So last year in June I caved and bought a bike.
Everyone here has one, or three…. according to some sources there are only about 750,000 residents of Amsterdam—but there are more than 600,000 bicycles. One source even puts the number of bicycles over 1 million.
4,000 are estimated to be parked by Centraal Station
The bike I got last year, was cheap, and not from a junkie.
Having not cycled for 18yrs, I was a bit nervous and didn’t want to fork out for a new bike that I might not use.
That fear was unfounded, I cycled almost every day the 14km round trip to and from work until Dec 1st.
I gave up in the real winter as black ice on cobblestones, steep bridges and lunatic cyclists all make me nervous.
My old bike was a grand starter, and it earned its price in saved tram fares in a couple of weeks, however after the first month, I found crouching to be a problem, my knees and ankles ached. I hadn’t heard of this as a side effect of cycling.
It seems I was cycling a death trap.
I forgave it the fact that the brakes were dodgy at best (most efficient way of stopping was jumping off) and the saddle seemed to be made of nails covered in cement (my rear looked like a permenant victim of a paint balling kamikaze attack) but I was reluctant to “just throw away” the €50 I spent on the bike. After not cycling for 2 months and living with out the ankle, knee and butt pain I swore that this year I would buy a new bike.
Valentines day saw me and my lady roaming the bike shops of the Jordan.
I get the usual look when I explain, I’d like a small bike, with gears and *gasp* handbrakes that work. Back pedal brakes, while cheaper and easier to maintain, are not for me…. cycling back ways is not my instant reaction when faced with on coming traffic, and I am likely to sail out in front of same traffic screaming and grasping my non-existent handbrakes.
You’d be forgiven for thinking that in Amsterdam with bike traffic jams being more frequent than car traffic jams, bikes would be really cheap. Let me dispel that, they are not, well especially not for pint sized, handbrake wanting foreigners. New bikes average around €600/€700. Second hand ones start at €75 but most good ones are around €200 for back pedal and €300 for handbrake.
The bike I got looks a bit like this it has brakes that work, 3 gears, a decent saddle and its so great to cycle.
I no longer feel like I’m pulling a dead cow up the road after my bike!
So I began cycling to work again, only on the first morning I realised my old route was being dug up by the Gemeete, Amsterdam’s version of the Corpo, and they are about as helpful and productive as same. It seems this is budget spending month so every road is being dug up for the sheer hell of it. Fun!!
I had to devise a new route, and my mum was impressed this one doesn’t take me through Dam Square or the red-light. Doped up Tourist dodging on your way home from work is not as fun as it sounds.
This is my way TO work and this is my way FROM work. The are 6.6 and 6.9km respectively and better still doing this every day will burn about 800kcls a day. (4000 a week) and I’ll be travelling 67.5kms a week. Not bad! Plus saving €20 a week on transport!
The route is still lovely along the Amstel, and some morning I am going to take my camera along and get some photos!
My Spanish Colleague and I are planning a beer cycle home some evening, visiting local establishments between the office and the city! 🙂 Photos from that are likely to be wobbly.
PS I listen to Morning Ireland (the wonders of unlimited data for €9) on my mobile so if you are listening to it between 7.30 and 8.10 (from 1st sport to 2nd reading of morning papers) think of me cycling along the Amstel 🙂