Mark Stosberg in Richmond, Indiana, USA sent a kind note asking a couple relevant questions worth public answers. The photo below I blatantly stole from Mark’s blog. It seemed appropriate.
Thank you for your blog which provides a unique glimpse into Dutch bike
culture for westerners like me who haven’t been able to visit yet.
As a new bakfiets owner in Richmond, Indiana, I have a couple things
I’ve curious about, which I think would make interesting topics for
future blog posts.
1. Accessories. In the photos I see of Dutch community bikes, there is a
noticeable absense of several accessories: Rear view mirrors, bike
computers, and water bottles.
If I had to guess, the answers might be:
– Rear view mirrors would be stolen (assuming they are detachable)
– For the bike computers and water bottles, perhaps they are less
important for shorter, urban trips, and also could either be stolen, or
would create another chore to carry the removable parts inside all the
2. “Key Management”. The AXA Defender lock seems like it is somewhat
common there. If I attach the key for it to my keychain, I have to
leave the whole keychain attached to the bike when it is unlocked, and
my foot hits the keys that way. Are there common ways people avoid
this, and still keep track of their AXA Defender keys?
Unrelated, you may be interested in the stories and photos I recently
created about my new bakfiets. You can access that content through my
As you suggest just a short time in a Dutch city would be enough to formulate your own answers. I visit to Amsterdam is thus highly recommended!
In the meantime…
People in the Netherlands install many types of accessories on their bikes, but no never rear-view mirrors, water bottles or cycle computers.
Rear view mirrors are important when fast moving, uncaring, dangerous traffic approaches from behind. That’s a rare situation in Holland since we almost always ride on special bicycle roads or at least well-protected bicycle paths. The infrastructure in the Netherlands is built for bicycling, and that includes many tactics to avoid, divert, slow and calm automobile traffic. Some inner cities are only barely accessible by auto, perhaps just at certain times of the day for shops to receive goods. Its just not dangerous or scary to ride a bicycle here.
Water bottles are found on racing bicycles. If you get thirsty in the city you just stop to get a drink at a grocery store or cafe. Or wait until you’re home or at the office, or school, or kindergarten. Why are Americans always drinking water, anyway? American tourists here often have water bottles hanging from their waists or on their backpacks, or even stranger: little backpacks with tubes leading to about mouth level like something out of a sci-fi movie. This isn’t Dune, its Amsterdam.
Cycle computers? What does one calculate on the way home from the bakery? Average time saved by runnning red lights? Maximum vibrational g-forces over the cobblestones? Every cathedral has a clocktower to know the time.
Cynical comments aside (sorry, had to do it!) a Dutch city is an extremely rough environment for a bicycle. For more about how the enormous numbers of bicycles in Amsterdam are parked and treated have a look at these two posts:
Almost all bicycles are parked outside and bike racks, impatient neighbors, vandals, construction crews, thieves and weather make life very difficult for a bicycle. Its difficult enough to keep the bicycle itself intact, never mind little, protruding objects such as a mirrors or computers.
Case in point: I woke up yesterday to find the (quite heavy-duty) front wheel of my own bike in a new potato-chip shape, and front fork likely bent too. A construction crew was working next to it with a giant crane that had been freshly installed on our tiny canal street the same morning. Coincidence? Doubtful, but they denied any knowledge of my trashed bike. For me its just an inconvenience, but for others it’d cost €100 to repair.
Almost every bicycle in the Netherlands has a rear wheel lock, the most popular of which are the Axa Defender and its predecessors the Axa SL7 and SL9.
There are two basic approaches to combining the keys:
Most Dutch mostly ride just one bike. City people basically ride that bike everywhere so they just put the keys for the wheel lock (and in the city the key for the separate huge chain lock) on the same ring as their other keys. Yes, the keys jingle around and hit your legs and feet while you ride, but most people don’t care. Its no more annoying than the loose left crank cotter and rear mudguard stay that drags against the wheel.
Some people ride more than one bike. Typical case is a family with a bakfiets cargobike: The bakfiets is basically mom’s daily ride but once a week dad takes the kids to school and on weekends he takes them to a park, beach, birthday party etc. That means that both mom and dad have alternate bikes. In this family the bike keys will probably be separate from other keys, each bike having its own hanger.
Regardless, one thing is constant: Th chain lock remains with a particular bicycle and the key for the wheel lock (also known as ring lock) remains on the same ring as the key for your chain lock. That avoids descending four flights of stairs to discover that you’ve got the wrong key.