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Searching for a Bike

October 22, 2005

When you spend any time in Amsterdam, you will notice the bikes almost immediately. They are EVERYWHERE. If you drive in the city, half of the time will be spent waiting for the hordes of bikes to get out of your way. If you spend any time in the city, its best to get rid of the car and get a bike instead. So in my first week I decided it was time for me to get one of these too. I asked around onExpatica for recommendations. Many of the recommendations were for Rijwielhandel De Hoge Bi at Kinkerstraat 37. My plans for the first weekend after arriving included seeing the RijksMuseum and then go get a bike. Then John, one of my coworkers called me up while I was entering the museum. He was going to buy a bike, did I want to join him for a drink first? Absolutely. But getting a bike wasn’t the highest of his priorities for the day. We started off with a Guinness at that Irish pub on the other side of the Singelgracht from the Vondelpark. That expanded to lunch and another Guinness. We then wandered around to find another bar for another beer or two. Finally about four hours later we made it to the bike shop just before it was scheduled to close.

So John knew about this place from a sign at his local grocery store I think. Used bikes for cheap was the promise. I think he said it was on Valkenburgerstraat…not too far from where I live, but I we took the longest possible way there and back. In case you know who this John is, don’t EVER ask him for directions. I have to assume his sense of direction applies outside of Amsterdam too, but I cannot confirm that. He likes to think that his pocket tourist map makes him an expert, but it doesn’t. He is also in a position where he can fire me at a moment’s notice too, so don’t EVER tell him about this site either.

After what seemed like hours…oh wait, it was…we came up to the address. I was expecting to see some sort of store front but all that was there was a big wooden door. We stepped through to enter a cave filled with dead bikes. And then the owner of the place showed up. The mohawk was fine and didn’t really faze me. It was the sections of PVC pipe he had in his ears that caught me a bit off guard. I glanced over at John who looked very professional as he prepared to begin his transaction with Mr Freakazoid. F, as I will call the plumbing supply wannabe from now on, explained how all of the bikes we could see were already claimed by people who had come by over the last couple of days.

He then walked us over to a closet filled with a jumble of bikes so tightly there was no light reaching the back. He said if there were any in that pile that we liked we could claim it now and then pick it up in a couple of days. I could see that John was starting to realise this wasn’t going to be easy and we both made sure we were aware of all exits from the building. F then explained his pricing structure and said it was based on where he acquired the bikes from. Some bikes were bought at auctions that are held everyweek in the city. Then others were just bikes that he found that the owners no longer wanted. I am not sure how he decided that owners no longer wanted their bikes. I was especially curious if the owners also no longer wanted the locks that were probably still attached to those bikes. I felt it was best for my long term survival to not ask that particular question.

John asked if he could ride a bike that looked very similar to one of the bikes on the top of the closet pile. I am not sure why he wanted to do this. I was just eager to get out quick while we were still breathing. After a short test ride John agreed with the proprietor that he may come back later in the week after a new ‘supply’ of bikes came in. And with that we left, laughing as we walked away.

Two weeks have passed since that day and I figured it was time to try again. This time I took up the Expatica recommendation. I wandered down to Kinkerstraat and found the place. I was very relieved to find a store window. Inside there was a large selection of new bikes and I asked the owner for a good used bike. The owner was very helpful and one of the bikes he had in stock was exactly what I wanted. You know, that traditional Dutch bike. I am pretty excited about my purchase and riding it back from the store was great. Now I may even be able to see more of this city…

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