Dutch Language Blog

Preventing Your Dutch Bicycle from Being Stolen Posted by on Aug 23, 2010 in Dutch Language

Last month we talked about where you can buy a bicycle in the Netherlands and also described some of the many options and types of Dutch bicycles.  A rumor you may have heard is that bicycle theft runs rampant in this country.  That’s only a half-truth, but a truth nonetheless.  In any larger cities you will need to lock your bicycle up like it is made of gold to keep it from being stolen.  Amsterdam in particular has a bicycle theft problem and a horde of people roaming the streets looking to steal your shiny new bicycle out from under you.  Here are some tips to prevent this from happening.

It’s all in the Lock

You wouldn’t put a flimsy lock on your house, so why would you put a flimsy lock on your bicycle?  The value of your bicycle goes much farther than it’s price: it’s your mobility in the city.  And you’ll probably become attached to the thing even if it is the ugliest rustiest piece of junk, simply because it is your bicycle.

The bicycle lock and chain should be made of thick virtually indestructible steel.  You won’t find anything like this at the local Hema or Blokker, although those locks look almost identical.  They are most definitely not.  Unlike a high quality lock and chain set, the cheap ones are easy to saw through or cut through with metal cutters.  Think it sounds absurd that someone would do that to your bicycle?  No really, it happens.

Apparently there’s even now a problem with the locks for the back wheels, because they are now so generic that a generic key can open many locks.  I was really surprised by this one.

How to Lock Your Bicycle

So you have your indestructible lock and it weighs more than the bicycle you are riding.  But if you don’t use it properly, it won’t make a bit of difference.  You have to keep in mind that bicycle theft is a professional business for some, and they are prowling the streets looking for your bicycle.

Always put the chain through the frame of the bicycle and the front tire.  The front wheel is easy to remove.  You might just return to your bicycle and find only the wheel and lock if you didn’t attach the chain through the frame.

Always lock your bicycle to something sturdy.  Preferably this is a bicycle rack.  Trees, traffic posts and flimsy fences won’t cut it.

Try to park in a busy area.  Bicycle thieves hate to be disturbed while they are working.  The more people who are around the better.  The more deserted the area, the more likely you will be to return to a missing bicycle.

Park in or near groups.  If you park your bicycle where it stands out, someone is going to notice it.  If you park your bicycle in a group it’s one of many bicycles.

Use multiple locks.  Ideally you should have one lock for the back wheel and one lock for the frame and the front wheel.  Or more if you really want to take it to the extreme.  The back lock can be a bit flimsier because it is very difficult to remove the back wheel quickly and without being noticed.  But as the video above showed, be wary of buying a generic brand because everyone will have a key to your bicycle.

Don’t ever leave your bicycle unlocked.  Not even for a minute, a moment, a second.  It sounds a bit neurotic, but someone can very easily hop on your bicycle, pedal quickly away, and you won’t have a chance on foot.  At least use the small back tire lock, it’s better than nothing.

Also important

You can register your bicycle with the local police.  Stop in at a bicycle shop or the local police station near you and ask where and how you can do this.  They will carve a unique identifying number into your bicycle and keep that number registered in case it is stolen.

Last, but not least, there are two theories to decorating your bicycle.  The first is that you should make your bicycle stand out as much as possible.  The theory here is that your bicycle becomes much easier to trace and find if you say to the officer, “A neon green and purple bicycle with gold flags and orange stripes has been stolen.”  As opposed to, “Ummm…it was black, there was a big rust spot on the handlebars…I miss him.”

The second theory is the opposition to the first theory: make sure your bicycle doesn’t stand out so that no one notices it at all.  A sort of bicycle camouflage, if you will.  I’ve seen people with incredibly nice shiny new bicycles who obviously painted them black just so it wouldn’t be noticed that they were shiny new bicycles.  I subscribe to this method, although the idea of painting my bicycle a funky color does have a sort of charm.

That about covers it for bicycle theft prevention.  In my next post I’ll give you some vocabulary for the bicycle that should come in handy if it ever breaks.  And it can and it will…

If you have any other helpful tips or information to add to this topic, let us know in the comments section below.

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  1. Efrutik:

    Can you please tell me how come the Dutch do not wear halmets when riding bikes? I know it is not very pretty but isn’t it a safe alternative to a potential fall injury ? 🙂

    Plus I feel like I will be the odd girl in Nederlands who wears her helmet on the bike, since I do intend to do it at some point, lol.

  2. Dennis Francis:

    I’ve found a bicycle lock for Holland called REN. I have no idea who the company is and how to get in touch with them. If you know who they are I’d be interested in learning how to use it.