casually cruising along. 


In contrast to what you may think, the bell isn’t a toy. The distinct sound is used to alert fellow 


cyclists or pedestrians who may be unaware of your presence. The system works well, but there’s 


no quicker way to spot a visitor than the piercing chorus of bells ringing endlessly. By all means, 


test your bell to make sure it works, but only use it when in need. 


2.) Cycle in small groups


A problem with many bike rental shops is they don’t warn large groups or families that they 


probably shouldn’t always cycle together. When trying to navigate unfamiliar territory with five or 


more bikes in a line, there’s bound to be problems. 


Someone will be cut-off by traffic, the leader will be faster than the others, left turns become 


dangerous and the follow the leader mentality can lead to lapses in attention. Do yourself (and your 


group) a favor and stick to travelling in pairs or trios. This way, even if you get separated, you 


reduce the risks of losing control or causing a collision trying to keep up. This tip is especially true if 


cycling with younger children.


3.) Don’t rent a tandem bike


Whenever I see a tandem bike on a path in Amsterdam, I can’t help but think: are they enjoying 


that? Put simply: renting a tandem bicycle is a terrible idea in the city. Yes, it looks fun, but that 


novelty quickly wears off the first time you try to make a sharp left or quickly cross a street. 


Tandem bikes lack the agility and acceleration necessary in the city center. Another problem that 


visitors who rent tandems frequently don’t consider is that locking the behemoths to the small 


racks, stalls and bridges is nearly impossible due to their length.


4.) Be careful when crossing tram tracks


Almost as if they were lock and key, the width of tram tracks in the streets are just wide enough to 


fit an average bike tire. Most bicycle shop owners (the caring ones, anyway) will warn you about 


tram tracks; take their advice seriously! 


If you’re riding near a tram track, try not to ride parallel to the track, as the wheel can easily slip in 


with just a slight turn. What will happen, you wonder? Your front or back wheel will get stuck, while 


the other continues, meaning you can no longer steer and will be forced either to jump ship or go 


down with the bike.


To avoid such unfortunate situations, be conscious of the tracks and be sure to cross them only 


when the wheel is perpendicular to the track. One of the more dangerous aspects of cycling is the 


tram tracks, so do indeed be aware on streets where they are present. 


5.) Signal when you make a left 


Much like driving a car, a sudden left turn can be disastrous if a fellow cyclist is attempting to pass 


you. Although not as strict as the rules of the road, cyclists typically pass on the left and cruise on 


the right. Even though it’s polite to signal your right hand turns, it can be downright dangerous if 


you don’t signal left. 


Especially for tourists, this can be puzzling. Lacking any formal turn signal, use your left hand or 


arm to point, wave or in some way gesture that you’ll be turning. Don’t worry about feeling a bit 


silly the first few times, your fellow cyclists will thank you. 


6.) Always (properly) use two locks 


Although it depends on where you rent your bike from, there are typically two locks included: one 


that locks the back wheel to frame and one that is chainlike for locking the frame and front wheel to 


a stable object. It often surprises me that rental shop owners simply assume that people will 


understand how these locks work. 


The back lock is simple: it’s attached to the back frame and a metal rod slides through the spokes to 


prevent the back wheel from being stolen. This one is usually common sense, as you can’t move the 


bike without unlocking it. 


However, safely attaching your bike to racks or objects in the street can be something of an art. 


With the chain-like lock, make sure that you loop it through the middle frame of the bike, through 


the spokes of the front wheel and then through a protrusion or around whatever object you’re 


locking it to. Good objects to lock your bike to include the racks (of course), bridge rails, pipes, small 


fences and the bottom of tall signs. 


A word of warning: never lock your bike where it says “verboden fietsen te plaatsen” or “placing of 


bicycles is prohibited”. Typically accompanied by a sign showing a bicycle with a circular red no 


symbol, your bike can potentially be seized by the city and you’ll have to pay to get it back. 


7.) Don’t rent a bike with gears


In Amsterdam, bicycles with gears (city and mountain bikes included) can become a liability for 


first time riders or casual cyclists. The problem with gears is that they can cause problems with the 


chain via the derailleur if the bike is not properly cared for. 


Avoid a potential headache and simply rent a single gear bike. Often times it’s cheaper and there are 


no hills in Amsterdam (or in most of the Netherlands for that matter), meaning inclines won’t be a 




8.) Check your lights!


Most people will rent their bike during the day, meaning they may not immediately notice if the 


lights are working properly. In the Netherlands, you are legally obligated to have front and rear 


lights while bicycling at night. 


Given, there are many variations on how people actually interpret this rule: some have cheap 


portable lights that they clip onto the bike only when riding, some have a single light that they 


attach to their jacket or bag, some bikes have lights built-in that are powered by pedaling, and some 


have none at all. 


Generally speaking, bike shops will have the type of bike with built-in lights. You should most 


certainly have lights while riding, not only for law, but also for your own safety! Give the front white 


light and back red lights a test before you ride away from the shop!


9.) Take the insurance


While on holiday, the last thing you want to worry about is being charged for a bike due to an 


accident. Large rental companies offer optional insurance on the bikes to financially protect you 


when faced with a serious problem. Based on experience, the insurance isn’t offered because you 


will do something wrong, but rather because an unknown third-party may be at fault while you’re 


stuck with the bill. 


Usually only a few extra euros, insurance policies typically cover both damage and/or theft of the 


bikes (although you’ll have to submit a police report for the latter). You may think that the chance is 


minimal, and it is, but I know I’ve even seen group of rambunctious visitors toss rental bikes of 


others in a canal. Even though in this case the bikes were eventually recovered, the pair was still 


able to enjoy their holiday stress free as they had insurance! 


If you keep these nine tips in mind, then renting a bike in Amsterdam will be an absolute pleasure 


and only serve to make the city that much more stunning!


Other articles

Free Bikes during your stay



{top}9 practical tips to follow when renting & riding a bike in Amsterdam{top}


{bottom}Amsterdam guide|9 practical tips to follow when renting & riding a bike in Amsterdam {bottom}