Cycling on a Dutch Boneshaker

The week before the Olympics, I and my family spent a week in Holland, at a camp called Duinrell in Wassenaar, which is situated between the capital Den Haag and the old university town, Leiden. It’s a mixture of tents and bungalows – or Duingalows. we enjoyed the comfort of the latter. And the sun shone all week – remarkable in this drab summer.

One of the best things about the holiday – as ever in Holland – was the cycling. I think Holland may be the most civilised country in the world. Pedestrians and cyclists have priority over motorists everywhere.  There are cycle lanes along every major road.  Only in quiet side streets are you using the same strip as the cars, but there aren’t that many cars. At roundabouts, cyclist have priority.  It takes a while to get used to this. In London, if they have cycling lanes at all, there are often cars parking on them, with impunity. Maybe the huge success of the Olympic cyclists will start to change this, but it will take time.

We hired bikes and made good use of them. They were those classic Dutch hire bikes, old fashioned boneshakers, with no gears and no brakes – you pedal backwards to stop. I see the logic of these as hire bikes.  Minimal maintenance required. And they work well enough for short journeys. Longer journeys are more problematic.  You get around well enough, but there are always a few close shaves with the lack of proper brakes – I had to swerve into some bushes to avoid a child lurching out on a pedal go-kart – and you waste a lot of energy through lack of gears. Going uphill is just about OK, but elsewhere, all the frantic pedalling doesn’t lead to a lot of extra speed.  You are basically pedalling in second or third gear out of eight. By the end of the week I had some aching muscles just above the hips from pedalling too fast too often. But it was all still a lot of fun.

Here are our beauties.

We managed to cycle to Den Haag (10km), Leiden (8km) and the beach (4km). As ever in Holland there was some wonderful cycling through the coastal dunes. In all I reckon I cycled about 120km during the week – not bad on the boneshaker.

Naturally I took a few photos on the journey…

The Wassenaarseslag beach, towards the end of the day.

Views from just further along. The pier at Scheveningen in the distance and the tankers out at sea – this is the world’s busiest commercial seaway, heading into Rotterdam, after all.

Leiden was lovely.

As was Den Haag – The Hague.

The Ridderzaal was the old parliament, now used just for big occasions.

There’s a clutch of new towers in the financial district. They lie in the background of the main square.

Den Haag is blessed with a coastal town – Scheveningen.  It’s about  15-20 minutes cycle – all along cycle paths of course – from the centre of town.  It reminded me a bit of Brighton, except everything is bigger and busier and longer and it doesn’t take an hour on the train!

And I enjoyed a beer in The Zanzibar – see below – with some cool chill out music bubbling away in the background. There were maybe fifty of these bars and they were all pretty busy at 5pm. For the people of Den Haag, this must be brilliant to have, especially in the summer.

From Scheveningen to Wassenaar, through the dunes, is quite testing, especially on the boneshaker. It’s not spectacular scenery, but it does have a stark beauty.  Much of the Dutch coast is like this, and it is all cyclable. Again, I give my thanks and praise to the Dutch people for having such foresight and civility to make it so.

And just to end, a couple of photos of the centre of Wassenaar, not far from our site. A lovely place.

Love it!

About John S

I'm blogging about the things I love outside work: music, sport, culture, London, with some photos to illustrate aspects of our wonderful city. And anything else that I happen to think is worth writing about!
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4 Responses to Cycling on a Dutch Boneshaker

  1. Lucky you! Great pics, I can imagine it. Thanks!

  2. Lulu says:

    Great pictures! You make me want to go to Holland!

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