The ultimate bicycle guide
Bike like a Dutchie
How do you find a bike that won’t fall apart in the middle of the Grote Markt? How do you fix a flat tire? What do you do with your wheels when you leave town? Read on to learn everything you need to know to about your next set of wheels.
According to the ministry of transportation, Groningen has the highest bicycle use of all Dutch cities. Everywhere you look, there are gorgeous, stylish bikes. Bike lust is real.
And while your student budget may not be enough to buy that sexy, super light, 40 gear platinum number with the soft, ergonomic seat you spotted at Belga fietsen, that doesn’t mean you can’t find a perfectly functional ride for a price you can afford. Here is how you find it:
1. The Municipality
Every bicycle parked illegally or abandoned for more than 12 days is collected by the municipality. That´s right – maybe your bike wasn’t stolen, but was removed and is waiting for you at the AFAC bicycle depot at the Travertijnstraat.
If it isn’t reclaimed within a month, it will be repaired and sent to the public library at Oude Boteringestraat 18, to be sold by the Stewards of Stallingen. There, you can find a decent ride for around 65 euros – lock and light included (buying a lock is a good investment given that most stolen bikes were unlocked). Keep in mind that they only accept debit card.
Buying a bike through Stallingen is a safe bet. ‘All bicycles offered for sale have been checked for theft. Your proof of purchase gives you the certainty that you are buying a bicycle that has not been stolen’, says the Stallingen website.
You can also try finding a second-hand bike online. The advantage to this is that you can see a wide range of options from the comfort of your Mamamini couch. Locals recommend Marktplaats.nl, a Dutch online market that has good prices and allows you to see the credibility of the seller. But be prepared to rely on Google translate to navigate the posts.
You could also try a Facebook sale group, and hope that the seller is an honest person who won´t sell you a junker that breaks down in the middle of a tegelijk groen (all directions green) intersection.
3. Local second hand stores
If you are more of a try-it-before-you-buy-it kind of person, a second hand store may be the best option for you. You can take bikes for a test-drive around the block, try the brakes, test the stiffness of the chair, and even bargain with the vendor for a better price. Prices at second-hand stores usually start around 75 euros.
The Erasmus Student Network website recommends De Ganze, ‘the cheapest option in the city’ for second-hand bikes. De Ganze offers cheap repairs and will even buy your bike back from you when you leave town. For extra savings, ESN members get 10% off all bikes, repairs, and accessories.
Swap Fiets also offers bikes from 12 euros per month for students and 15 euros for non-students. ‘Is something broken on your bike? Then one of our swappers quickly comes along to change your bike for a working copy. So you are always assured of a working bike and you are always on the road again’, says the Swap Fiets website.
4. A shady seller at the Vismarkt
You might discover that you have bad bike-luck. Maybe you end up totally broke after the second, third, or fourth time your bike is stolen. It could be you leave a party only to discover that some drunk threw your bike into a canal (yes, this is a thing). In times like these you might be tempted to buy a ‘junkie bike’ from a shady seller in the Vismarkt under cover of a darkness for a suspiciously low price.
But beware. According to police officer Siard Heidanus, if you knowingly buy a stolen bike, ‘you could be fined, have your possessions confiscated, and in some instances, even be arrested. Buying a stolen bike in Holland is a serious crime; we call it fencing.’
And let´s be honest, there is a high probability that the same junkie ends up stealing your badly locked bike again later – so don’t contribute to that cycle. Last year there were over 2400 bicycles stolen in Groningen.
So: now that you have proper transport, what do you do when a flat tire makes you late for your next exam? For starters, you could ask a Dutch friend – they can fix a flat with their eyes closed. But if you haven’t managed to integrate just yet, you should visit a bike shop. If the repair is small, like adjusting the height of your seat, some places may do it for free; a flat tire usually costs around 7,50 euros.
Expats and locals recommend: Bikes 4 Everyone on Vechtstraat, M-bikes on Prinsesseweg, Refidé fietsen at Zernike and Pims Fietsen on Westerkade. ‘If you live close to Vinkhuizen you can call Fietshuizen. Great service – and your bike gets fixed way faster then practically anywhere else, for a decent price’, says local Arjan Beens.
You can also watch some YouTube video tutorials, buy a 3 euro patch kit at HEMA, and give it a go yourself. Your emotional attachment to a bike is directly proportional to the number of times you manage to repair it on your own. That’s science.
When your time in Groningen is over, what do you do with your now beloved bike?
David Jimenez, a student at the University of Groningen, tried to sell his 100 euro bike to the same store he bought it from at the beginning of the semester. But after getting an ‘outrageous 10 euro offer, I’d rather gave it for free to another student’, he shrugs.
Yoana Hristova, who initially bought her bike online for 50 euros, sold it on the Facebook group, ‘Sell your bike Groningen’, for 40 euros. She recommends not waiting until June when everybody is leaving town. ‘Instead, wait until September when everybody is looking for a bike’, she advises.
Whatever you do, don’t ditch your bike in a canal or abandon it at the central station. Take your time, buy a proper ride, treat it well, and pass it on to another soul in need.