Archive of ‘travel’ category

A Winter Bicycling Day in Denver

Hello!  I am just back from a quick trip to Denver this weekend to visit Melissa.  Yesterday she and I grabbed bikes out of the garage (I rode her husband Chanh’s Huffy and she rode her Raleigh “Black Beauty”) for a relaxing ride around the neighborhood.

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So, yeah, in Denver a ride around “the neighborhood” can be pretty darn amazing.

This beautiful scenery is in the city.  After leaving Melissa’s house and crossing a calm and well-marked street or two…

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…Melissa led me down a lovely trail through a huge park.

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As you can see, winter bicycling in Denver is not like winter bicycling in Chicago.  The bright sun and extremely clear sky were super bright, especially coming as I was from the dark and grey world of Chicago.  Good thing I had my big sunglasses.

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A couple of details: the cool bell on my bike and Melissa’s cute biking shoes.

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The park area where we were biking actually used to be an air force base, which this huge plane commemorates.

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Some areas built up in place of the old base look a bit too suburban pre-fab for my taste, but overall it is a beautiful environment.

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We took a break from our ride to enjoy a refreshment at a beer garden.  I love the beer culture in Denver!

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Finally, we got a quick picture together before heading home.

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The day before our bike adventure, we explored the town of Golden, Colorado on foot.

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Where I guess they appreciate bicyclists!

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This town is where Coors is brewed, but we chose to visit a couple of smaller breweries instead.  First, Golden City.  Their sign cracks me up.

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Then an ice cream intermission for this little guy (his first!).

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(He’s like – “Why are you poking me in the head, Auntie Dottie?”  Because I can, baby!)

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And then a walk in the fresh air to the second brewery, Mountain Toad.

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Good times!  We make a good bike-riding, beer-drinking, baby-playing team.  :)

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As I write this, I am back in Chicago: snowy, freezing, and Melissa-less.  So sad!  I’m sure I’ll be back in beautiful Denver again in the next year.

For previous Colorado adventures, see Brewery Bike Tour in Fort Collins and B-Cycling in Denver.

The Return!

Hello!  We are back!  Pardon the silence, but sometimes a woman has to travel.  :-)

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Trisha posted a teaser about our destination a couple of weeks ago and reader Jennifer correctly guessed our location: Dubrovnik, Croatia!  But wait, there’s more.  A full reveal of all our destinations is below.

Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina:

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Mostar, Bosnia-Herzegovina:

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Dubrovnik, Croatia:

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Lake Skadar, Montenegro (our home base was Herceg Novi):

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Lustica Peninsula, Montenegro:

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Belgrade, Serbia:

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We will post much more later, including details about an amazing bike excursion we went on one day.

Now back to regularly scheduled bike blog programming.  :-)

If you are wondering

Why the blog has been a bit quiet–we’ve been on vacation! Look for a full report soon–in the meantime, any guesses where we’ve been? ;)

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Biking Chicago to Grand Rapids, In One Day, On a Fixie

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The approaching warm weather has me itching to take long bike rides.  I’m betting you all feel the same.  For some inspiration, I’m sharing reader Jeff Kwapil’s story of biking on his Trek fixed gear, leaving from Chicago, Illinois in the morning and arriving in Grand Rapids, Michigan in the evening.  Enjoy!

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My long-time half-baked plan to ride from my place in Chicago to my mother’s house in Grand Rapids Michigan (GR) became reality last summer. I haven’t ridden much long distance. I commute a lot, 12 miles each way. And I take weekend rides, 10, 20, 30 miles, occasionally 50 or 60. I have done one century, four years ago.

However, in my mind I’m a bike touring kind of guy. But three obstacles have prevented this ride until now.

1) The one-way ride would take take three days. That reduces the time I have in GR to visit Mom, compared to just driving there in three hours.
2) Amtrak does not take any luggage from GR to Chicago, so I would have to ride back (another three days) or arrange some other ride home.
3) Navigating through the steel mills & such around Gary Indiana does not look like fun.

So, I have a week off work, and the solution popped into my head. I made it in ONE day! Here’s how I did it.

06:15 AM Depart home on bike to Metra commuter train stop
06:33 AM Depart Chicago on train to Kenosha WI
08:25 AM 35 miles biking Kenosha WI to Milwaukee ferry terminal (arrived 11:00 AM)
12:30 PM Depart Milwaukee on boat – arrive Muskegon MI ferry terminal 04:00 PM
04:40 PM 50 miles biking Muskegon to GR
09:00 PM Arrive Mom’s

This was not planned as a fixie ride, but my geared bike suffered a catastrophic frame failure Wednesday, so I went ahead on the my lovely fixie*.

Holy Moly, people have built A LOT of trails in the past few years!! Maybe 60% of the riding was on paved and crushed rock trails. Much appreciated. It’s very different from the days of my youth, riding 2-lane roads and earning the ire of drivers who felt crowded and expressed themselves with honked horns and upraised fingers.

The Racine and Kenosha county crushed rock bike rails-to-trails bike path got me most of the way to Milwaukee. In Milwaukee County a lot of the ride was in the lakefront parks.

In Michigan, the Musketawa Trail led from the outskirts of Muskegon to the outskirts of GR.

Notes:

Google Maps bicycle directions are amazingly helpful.

Navigating with only a smartphone is a pain in the ass, but the GPS is spiffy. In the future I will carry real paper maps, augmented with the GPS phone.

Fixed gear is no fun on downhills. Normally I only use my fixie around town, where the “hills” are bridges with 10- to 40-foot elevations. I missed tucking in and racing full-bore downhill. Instead I had to either brake a lot, or spread my legs and risk the Whirling Pedals of Death (not comfortable).

85 miles in a day was hard, but not bad. After a long hot shower and a good night’s sleep I felt fine, no aches, no sores. I think I am in pretty good shape thanks to the commuting.

– Jeff Kwapil
Chicago IL USA

My trip to Detroit

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Here are a few snapshots from my trip to Detroit — I did get up to a few things besides going to Shinola.

 

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My flight was a little delayed because of the weather, so our first stop was Corktown and The Sugar House — Detroit’s Patterson House (or for you Chicagoans, Detroit’s Violet Hour).

 

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After a few too many delicious cocktails and a charcuterie plate to die for, we went across the street to Mercury Burger Bar and ended up having s’mores and a snowball fight in the courtyard outside. No, s’mores were not on the menu, but when we mentioned how sad it was to have a fire pit but no s’mores, our friendly waitress handed us a bag of supplies and told us to go to town. You’ve gotta love Detroit. And the night wasn’t over yet—we walked down Michigan to hear some (pretty bad, but enthusiastic) music at PJ’s Lager Bar and stopped to make snow angels in the Tiger Field. This itinerary is recommended, but be sure to take a few ibuprofen before going to bed.

The next day, we toured a few spots in the city, after breakfast at Le Petit Zinc.

My favorite stop was The Fisher Building—I could have spent ages gawking at the amazing Art Deco interior.

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Fountain made of Pewabic tile, which I am completely obsessed with

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I loved the food—and the incredible prices!—at our lunch spot, Green Dot Stables.

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We checked out the Heidelberg Project, which looked even creepier in the snow.

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A folk artist has decorated several abandoned houses with discarded and found objects.

 

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Stuffed animal house!

 

On Sunday, we visited the Detroit Institute of Arts, which has one of the 20-odd original casts of The Thinker outside. I’ve now seen two of them—maybe I should try to visit them all!

 

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The museum did a terrific job of integrating activities for kids into the permanent collection; there were lots of families there.
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The Diego Rivera mural is incredibly impressive. That’s Henry Ford in the panel.

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Then we went to the recently renovated and reopened Detroit Historical Museum. Along with the car-focused exhibits you might expect, the museum devoted some space to bicycles. Fitting, since many car manufacturers got their start in the bicycle business—including the Dodge Brothers.

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Vintage bicycle shop recreation in the history museum

To top off our day of culture, we went to the Fisher Mansion, an estate built by one of the Fisher brothers in the 1920s. It is now a Hare Krishna temple, and every Sunday night they have a free vegetarian feast that’s open to the public. They also offer tours of the mansion for a $5 donation—our guide knew the building’s history from top to bottom, and the blend of slightly run-down 1920s luxury with the Indian art collection that the current owners have amassed is something to see. Definitely worth visiting if you’re up for something different, although I didn’t take pictures for obvious reasons.

Before going to the airport, we drove past this bike shop with an awesome low rider mural.

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This was my second time visiting Detroit—it’s a fascinating city, the sort of place where you end up having interesting conversations with strangers.

My next trip will be just a little teeny tad different: I’m heading to Italy next week! Stay tuned for some Italian bicycle shots. I’ll do my best to capture Europe without Dottie’s amazing photog skills.

LGRAB aime Paris

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Since we’ve been going on about our fall vacation over the last week, here are some scenes from our October trip to the City of Lights. We didn’t bike while we were there—it was just a 48-hour trip—but we walked our feet off. We’d both been to France and Paris before, so our priority this time around was acting like locals. Well, and doing a little photo shoot on the banks of the Seine.

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The weather could have been better, but we were just happy to be in Paris. We were also incredibly pleased with our budget hotel, the Hotel Tiquetonne. For just 60 EUR a night, you have this view.

 

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If you look carefully, you might see Sacré Coeur in the background.

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And this stairwell.

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And you’re incredibly close to this wonderful restaurant. We had to settle for the wine bar, but it was worth the wait. Afterwards, we shut down the café near our hotel—the perfect Paris night out!

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More beautiful Paris pictures:

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Pretty sure Dottie was taking the photo above when Trisha took this one:

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We also made time to stop for an apèro. Or three!

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Coffee and crepes on a rainy day.

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Shopping at Galeries Lafayette‘s flagship store. We spent our time/money in the food hall, but admired everything else.

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The store’s beautiful ceiling

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A quick stop at the Musée Carnavalet.

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That is all.  <3

P.S. see our previous trip to Paris here, plus bicycling Versailles and an American girl(s) on Velib.

Amsterdam shenanigans

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Lest you think all we did on our trip to Amsterdam is visit bike shops and examine cycling infrastructure, let me assure you that we also did what we could to sample the culture, food and drink. Here’s what we got up to during our three nights and two-and-a-half days in the city.

We stayed in a houseboat on a canal—highly recommended.

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Dottie unlocks the door while the suitcases wait patiently to enter.

We discovered Little Bear on the Water thanks to the fab Cup of Jo, and Anno was an incredible host. He even left us two Heinekens in the fridge.

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Our welcome gift

Our first night in Amsterdam we were lucky enough to have dinner with locals—Malay takeout! The next day, we set off on our bikes to check out the Van Gogh Museum. Well, as close as we could get to the Van Gogh museum, which turned out to be the Hermitage Amsterdam since the real museum is being renovated. Since we were right there, we had to try to take a picture in the i amsterdam sign—with limited success (that’s us in the “m”!).

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After admiring the exhibit (I thought it was interesting that Van Gogh and his brother corresponded in French!) we went to lunch at Gartine, a spot Dottie had uncovered during her Amsterdam research. It’s hard to pick a favorite meal on this trip (see below, plus we ate here in Paris!) but this lunch was definitely the best meal for the money that we had on our trip. We each had a delicious sandwich and shared a custard dessert.

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Outside of Gartine

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Lunch, the aftermath

 

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Dottie through the lantern on our table at Gartine

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Looking up from our table

 

After lunch, we got back on the bikes and struck out for Bols Genever, with an unscheduled stop at a book market that we just happened to pass through (love this aspect of traveling!). Dottie bought a vintage bike print.

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cyclists zipping past the book market

 

The House of Bols museum was definitely a slick, commercial tour—still, it was a very nicely done and affordably priced one. We went on a Friday night, so the entry was just € 7,50—which included a cocktail and three tastes of Bols.  The perfect aperitif! We felt like we got an interesting glimpse into the history of this precursor to the gin we both love so much. :)

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the four main types of Bols Genever

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Bols also makes flavored liqueurs—you could spritz these into the air and guess what flavor they were.

After our time at Bols, we pedaled through Vondelpark to our first dinner out in Amsterdam at Restaurant Blauw. We ordered the rice table, which was a first for both of us but definitely something we want to do again—nothing like having scads of tiny, delicious dishes spread out before you.

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I think she’s impressed

On Saturday morning, we took a ferry to Noord Amsterdam (separate post on that one) and then returned the bikes to Henry at WorkCycles before hurrying back to our houseboat to meet my brother. Charlie had arranged for a stopover in Amsterdam on his way back from a work trip in Italy. After a brief cultural detour and a couple of drinks, we headed to dinner.

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my brother and me

We had dinner at a place called Marit’s, which was in a quiet neighborhood and was another of Dottie’s discoveries. Marit serves dinner a few times a week in her home—so it’s sort of a cross between a restaurant proper, and a supper club. The service was professional, but the atmosphere was homelike and cosy.
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You know, like the sort of place where you might pause in the middle of the meal to pet a dog.
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We walked home, intending to stop at the windmill brewery that Henry had recommended. Alas, it was closed, but we found a bar next door that would serve us their beer. It was quite good. I guess it’s a good thing to have something to look forward to on our next visit…

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Brewing beer in a windmill! Brilliant idea.

 

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Our walk took us past the Vanmoof factory—we saw a handful of these in the wild on the trip.

Eventually, we returned to our houseboat and reflected on how lovely it is to bike and walk everywhere so easily in such a cozy, friendly city.

It was up early the next day to head to the airport. Amsterdam, we’ll be back!

 

 

 

Visiting the Mothership: WorkCycles in Amsterdam!

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Me, Henry, Trisha and Pascal in Amsterdam

When I purchased my most beloved WorkCycles Oma, little did I know I would be visiting the mothership four years later, hanging out at the home of the founder and his family.

Lucky for me, Henry, the owner of WorkCycles, is a very cool guy.  When I told him Trisha and I would be visiting Amsterdam, he was absolutely welcoming. He and his wife opened their home to us our first night in town.  After a scenic bike ride with his children, a delicious dinner, and a crash course in navigating the city, he sent us off on two lovely WorkCycles for the remainder of our visit. It was so nice to spend time in someone’s home after being on the road for so long!

With Henry

With Henry

Henry maps out Amsterdam for us after dinner

Henry maps out Amsterdam for us

Biking Amsterdam in the rain with Henry and his family

Henry and his family

We were both so impressed with Pascal’s riding skills—at just four years old, he was navigating the streets on his own like a pro. Henry’s wife is from Japan, so both children speak three languages: English, Japanese and Dutch. Which made conversations with 2-year-old Pia especially interesting!

Henry's adorable, bike-loving children

Henry’s adorable, bike-loving children

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Pascal’s custom ride

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Pascal: best, youngest cyclist in Amsterdam (nay, in the world!)

Here we are with our adopted WorkCycles. Cycling Amsterdam like locals rather than on bright red rental bikes was cool, and being totally comfortable with handling Dutch bike helped us navigate the crowded bike paths with ease.

Trisha and her loaner WorkCycles

Trisha and her loaner WorkCycles

Dottie on our first ride

Dottie on our first ride

Hug a bike today!

Hug a bike today!

Now here is a special tour of the WorkCycles shop. This place was warm, welcoming, and packed full of goodies!

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Bike specials of the day

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Love the creatures on the WorkCycles shirt

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OMG! A BABY OMA!!

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WorkCycles Bakfiets

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Family of four? WorkCycles has a bike for that!

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Starter bikes

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The front office

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Leather bike saddle stools – WANT!

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Bike bags and bakfiets sans bak

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Pretty little bikes all in a row

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Communal table

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Heavy duty bike pulley

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Heavy duty front rack

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Suspended WorkCycles frame

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More WorkCycles!

On the day we returned our bikes (so sad) the weather had turned out chillier than we anticipated. Perfect timing to get some cozy WorkCycles hoodies—which have been favorites for both of us ever since.

Booking it home after we'd returned our bikes—thank goodness for the hoodie.

Booking it home after we’d returned our bikes—thank goodness for the hoodie.

If you are ever in Amsterdam, we highly recommend a stop by WorkCycles!

Visit the WORKCYCLES website.

Visit Henry’s blog, BAKFIETS EN MEER.

Thanks, Henry!

Our trip to Amsterdam—cycling thoughts

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It’s been months since we got back from our first visit to Amsterdam. It’s safe to say that both Dottie and I loved the city even more than we expected to, and not just because of the biking. We were impressed by the city’s beauty and charm, the friendliness of its people and the deliciousness of its food. But first things first: Here’s a little bit on how we felt about biking in the City of Bikes.

To start, if you are wondering whether Amsterdam’s reputation as such has been overstated, I can tell you emphatically that it hasn’t been! Bikes are literally, absolutely everywhere. Drivers are in the minority and in general act accordingly.

One of Amsterdam's beautiful bikes

One of Amsterdam’s beautiful bikes

When your bike is one of many, it seems even more important to make it stand out. Many Dutch bikes were decorated or had custom baskets, etc.

A Mac Bike rental

A Mac Bike rental

Sunflowers seemed to be a popular theme.

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Amsterdam bikes

Henry at WorkCycles set us up with bikes (more on that in another post) and our first ride in the city was with him and his family, including 2-year-old Pia and 4-year-old Pascal, who rode his own bike alongside us through a light rain.

Henry and his family

Henry and his family

 

Dottie's bike was called Bonnie!

Dottie’s bike was called Bonnie!

Hug a bike today!

Hug a bike today!

My WorkCycle

My WorkCycle, who was sadly nameless! I propose “Trisha.” ;)

Dot & Bonnie

Dot & Bonnie

The infrastructure was pretty much a cyclist’s dream—lights, turn lanes, bike paths, signage.

Bike sign graffiti

Bike sign graffiti

Bikes get their own signals

Bikes get their own signals

Bike path!

Bike path!

Bike keys

Bike keys

But we thought that the most bike-friendly thing about Amsterdam was the terrain. Neither dully flat, nor obnoxiously steep, in general the terrain seemed to be made up of  what felt like gently rolling hills, which give you opportunity to coast without ever seriously taxing your legs. It really seemed like we could have biked forever.

The city

The city

Dottie on one of the city's beautiful bridges with her WorkCycles bicycle

Dottie on one of the city’s beautiful bridges

We did find the city’s circular structure and canals slightly tricky to navigate at times, but biking in Amsterdam never felt less than completely safe.

I check the map for the 10th time.

I check the map for the 10th time.

But it wasn’t entirely stress-free. Coming from a city where bike parking is not exactly at a premium, at times it was frustrating to spend as much time trying to find somewhere secure to park the bikes as I might have to spend stalking a parking spot at the Green Hills Mall on Christmas Eve!

Sometimes bike parking was frustrating—no empty spots on the rack!

Sometimes bike parking was frustrating—no empty spots on the rack!

A lot of Amsterdam cyclists seemed pretty sanguine about the whole thing, often just parking their bikes  on the sidewalk and locking the wheel to the frame, à la Sheldon Brown. We didn’t feel comfortable doing that with our WorkCycles, so often Dottie and I would split up and head in opposite directions to find our spots.

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Bike parking without bike racks

Bike parking along the canal

Bike parking along the canal

So much bike parking.

So. much. bike parking, but it’s still hard to find spots!

Bike Parking!

Despite the parking issues, bikes are absolutely the most efficient and economical way to get around a compact city like Amsterdam. We did take the tram and the subway during our trip. While both were convenient and easy to figure out and use, they were extremely expensive: 2,70 Euro for one hour of transit, or 7,50 for 24 hours. While I’m sure residents have the option of buying less expensive monthly or yearly passes, riding your bike is free and probably takes about the same amount of time, if not less.

The Amsterdam Tram

The Amsterdam tram

The tram map

The tram map

One tip, if you do take the tram and buy your ticket on board: Don’t try to buy it from the driver! There’s an entirely separate person in the middle who dispenses the tickets. Ah, to live in a country where public transport was sufficiently valued as to pay two separate workers per vehicle . . .

The tram payment person—not to be confused with the driver!

The tram payment person—not to be confused with the driver!

Basically, biking around Amsterdam is easy, fun and makes you feel like a local (well, if locals had to consult maps every five seconds). It lived up to everything we imagined, and then some.

More Amsterdam posts on the way in the next couple of days!

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