Dream big and bike around Holland by yourself. Holland is the ideal country to bike solo for anyone with an adventurous heart. Many people travel in a group, however, biking by yourself has wonderful advantages and there is no better place than Holland. I took a 28-day bike trip this September. It was my first ever bike trip! This didn't take courage, just an awareness that I'm now 63 years old. Either I do what I've always wanted to or sit back and let life pass me by. Here are some tips to biking around Holland:
- Take a bike with you. I purchased a folding bike from Bike Friday. This bike folds into a Samsonite suitcase that unfolds into a trailer. Yes, it takes a bit of fiddling but once learned, like any how-to skill; it's a piece of cake. Having a bike in a suitcase makes it easy to take to the airport.
- Plan to bike on the east side of Holland. The winds are usually from the northwest. I biked from the northern town of Groningen and meandered down the border of Holland and Germany. The wind was mostly to my back or side, but not in my face.
- Don't panic about maps. When I thought about my planned trip, I had concerns about bike routes but couldn't find a map in New Zealand (where I live), the US (where I was visiting), or the UK (where I was working). The first day in Holland I went to what is the equivalent to AAA, and looked through the zillion bike maps. I settled on two laminated maps of the north and south of the country and headed off. What I learned is ...you can get there from here! Just bike. Towns are close together. There's always a bed and breakfast and 18,000 kilometers of bike routes. Who needs a map or compass? Just point your nose and pedal.
- Take really good locks. I took a 10-foot cable lock and a D or U lock with a key that is flat with notches. The D/U locks with round keys can be picked easily. Learn to lock your frame to something solid and put the cable through both wheels. Don't leave your bike out overnight.
- Talk out loud to yourself. Use the trip as an opportunity to face new experiences with excitement and pleasure. I thought a lot about new experiences and why we create habits. We think habits make us safe into the future. But in reality, the next moment is unknown, so enjoy each moment. There's hardly anyone on the longer bike routes, so you have ample space to talk out loud and solve all your personal problems. Sure, take a journal, too.
- Put a wireless computer on your bike. I loved seeing how far I biked each day. The first day, I traveled 65 kilometers. What a hoot! Holland is flat, so the kilometers just click along. (Forget tracking your miles--they seem further!)
- Take a camera and some good books. There are many interesting (and really different) things to photograph. I saw an evening vertical rainbow and have a photo to prove it. Buildings are beautiful. I'm interested in town planning and could take photos to send to my city councilors about how the Dutch use their downtowns. English books were hard to find, so pack what you want and leave them around when you're finished.
- Buy a rain cape. I got given a rain cape, but do buy one there. Go to a bike store or order online before the trip. It rained 25 days out of 28. Drizzle but wet. The rain cape really kept me dry and happy.
Biking in Holland is so much fun and easy...it's flat, flat and more flat. Some people think that would be boring, but for people my age, it's a dream come true. The Dutch are friendly, and if you ask, will always help, but do ask. They are an independent lot, so they don't know you need help unless you ask. Sure, take a friend if you want but don't be afraid to try a solo bike trip. Everyone speaks English, and you'll love every single day you pedal.
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