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!
Jonathan is an Amsterdam based designer from the UK with a passion for all things retro. He loves working with his hands to make his creative visions come to life – whether it’s designing shoes for international fashion brands, reconstructing vintage furniture or working on his collection of vintage bicycles.
Welcome, Jonathan! We’re glad to have you as our December cyclist of the month! To get started, tell us a bit more about how you ended up in Amsterdam.
I’m originally from the UK, more precisely from where Hobbits live. Yes, that’s right. Lord of the Rings was actually written in my hometown. After visiting Amsterdam for a long weekend, I fell in love with the city! One month later, I found myself moving over. That was about two years ago… and here we are now, enjoying a crisp, cool day in the lovely Nine Streets neighborhood.
As an expat, what was your first reaction to the Dutch cyclists here in Amsterdam?
At first, it was all so unique and quite startling!Now, cycling has become a major part of my day-to-day routine here in Amsterdam. The Dutch are known as the kings of cycling but it was a totally new concept for me after living in London for 10 years. Unfortunately, in London there’s a lack of forward thinking towards cyclists which makes it quite unsafe.
In your opinion, what makes Amsterdam so special for cycling?
Now that I have adapted to life-on-bike, I absolutely love it! Cycling around the Jordan with friends is one of my favorite areas because of course, the scenery is lovely. Plus, it is more peaceful and less crowded than the rest of the city center. Riding my bike has become a bigger part of my life. Cycling in Amsterdam really inspired me to start buying vintage bikes and do them up, which is now one of my favorite hobbies.
How did you get into collecting vintage bikes?
I love the hands on process of fixing up vintage bikes. Plus, of course the bike loving vibe of Amsterdam is an inspiration. A few years ago, I bought a bike black, vintage Peugeot. It was from 1975 in like-new condition, just beautiful! Once I got my first vintage bike there was no looking back, I was in love! Now, I’m a vintage bike enthusiast. At one point, I did have seven vintage bikes so, perhaps you could call me a “collectomaniac”? At the moment I am down to only three, including the Carlton pictured here.
My other prized bike is a 1982 Peugeot Centennial Edition PH12, this was one of the first bike to consider aerodynamics, it has only been ridden twice since 1982! At the moment, it’s hanging on the wall of my apartment. My third bike is a Peugeot that my dad bought brand new in 1975, when he was 13.
What’s the story behind the unique, vintage Carlton that you’re riding around the Nine Streets today?
The one pictured here is a Carlton criterium custom which I built myself after bringing it over from the UK.The bike was owned by a family friend who bought it new. He was a long distance rider so, I have had it the bike has undergone some changes and I still want to change it further and make it into a single speed.
This is the first bike I built myself and added a Basil bell and Brooks seat. I’m very proud of it!
Carlton is up there as one of my favourite brands. My dream is to one day I have a Bianchi Pista too, they’re absolutely beautiful. So far, I have yet to find one the is in good enough condition… Hopefully some day!
What’s your favorite aspect about cycling in Amsterdam?
My favorite aspects of cycling in Amsterdam are the people you run into along the way. When biking around town, I often spot a friend cycling by and we wave or shout, ‘Hello!’ You often see the most random scenes pop up out of the blue. It’s fun to capture a quick snapshot of wacky moments on my phone and share them with friends for a laugh. I get so much enjoyment from riding my bike everyday in this wonderful city. Thank you, Amsterdam!
And a big thanks to you Jonathan for joining us here at Amsterdam Cycle Chic! You can follow along with his vintage bike adventures via Instagram. ‘Til next time…
Interview & photos by Lily.
We were lucky enough to take a ride and have a coffee with esteemed Professor, lecturer, and researcher Ruth Oldenziel, co-author of the latest and greatest book “Cycling Cities: The European Experience.” It’s 200 pages are carefully researched and thoughtfully describe how cycling came to be (or not so much) in several European cities – with Dutch cities as a backbone story of cycling decline, automobility, then incremental change towards what are now urban cycling “success stories.” Of course every city has its own story, culture, and responses to change, and this work delves into those stories from 14 cities in 9 countries. From Budapest’s bicycling revival to Manchester’s “standstill”; Lyon’s corporate enterprise to innovations in Malmö – we can read about diverse trajectories in urban cycling but all with the same goal: to get more people on bikes. Ruth tells us more…
RO: I was in NYC in 2009 – the year that marked the 400-year anniversary between New York and Amsterdam. I was going to give a speech and then take a group ride down the Hudson. I rode up to the venue on my Batavus granny bike with high heels and they just looked at me like, what are you thinking? Everyone was wearing Lycra and riding fancy bikes with helmets. I didn’t have any of that stuff, so they didn’t let me go on the ride! I was shocked. But what was interesting was that we were both shocked – at each other’s cycling cultures. I couldn’t explain it to them; I couldn’t explain why I was on this type of bike and why it was ok that I was wearing everyday clothes and high-heels while biking. I couldn’t explain Dutch culture around cycling. That was when the first thoughts about this book started.
ACC: Are there other books like this?
RO: Not really, no. In 1999 a book [by the co-authors] was published in Dutch, called “Fietsverkeer” (or bicycle traffic). And in it was a graph showing cycling levels across several European cities. The graph became quite famous, but because the book was only in Dutch it didn’t take off in the same way. So one of our goals was to translate the book and incorporate the most relevant research in the new book – and update the graph. The other main goal was to create a narrative through lots of images and graphics in order to make is as accessible as possible to everyone – policymakers, advocates, the everyday reader.
ACC: What surprised you most during the research for this book?
RO: When we looked at the cycling data – the numbers – it varied so much. Especially within the Netherlands. Variety suggests that the Dutch are not special people when it comes to cycling – really, it was just a perfect storm of events that lead to this “success story” – if you can call it that. Factors like the car coming a bit later, mediocre public transport systems, the oil crisis, and the social movements of the 70s – all these events came together and created a perfect storm for cycling.
ACC: Is there another city’s story that sticks out in your mind?
RO: Basel is an interesting case. The percentage of trips by bike hasn’t changed in decades. Everything is done so well there – the highways are pristine, the historic city centre is car-free and walking is a high priority, public transit is flawless, efficient and affordable, and bicycle infrastructure is also good. All these modes compete, so one is not really better than another. That makes it difficult for the city to push forward the bicycle share. Biking there is nice, but no where near as fun as in Amsterdam.
ACC: What’s your favourite thing about cycling in Amsterdam?
RO: I love the Weesperzijde (where we are now). Not only have I lived here a long time – I was born and raised in Amsterdam – but I love that this street has no cycling infrastructure and yet it’s a preferred route to and from the city centre. And of course it is – look around, it’s just beautiful.
ACC: Tell me about this bike of yours.
RO: I’ve always had 2nd-hand bikes, but this is my lucky bike. I’m a klutz with bike keys, always losing them. I can’t even tell you how many bike keys I’ve lost – it’s pathetic. I’ve had this bike for six years and never lost the keys!
For more information and to purchase her book, see the website: www.cyclingcities.info
We all love seeing what others can fit and balance on their bikes… umbrellas, pets, babies, shopping. And there there are times where your breath is taken away. The Dutch certainly know the fine art of ‘getting the job done’. Movers?!! Pffft! On your bike! He’s clearly happy with his achievement!
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!
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!
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!
I love seeing old photos and footage from back in the day. The Eye has a great collection of these old films and this one caught my attention.
A little history lesson: this was when about 80% of all trips were made by bike. Now about 60% of all trips are made by bicycle in the city center. Amazing right?
And look at the people. So simply chic with their hats and jackets. Sitting upright on their oh-so-Dutch bikes. Love it.