- Always park your bike next to a nicer bike. Not only does it deter thieves from touching your bike, but it also ensures that the person next to you won’t bang up and damage the already “vintage” at best quality of your bicycle.
- Learn how to bike with a person on the back of your bike (and learn how to ride on the back, also). Not everyone owns a bike. You will often encounter situations where you may have brought your bike but your friend did not. This means that you’re going to probably double up to get where you’re going. I have tried riding on the back. I lasted about 5 minutes before I was just too freaked out. Of course, the Dutch are used to it because they start riding this way when they’re very young. Allie, when she visited me, was a natural at riding on the back. It depends on how comfortable you are with sitting on flat metal bars and not being able to see where you are going.
- Multitasking is your friend. Yep, you can pretty much do whatever you want while you are biking as far as I know. You can text. You can listen to your iPod. You can smoke. You can paint your fingernails. Whatever you want as long as it doesn’t “cause danger.” Take that as you will. I have seen people do 2 or 3 of these things at once. Crazy.
- Your bike is like a pack mule, so use it. Balance is especially important with this one. I have learned how to bike home after a shopping spree- I put multiple bags on my handlebars, wrap them through my fingers and I’m off! It can get a little tricky depending on how heavy the bags are and how many you have, of course, but it’s much easier than walking home with all your purchases in hand.
- Trick out your bike and personalize it! Since most people’s bikes are used, and most of the bodies are brown/black/navy/grey, a lot of the bikes end up looking the same. Personalization makes your bike easier to pick out of a crowd and also gives it a bit more meaning to you. The personalizations range from really girly (stores sell fake flowers for you to wind around the handlebars) to really practical (extra lights, bells, seat covers, etc). You can also buy packs to go on the back of your bike, in tons of different colors or prints. It’s up to you!
- Become an expert in weaving- safely. I have to admit it’s hard to get used to this rule. I am pretty good with weaving when I walk (I’m a natural at walking around in NYC- you’ll only understand this skill if you visit the city). However, weaving when I’m on a bike feels much more vulnerable for some reason. If you wait for everyone and everything to cross your path before you continue on, you will pretty much wait forever. I’ve heard you can get a hefty fine if you cross through a crosswalk without a green bike sign, but most people do it anyway…within reason.
- Park with caution. Bike sheds are your friend. Bike theft is so common here, it’s a bit of a risk to leave your bike locked up on an outdoor bike rack for more than a few hours. I always lock my bike to something rooted in the ground, like a sign or a pole- but that’s also because I don’t have a kickstand. People can also get pretty creative with where they park their bikes. Sometimes it takes a bit of rearranging to get your bike to fit in a spot.
- You don’t have to be a vicious biker, but just know that others will be. This is especially true in bigger cities, like Amsterdam. Bicyclists will run you over. They do not care about your toes, legs, arms, bags- if you are in the way, and you don’t move, chances are you’re going to get hit. I don’t like to bike like this because I think this is why lots of people (at least back home in the US) find bicyclists rather annoying. Luckily, the locals understand this and most of the time, pedestrians will wait for cyclists to pass or they will just move out of the cyclists’ path.
- Bike tunnels can be really cool. Okay, this isn’t really a rule. Just something I’ve noticed. I need to take pictures of the massive graffiti bike tunnel on the east side of Eindhoven, so you can understand what I’m talking about! It’s stunning.
- Bike in groups- it’s more fun and more active than riding in the car. Biking to a certain location with your friends can be really fun. Conversations are filled with more activity, you can see and comment on more things as you pass them, you interact with others on their bikes. Not only that, you’re getting exercise. It’s a win on multiple fronts.
Oh, how I love weekends.
Friday was the first day of project where I got to meet my coach. He seems like I can learn a lot from him, and he’s very friendly. Our project group had a nice casual discussion with him and I get to have a private coach meeting with him next week (where I’m pretty sure I’m going to have to show some progress on my project- eeeek!) One funny thing he mentioned when we met is that he had already googled me. “You have a website already, no?” he said. I think I turned about the brightest shade of red allowed. It was both exciting and embarrassing to know he’d looked up my work on the internet. But that’s what I have the website for, anyway.
After class on Friday, I went out with my New Zealander friend, Nichola. Our favorite pub to meet at has been the Tipsy Duck, probably because so many International students hang out there and the bartenders are really friendly. The Tipsy Duck played everything from typical European techno, to Sweet Home Alabama and Sweet Child O’ Mine. I appreciated the American anthems!
We also have another favorite bar called Altstadt. I checked it out initially on the day it was snowing (there are only so many snowflakes my hair can handle) and because it had free Wi-Fi. But now we like it because of the atmosphere and the music. The bar plays a lot of alternative rock, and it’s kind of dark and mysterious inside…in a good way, of course. The design of the bar also makes it easy to meet and mingle with new people (although the loud music is perhaps not the best way to start a conversation. oh well). We stayed at Altstadt with our new friends until almost closing time. It was a good night. And I finally learned the fast way to walk from my apartment to the city center (nearly a 30 minute walk). Which means next time, I can bike and it will be even quicker!
Saturday was a fun day as well. After a bit of sleeping in, flatmate Juan took me and my Singaporean flatmate, Carling, to the Saturday afternoon market that is only a few minutes away from our place. You can buy literally anything there- it’s like a huge outdoor mall. The best part is the stroopwafels that are hot and fresh that you can buy for 1 euro. Mmmm. We also bought some chicken so that Juan and I could make a lunch he used to eat with his old flatmates (Carling and I live in their rooms now). The chicken is a huge leg for 1.75 euro and its so delicious. We made rice with it and it was perfect. After lunch we took a siesta (I swear, I’m learning more about the Spaniards because I am around them at home, the most). Juan plays ice hockey at the rink slightly outside of Eindhoven and he had free tickets to an allstar game. It was the Netherlands National team versus the all-stars from all of the Dutch leagues. So after the naptime, we (me, Juan, and all of Juan’s friends from Spain) bundled up, got on our bikes, and braved the chilly 6km bikeride to the ice hockey rink. The game was really fun (all-star team won in overtime!) and we also got to watch some amusing hockey challenge games that they played before the actual match. PS- Dutch hockey players are really hot. …Does that make me a “skate-chaser”?
The game ended at nearly 11pm and we rode an even colder 6km back home, where we were exhausted. Ate some dinner (I told you. Now I’m eating meals like a Spaniard) and went to sleep.
All-in-all a great weekend. But I’m sure I will have even better stories for you next week, because next week is CARNAVAL! Which reminds me, I need to find a costume.