Wind. A calm day with no movement in the air is a rare thing here. It seems there is always at least a breeze, often a stiff breeze or light wind, and just as regularly a strong wind bordering on a light gale. Strong gales are not uncommon. And contrary to the fickle, gusty mountain winds, waking to wind here in the Netherlands generally means it will be a constant companion throughout the day. Never ceasing. And so we find ourselves just as often as not riding bikes with the wind. Gentle breezes that keep us cool and stir up the heavy, humid air. Light winds that trick us and make for an unexpectedly tiring ride. Side winds strong enough to buffet front tires and cause accidental swerving. Tail winds that push us in a hurry as we sit up tall, our backs acting as a sail. Head winds that bow us over our handlebars, hunkered down and grinding hard. Typical Dutch bikes don’t have gears, or three at most (for stiff breezes, strong winds and full-on gales, I suppose, as the only steep grades to be found in most parts of the country are dikes). And so we lean in, making ourselves small, and toil away. Legs burning, resigned to a slow, steady pace and a sweaty back upon arrival. Wind directions often shift throughout the day, so lucky folks might get a tailwind both ways. But that hardly ever happens. Double headwinds are much more common. A sort of Murphy’s Law for windy bike riding. This morning dawned with a heavy wind out of the West, which means today’s biking will be accompanied by a strong side wind. If I’m lucky it will shift just enough on the return ride to give me a little push in the back as I haul my groceries home. But it probably won’t.
Biking in the Netherlands. It may beat hagelslag, old city centers, museums and the sea in terms of what I love about living here. It ranks right up there with affordable universal health care. I have so many anecdotes related to bikes and bike riding in the Netherlands that I decided to start a weekly series: The Bike Chronicles. Each week I will share a different aspect of this delightful part of Dutch life; sometimes just a photo that captures a moment, other times I might bite off a weightier, more thoroughly researched topic or share a longer story. Bikes will be at the center of each post, but really, through them, you will gain a much broader understanding of my daily life and Dutch culture in general. Enjoy!