Spotlight Global: The Netherlands
The bike is the most common means of transport in the modern world, with around two billion individual bikes in circulation at any one time. Many countries rely heavily on bikes as their primary modes of transport, for business, recreation and fitness. This series will focus on the relationship that different countries around the world have with biking and how two wheels and a metal frame carry them from A to B and beyond.
Today we’re focusing on the Netherlands. Where else can your mind go when you think “biker nation”? With 1.3 bikes per capita, they have the highest ratio of bikes to people in the world. That number’s only growing. A bit of history, first. At the beginning of last century, finding yourself neighbour to Germany wasn’t a good place to be. The land was bulldozed as the Nazis swept through, meeting minimal resistance as they went. In the aftermath of the second world war, the infrastructure of the entire country needed rebuilding. Roads were redesigned to accommodate cars, rather than horses and carts and, yes, bikes got some consideration also. Now, wherever in the country you go, you will always find a designated cycle path. On every street and running alongside every field – there’s nowhere you can’t go in your lycra.
Looking at the terrain, more broadly, biking in the Netherlands couldn’t possibly be easier. As you may know, the entire country is flat! (for reference, my fiancée is Dutch: she refers to the overpass of their nearby motorway as a “mountain”) Don’t worry about breaking a sweat scaling any hills, because there aren’t any. Worried about getting into work sticky, back soaked? Forget about it. Not an incline in sight. That’s not entirely true, of course. If you are looking for some elevation, head to the North of the country. Most of the coast and a good chunk of the inland area is technically below sea-level. “For elevation, go below sea-level.” Sounds counterintuitive, no? What you get up there, along many of the cycle routes, are a series of elevated dykes that surround towns and villages, from the top of which you can see for miles. At the same time, pathways through all the natural areas (forests, woodland, etc.) are meticulously maintained, so a ride through a heavily wooded forest is as easy as travelling along the road. A few scoops of Veloflow would take you very far indeed.
The Dutch are a famously practical people and what more practical a mode of transport is there than a bike? In every city, town or rural area, you won’t go more than a few seconds without spotting someone riding. It’s a wonderful country for long, relaxing tours in the saddle. With countless bars, restaurants and b&bs lining your route, all with the friendly atmosphere that Dutch culture is known for, you wouldn’t regret taking a spin across the channel for a weekend. The country isn’t a large one so, with Veloflow to fuel you, you can explore the whole thing to your hearts content. Definitely worth doing!