Amsterdam is known as being one of the great cycling cities of the world. Because of this, riding isn’t limited to athletic people, and you’ll see all members of society pedaling along. Children, seniors, office workers in suits, moms with babies (yes, plural!), delivery people, shoppers, police, people texting on their phones, etc.
Many visitors want to join the fray, so they rent bikes and hop on. The local population moves fast while cycling, and it can be challenging and stressful for someone not used to it. But, it’s extremely fun (once past the initial shock), and one is arguably safer on a bike than walking through the streets of Amsterdam.
However, there is one opportunity the many tourists miss out on: riding a bakfiets.
What is a Bakfiets?
The Dutch name literally translates to “shelf bike,” but they are commonly referred to as “cargo bikes” in English. Basically, there are two major types of these bike. The first type is a two-wheeled bike with a giant wooden box on the front. This puts the front wheel significantly farther away from the rider than a normal bike, but it adds plenty of room to stack cargo. The other type is basically the same but with three wheels. One is behind the rider (as on a normal bicycle), and the other two are placed on both sides of the box in the front.
How to Ride a Bakfiets
My bakfiets experience is limited to a 24-hour rental (of the two-wheeled type), so I’m far from an expert. However, I can tell you that it takes a little bit of time to get used to, and then it’s pretty easy. You just have to bear in mind that the length requires more space to turn, and the distance between the handle bars and front wheel give the feeling of a much slower response time than a normal bike. Also, the added weight can make balancing more difficult, so make sure you evenly disperse any cargo that you place in the wooden box.
Imagine attaching a trailer to the front of your car…
Why Use a Bakfiets?
Around the world, similar bikes are used for transporting any number of things (hence the name “cargo bike”). But, the most fun part of the bakfiets in Amsterdam is that it’s commonly used by mothers/fathers to shuttle around a few kids. They build a little wooden bench inside, and they even attach seatbelts to keep them inside the ride at all times.
If you’re a tourist with a young child or two (or three), you should consider this option. It can keep the little ones safer while letting them get a great tour of the city.
Where to Rent a Bakfiets
Many of the major bike rental companies offer bakfiets rental in Amsterdam. I used the popular Mac Bike for mine, but I simply chose them because I needed one at the last minute, and they were the first name to pop into my head. However, their prices were reasonable, the quality was good, and the service was very well done.
I paid €25 for a 24-hour rental (in August of 2015), and that rate seems similar at the other few companies I looked up. Also, seeing as a normal bike rental is around €10 for three hours, it’s a pretty good deal!
Do you have your own bakfiets experience in Amsterdam or elsewhere? I’d love to hear about it! Also, don’t hesitate to share your most entertaining bakfiets photos with me!