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Biking in Holland

Bring Your Own Helmet: Biking in Holland with Kids

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Cycling is a way of life in the Netherlands. People ride their bikes everywhere and bike lanes are usually physically separated from the main road, making cycling a relatively safe bet for almost everyone. When I lived in the Netherlands, I owned my own battered bicycle and rode it everywhere.

Renting a bike as a tourist is relatively straightforward. Many hotels, including Hilton Garden Inn Leiden in Oestgeest, keep a stable of bikes on hand for guests, but you can also rent a bike at the local train station and many bike shops.

But be warned, if you are a true blood American like I am, don’t expect a helmet to come with your rental. In fact, don’t even expect to be able to spend your hard-earned euros to rent a helmet. Most places do not rent helmets so unless you bring your own or get lucky like I did, you are out of luck.

During our last visit to the Netherlands, my husband, daughter and I decided to take a half-day bike ride. We took a drive and stumbled across a camping ground that rented bikes near the dunes between the beach towns of Noordwijkerhout and Zaandfort.

I explained to the jovial owners that I refused to ride a bike without a helmet because, truthfully, I was not very coordinated and my daughter was a somewhat inexperienced rider. Rather than rolling their eyes or telling me that I was being a typical, neurotic American, they told me that they did in fact have helmets, but only in kid sizes. Apparently, a growing number of German tourists have also been asking for helmets so they purchased a small supply. Because I had no shame (and a relatively small head), I donned a helmet with Dragon Ball Z Kai, while my daughter wore a pink Disney princess helmet. My husband rode without a helmet. I figured he had 25 years of experience riding a bike and would be okay.

We had a great time cycling on what was probably the hilliest bike path in Holland to the city of Zaandfoort and back riding through the forest and dunes with strong winds making the ride somewhat challenging. About halfway through the 22 mile ride, we stopped at a snack bar near the beach to drink a coffee (kopje koffie) and eat a soft ice cream (soft ijs). This was my first bike ride after injuring my back and undergoing surgery, so I felt pretty triumphant about the entire experience. I got my fair share of stares and smirks at my helmet, but I would do it all over again!

Biking in Holland - Dutch countryside

Enjoy the dutch countryside while biking in Holland.

Tips for Biking in Holland

  1. If you want to bike in Holland, email your hotel in advance and see if they can arrange a rental. If not, try the local train station or bike shop.
  2. Make sure you tell the bike rental company how tall you are because the Dutch are among the tallest people in the world. If you are like me, even a child-sized bike may be too large.
  3. If you care about wearing a helmet, ask in advance or consider packing your own if you plan to do a lot of riding. Helmets are very pricey in Holland and are normally only worn by serious riders (racers) or very young children.
  4. Lock your bike at all times. Bike theft is a constant problem.
  5. Remember, as a biker, you have the right of way. Vehicles are supposed to stop for you at crosswalks.

Happy trails!

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A self-proclaimed Jersey Girl (with a soft spot for Jon Bon Jovi), Amy currently resides in Austin, Texas with her husband and 11-year old daughter. She picked…

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