A book about cycling. What could be a more appropriate read if you live in Amsterdam? More people in the Dutch capital own a bike than a car, and it is likely their most useful and beloved possession. Ruth Oei-Abraham reviews Ride With Me – Amsterdam which offers both natives and transplants a two-wheeled way to explore the charms of the city beyond the usual tours and daily commutes.
Roos Stallinga, who was born and bred in the Netherlands (and can thus be classified as an expert cycler), starts her guide by laying out a few essential do’s and don’ts when you attempt biking in Amsterdam. For while it is true that most people learn how to cycle as a child, riding a bike in Amsterdam is a completely different story! Stallinga briefly explains the rules of the road and where to buy a proper bike, but she also shares all the inside info on how to become an all-round Dutch cyclist. For example, although you can cycle in whatever you want, don’t wear a helmet! It is a very uncommon thing to do in the Netherlands, and will immediately make you stand out.
After spending her first chapter getting us acquainted with “the Amsterdam cycling dance” (a direct quote from one of her Amsterdam interviewees), Stallinga moves on to the core of this book: discovering Amsterdam via two wheels. The book is organised by different cycling routes; there are eight routes in all, each exploring a different area of the city. Every chapter starts with a very detailed map of the route and will include a list of must-sees, need-to-visits, and hidden gems, which run the gamut between the obvious ones like the Rijksmuseum and the Jordaan, to lunch and coffee spots that will be new even to most Amsterdammers.
All in all, after cycling these different routes you are officially a true Amsterdammer – and a professional cyclist for that matter! And you will see the city in a whole new light!
Every part of the city is thoroughly covered and full of pleasant surprises, whether it is the better known attractions in southern Amsterdam like the Amsterdamse Bos and the vibrant De Pijp neighbourhood, or the less well travelled areas such as Amsterdam Oost and the multicultural Zuidoost. The final three routes take you to the Oostelijke Eilanden and IJburg, Amsterdam Noord, Durgerdam and Amsterdam West. All in all, after cycling these different routes you are officially a true Amsterdammer – and a professional cyclist for that matter! And you will see the city in a whole new light!
While reading the book, I made several new additions to my ‘love-to-go-there-once’ list. Some of these include Hemelse Modder (Heavenly Mud) described in Route 1, where, among other great dishes, they serve heavenly chocolate mousse (hence the restaurant’s name); a secret swimming spot at the stunning Prinseneiland; and the little known Museum Het Schip which celebrates the architectural and design achievements of the Amsterdam School of Architecture (Amsterdamse School).
The route descriptions would benefit from including more practical information such as length and level of difficulty. Is it beginner, average or expert at cycling along the narrow canals? Is it kid friendly? For instance, Route 1, which takes you across the busy Red Light District, might be a bit too tricky for a complete novice; Route 7, which explores the North of Amsterdam and its surrounding villages looks like a pretty long ride if you go with kids.
Stallinga, who produced this book herself together with designer Remi Brouwer did a fantastic job combining facts, tips, suggestions about where to cycle – and where to take a well-deserved break – interspersed with comments from local Amsterdammers who both explain and express their love for a certain neighbourhoods in Amsterdam, as well as talk about their personal relationships with the good old Dutch two-wheeler.
Stallinga and Brouwer put a lot of effort in the content as well as the layout of the book. The photos in the book – from bikes being fished out of canals to a lovely sunset view in Westerpark – really add to the content and the suggested cycle routes. Ride with Me – Amsterdam is a must-read for temporary Amsterdammers, but definitely, if not even more, for the locals who can forget how beautiful it is to explore their own city.
And without a helmet.
Amsterdam Mamas received a free copy of this book in exchange for our honest review.
Ruth Oei-Abraham is a freelance journalist who was born and raised in Amsterdam (Amstelveen, to be precise), but moved to London in 2005 where she lives with her husband and their two sons.