BUYING + FIRST PROBLEMS
It all started with buying it. I found my bike on Facebook. It was supposed to be an auction, where the highest bid wins. The place was quite far away from my house, and I thought my chances to get the bike were very small. So, I borrowed my roommate’s bike and went there. In 10 minutes, I was at the right place where only one other girl was waiting for the auction. She said her maximum is 40 euros. So, yeah, I won and paid 41 euros! The brakes were not in the best condition, but at least I had a bike! The problem was, now I had two bikes. I tried to bike and hold the other one next to me. That did not work. The way home took me 2 hours. I got lost, of course, because when you have a bike in each hand, using google maps is not that easy anymore. The maps kept saying I was only 4 minutes away from my house, but whatever direction I chose, it was the wrong one. When it got really dark the maps stopped working. I called my roommates and asked them for help. They said they are also new in the city so they do not know the way and they cannot help me. I panicked that I would have to sleep on the street. Luckily, a nice woman overheard my call and helped me to get home.
Having a bike in the Netherlands is very important. It feels like without it you are only half-human there. When you are using it every day, it is better to have it in good condition. The first problem, apart from the bad brakes, was my basket started to fly from the left side to the right one and up and down like it was alive. I secured it with a string, and I thought that would be enough. After a while, and already two more strings that I had to put on it, I got a flat tire. I was scared the bike is broken, and I would have to buy a new one. I came to a repair shop and asked about the tire. And since I was there, I asked about the brakes. The guy looked at my lovely bike and said that my tire is not broken, so he just pumped it up. But he also said my bike is basically dead. He said he could not save the breaks and I should buy another one. I mean, come on, no way I am giving up on my bike. Besides, I was not going to give away another 90 euros for a good one. I decided that I am going to survive. It helped for a while because after some time, the left brake, which was not working properly, suddenly got much better.
My roommates and I were usually parking our bikes in front of our house. But of course, there were cars as well. One day, we got a letter with a picture of a bike laying on a car (looked like a drunk me on a toilet). The owner of that car was not happy at all. I could understand that even though it was in Dutch. No doubt, it was my bike!
My friend usually picked me up in the morning and then we would go to school together. Once, I opened the door and on the ground in front of my door was a light. A bike light, which is supposed to be above the front wheel. My friend looked at it, looked at me and asked “Yours?”. I did not have to look, of course, it was from my bike. I just left it to lay there for a couple of days and pretended there is nothing wrong.
LOCKED AND “STOLEN” BIKE
Having Birthday during your Erasmus is an amazing experience. At least in my case. I celebrated. I celebrated a lot. Although I do remember putting my keys from the house and my bike in the pocket of my jacket, at the end of the night (when everyone, except me, wanted to go home already), they just were not there. After some time spent searching and asking the bartenders, my friend had to take me on her bike to her place.
The next morning, my school wanted to take a picture of us. I do not have to say how amazing I looked. The keys were not found. I had to make another key to my house, and with the keys to my bike, it was not that easy. I did not have a spare key from my bike, only from the external lock, which secured my bike safely in the middle of the city centre. Since going to school or anywhere else by bus or walking was very uncomfortable, I borrowed a bike from my buddy’s boyfriend. It was supposed to be “just for a few days until I figurate something out” but actually, it lasted more than one month. My plan was to ‘steal’ my bike from the city centre and cut the lock on the bike. Finally, I got a guy with a car and a metal saw. We waited for the dark, parked the car near the place, where my bike was, I unlocked the external lock and then we carried my bike into the car. During this stealing mission, we tried to look very inconspicuously. Because I did not have any paper proof this was my bike, the police would not have to believe me at all. Luckily, we got to my place, and he cut the bike’s lock. I knew I would not be able to lock it again but come on, no one would want to steal my bike. He would put it back immediately. Great, my bike was free again! CAR CRASH
By the time I got my bike free, it was already late November. Apparently standing outside without any use is not the best for an old crappy bike. How do I know? The brakes stopped working, again. It was getting worse and worse, and then they both stopped working at all. It was December. Biking in the snow is fun; it really is. It is exciting, challenging, sometimes dangerous, especially without brakes. But I tell you something – it is possible. Not only when there is snow, which is not that often in the Netherlands, but also when it is just windy and rainy weather. You just have to bike very carefully and only on the roads that you know. I knew when I need to turn or where I have to stop for the red light, so I would stop biking quite far from the traffic lights so the bike would slow down enough and I could stop it with my feet or jump off it just on time. It is also a lot of praying and hoping. However, all this did not work when I was hurrying to meet my mum, who was waiting for me, in the city. I was going through the parking lot and saw a car which wanted to park there. He was supposed to wait, but he did not. Well, in the last second, he stopped. He left me 30 cm to go between him and the other car. Unfortunately, the other car had a tow bar at the back. That tow bar took away the 10 cm I needed to pass through and then I remember everything like in slow motion. The hit pushed me over my bike. I flew over it and ended up laying on my back. I think my back was saved by my backpack and my laptop inside was saved by panda bear that I got that day for my Christmas break. The driver did not even care to ask me anything; he just tapped the shoulder of the other guy, who was actually helping me, laughed and left. Not a surprise, my bike was gone, dead. I slowly got to my mum, locked my bike in the city centre and then we walked to my house.
After my Christmas break, I rented a bike and was biking on that one till the end. Everything worked. Brakes, lights, but it was not the same feeling. My crappy bike stayed locked in the city centre for a year.
I miss it. I miss the freedom of deciding what time I go out. Do you want to go right now? Ok, you just sit on your bike, and you go. Even though we have a really good night bus system in Brno, you still have to wait for the bus or go a bit earlier than you want. In the Netherlands I was like “yeah, I am done, and I want to go home” and I could leave at that very moment and be home in 10 minutes. What I do not miss is riding a bike in extreme cold. Besides, have you tried to find a white bike in an endless row of other bikes which are covered in snow? It usually took me about half an hour. Also, sitting on a seat which is cover in ice is not that much fun. But I think you should definitely try to bike in the Netherlands!