City bike, touring bike, mountain bike, e-bike... Basically every type of bicycle will do. The main thing is that your bicycle meets the Dutch legal requirements and is in proper working order. As Holland is overall flat, the classical Dutch bicycle has no gears. Having said that, the odd gear or two does comes in handy every now and then, especially with a headwind.

A classical Dutch bike. Photo © Holland-Cycling.comA classical Dutch bike. Photo ©

Legal requirements for your bicycle

Bicycle bell

In Holland a bicycle bell is compulsory on every bike. Other traffic users have to be able to hear it at a distance of 25 metres. You’re not likely to be fined if your bicycle bell does not meet the requirements, but a good bell does make it easier to pass other cyclists on narrow and busy cycle paths.

Bicycle lights and reflectors

As soon as you’re out on your bicycle in the dark or when visibility is bad, bicycle lights and reflectors are compulsory in Holland. The rules are very strict. If you don’t comply with them you risk a fine - or worse, a car driver might not see you in time.

Government campaign poster [br]Photo © Holland-Cycling.comGovernment campaign poster
Photo ©

Requirements for bicycle lights and reflectors

Bicycle lights:

  • Front light - white or yellow
  • Back light - red
  • Lights have to shine straight ahead
  • Flashing lights are not allowed
  • Loose lights (i.e. not fixed to the bike) are allowed if properly visible and attached to your upper body, not to your head or limbs

Bicycle reflectors:

  • Red reflector (not triangular) - on the back of the bicycle
  • Yellow reflectors - on the pedals
  • White or yellow reflective tyres

If you're bringing your own e-bike, make sure it complies with the Dutch legal requirements. In order to be classified as a bicycle, your e-bike needs to have pedal assistance up to 25 km/h and have a motor up to 250 W only.

Be warned: If fails to meet these requirements, your e-bike will be classed as a light moped or moped and different rules apply. In the worst case, your e-bike will be considered an illegal vehicle, which means you could have serious problems if you're involved in an accident.

For more, go to High speed on cycle paths, part 2: When is the e-bike still a bike?

Bicycle locks

Bicycle locks aren't a legal requirement. But do realise that bike theft is a huge problem in Holland. Leaving your bicycle unlocked is simply not an option. For some top tips on preventing your bicycle being stolen, go to Bike theft - how to avoid the pitfalls?

For more, go to Traffic rules & regulations for cyclists.

Do I bring my own bicycle?

Whether you bring your own bicycle or not, is entirely up to you. Do the costs and hassle weigh up against the discomfort of not having your own bike? What is the amount of cycling you have in mind? You could consider renting a bicycle. In most places you'll be able to rent a bike.

Day trips and city tours

If you’re planning to do just a couple of day trips or city tours, bicycle rental is a good option. Renting a bicycle for a day is easy and not that expensive. Usually you have to return the bicycle to where it was rented. This means returning a rental bicycle can be a nuisance if you are not doing a round trip.

Cycling holidays

If you’re planning to do some serious cycling, it is probably more convenient to bring your own bicycle. Renting is an option, but a rental bike might not be a perfect fit. Returning a rental bicycle can be a nuisance if you are not doing a round trip.

Buying a second hand bicycle

Rather than renting, you could also buy a second hand bicycle and sell it at the end of your journey. Most bicycle shops deal in second hand bikes. In big cities second hand bikes are in high demand. This means you won’t get the best value for money.