When any given individual hears the word “Holland”, they think of several things: tulips, clogs, marijuana and bicycles. Of course, Holland is perhaps best known for it’s cycling culture, SO, for someone who was generally like a magnet to the tarmac when riding a bicycle, you can imagine my apprehension at having to adapt to my life as a cyclist upon moving to Utrecht.
I remember quite clearly when I first learned to ride a bike; I was four years old and it was a quiet autumn’s day. My father had removed my sturdy stabilizers and I was preparing myself to cycle off into non-stabilized glory; my chunky cankles propping my short, fat legs into position as I gripped the handlebars like a Moto GP rider, waiting with anticipation at the start line of the Grand Prix, sweating profusely and hoping that the cute five year old boy two doors down was inside having his dinner at the time.
As my father held my seat and began to start walking with me, I was told to begin to peddle and before I knew it he had let go and I was free, peddling ferociously down the roadway of our cul de sac, the wind in my hair, the smell of freedom in my nostrils… until the cold, hard smack of the tarmac knocked me into reality and my sniffle-filled roars filled the quiet silence of the day.
Fast forward seventeen years later to 2014 and I find myself working in Bénodet, France for the summer as a holiday courier whose only form of transportation was, of course, a bike. I sh*t you not, it is not an exaggeration to say that I fell off my bike every single day when I was there. My most glorious and perhaps Oscar-worthy fall came one day as I attempted to pull a remorque filled with various cleaning products and a broken oven behind me on my bike, whilst cycling with one hand steering. As I approached the barrier to the campsite I attempted to switch hands on the handlebar in order to brake and instead of coming to a nice, graceful halt, went flying over the handlebars and onto the ground as the remorque become lodged in my back wheel. Perhaps the only funny memory about the situation was the “Oh Jaysus!” roar of a passing-by Irish Mammy, who rushed to my aid and tried to help me back to my mobile home.
Given my poor track-record with cycling, I did the most obvious thing that a girl in my situation could do… fall in love with a Dutch guy. And so, all these months later I can safely say that with the help of Jacob and a lot of failure, I have mastered the art of cycling. Last April I become the proud owner of my first bike since my childhood when Jacob bought me this badboy ——>
Helmetless and to be quite honest completely disregarding every other pedestrian, cyclist or car on the road, I now freely roam the streets of Utrecht with confidence and a small amount of pride at the leaps and bounds which I have come on my cycling journey.
After my first few days as a fully functioning cyclist in Utrecht, my new found confidence and arrogance was short-lived and in fact completely OBLITERATED when I witnessed what I can only describe as a severe blow to my morale. Beside me, at a traffic light (specifically designed for cyclists of course), pulled up a yummy mummy on her bicycle which held THREE children in the front in some sort of wooden box, rickshaw-type contraption. This bicycle was the most spectacular thing I had ever witnessed and I was quite frankly shocked that the Dutch people have such an abundance of confidence in their cycling ability that they can stick their children in the front of their bicycles and zoom in and out of the traffic like they’re in the lead for first place in the Tour de France. Here I was barely able to get my short legs to the ground after I braked, witnessing this beautiful, blonde creature confidently taxiing children around the city with the grace and elegance of a swan.
I quickly learned that such a contraption was called a bakfiets and was just one of the many inventions created by Dutch people to enhance their cycling warfare against the likes of China and other continental European cycling cities. Shattered by the realisation that I would never cycle my non-existent Dutch children to kindergarden in the glory of a bakfiets, I returned home full of failure and dismay.
A little over two weeks later and Jacob had become obsessed with obtaining a bakfiets. As we were soon to move house, we justified the purchasing of a bakfiets as something which we clearly needed in order to move all of our luggage and personal belongings the very long distance to our new home around the corner. A typical bakfiets can range between €500 and €5000 so when Jacob found a bakfiets for just under €200 we jumped at the opportunity to purchase it. The catch however, was that the bakfiets in question was located in Schagen, almost 105km from Utrecht in the North of Holland and as it is not allowed to bring a bakfiets on the train, our only option was to collect the bakfiets and cycle back to Utrecht.
Being the adventure, thrill-seeking individuals that we are (and due to the fact that neither of us had a job at the time and were completely bored) we set out to collect the bakfiets, completely unaware of the adventure that lay in store…