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. Secondly, here’s what to do when someone steals your bike 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 I was charmed by the idea of being a cyclist in the Netherlands.

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

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 different, very sobering experience.

5. 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 always to 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, Ethel and I enjoyed many adventures together in blissful harmony.

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 I was too lazy (or too drunk🍺) to take my bike into the bike shed. This was my first mistake.

READ MORE | Biking the Dutch dream: The Dutch and their bikes

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

4. Check if it’s gone

The next day was back to reality and back to work. As usual, I searched for my trusty steed in amongst all the other bikes on 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.

3. Tell everyone you know

I messaged work in denial. “I think someone has stolen my bike! I’m 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 spotted my ring lock cut in half in the spot I always parked in — someone stole my bike.

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 will look out for it. There’s always a ray of hope that your bike may find its way back to you!

2. Allow yourself time to mourn

The next few days were 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 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.

1. Time to move on

Every bike was the same. They just weren’t as good as my first. My friend took me out shopping for a new bike to cheer me up. Eventually, I found Pamela, and she was okay. She works, and that’s all you can ask from a bike, but the magic was 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!

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in November 2017 and was fully updated in September 2022 for your reading pleasure.

Feature Image:Pixabay
Emily Hine
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.

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10 COMMENTS

    • I enjoyed the article because it showed what an attachment he had to his bike .I am a bicycle lover myself from a very early age of number three and hearing somebody’s sorrow about losing a bicycle that they had such an attachment with really is amazing ! I would be so heartbroken if I lost my bike it or if it was stolen but you know you gotta treat it like a toddler like I said like a baby you gotta take care of it like it’s part of you. I can understand his sorrow lol I live in California in the USA ☮️

  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

  3. By not Consuming alcohol to a point where you don’t know where you are and don’t care about your bike that’s no good ! I live in the states in the US and I would never leave my bike outside. that bike comes inside with me every day but I understand that there’s a lot of stairs in the Netherlands to get to your apartment sometimes… that’s understandable .always lock that baby up .that’s your baby you wouldn’t do that to your toddler right? I’m sorry I’m a bicycle lover and my bike is everything to me so I am sorry you lost your baby doll Ethel that’s terrible ! Get another one treat it like it’s never been treated before it with love care and affection. ☮️🕊✌🏽🇺🇸

  4. I live in California and I can’t tell you how hard it is to ride a bicycle or in the city where I live right now there’s hardly any bike paths and the police do not like bicyclist they think it’s our fault when we get hit by a truck car or other as I was hit by a truck on 19 February 2022 so my advice love your bicycle I live 30 miles from San Francisco north

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