If you're a parent in Amsterdam, you're going to want to do what the locals do and transport your children by bike. Whether you're a mama or a papa you're going to need what is known in this country as a moederfiets, or mother's bike. Local mama, Lana Huf-Germain, is here to give you the low-down on this sturdy child-transporting two-wheeler.
Finding the Perfect Mother's Bike!
You have figured out for yourself a way to cycle through Amsterdam with confidence. You know how to dodge speeding taxi cabs, tram tracks, and wandering tourists. But now comes your next obstacle … how do you cycle through Amsterdam with kids? Whether you are pregnant, have a baby or toddler, or multiple kids on board, it'll take some practice before you are cycling fearlessly. Having a good, solid, comfortable, and reliable bike will help relieve those white knuckles!
So What Exactly is a Mother's Bike?
A mother's bike has more space between the saddle and handlebars, making it easier to get on and off. The bike also has a double kickstand, so when you get off but your children or groceries are still on, the bike won't tip over. Mother's bikes are designed to carry a heavy load. After all, more often than not you'll be cycling around with about 100 kilos (adult + child + groceries). A strong frame and wheels with good spokes are essential. The tires are a bit wider for stability and handlebars are wider to fit the front seat better.
Brands with Special Mother's Bikes
Choosing a mother's bike really depends on who YOU are! We can’t stress enough how important it is to try them yourself! Weight, height, looks, and overall feel of the bike vary and will feel better or worse to different bodies. Your height and weight will matter, as will that of the bike. You need to feel comfortable and safe.
Here are some examples of brands with a standard mother's bike in their selection:
How to Customize Your Own Bike into a Mother's Bike
If you already own the best bike in the world – and yes, sometimes that’s truly how we feel about our bikes – you might consider customizing your own bike into a mother's bike. The difference between using your own bike and a pre-made mother bike is the space between the saddle and handlebars. On a regular bike this space is shorter. This can impact your ability to get on and off your bike with a pregnant belly and if you put a child seat on the front it could poke you in the stomach or chest. To make more space you can customize your saddle and your handlebars.
Having a shorter bike seat will make a lot of difference space-wise. The ROKzadel (skirt saddle) is an example of a shorter bike seat you can install to make more room.
The Azor bike is recommended by a lot of mamas because it can easily be customized into a mother's bike. Every bike sold at Azor is completely customizable, so they are a good choice of bike for anyone with special space requirements.
Child Seats – Front or Back?
So now you that have chosen a bike, or have customized your own, where do you put your child? There is an ongoing debate about the safety of cycling with a newborn baby in a sling/carrier. Some people claim this is a very unsafe way to cycle with your baby, while others feel that mothers have been transporting their babies this way for decades and it’s perfectly fine. On a personal note, it felt safer to me then having my baby on a bike seat, but to each their own.
Your baby must be able to sit up and support their own neck before you can put them in a front seat. You can also purchase a windshield to protect your child from the wind and the rain. Once your child is too heavy or big for you to have on your handlebars (usually around the two and a half year mark) you can choose to put your child on a seat on the back instead.
Four Dutch brands with both front and back seat options, and a protection screen are:
If your child is older, but not yet big enough to sit unstrapped on the back frame, and you are willing to cycle with him/her on your front bar, a seat on the front bar might be an option for you.
Buying your perfect mother's bike and accessories really depends on your personal taste and style. You can look online, but like many things, from cars to clothing, you can’t always tell the comfort and fit without trying it out in person. This bike will become part of your family so make sure you are 100% sure you have found the right one. If you are unsure, talk it through with your local bike shop, and try before you buy!
Lana Huf-Germain is a born and bred Amsterdammer. She understands the difficulties faced by international families with no grasp of the language or history, and the extra problems this brings to raising a family in Amsterdam. She started Amsterdam Family Assistance to help families new to the Netherlands overcome these barriers and make them feel at home.
Photo credits: Cortina, David Germain