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Column: Learning to ride a bicycle in The Netherlands

Melisa Rodriguez

Some of us had the privilege to grow up whilie having bikes to become a pro at around 8 years old. And then some of us (me included) did not. So, once I moved to Breda, I hopped on the train to find a affordable bike on Facebook Marketplace, which I did. You can imagine how excited I was at this point; I was about to own my first ever adult bike!

Although I also was kinda scared, as I was just about to enter some stranger’s backyard without speaking any Dutch. And I’m a 1.56m girl, about to embark on a 28inch “omafiets” with no real experience. So, I paid the man his Tikkie, another total Dutch thing I have adapted to, waived him goodbye and somehow tried to jump on the saddle since it was much higher than what I could reach.

There I was… cycling through streets of Breda for the first time. It was all fun, until I had to break when a very very old-looking grandma was passing by. I had to do the little “jump-off” off the bike, since I could not reach the ground by still sitting. However, I was not aware of this technique so I panicked. I didn’t know what to do, one thing led to another and the next thing I knew, me and my new bike were falling over the old lady that could already barely walk.

She was yelling at me (with reason), but of course I didn’t understand what she was saying. I tried to say “het spijt me” or “ben je oke?” in my very broken Dutch, but I don’t think that was helping. I helped her get up and started walking away with my bike, that I now hated, just saying sorry as if that was making anything better. I was so afraid of it happening again that I ended up walking all the way back home. Which was still about 1 hour away. Eventually, I learned how to ride the bike and now have mastered using a bike that is definitely too big for me.

So, for all the short internationals out there struggling with bikes: you are not alone, and it will get better once you’re past the learning curve. I hope no more grandmas have been harmed in the process.

My name is Melisa Rodriguez. I am from Mexico and I am currently in my third year of the Environmental Science for Sustainable Energy and Technology Bachelor in Breda. I love to share my experiences in this wondrous world of being an international student in the Netherlands, to maybe get a smile of reliability out of you. See you! 

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