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Discovering Amsterdam by Bike
There are an estimated 600,000 bicycles circulating among the 750,000 inhabitants of Amsterdam, so it's safe to say, this is cycle central. The city and the surrounding countryside are ideal for cycling with barely a gentle incline in sight. Equipped with so many cycle lanes, the back of a bike really is the best way to see the city. All you need to know is the Dutch for bike which is "fiets" and for hire is "te huur".

Bike Rental

Try Orangebikes for both bike rental and guided tours. They offer reasonable rates covering all the major sights or you can venture further afield if you fancy seeing life outside the city limits. Your alternative option is to join one of Beerbikes laid-back excursions. Their bikes are basically beer bars on wheels. You sit back with a cold one and assist with the odd bit of pedalling from time to time if you fancy but the main driver and navigator is completely sober of course.

Things to See

With over 249 miles of bike lanes, it's easy to plan your sightseeing from the back of a bike. You could follow the canals which form belts around the city known as grachtengordel. The Dutch countryside is in full bloom throughout spring. A popular journey is through the tulip fields between March and May.

DIY Tours

Pick up a CITO map of Amsterdam, just make sure it is the full city map not just the small city centre version. You can buy this and other specialised maps for cycling in Pied Terre (Overtoom 135-137). Alternatively the tourist office outside central station has a few bike path maps. Because Amsterdam is so flat a 40-mile round trip is not as hard as it sounds, so be adventurous. It's useful to know that the airport is to the south of the city so you might prefer to venture north and follow one of the coastal routes. There are also a number of specific routes called "knooppuntroutes" which are marked at intersections with their own unique number. Use the maps provided along the side of the road to select your favoured route, jot down the number then follow the signs. It's basically cycling by numbers.

Suggested Route

Twiske - This journey takes you from the city centre and into the suburbs through beautiful marshland. There are great bird-watching opportunities too. Start at Central Station and cross the harbour following the North Holland Canal out of Amsterdam centre. Turn right, following the signs for Twiske. The route takes you through the Ilperveld nature reserve, weaving through a maze of ditches, ponds and meadows. You will continue through the wetlands and onto Oostzanerveld Wijdewormer where there are plenty of opportunities to read about the area on information boards.

Safety

* Watch out for tram lines. Your wheel can easily get stuck in the ruts.
* Lock up your bike. Don't be fooled by the number of bikes. Thievery is rife in Amsterdam and many are on the look out for easy pickings such as tourists not bothering to lock-up.
* Customise your bike. Park your bike in a sea of other cycles and you won't stand a chance of standing out unless you add a ribbon or something to the handlebars.
* Beware of pedestrians. A bell is essential since pedestrians often just step into the road right in front of you.
About the Author
Madeleine Wilson is a travel writer for HostelBookers, the budget accommodation specialist. She lives and works in London.
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