Overview of various types of bicycles (‘fiets’) people use in the Netherlands and key characteristics of each; helpful for expats in determining the correct style of bike to fit their needs…
BICYCLE STYLES IN HOLLAND
By far, the city bike (‘stadfiets’) is the most popular type of bicycle in Holland. The vast majority of city bikes sold in the Netherlands have a simple, single-gear construction with pedal-operating braking system. Because the Netherlands terrain is extremely flat, having multiple gears does not provide substantial benefit but can cause more frequent maintenance issues which is why most riders prefer not to have them.
A transport bike (‘transportfiets’) is characterized by a welded rack located at the front or rear. The rack can be used for different purposes, such as attaching a straw basket or plastic milk crate to easily carry things (such as groceries, a schoolbag, sports equipment or small or medium-sized dog). The rack can also be used as a seat for a passenger. Transport bikes usually have thicker tires than those on city bikes to provide a smoother ride when extra weight is being carried.
A ‘damesfiets’ or ladies bike refers to any style of bicycle with a traditional women’s profile (i.e. low angled crossbar that allows the rider to easily mount the bike without significantly lifting a leg). It is not a specific bike type in itself.
A mom bike (‘moederfiets’) is similar to a woman’s city bike but with a few adjustments made which offer greater comfort to older riders. The tires are larger which makes for a smoother ride when supporting more weight. There is greater distance between the handlebars and the seat, which allows space for a child seat to be mounted.
The ‘omafiets’ (granny bike) has the general silhouette of a ladies bike (damesfiets) but with a few adjustments… the support crossbeam connects closer to the ground making it easier for an older person to board, the distance from seat to handle bars is reduced allowing the rider to sit upright rather than having to lean forward (reducing stress on shoulders and arms), the bike will usually be equipped with multiple gears and the frame is made of lighter materials lowering the overall weight.
A ‘herenfiets’ is a general term used to describe any type of man’s bike (i.e. the silhouette is characterized by a high crossbeam support bar that runs almost parallel to the ground). It does not refer to one particular type of bicycle.
The grandpa bike or ‘opafiets’ is a men’s bike has slight adjustments making it more comfortable for an older man to ride. The crossbeam is often a lower height, the saddle has more padding, the tires are thicker so there is more rubber (outer) and inflation (inner) to absorb shock, the bike will almost be equipped with multiple gears and the frame will be constructed of lighter weight materials.
A racing bike or ‘racefiets’ is the familiar style that most people associate with competitions such as the ‘Tour de France’. The handlebars curve downward which requires the rider to hunch forward, which in turn creates a more aerodynamic profile to reduce wind resistance. The tires are extremely narrow to minimize contact surface area with the ground (less friction = faster speed). Racing bikes general are not equipped with tire fenders (splash guards) but do have a large number of gears
SPECIALTY BIKE STYLES IN HOLLAND
The folding bicycle (‘vouwfiets’) is very popular with commuters in the Netherlands who work at a location which is not ‘walk-able’ from the nearest train station. Folding bikes can be taken on Dutch trains for free even during rush hours. It is characterized by its small diameter wheels, T-shaped extendable handlebars and multiple winches which, when unlocked, allow the bike to be collapsed down to basically the size of a small unicycle.
The cargo bike (‘bakfiets’) is a popular bicycle style in Holland for parents with toddlers or young children. The cargo hold area is equipped with child seats and seat belt restraints. Most come with fitted rain covers for use in inclement weather (which is common in Holland from early Fall to late Spring). With a 2-wheeled style, the cargo area is located between the rider and the front tire. With a tricycle version, the cargo hold is supported by two tires at the front. Both are offered with traditional peddling or battery-assisted electric bikes.
The cruiser bike style has a retro feel reminiscent of the 1950’s when it became popular with surfers. It is typically characterized by an elongated frame, extended handlebar arms, single gear functionality and over-sized white tires.
A tricycle (‘driewieler’) is a 3-wheeled bicycle. Because the Dutch are so fond of their cycling and local government invest a lot of resources into biking infrastructure, even people who would have normally giving up cycling with age or may have moved to Holland later in life and never learned to cycle as a child. Some people can only ride a tricycle due to balance problems. It is not a common bike style in Holland for adults, but you’ll still find more in the Netherlands than most other countries. Usage is higher in suburban and rural areas rather than big cities.
A tandem bike is used to describe the iconic ‘bicycle built for two’. But in reality, it can refer to a bike made for 3, 4 or even 5 passengers. A tandem bike is equipped with a seat, handlebars and pedals for each rider. Only the primary rider’s handlebars turn the front wheel for directional purposes, but each rider’s pedals are functional and attached to a chain turning the rear wheel.
Electric 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.
E-bikes that can travel faster (up to 45 kph) are called Speedpedelecs. The road rules are different for these e-bikes: 1) they must be driven in the car lane rather than the bike path (unless a sign post okays for mopeds on the path), 2) these bikes require a rear square license plate and 3) the rider must wear a helmet.