5 things to do when your bike has been stolen in the Netherlands

Did you wake up, stretch out your arms, look out the window, and realise your bike is no longer waiting for you outside? Firstly, we’re sorry for your loss. Here’s what to do when your bike has been stolen in the Netherlands.

It’s true what they say, you’re not a true Dutchie until you’ve had your bike stolen. I thought I was immune to this rite of passage having had my first Dutch bike (and best friend) for a whole year.

It was love at first sight. After trying numerous other second-hand rust-buckets, I saw Ethel and knew she was the one. Yes, I am one of those people. A bike namer. But, having not ridden a bike since childhood, I was charmed by the idea of being a cyclist in the Netherlands.

Before moving here, I imagined riding through the Dutch countryside on my omafiets, windmills whirring in the background effortlessly whizzing across the flat landscape. In reality, cycling in the Netherlands is a very different, very soggy experience. But that’s a whole other story! Anyways, let’s get on with what to do when your bike has been stolen in the Netherlands.

what to do when your bike has been stolen in the Netherlands
Ethel in the park! Image: Emily Hine/Supplied.

Always listen to the Dutch!

When my new Dutch friends would ask me to go somewhere and we’d all hop on our bikes, I’d feel like part of the gang. They told me to always make sure I doubled locked my bike.

One lock on the wheel and one to chain the bike to an immovable object so the thieves couldn’t easily snatch it away. I dutifully followed this advice and for a whole year me and Ethel enjoyed many adventures together in blissful harmony.

Like the Dutch and cycling are one big harmony anyways:

Until, King’s Day. That drunken, mess of a day when all rules go out of the window. I had cycled home from celebrating in the Stadspark, eager to continue the night’s celebrations in the city centre so was too lazy (or drunk) to take my bike into the bike shed. This was my first mistake.

My second was to forget the advice of the people who know bikes best and to only lock my back wheel with a ring lock. The next day, I didn’t emerge until well past midday and was probably too intoxicated to ride a bike. So, when I went out in search of hangover food I didn’t give a second thought to poor Ethel.

Check if it’s really gone

The next day was back to reality and back to work. As usual, I went in search of my trusty steed in amongst all the other bikes in the racks. A minute passed, and I still couldn’t find her.

Oh, silly me! I naively thought, I must still be tired and haven’t spotted my purple ribbon wearing beauty yet. Five minutes passed, by this point, I was frantically muttering “Ethel? Ethel?? Where are you?” Time was ticking. I was late for work. Still, I refused to accept that she had gone.

Tell everyone you know

I messaged work in denial. “I think someone has stolen my bike! Just looking for it — sure it will turn up!”. Messages of condolence started flooding in from my co-workers. It finally dawned on me when I spot my ring lock cut in half in the spot I always parked in — she’s definitely been stolen.

I told everyone I knew, friends and family, random passers-by, basically anyone who would listen. There was a method to my madness though. The more people who know your bike is stolen, the more people who are looking out for it. There’s always a ray of hope that your bike may find its way back to you!

Allow yourself time to mourn

What followed in the next few days can only be described as pitiful. I mourned the loss of a bit of metal and two wheels. Every bike I walked passed, I checked for the ribbon, the handlebar grip that was falling off and listened for the weird squeak she makes as she breaks. Okay, Ethel was far from perfect, but she was mine. I felt let down by the whole Dutch cycling thing. I needed time to grieve.

Time to move on

My friend took me out shopping for a new bike in an attempt to cheer me up. Every bike was the same. They just weren’t as good as my first.

Eventually, I found Pamela and she’s okay. She works and that’s all you can ask from a bike but the magic has gone. Now I’m just another bitter cyclist who thinks it’s not worth getting attached to a bike in the Netherlands, they’ll just get stolen anyway.

Have you experienced the heartbreak of having your bike stolen yet? Tell us all about it in the comments below!

Feature Image: Lance Grandahl/Unsplash.
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in November 2017, and was fully updated in May 2021 for your reading pleasure.

Emily Hine
Emily is originally from the UK. She moved to Groningen over a year ago to study for her Master's degree and is struggling to leave. She is really enjoying learning about and embracing Dutch culture.

7 COMMENTS

  1. Funny article, I had my rented bike stolen, last August and that was a pretty traumatic experience as I too had been enjoying the delights of an evening in Amsterdam.

    Must have walked around the same location where I thought it was for nearly two hours and then sheepishly headed back to the bike hire place who were surprisingly helpful, thankfully to much relief

    Never again 👀

  2. yes i know all about bikes i lived there for 18 years had mine stolen once but got it back from the one that took it he went past me and i took it of him the thing is you need a good chain lock and a post good luck

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