General cycling information
As you may have already noticed, the Netherlands is a cycling country – yes, it does have more bikes than people! Delft is no different. It’s likely your bike will become a part of your life whilst living here. The country’s infrastructure and historical cycling culture make the bike an easy, quick and cheap way to get around the city; plus, you’ll be doing something quintessentially ‘Dutch’. What better way to get to know your adopted city than from behind the handlebars?
This information aims to provide you with some basic tips about owning a bike: selecting the right one, locking it safely, repairs and insurance against accidents. Traffic rules and cycling behaviors that will help you cycle in a safe way. Finally, you can test your knowledge with a little quiz!
Buying a bicycle
Getting the right bike is important to make sure you can cycle safely, without hassle.
First of all, check that the bike is the right size for you. If you can sit on the seat and put your feet on the floor comfortably then it is the right size. When you buy a bike in a shop, ask a member of staff to change the height of the seat and handlebars to a position that suits you.
If the seat is in its lowest position and you still feel like you cannot touch the floor properly, then you may need to try a different bike. The size of the frame varies between bikes and getting one that’s right is really important. Don’t rush into buying a bike if you don’t feel at ease when you sit on it and your feet struggle to make connection with the floor.
One of the most important things to check is the brakes. If the bike has hand brakes, make sure they are both in working order. Many bikes in the Netherlands have what is called a coaster brake. This means that you break with the pedals, by pedaling backwards. This may sound quite scary if you have never ridden a bike with a coaster brake before, but lots of bikes in the Netherlands are like this and it can be picked up quite easily. The only way to check if the brake works is by riding the bike. Select a bike which suits you!
Before handing over your money, ask if the bike has lights as you’ll need these for cycling when its dark. If the bike does not have lights it is possible to purchase ones which you can attach. Take a look at the tires to make sure they are firm and the tread is not worn and appears smooth. Finally, see if the wheels spin in a straight line and doesn’t seem to wobble. If the wheel appears to wobble as it spins round this means the wheel could be bent.
A good way to check a bike is by getting on the bike and trying it out. If something feels odd or uncomfortable then ask for assistance or take a closer look yourself.
Repair and Maintenance
To keep your bike in good working order, you can keep your eye on a few things to make sure it’s safe without having a lot of technical knowledge. Check if the tires feel firm and if the chain is well oiled. If you need to put some air in your tires and you don’t have a pump stop into a bike shop and they should have one you can use. There is a pump you can use at Delft train station too.
On TU Delft Campus you can also find several bike repair facilities, which you can use free of charge. Every tool you might need to repair your bike should be provided. Have a look at this Campus map to see where to find the closest bike repair facility.
At some point, you could encounter a bigger problem that will require a repair. With the right equipment, you can always try and repair this yourself. This way, you’ll definitely save some money! You can find an extensive guide with instructions on how to carry your repairs here (http://bicycletutor.com).
When something more serious happens to your bike and you are not confident about repairing it yourself, bike shops will charge for basic repairs. If you are unhappy with the price offered, ask at a few different shops to make sure you’re getting a good deal.
Free to use a bike pump at Delft train station
Locking and parking your bike
A good lock is about as important as choosing the right bike. Theft is often a problem and locking your bike securely is the perfect way to protect against this. If possible, always try to lock your bike to a post or pole that is fixed in the ground, this will deter thieves.
Many bikes have a back-wheel lock which is attached to the bicycle. If your bike has one of these it’s a good idea to get another lock too, which you can then attach to pole or post. A bike with two locks will be a lot harder to steal than a bike with one!
Throughout Delft and around campus, you will find official bike racks to lock your bike and if there is space it’s a good idea to lock your bike there. Somewhere that is visible and well-lit will also put off a would-be bike thief.
When the weather gets wetter and colder bike locks can often get stuck and tricky to open. Spraying some adhesive spray in the lock – which you can pick up at many shops – will help prevent it becoming jammed.
Parking racks on campus
Many people are surprised that, whatever the weather, people are still out on their bikes. Rain, wind or snow will not keep the Dutch away from their bikes. Only take travel by bike if you feel comfortable doing so in the weather conditions. There are some precautions you can take in winter when the nights are dark and the weather takes a turn for the worst.
Once it gets dark always make sure you have two working lights to guarantee you’re visible to other traffic and pedestrians. The back light should be red and the front light is white. To increase your visibility, wearing a bright colored clothing will help you be seen by others. Avoiding black clothing is a good idea.
In the rain, the paths can become slippery. Approach corners with care and try to avoid braking as you turn. Slow down before you make the turn!
The Netherlands is the safest place in the world to cycle, if you consider just how many people cycle here that’s quite an amazing statistic. However, accidents can happen! It is common for people to have liability insurance. This type of insurance will protect you against the financial consequences of any accidents that could occur when out on your bike and elsewhere. Liability insurance is not compulsory but it is definitely a good idea.