Here in Amsterdam, it’s getting pretty darn cold. It’s a biting, bitter, wet cold. This is the kind of cold that creeps into every crevice that is exposed and then laughs in your face.
No, there’s no snow on the ground – and it’s not even THAT cold, according to the thermostat (or Northern Scandinavians, for that matter). I’ve read -4C (25F) as the lowest temp recently. But for some reason, and maybe that’s the Californian in me, it just feels cold.
We’ve gotten a few emails recently asking about the cold weather and cycling: “What do Amsterdammers do in the winter?” So, Henri and Maria: this is for you.
It’s a habit.
You see, when you live in Amsterdam, you become so used to your bicycle as your main way of getting around. Your whole life starts to revolve around your bicycle. Your routes become habits. The grocery stores, cafes, shops along your routes become daily destinations. Out of habit (and probably laziness, too). On your daily routes, like to and from the office, you get used to being able to zone out, to think about other things, and to let your mind wander. You know your route that well. It’s that predictable, and dare I say, boring but relaxing at the same time.
You probably even know small, particular details about your route, things that you think only you know. (Like the small patch of uneven pavement that you knowingly swerve around.) You’re so used to it – the route, the swarm of cyclists around you, the mind-wandering thoughts – that you need this time, even if unconsciously. It’s the moments of your day you get to just be, and you even sort of forget that you’re peddling. It’s this critical nothingness in your day, and at the same time maybe the best part of the day, that becomes a deeply ingrained habit.
Next to the ride itself, you are used to your “usual” stops – for groceries, bread, coffee to go, the corner post box. You have different preferred places for different routes and directions. You know where you like to park your bike at these places. You have your favourite part of the bike rack or sidewalk (remember, Dutch bikes have kickstands!) and you park there almost every time. It’s second nature.
So what happens when it gets cold? When it rains? Snows? When the streets are frozen? In extreme conditions like snow or frost, the City ploughs the bike lanes at 3am – before they plough the rest of the street. That happens a handful of times every year. So that’s helpful for safety reasons.
Other options exist – tram, bus, walking, even car – and some do people opt out. (Stats show only a small percentage opt out in the winter.) But for the most part, Amsterdammers are only continuing their time-honoured, ingrained habit: using the bike.
We all know habits are hard to break. So Amsterdammers are no special species when it comes to cycling in the winter. There’s only one thing we do: wear a warm coat. After all, there is no bad weather, only bad clothing.
Amsterdam Cycle Chic
Wishing you all a very happy start to 2017! We have an exciting line up of Amsterdammers to share with you in our Cyclist of the Month series. So, let’s get to it!
Jen is a 26-year-old Scottish lass who has loved living – and cycling – in the Netherlands for the past five years. When she isn’t out and about searching for that perfect vintage skirt, you can find her managing the team at Amsterdam’s legendary and delicious Greenwoods English Tearoom.
Welcome, Jen! We’re excited to kick off 2017 with you as our January Cyclist of the Month! To get started, tell us a bit about yourself and how you ended up in Amsterdam.
Wow, I can’t believe that I’ve actually been in the Netherlands for five years! After finishing my childcare studies, I wanted to do a bit of traveling so, my adventure in the Netherlands actually began in The Hague where I spent a year as an Au Pair. That year, my favourite bike adventure was to cycle to the beach during summer. It was so surreal to spot all the families with the kids stacked on their bikes. Learning to balance with kids on the bike was a big step for me, it was at that point that I felt integrated. After a year back at home, I hopped on a plane because Amsterdam was calling! Luckily, I found a job quickly in a quaint tearoom called Greenwoods. Then and there that I knew that I’d stick around for a little longer than expected!
In your opinion, what makes Amsterdam so special for cycling?
The fact that you can cycle everywhere here is incredible and in my opinion, extremely luxurious! Coming from ‘the gateway to the Highlands’ in Scotland, my memories of cycling at home include beautiful scenery but, boy, oh boy, is it hilly! Those big, rolling hills makes cycling tricky.Holland is flat which is the obvious factor for easy cycling but Amsterdam is something else…
The historic scenery and canals really make it so special for me. Cycling everyday along the Keizersgracht on my way to work is so stunning that sometimes, I have to pinch myself! That’s why cycling in this city is so amazing!
Tell us more about your experience cycling in Amsterdam. Do you remember your first day(s) cycling here?
Oh yes, I can remember my first day cycling in Amsterdam as clear as mud (excuse the pun)… because I landed in it! Yes, that’s right. My first bicycle journey included me getting trapped in the tram tracks and face planting into the ground, on a cold winters day none the less.
Yikes! I think we’ve all been there at some point. Do you have any advice for newbies? My piece of advice to all new cyclists in Amsterdam: Watch those tram tracks! Once that lesson is learned, it becomes pretty straight forward. Also, get yourself a beautiful, big bell (which I don’t have at the moment, oops) to help avoid becoming passive aggressive at other cyclists. Last but not least, learn how to fix your chain. It’s the most important skill in my book because there is nothing worse than racing to work when you’re already late and then the chain flies off! Everything else can either be fixed by professionals at one the hundreds of bike stores everywhere.
How to you stay stylish – on a bike – during the cold winter months?
One of the greatest things about Amsterdam cyclists is that everybody remains extremely stylish, even while biking. You’ll even see girls wearing ball gowns and five-inch stiletto heels while cycling. Every girl in town knows how to survive with the hair band trick to gathering her dress, and avoid that pesky dress-stuck-in-the-chain problem. Actually, that happened to me once. I was wearing my friend’s lovely chiffon dress and it got stuck to the bike until, eventually, I had to cut my way free. That’s a night I will never forget!
My style is all about clothes, I’m not much of an accessories girl but scarves are crucial for wintertime. The scarf I’m wearing here is one of my favourite winter accessories! A good friend brought it to me from scarf from South Africa. It’s real Mohair and so cosy. I wear a lot of red and I’m never seen without my lipstick so, the colours of the scarf are very me.
As for clogs, the Dutch have done it right! I love my clogs and they are so practical that I can wear them during summer and winter. This red skirt is another favourite of mine, I love how it shimmers when I move or bike.
I like to think that I have my own style. I follow fashion closely and take different trends here and there and tend to recreate it in my own way. I’m a bargain hunter and a very quick shopper. I love digging through vintage stores and the IJ Hallen flea market too.
Your backpack is adorable! Where’s it from?
My backpack is my absolute favourite thing in the whole world! I was able to choose the fabric outside and inside, it’s wonderfully handy to use when cycling. This backpack was designed for me by my incredibly talented friend Olga who is a designer and seamstress who now lives in Australia.
Tell us about your typical day on two wheels. Do you have any special routes or routines when you’re cycling?
My favourite street has to be the Nieuwe Spiegelstraat, the chosen location of our photoshoot. I love the stunning view leading up to the grand Rijksmuseum and all the little shops and galleries along the way. My love for that charming little street grown over the years since most days I’m cycling along Nieuwe Spiegelstraat, on my way to Greenwoods which is nearby along the Keizersgracht.
Tell us what you love (and loathe) about cycling in Amsterdam…
One of my favourite aspects of cycling here is the freedom that a bike can give you. The city is your oyster, day or night! Another is the time becuase you arrive at your destination in half the time compared to public transport. I also love that cycling is such good excercise too!
My least favourite aspect about cycling… wet seats. And that sometimes you can’t wear your favourite little dress because you might end up flashing the lovely people of Amsterdam, ha! Of course, finding out your bike was stolen is for sure the absolute worst thing that can happen but I suppose it’s a right of passage around here too.
So, have you experienced many stolen bikes during your time here in Amsterdam? What’s the story of your current bike?
This is by far my favourite bike that I’ve had! I bought it from a dear friend who moved to London. I promised to take good care of it and I’m sure that he will be very happy to see his dear old friend again in these photos. You try not to get too attached to your bike in Amsterdam because they are so easily stolen but its hard when you have a really good one.I think that I’ve had about 7 bikes in my 4 years in Amsterdam. That’s actually not too bad!
Thanks again Jen for sharing your life on two wheels with us! Tot ziens!
Saw this lovely burst of colour whizzing by, delivering a parcel, and I just had to stop him! He spent the day riding through snow, sleet, rain and finally some sunshine. Didn’t seem to phase him 🙂
I caught up with American Amsterdammer, Breean, on a typical February afternoon – rainy, cold, and generally miserable outside. But her energy and enthusiasm made up for it. She took me for a ride in her Johnny Loco cargo bike and we had a nice chat about everything from bikes to love, dancing, and yes, Gyrotonic.
Breean used to dance professionally in New York City; she was trained as a classic dancer and danced with a contemporary dance company. But then she fell in love with a handsome Dutchman (a doctor with curls, no less). She moved to Utrecht in 2011, and then Amsterdam in 2014. She’s a mom of 2 kids, an entrepreneur, and a busy, busy woman. Here’s a snipet of our conversation.
What do you like about living in Amsterdam?
Compared to New York, life seems so easy and much slower. I’m still very busy of course – with two kids, a clothing line, fitness instructor – but somehow there’s time for everything. And I still manage to spend plenty of time with my family and friends and just exploring this gorgeous city.
Do you ride this [cargo] bike every day?
For sure. This is my SUV. I love this bike. It’s falling apart, but I love it. I take my girls to school in the morning, and our new thing is stopping to get croissants and a latte (for me obviously) before the bell rings. They sit in here and eat their croissants and play with their fake cell phones. It’s ridiculous but I love it.
What do you like about cycling in Amsterdam?
In New York everyone is looking for a fight – and New Yorkers are known for their screaming matches. Why they like yelling, I have no idea. It doesn’t help anything. Here, people just mind their own business when they’re on the bike. If I accidentally bump their bike – which happened to me a lot at first – they just glance over and smile, or they don’t even do anything at all.
How long did it take you to ride like an Amsterdammer?
I’m glad I started out in Utrecht, where it’s a little calmer on the bike path. Amsterdam is totally different. It’s busy and stressful – there’s a lot of people on bikes here! At first it was terrifying. Every time I’d get on my bike I’d tell myself: Ok, just DON’T die. I wouldn’t look at buildings or anything else but the bike path. It took me probably a good two months to get confident. Now I absolutely love it. I can’t imagine any other way of life.
Ok, so tell me about this Gyrotonic stuff…
The Gyrotonic method was developed by an injured dancer who healed herself by developing this method. It’s an amazing combination of rhythmic, circular movements flowing with your breath. It’s a very adaptable exercise, so anyone can do it, but it’s more of an experience with your body. Come try it out at Full Circle Studio in Amsterdam!
We’re a small little company with a big vision. At BuBae we design and produce girls’ clothing and give a percentage of the profits to organisations that empower women and girls who are less fortunate than we are. Our fabrics are designed by women from all over the world and then produced by women as well. We’re all about radiating beauty from within. Right now our current line is available on the website.
Thanks for the ride Breean!
Just when you think your weary legs can’t cycle anymore … you spot what we like to call a ‘Chic’er’ – a super chic cyclist with some fashion on board! Gameboy backpack + faux fur coat + pink gloves and grooving to tunes, en route to somewhere fabulous for sure. Arriving with style people!
Thank you everyone who commented on the People’s Poncho giveaway post! At our team meeting other night, we put all the comments in a hat and we’re excited to announce that Walton is the winner!
He said: “My favourite thing about biking in the rain is surprising people! Ride with a huge smile and give people a friendly wave while they grimace in the drizzle. Enjoy it, embrace it, and feel like a hero when you arrive at your destination. Chase that rainbow!”
Congrats Walton! And thank you again to The People’s Poncho for working with us on this giveaway.
Want to work with us on a giveaway? Let’s talk!
Get ready for the rainy season (here that’s every season) with a bike poncho! Thanks to The People’s Poncho for working with us on this giveaway.
This poncho has it all: slick waterproof shell, sheltering hood with drawstrings, snap clasps at the sleeves, and even handle bar grips to prevent flying away with the wind and rain! There’s a little waterproof zipped pouch for valuables. And the piping is even reflective. Retailing for €75 – but worth every penny.
The only thing you need to do is comment below telling us your favourite thing about biking in the rain.
Comment by Thursday, we’ll announce the winner on Friday!
small print: only open to UK/EU addresses – sorry!
Yep it’s Monday alright. If you haven’t had your coffee yet, I also would love a little boost like this.
So many people are talking about the North. You can find it just across the small stretch of water, accessible in only a couple of minutes by the ferry of your choice! All for free of course.
Go take a bike around this weekend if you’re in town!
The top 3 loved photos on our Instagram this month are…