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photo: Luuk Steemers

Fifteen things all cyclists in Groningen know

So you arrive in Groningen, and one of the first things everyone tells you to do is to buy a bike. For some students cycling might be a scary thing. But once you have mastered the art, you’ll start noticing things every student will relate to.

photo: Spag85 / Flickr

1 The buying and riding
The unforgettable moment you buy your first bike. At first you have no idea what you’re looking for, with different heights, brakes and handlebars making things complicated. After a couple of practice rides and possibly a crash or two, you finally find a bike you can ride with ease.

2 A tough decision
How much should you spend on your lock? The typical Dutch saying is to spend more on your lock than on your bike, as bike theft is huge in Groningen. However, you are not alone if you buy the cheapest one and hope and pray that your iron horse doesn’t get stolen.

3 The ever-ringing bell
Some bells won’t stop. They are ringing every time you go over a bump. On a cobblestone road it’s ringing constantly and people give you strange looks. On the other hand, it’s a great feeling when you cycle onto a smooth road after cycling over the cobblestones for ages.

photo: Luuk Steemers

4 The no-countdown lights
Sheer sadness: some city traffic lights don’t have the countdown on the side, so you don’t have time to prepare before the light turns green. You can’t relax, as the light might change at any second. Sometimes the traffic lights are a short, welcome break from cycling so you can get your breath back.

5 The slow bicycle chat
When two or more people are all cycling alongside each other they might have a conversation in the cycling lane. Some of these lane chatters seem to cycle as slowly as possible, so you have to struggle to pass them. You either ring your bell loudly or stay patient until the cycle lane eventually widens or one of the cyclists turns in another direction. Annoyed? Don’t be, haven’t you ever been guilty of the slow bicycle chat yourself?

6 The up-coming road
Sometimes shit happens and you get every red traffic light on your way to Zernike in the morning. But things can get worse as the bridge goes up, meaning you will be late for class. Only in The Netherlands this is a valid excuse, because what looks like a normal road suddenly comes up to let the boats pass through the canals. Expect a five-minute delay at least.

7 The calf bruising
When you constantly seem to have bruises on the side of your calves from hitting your legs off the side of the pedals.

photo: Ryan B / Flickr

8 The horror domino
You accidently knock over your bike and as a result the entire row of bikes fall over like dominoes. You must choose whether to painstakingly untangle and pick up all bikes one by one or run away and leave someone else to deal with the mess you have created.

9 The green for all!
The Dutch are probably the only people in the world that organise cycling chaos. There are junctions at which queues of bikes are waiting behind traffic lights at all four sides. The magic moment is when all four lights turn green at the same time. This results in a scary situation, almost like a competition of who is the bravest cyclist who can pass by the lines of bikes without crashing once they meet in the middle. For some bizarre reason this chaos never ends with a bicycle pile-up.

10 The drunk ride
Your first experience of cycling home drunk is often an interesting experience. For many it remains a mystery how they manage to first find their bike, unlock it and then cycle home with no injuries. The alternative is leaving your bike in the centre and walking home, which is often the safer option, but it may be difficult to find your bike in the morning if you’ve had one too many shots in Chupitos!

11 The secret moped wish
The envy you feel when you see moped users who do not have to put in the hard effort of cycling and they get to college faster than you and without the red face. You reassure yourself that you are getting more exercise and its healthier to cycle. So you feel a bit better about yourself, but secretly you still wish you had a moped.


12 The rain & stain
When it rains, biking becomes a lot more difficult. You seem to skid more along the road and you always get a questionable stain from sitting down on your wet bike seat after forgetting to cover it. It’s also normal to see Dutch people cycling while holding an umbrella.

13 The stolen one
The mini heart attack you have when you can’t seem to find your bike among the masses and you are convinced it has been stolen, even though it was locked with two or more locks. It’s always a relief when you eventually spot it. But you might not be so lucky and it might have actually gotten stolen.

14 The biking drag
Sometimes if you leave your key in the wheel lock, a stranger might lock the bike and take your key (for seemingly no reason). This means you will either have to drag the bike home or break the lock. The latter can lead to damage and tyre puncturing if you put too much pressure. Either way it’s an experience you won’t want to repeat.

15 The bike farewell
The heart-breaking moment you have to sell your bike after your Erasmus semester comes to an end. Even though sometimes you might have dreaded cycling or had a few accidents, you would have been lost without a bike in Groningen and the experience wouldn’t be the same without it. Now all that’s left to do is to get a bike at home to remind you of your time spent in Groningen.