Having been a cyclist pretty much all of my life I thought my own skill set was pretty complete, but alas there are some skills that are hallmarks of the Amsterdam cyclist but really don’t show up much if at all in other places. In no particular order, they are;
- Riding the Rack – Pretty much every Dutch commuter bike is equipped with at least one rack and most will have them on both the front and rear. The rack stand is the classic riding technique of the bold young Dutch kid and balance is obviously key to this one. The other key rack riding technique is what I call the rack start, which is where you walk or jog alongside the bike when taking off from a stop to make it easier for the driver to get the bike going and then you gently sit on the rack without upsetting the balance of the bike.
- Cargo – The true Amsterdammer can transport pretty much any kind of cargo with their bike. on a fairly regular basis you see people moving furniture and other large objects you might have thought were impossible to move with a bike. Sometimes it takes two bikes but one thing it all most never requires is strapping down the load. I’m confident in saying that Amsterdammers transport more raw tonnage with fewer attachment straps than anyone else in the world.
- Bike on bike – Rarely does a day go by when I don’t see someone riding one bike while transporting another.
- The bike bell is the only rule that matters – One of the first things you notice in Amsterdam whether you are a cyclist, a pedestrian or a driver is that bikes rule the road and ALWAYS have the right of way, whether the they are legally entitled to it or not. A seasoned Amsterdam cyclist knows that traffic laws are entirely optional for bikes and rarely enforced for anyone, but they also know that if a car hits a bike it is presumed to be the car drivers fault. If you are pedestrian in Amsterdam one of the most frequent sounds you will hear is a bike bell, pay attention! Bike paths are everywhere and you probably wandered into one.
- Lane Discipline – Amsterdammers are unquestionably the fastest bike commuters in the world, and now they are also the biggest users of e bikes. Before moving here I was almost never passed by another commuter cyclist but in Amsterdam I’m an average paced rider. Also, in what is surely the dumbest decision in the history of Dutch civilization they decided to allow scooters on the bike paths (a decision that has been reversed in Amsterdam thankfully), meaning that even the blazing fast average Amsterdam cyclist needs to keep right at all times.
I’ll save some of the more subtle techniques and advanced skills of the Rakish Rider for another post. Happy cycling!