(original date of this entry: March 9, 2014)
Went to the Fiets en Wandelbeurs at Amsterdam RAI, the big convention center, conveniently near home. It's a pretty big deal and the place was swarming with mostly middle-aged recreational cyclists and walkers clad in high-end synthetic apparel. One wing of the center was devoted to recreational options, with stands for regions of Holland, Belgium and other countries (Turkey, Macedonia, Germany, USA) staffed by tourism boosters. I lingered at the stands devoted to Belgium, as this is a country I would like to explore more, and purchased cycling maps of Belgian Limburg and Vlaams-Brabant--the region round Antwerp.
Another wing was filled with bicycle makers, including such stalwarts as Gazelle, Batavus and Sparta, pricey upscale brands like Trek, Cannondale and Giant, plus upstarts like Spiked, Roetz and Dahon and a whole array of accessory producers, with state-of-the-art lights, baskets, locks and chains. Most of the bicycle makers were pushing e-bikes, which to me are like the iPhones of bicycles, in that they put a new technological spin on an old device, convince everyone they must have it as a pretext to jack up the price astronomically. Bikes like the e-go and Milano went for upwards of €1700. All are some variation of a battery pack and LED panel with a switch to put it in electric overdrive. The battery may be placed in front, back or pedal crank housing. Dealers had demos of these models under tents alongside a track that ran around the convention. So when I spotted one I liked I just pointed to it, the rep adjusted the seat and off I went down the track with many other testers. It was certainly fun to ride an e-bike. You press the button on the LED and get a hyper boost, but better slow down when you reach the blind turn (no one wearing a helmet of course). Others rode foot-powered scooters with a big front wheel, recumbent bikes, etc. But what's so beautiful is all this activity produces no noise whatsoever, it's a silently moving fun rally.
And actually, e-bikes are a great innovation, especially for oldsters, and pricey as they are, they're still way below cars or flashy motorbikes. You can go pretty fast on one with little effort. But in table-flat Holland you don't really need one unless you're in a hurry.