Finding the perfect bike: FietsFriend is “more than just a FietsFriend”

During our first FietsFriend Festival back in March, they seemed like an unlikely pair: she was too short for any of the bikes we had on hand, and he was by far the tallest participant, clad in a cycling helmet, Lycra kit and cycling cleats. Mutiara needed to learn how to ride a bike, and Erik was our newest FietsFriend volunteer.

Over the past four years, our friendly and dedicated volunteers at FietsFriend have discovered that no matter what lessons or exercises they give to their students, there’s one thing new cyclists absolutely cannot do without: a bike they can actually ride.

Especially if you are just getting the hang of cycling, having a bike where your feet can safely reach the ground while remaining seated when you stop and start is absolutely crucial. You can practice balancing and pedaling all day, but if your bike is too tall, there’s just no way to really learn how to cycle safely.

bike lessons at the Ossenmarkt during FietsFriend Festival
FietsFriend one-on-one lessons. Photo courtesy of Winchester Creatives.

It may sound simple, but finding a bike that fits your height is not exactly easy for internationals who move to The Netherlands, home to the tallest people on the planet. Most men and women who come here from abroad find themselves constantly craning their necks to make eye contact with the Dutch. And tall people need tall bike frames, so second hand bikes that aren’t too big are hard to come by.

After walking back to her nearby apartment to borrow a bike small enough for her to use comfortably, Erik and Mutiara spent the afternoon on the Ossenmarkt, him running along and her pedaling in countless circles to practice keeping her balance.

He’s no stranger to cycling: he’s completed the 5,000 kilometer-long Hundred Cols Tour in France to raise funds for Alzheimer’s research, and he commutes by bike to Groningen from Drenthe daily. And, since March, he’s been a FietsFriend volunteer

Mutiara and Erik have stayed in touch for additional one-on-one lessons in the following months. “A FietsFriend is more than just a FietsFriend”, he shared in the group app. “I am teaching Mutiara to ride a bike, and she has asked me several things about The Netherlands. I am trying to help her as much as possible.”

FietsFriend Festival at the Ossenmarkt in Groningen in March 2022. Photo by Winchester Creatives

The biggest way that he’s helped her is by finally making sure that she had a bike she can ride: a smaller model bike, donated by Hiemstra Fietsen in the village of Marum. On top of that, Erik even has what he calls his very own “bike show room” in his garage now, with two additional small frame bikes donated by friends to be used by future FietsFriend one-on-one students.

Do you need to learn how to cycle? Or would you just like to better understand the Dutch traffic rules and explore the province beyond the city of Groningen? Keep an eye on our events calendar for the next FietsFriend Festival!