Wait. How long is a kilometer again?

There are some times when it would be to my advantage to really understand the metric system.  Such as when I am dosing myself with foreign cough medicine.  Or operating foreign ovens.  Or signing up for an all-day bike tour of the countryside around Amsterdam.

This is probably our Christmas card picture. Act surprised when you get it.

But alas, much like whether the earth orbits the sun or the other way around, this information does not seem to stick in my head.

So, when the Amsterdam bike tour guide asked, “Can your kids bike 45 kilometers in 4 hours?”, I said: “Sure!”  But I was thinking, “Wait.  How long is a kilometer again?”

She wondered aloud whether tackling the route in a more leisurely six hours might be better, and I quickly agreed.  Plus, the longer trip included lunch, and lunch always sounds good to me.


Wheely Dutch Bike Tours had a friendly-seeming website — lots of pretty pictures and buoyant punctuation.  Digging deeper, I saw that the fitness level required for their tours were ranked on a tulip scale — cute!  One tulip for easy, two tulips for medium, and three tulips for challenging  We selected the full-day Taste of Holland Tour.  Since this was a one-tulip trip, I assumed it would pretty much be downhill both ways.

Not quite.

No rural Holland bike tour can be considered complete without sheep.

We met our tour guide — and company owner/operator — Rebecca Uleman at a bike rental shop on Damstraat in Central Amsterdam, where we picked up bikes and bike bags for the journey.  Rebecca is a really down to earth and calm guide who is half-Australian and half-Dutch.  Although she’s lived in Holland for about ten years, she’s biked aaaaall over the world.  She’s really good company too.


Not to completely state the obvious, but this tour — and all bike tours in and around Amsterdam — starts right in the Central District.  Thank goodness Rebecca was there to ring her bell and usher us through town like a bunch of baby ducks, because the streets are busy.  If your kids are even a little bit wobbly, I would recommend riding behind them and slightly to the left.  Also, try to be as wide as you can, so that anyone who passes on a bike, motor scooter, or car will have to do so with a larger margin.  They will beep and ring their bells.  Let them.

A bucolic view across the polders, low-lying Dutch farmland surrounded by dikes. Don’t tell these cows, but 40% of the country used to be underwater.

Within 15 minutes we were out of the city limits and heading south toward the farmlands, canals, and rivers south of the city.  Within 30 minutes we were gawking at windmills and sitting where Rembrandt sat and painted these iconic Dutch landscapes.

The first half of the tour, we shared the road with other bikes, mopeds, and cars (though not too many).  Later, it was just us, other bikes, and the cows.  We rode across the river on a bike and car ferry and also crossed the river on a pulley boat which has no engine, just a hand crank.  Rebecca was very indulgent of my endless photo stops and slow pedaling, my husband slightly less so.

A chocolate chip lamb. I want one.


For me there were really three highlights:

  1. Completing a 45-kilometer bike ride (oh stop laughing, you irritating bike people).  I waddled straight home, pulled up an online mile/kilometer converter, and discovered I had just ridden 28 miles!  Bragging rights.
  2. Cycling past farm animals and wildlife — especially the babies.  Ducks and ducklings.  Swans and cygnets.  Sheep and lambs.  Horses and foals.  Pigs, cows, rabbits.
  3. Watching my overheated son and husband strip down to their underwear to jump in the Amstel River in front of some bemused locals (photos withheld — sorry).


Two low points:

  1. My son is a pretty confident biker, but not totally confident.  Every time he wobbled, my heart stopped for a second.  One time he clipped a garbage can and almost fell.  Since it was a warm holiday weekend, there was a lot of other bike traffic passing us (him) just a little too close for my comfort.
  2. I have the good fortune to be part of a fit family.  As the weakest link, I am always the first one to run out of gas.  In this case, I ran out of gas somewhere around mile 25.  While there are no hills in Amsterdam, there are 1,500 bridges.  I wasn’t sure I was going to make it up and over the last few.
The colors really look like this.  I didn't mess with them.
The colors really look like this. I didn’t mess with them.


I would highly recommend Rebecca’s trips.  If you’re not up for a 28-miler, she has some other great-sounding tours.  I was particularly tempted by both the Wheely Dutch Snack Track and The Pancake Tour.

Here’s my number one bit of advice for this tour.  Ready?  Upgrade your bike.  We rented these huge, heavy 3-speed beasts, and I would really have liked having a few more gears.  If you’ve got a semi-wobbly rider, a tandem bike might be a good idea too.

Potty breaks are few and far between, so go easy on the coffee the morning of your tour.  Bring water bottles for everyone, but just one since Rebecca will bring a big bottle for refills. 

This moped-rider was yelling and beeping at us to get out of the way.  Also?  His dog was barking.
This moped-rider was yelling and beeping at us to get out of the way. Even his dog was barking.  My husband stared him down instead.

All posts in this series:

Why not Amsterdam
Getting to Amsterdam: Even the easy way was kind of hard
The Mystery of the Giant Pink Penis Lamp
Wait.  How long is a kilometer again?




  1. Ross Jurewitz says

    Good short hand calculation is that 1 km = 0.6 mi

    So, just multiply the kilometers by .6 and you have a pretty good idea of how far it is (45 kms = 27 mi, real answer was 28 mi–close enough).

    You can verify this short hand by looking at the speedometer of your car where 100 km/h lines up almost exactly with 60 mph.

    Love the blog. Keep the stories coming.

  2. Margaret Row says

    I need to know about km. when we go to Australia each year. The most important time for me is the speed limit. It will say “110” and my brain will go “Aaaaah!”, then I do the calculation and realize it’s about 65, and then I keep driving. But occasionally I sneak a look at the speedometer and chuckle that I’m driving 120. Speed demon!

  3. says

    Margeret: Oh, me too! Kilometers are the worst. When we lived in England, I didn’t really have to fix it in my mind because we had this car that would start shaking like it was about to fall apart at speeds above 120kph. So it was impossible to speed too much without knocking your fillings out.

  4. says

    Jane: I’ll never forget that story of you trying to order water in an American restaurant, and not being able to make yourself understood until you imitated an American accent. You are TOTALLY multilingual.

  5. says

    Love the story, Jamie! I can relate! Sometimes I rent an electric assist bike for when I get worn out. I can have it off most of the time but can turn it on for those little uphills or at the end of the day when I’m wiped out! Wish I’d given you that tip sooner! Sorry! But now you have bragging rights and that’s worth something and the electric assist does not assist with the sore behind.

  6. Esther Metzker says

    Hi Jamie! What a great report and lovely pictures, especially the one with the mill in the background. We also want to go on a bike tour in Holland this spring. I saw you use Wheely bike tours for this tour, are they any good? You know of any other bike tour organizers in Holland? I searched google and found a few (like http://hollandcycletours.com and http://en.radreisen.at) but it seems they don’t offer daily tours. Thanks!

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