Biking in the Netherlands
by Ali van Yzendoorn
This summer I had the opportunity to live in the Netherlands. Being half Dutch, I’ve always been curious about life in Holland and what it really means to be Dutch. I was lucky enough to live with some amazing family members and immersed myself in real Dutch lifestyle. This included: drinking lots of strong coffee, listening to Dutch music, learning the language, eating stroopwafels, and riding my bike EVERYWHERE. I found comfort in seeing everyone on bikes and that provided me with a connection to Dutch lifestyle that made me feel so at home. Seeing young children ride their bikes to and from school together, seeing old couples riding on the Dijk together, business people riding to work, you name it! Everyone is on a bike. I think this was my favourite part of the Dutch culture. I rode my bike to and from work, to my friends house, to the grocery store, and of course for training.
This summer I truly realized how powerful cycling is. After the death of Charlotte, (a close friend and former teammate of mine and many others), and living abroad, I’ve realized a lot about myself and my relationship with my bike. I’ve found that sometimes biking can be the sunshine on a rainy day and be exactly what I need to be put in a good headspace. It can turn a tough day into a good day. It makes a good day even better. The fresh air gives me energy. While riding I feel content and connected and present with my feelings. I feel able to take on the world. My mind is open and wanders freely. It makes me feel strong and empowered.
But just like life, I have also found that there are other days that are tough. Somedays it’s simply just hard to get on the bike. When on the bike, my wandering mind takes me to a place of loss and grief. It’s crazy how the same thing that makes me feel like I’m
on top of the world can make me reflect about the people I care about and miss so much. The bike gives me time to feel uncomfortable feelings and process them. I think it’s a blessing to have something that can make me feel so many things because it reminds me that I’m human and that it is completely normal to feel happy or sad or angry or excited or vulnerable or joyful.
This is where cycling is more than just being on a bike. It’s about the community of people that choose to be in cycling. How we can use the common interest of bike riding to build a connection with each other that goes beyond the actual bike riding. Charlotte was of those people who was able to use her love for the sport to shine her beautiful personality on so many people to build up the community.
I think the Dutch are on to something. I think the simple act of riding a bike is more than just getting from A to B. It’s part of what makes the country so connected and cozy and gives people an outlet to feel whatever they need to.
I’m so grateful to be a part of this community.