Invader Stu: The trouble with bicycle racks

There is something very undignified about losing a fight with a bicycle rack. Even if you do manage to win you still can’t walk away without feeling more than a little humiliated.

Many bicycles, few bicycle racks

The problem is that there are just so many bicycles in Amsterdam and so few bicycle racks to park them in. Bicycles end up being forced in to them and tightly jammed together at all kinds of odd angles.

And because it is often impossible to find anywhere else, you have no other option but to add your own bike to the tangled mess when you want to chain it up somewhere.

Parking your bicycle in a bicycle rack is an exercise in brute force and perseverance and it is very important that you don’t mind (or care) if a few things get broken in the process. Peddles get trapped in wheels and handle bars become entangled with brake cables.

It’s like trying to force two unrelated jigsaw puzzle pieces together with a hammer (if they were both made out of sharp, rusty metal). It’s a task that would send even the most calm and serene of people into a blind rage.

Even when you have managed to do it (and the urge to murder has started to diminish) the real trouble has only just begun.

Locking your bicycle to the rack

Because you have now "successfully" forced your bicycle between its two rusty neighbours there is even less room for you to manoeuvre and you still have to somehow lock your bicycle to the rack.

Reaching over the handlebars won’t work because you can no longer squeeze yourself between the bikes to get close enough (even when awkwardly stretching over while standing on one leg).

This often leaves you no other option but to crouch down and squeeze yourself awkwardly between the bicycles as you reach out, chain in one hand and the keys in the other, trying to lock bicycle and rack together and remain calm.

However, as if this situation was not infuriating enough already you will inevitably find your goal frustratingly just out of reach when your coat or backpack suddenly becomes caught on some random bicycle part which you are now unable to free yourself from.

At this point it’s worth questioning how much you actually like cycling and if it is all worth it.

But eventually, after much frustrated and annoyed struggling, you finally manage to reach and successfully lock the chain around the front of your bicycle and the rack!

Now, try to stand up!

You can relax. You have been successful... but then you try to stand up.

Whatever random bicycle part you became snagged upon while trying to lock your bike is now the same one stopping you from backing out as well (and threatening to pull half your clothes off over your head if you try).

It’s like being a fly trapped in a spider web made of bicycle chains and break cables. It is then, after a while of unsuccessfully struggling to get free a very embarrassing realisation starts to settle in.

You are a grown man (or woman) trapped in a bicycle rack and you have only two options open to you: remain trapped for several hours or face the humiliation of of having to call out for help from a random passerby (which should not be too hard because by now you’ve already drawn a crowd of on lookers).

And as if that was not enough, you know that whichever option you choose you have to do the whole thing in reverse when you want your bicycle back.

Invader Stu is an accident prone Englishman who has been suffering from Dutch culture shock for the last ten years. Enjoy his stories, more of which can be found on Invading Holland.

Stuart B


Stuart B

An accident prone Englishman living in Holland since 2001. Still not great with the language but finds stampot lekker.

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