Overview of Dutch bikes (fietsen)…brief descriptions of bicycle styles common in Holland, from city and cargo bikes to folding and electric bikes.
There are iconic images one naturally thinks of when the subject of Holland comes up: windmills, wooden shoes, tulips…and bikes! But not until you have lived here will you fully comprehend how integral bicycles are to Dutch culture. Estimates are that there are over 17 million bikes within this small country (just 1.5 times the size of New Jersey), meaning there are more bikes than there are people.
Types and Styles of Bikes in Holland
In no other country will you find as high a percent of residents utilizing bikes for transport as in the Netherlands. This means knowledge and awareness of bicycles is also extremely high when compared to other countries. For example, ask an American what type of bike they own and you are likely to get a response as simple as “a lady’s bike” or “a two-wheeler”. When you live among the Dutch, your appreciation of bikes grows exponentially. You come to realize there are more than just one or two categories of bikes.
Here is a non-exhaustive list of bicycle types you may come across here in Holland, and a brief description of each:
- City Bikes (Stadsfietsen) – the most popular and basic style of bike in Holland. Unlike in other countries, the majority of these in the Netherlands are gear-less and operate with pedal brakes. A flat terrain across this tiny country means lots of gears aren’t necessary, which in turn means less chance of problems. This type of bike is commonly used for transport to/from work and school.
- Transport Bikes (Transportfietsen) – equipped with a welded rack (usually in the front). Can be used for transporting a passenger or accessorized with a crate for holding such things as groceries.
- Mountain Bikes (Mountainfietsen) – since there are no mountains in Holland, these should be considered ‘dunes’ or trail bikes. They have wide tires with visible lug treads and often are equipped with suspension systems.
- Ladies Bikes (Damesfietsen) – the most common bike silhouette for women
- Mother Bikes (Moederfietsen) – similar to ladies bike but with fatter tires to support more weight and offer greater comfort. There is a greater distance between the handlebars and the seat, which allows space for a childseat to be mounted.
- Granny Bikes (Omafietsen) – similar to a ladies bike but with lower profile and step in. The handle bars are closer to the seat which allows for more upright sitting. Frame is usually made of aluminum to reduce weight.
- Racing Bikes (Racefietsen) – the style made popular by races such as the Tour de France. The handlebars are curved under which requires hunching down. This in turn lowers wind resistance making for a faster, if less comfortable, ride. Tires are usually thin.
- Folding Bikes (Vouwfietsen) – this style bicycle folds to 1/3 the actual length, making it easier to get on/off trains. The wheels are small in diameter compared to other adult bike styles. Extendable “T-shaped” handlebars.
- Cargo Bike (Bakfietsen) – quite popular in Holland for use by parents with small children. The cargo hold area is equipped with child restraints. Accessories include various types of covers. Cargo bikes can be either 2 or 3-wheelers.
- Cruiser Bikes (Cruiserfietsen) bikes distinguished by their elongated frames and fat white tires. They are usually gearless.
- Tricycle (Driewieler) – not just for children, adult tricycles can be seen now and then in Holland. It avoids the need for balance.
- Tandem Bikes (Tandemfietsen) – bicycle equipped with handlebars, seats and pedals for two or more persons.
- Electric Bikes (Elektrische fietsen) – these bikes are equipped with a rechargeable battery that assists the rider. Most e-bikes are designed to go a maximum of 25 kph. This means even when going downhill, the bike does not allow you to go more than 25 kph. You can find electric versions of many different types of bikes including city bikes, cargo bikes and even folding bikes.
- Speed Pedelcs – these are also e-bikes but with a maximum speed of 45 kph. The riding rules are different for these e-bikes: 1) they must be driven in the car lane rather than the bike path (unless a signpost okays for mopeds on the path), 2) these bikes require a rear square license plate and 3) the rider must wear a helmet.