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Inside VanMoof

Amsterdam: a new, old, way to ride

Amsterdam: a new, old, way to ride

When she moved from Moscow to Amsterdam, Lera thought bikes were just for kids. But it was only when she started riding to work that Lera rediscovered her inner child.

Back home in Moscow, bikes are just for fun. The only people who cycle there are small kids or summer-weather enthusiasts, shrink-wrapped in their lycra gear.

It was only when I moved to Amsterdam that I realized bikes could be more than just a toy.

Everywhere I looked, I saw elegant people gliding through the city on two wheels, almost like they were flying. People biked everywhere, and for everything. Traveling to work, picking up their kids, even moving pieces of furniture – everyone did it on their bike.

So, after signing my contract with VanMoof—and getting my shiny new bike—I was itching to get riding.

Expectations, meet reality

The Dutch summers can be deceiving. I moved here in August, and it really felt like those long sunny days would never end. Riding my new bike brought me back to the summers of my childhood, where biking was pure, aimless play. “Why isn’t every city like this?” I thought to myself.

And then autumn arrived. As the skies turned grey, so did my mood... dragged down by dwindling daylight, plummeting temperatures, and near-constant rain. My lighter-than-air commute shifted into a daily grind, as I jostled for position in packs of ansty office workers, and dodged the spray from passing cars.

In short, it sucked. Was that initial romance just a summer fling?

Throwing in the towel (after drying my hair)

After a couple of weeks of getting soaked to the bone, I was done. As much as I was enjoying the new job, it’s difficult to have fun when you’re a walking puddle. Adding insult to (literal) injury, I had my first crash.

It was nothing major—luckily just a low-speed tumble—but it was enough to kick my confidence into a downward spiral. Palms grazed and tail firmly between my legs, I dug out my metro card and resigned myself to six months of public transport.

My new comfort zone

So there I was, warm and dry. Actually, very warm, and a little humid – pressed up against countless commuters who’d swapped their bikes for the clammy embrace of the tram network. Still, it was safe, reliable, and almost as fast as getting around by bike.

On paper, it was the obvious way to travel in the winter months. But as I peered through windows fogged with stale breath, I knew there was something missing. There was no excitement, no rush of freedom. I was literally following a predetermined track – my daily adventure was gone.

Back into the flow

With more than a little trepidation, I zipped up my rain jacket and got back on my bike. After a few weeks away, I was off to a wobbly start. Had I made a terrible mistake? Other cyclists still whipped past with inches to spare, and cars still thundered alongside the bike lane. And, of course, it was still raining.

But as I caught up to those other commuters, I realized what I’d been missing. The Netherlands may be one of the safest places in the world to cycle, but there’s still an addictive thrill to shooting along those canalside streets, weaving between dumbstruck tourists. You might scrape an elbow or bruise a knee every now and then, but the slight risk is all part of the fun. The only danger on public transport is snoozing past your stop.

What’s more, I was following my own path. Spot a half-remembered landmark or unexplored side road as you’re riding? A twitch of the handlebars and you’re there, working out a new route to the office on the fly. It doesn’t matter how old you are: when you ride a bike, it always feels like playtime.

And those other bikers? There’s no way to explain it, but eventually everything just ‘clicks’. You begin to anticipate the natural ebbs and flows of bike traffic and adjust your riding style to compensate. As free as you feel, you’re also part of something much bigger, like a flock of birds tumbling through the sky. And that’s pretty cool.

My little secret

Despite my new confidence, I can’t take all the credit – I’m riding a VanMoof Electrified. Having a superpowered electric bike waiting for me really makes all the difference when my motivation is low. I still feel like I’m doing the work (well, most of it), but the integrated motor gives me a little edge. And there’s no better way to beat the Dutch drizzle than by hitting the Turbo Boost.

Now there’s really no excuse not to ride, no matter what the weather is doing. Plus, I always feel good about myself for getting out there – it’s amazing how much my mindset has changed in such a short space of time.

So, for anyone feeling intimidated by biking in the Netherlands—or anywhere—all I can say is stick with it. You’ll get in the swing of things before you know it.

And maybe get an Electrified. That helps.

Want to ride with VanMoof? Check out our jobs page for all current positions.

Lera Zamanova

About this author

Lera is VanMoof's in-house QA Manager. She loves living on the beach, and makes sure our Amsterdam office is always full of plants and dogs.