Cycling in Amsterdam is the most authentic way for any visitor to see the city. Amsterdam is perfectly set up for getting on your bike - there are 400km (250 miles) of dedicated cycle lanes. For expats the bicycle becomes a cheap and essential way of getting around town... and it will keep you fit!
Cycling is deeply ingrained into the Dutch psyche, not surprising when you consider how flat the Netherlands is. There are some 18 million bikes in the country and on any working day between 8am and 9am in the morning almost 2 million will be on the road!
However, bike theft in Amsterdam is rampant - over 200 bikes a day are stolen. You may be approached by a dodgy stranger on the street offering to sell you a bike for €5 or €10 - don't think about it as these are stolen and you risk a fine of €190, as well as perpetuating this criminal activity.
Due to risk of theft, most locals ride battered old cycles for normal use around town. Most Dutch people will also own a more expensive bike for touring - given that there are 100,000 km of well marked cycle routes around the country.
Many locals cycle in an assertive if not 'kamikaze' manner - they travel at good speed very close to each other, they will often ignore red lights, they will pull out from side streets without looking, they will shout "Ja, Hallo!" in annoyance if you inadvertently walk into the cycle lane and they will park their bike in the middle of the pavement on a busy shopping street!
If you want to ride a bike around the city it does take a bit of practice to get up to speed with the locals - so take some care initially. A lot of bad cycling seen in the centre of Amsterdam is actually done by inexperienced tourists who may not do much bike riding at home.
You should always follow the traffic rules, be careful with trams / tram tracks and watch out for pedestrians and other cyclists. Stick to the designated cycle lanes - do not ride on pavements, squares or pedestrianised ways. Don't listen to your mp3 player while cycling - you need to hear what's around you.
The Dutch are not health and safety obsessed (the UK comes to mind) and do not use cycle helmets - even many moped/scooter riders don't wear them. Most Dutch drivers however, have very good awareness of cyclists and will give way where necessary.
Note that the most basic Dutch bikes have back-pedal brakes which takes some getting used to if you are accustomed to hand brakes.
There are a number of secure bike parking facilities around Amsterdam run by the council - they are free to use for up to 24 hours. If parking your bike on the street always lock the frame and front wheel against something fixed like a cycle rack, railing or post. Expats who own a bike should invest in a strong set of locks. A decent second-hand bike can easily cost €150 to €250 - for cheaper bikes try Recycled Bicycles (Spuistraat 84a) or go to the market at Waterlooplein.
There are many bike repair shops in the city so if you get a puncture you should not have far to walk to get it fixed.