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If you are planning a visit to Amsterdam, one of the must-do things on your itinerary should be renting a bike and riding it through the city. Biking in Amsterdam is a vibe. It’s how the locals do it, it’s how the cool kids do it, and it’s how you’re about to to do it. If you want to rent a bike in the city but don’t know where to start, this blog post covers my top tips for biking around Amsterdam!

Haven’t ridden a bike in years? It’s okay…because same. Before this trip, the last time I hopped on a bike was 5 years ago when I visited Key West, another one of my favorite biking cities. If you’re on the fence, watching literally everybody go places on a bike just might inspire you! All the locals bike here, and it is the most fun way to get around!

My Top Tips for Biking Around Amsterdam
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Where Do You Rent A Bike in Amsterdam?
What is Proper Amsterdam Bike Etiquette?

The Most Important Thing About Biking in Amsterdam
The Best Parts of Biking Around Amsterdam
The Hard Parts of Biking Around Amsterdam
What To Do if Biking Around Amsterdam Seems Too Intense (but You Still WANT To Do It!)

Me with my bike!
Pro Tip: Amsterdam tends to be cold, but can warm up in the daytime during the summer. I found it easiest to bike in shorts + tennis shoes with a jacket and a cross-body purse attached to me

Where Do You Rent a Bike in Amsterdam?

The best way to rent a bike in Amsterdam is to find a reputable bike renting company. I rented my bike through Black Bikes and would definitely recommend them.

In order to rent a bike through Black Bikes, you need to bring a valid proof of identity, such as your passport. Their website mentions no drivers licenses.

Black Bikes has multiple locations throughout the city, and you are able to return your bike to any of the different locations, not just the one you rented from!

The cost varies based on the type of bike you get and the duration that you’re renting your bike. You can even rent eBikes! For more information, check out the Black Bikes website here.

  • Pro Tip: I found out about Black Bikes because the hostel I stayed in had coupon cards for 10% off bike rentals through their company. It is always worth asking your hotel or hostel if they have any discount cards for bikes or other popular things to do in the city!

What is Proper Amsterdam Bike Etiquette?

One of the reasons I liked Black Bikes is because the employee who rented me my bike took the time to explain bike etiquette to me so I looked less crazy while riding and more like a local!

Tips for Riding Your Bike in Amsterdam

1. Bike on the right side of the road – For most people in Amsterdam, it is common knowledge that bikers usually ride on the right side of whichever street they’re biking on. This will help cars to avoid hitting you and people to avoid walking in your path.

2. Use hand signals when turning – Taking your hand off the handle bars and pointing your arm at a low angle to the left or right lets others know that you plan on making a turn.

3. Ring your bell to alert pedestrians and other bikers – Much like a car has a horn, you can ring the bell on your bike if there are people walking in front of you so they know to step aside.

4. Bikers usually don’t stop for pedestrians – At one point during my bike ride, I stopped and let a bus full of Spanish women get off their bus and cross the street to go to a museum. Once the last one got off, they all looked at me and starting applauding and cheering. I didn’t get it until one of them said, “you’re the only one who has stopped for us!”

I thought that was adorable, but also kind of sad that nobody stopped for them. In America, I am used to pedestrians always having the right-of-way, but sometimes in Europe, this isn’t the case when it comes to micromobility vehicles. (Now I’m getting flashbacks of going to Italy in high school and almost getting hit by motorized scooters a dozen times!…)

Anyway…the point is, you CAN stop. Just know that a lot of bikers don’t.

A pretty view of the canals in Amsterdam with bikes parked along the side

Tips for Parking Your Bike in Amsterdam

It’s very important to know where you can (and can’t!) park your bike. Amsterdam has bike racks everywhere, some of which are more full than others. It is always best to park your bike in these racks.

The reason it’s so important to utilize bike racks when you can is because local authorities have been known to remove bikes that are “illegally” parked. According to the rental company, it doesn’t matter if they are locked up or not; law enforcement has their ways of unlocking your bike and removing it.

As you can imagine, there is a fine to get your bike back if this happens, and it isn’t cheap. The rental company also informed me that law enforcement is more likely to target – and take – bikes that are rentals. (Pro Tip: Rental bikes are easy to identify because they have a barcode on them!)

How to identify your bike! (And also, how others can identify your bike is a rental…)

BUT…sometimes, parking your bike in these bike racks is just not feasible! There were places I wanted to stop and explore that either didn’t have a bike rack nearby, or the rack it did have was so full there was no way I could fit my bike in. After seeing many, many bikes tied to trees, lampposts, and other stationary objects, I decided to follow suit and was fine.
(Disclaimer: I am NOT responsible if you do this and your bike gets stolen! Maybe I just got lucky…)

The Takeaway: Always park your bike in a bike rack when you can. If there’s not a bike rack close, or one is full, look where there are other bikes parked nearby. Around trees? Lampposts? You’re probably safe. The only time I would worry is if your bike was illegally parked by itself and no other bikes were nearby,

Bikes in Amsterdam, Netherlands
Biking aesthetics

The Most Important Thing to Remember About Biking in Amsterdam

Above all, the most important thing to remember about riding a bike in Amsterdam is to always LOCK UP YOUR BIKE!!!

The man at Black Bikes did an excellent job at explaining the best way to lock up my bike. Your bikes will come with 2 locks: one on the back wheel, and one cable lock.

Both of these locks can be locked and unlocked with a key. It is best – and easiest – to lock your back wheel first. That same key can be used to lock and unlock the cable lock.

When you’re ready to ride again, unlock your cable lock first and wrap it around your bike. You can then put the key in the lock of your back wheel to unlock it. Once it unlocks the back wheel, the key stays in the back wheel lock until you need to park your bike again.

As you can imagine, this is important because one of the most common crimes in Europe is petty theft, which includes stealing bikes. I can’t remember the exact price of what it would cost to replace a stolen bike, but let’s just say it was a few hundred dollars, and I know you’d rather spend that on food, drinks, and souvenirs. SO….Lock your bike ;-).

The Best Parts of Biking Through Amsterdam

Even if you don’t rent a bike the entire time you’re in Amsterdam, I feel like you HAVE to at least rent one for a day. Seriously…it’s too much fun not to! Below, my favorite things about biking in Amsterdam:

1. You feel like a local – Literally everyone bikes in Amsterdam, and when you’re on a bike, you feel like you belong there. You are absolutely as cool and chic as everybody else. You’re vibing with the city. You’re living your best, carefree life. You’re going places. Not only that, you BELONG in these places!

2. You can get places much faster than if you were walking – When I pulled up destinations on Google maps, I found that a lot of places that I wanted to go would take me 15-20 minutes on foot, but only took me 5 minutes or less on my bike! This allowed me to see more of the city and explore more Amsterdam neighborhoods than I would have been able to otherwise.

3. It’s a cost-effective – When you consider how quickly you can get around on a bike, how many more places you can see, and the views of the city you get as you’re riding, renting a bike to get around is a no-brainer. You’re always taking cheapest route AND the scenic route!

4. It’s the most fun you will have on your trip – I’m not kidding when I said this was my favorite part of Amsterdam. I somehow felt like a carefree kid and a grown-up European city girl, all at the same time. It was the best of both worlds!

Although I had an itinerary to follow, I felt like I could’ve biked the canal streets for hours with no set destination in mind. Riding my bike and going wherever the road took me would have been enough to make me happy!

Magere Brug (Skinny Bridge) Amsterdam, Netherlands
Magere Brug (aka “Skinny Bridge”)
This bridge was absolutely beautiful, but would have taken me about 20 minutes from my hostel to see on foot. With my bike, I was able to get here in around 5!

The Hard Parts of Biking Around Amsterdam

Okayyy so I’ll admit that parts of biking around Amsterdam were a little difficult. It wasn’t enough to deter me from renting one, but if this is your first time, here are the things you should know:

1. If you’re a tourist, you (likely) have no idea where you’re going – When I rented a bike, I was so excited ride it to my dinner reservation that I didn’t even realize I had no clue how I was getting there til it was time to leave. Cue the record scratching sound.

This was arguably the hardest part of biking the city for me. I rode with one hand on my handlebar, one hand on my iPhone, one eye on the road, and one eye on Google maps 95% of the time I was in Amsterdam. I have to admit that I didn’t do too bad, aka I didn’t wreck, but damn. What I wouldn’t give to have been a local a few times.

  • Pro Tip: If you have a pop socket on your phone, it makes it much easier to hold onto while biking!

2. The Amsterdam locals bike the way that people in cities drive – and it’s intense.

You know how people who live in cities drive? I don’t mean just anybody – I’m talking about the city locals. The people that have lived there their entire lives. The ones who whip around corners and in and out of lanes and give ZERO fk’s that you’re not from there…

Well, that’s how people in Amsterdam ride their bikes. It’s impressive and intimidating, all at the same time. Sometimes, if I was in a cluster of bikers, I would let the other people go ahead of me and take a moment to figure out where I was going before proceeding. The last thing I wanted to do was wreck into a whole mass of other people!

3. It’s especially intimidating to ride in crowded areas – Areas of Amsterdam like Dam Square and Centraal Station get quickly flooded with people, which makes it hard to maneuver your bike in and out of the crowd. I had to use my bell a lot and be really careful here. Even down the side streets to get to my hostel, I found biking to be difficult because there were so many people and the roads were narrow.

The crowds at Dam Square

4. A lot of the bikes look the same – I say this because you have to be REALLY diligent in remembering where you parked your bike. 98% of the bikes I saw in Amsterdam were black and looked exactly like mine. Since my bike was a rental, it had a barcode with a number on it that I wrote down in my phone and memorized. I also took a photo of the building names or street signs around where I parked my bike so I could remember which bike rack to look in.

  • Pro Tip: Next time I come to Amsterdam, I am going to use an Air Tag to attach to my bike so I always know where I parked it!

What To Do if Biking Around Amsterdam Seems Too Intense (but You Still WANT To Do It!)

POV: You’ve witnessed the locals and read the above section, and now you’re intimidated (but you don’t WANT to be intimidated…)

Believe it or not, there ARE areas of the city that are less crowded and therefore less intimidating to ride through. If you want to have the experience of riding but don’t want to fully commit, you can rent a bike for a few hours and ask where a good area of the city would be to ride it. There were canal streets outside of the main city center that I would zip down that had nobody on them, and it was exhilarating!

Amsterdam also has cycling routes that you can check out. These are paths that are devoted to walking and biking and should have way less pedestrians for you to (potentially) crash into! I didn’t ride through any of these routes, but if I went back they would be something fun that I would definitely like to do.

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