Cycling around the Netherlands

Cycling by the famous windmills at Kinderdijk

September 2017

Overall thoughts

After 5 days of cycling around the Netherlands, there are a few great things I noticed and appreciated, which makes cycling safe, enjoyable and easy.

  • Touring on a bike is such a great way to see the countryside.
  • You discover so much more than going by car or train.
  • It’s a pleasure – no hills, bike lanes everywhere, sign posts and maps to make navigation easy.
  • Bike lanes full of people – grey haired couples chatting on their way to the shops, groups of kids coming home from school, people going to work in suits and then the odd MAMIL on a road bike. But most people are on a bike, not to train, but to get from A to B.
  • You feel so safe – bike lanes are segregated from traffic, no interference with cars flying by you. At junctions or roundabouts, you get precedence and cars and pedestrians will all give you right of way. That’s so nice and reassuring.
  • The coolest feature are the sensor traffic lights that change to green as they sense a bike approaching. Even better is the sign that says bike traffic lights change quicker when it’s raining to sop you getting wet!
  • The only bad point was some rough surfaces which rattle the bike frame. Some road being resurfaced plus some of the cobblestones. But overall, it’s great the quality of road surface is great. Hardly a pothole to see.
  • It was great all day not having to worry about stopping for cars. So many great bike lanes around roundabouts, underpasses beneath motorways, bridges over canals or dikes.

Bike paths along the river to Brielle

Friday 15th Sep: 105km to Brielle

Up early for a spin on the bike. I did 100km easy enough as it was so flat. The bike lane network was a pleasure. Well sign posted, segregated from traffic and some lovely scenery: the port, forest, fields, river Maas, canals, windmills, animals and a lovely visit to the town of Brielle. It’s a hexagonal shaped, surrounded by water. The ramparts really caught my eye from the map, so I made it my destination.

I recced the 20km bike lap too. It’s tricky and technical with tight turns, narrow bike lanes, bumpy cobble surfaces and 3 bridge climbs.

Sat 16th Sep: Birthday

35 years old – born back in 1982. I hope the next 35 are just as happy. Growing up in Tramore, playing football, going abroad to Maastricht & Rotterdam, travelling with friends, finding triathlon and having a good job and a happy life. I have all the important things.

Bike maps make it real easy to go from A to B without a plan

Tue 19th Sep: 147km to Utrecht

Today I had a long spin around Zuid Holland and Utrecht. The famous windmills at Kinderdijk were pretty – like those Dutch paintings from the 17th century. They’re a UNESCO World Heritage Site and built to pump out the water from the polders to keep them from flooding for farming. Cycling through that countryside with cows and sheep, plus a lot of horticulture & agriculture. Small villages with cobbled streets and lovely old decorated houses. Lots of character and pride in where they live.

Making it to Utrecht – I had read about how good their bike infrastructure is – with excellent bike lanes, bridges and parking. The train station has a bike park for 6,000 bikes. I had to see it – amazing – just drop off your bike for free and collect it later.

Heaven – plain sailing. I didn’t feel tied after the ride. The flatness just means you do a constant effort, but never too hard (avg 25kmph). It’s like being on a long turbo ride. The only hills were bridges and speed bumps!

The huge bike station in Utrecht Station

Wed 20-Sep: 125km to Hoek van Holland

Another lovely day of cycling around Zuid Holland. I headed west during the morning bike rush – kids going to school, people going to work and old people going to the shops or just for a chat with friends. All on two wheels, not 4.

Heading west 40km to Hoek van Holland, the mouth of the River Maas and entrance to Europoort. I wanted to see Maeslantkering, the famous feat of engineering that is the 2 huge gates that can shut during high tides to prevent flooding of the low-lying polder of Zuid Holland. This happened in 1953 with devastating consequences.

Maeslantkering at the mouth of the River Maas & Europoort

Onto the Hoek, past the ferry port to “Engeland”. That’s where the “strand” starts – a long sandy coastline north along the North Sea. I cycled through lovely sand dunes – with some hills finally for my bike! Lots of old people out for a spin, plus a few people on road bikes out training.

A coffee stop on the prom at Scheveningen – good memories of many days out from Rotterdam with the crew. Onwards to Katwijk – the surface was smooth and wide for most parts, although I did find the cobblestones tough and hard on my rear end.

Turning back inland it as generally so easy to follow the right bike signs to direct you through Leiden, the onto Zoetermeer and back into Rotterdam. I did go off course a few times but kept going as I was still on bike paths and knew I’d eventually see another red sign.

Bike stations, in the train station (Markt, Rotterdam)

Rotterdam Sightseeing

I was tired of cycling after 5hrs (6hrs with stops). Time for lunch at home and then off to the Fotomuseum, which had 2 excellent exhibitions by US photographer Bruce Davidson and a Brazilian Sebastiao Salgado. Davidson charts many US historic periods: Civils Rights in 1960s, NYC subway in 1980s, rural south. Salgado focuses on amazing landscapes and the people who live there – from Tierra del Fuego to Antarctica to the Amazonian Pantanal and the deserts of Sub-Saharan Africa.

The stories behind each face is fascinating. How people adapt to conditions and survive. How they take pride in their appearance and respect tradition.

Cycling through the sanddunes on the coast

21st Sep: 85km to Spijkenisse

A nice spin south of Rotterdam, following the river bank heading towards Dordrecht. Near Barendrecht, I headed west along the Oude Maas river. No real plan other than I wanted to cycle for 3hrs max, so knew I could do a loop. I then saw a tunnel under the river, and thought let’s give it a go, as there were no bridge crossings for miles. It was so easy, a lift or escalator for your bike, then pedal under the river.

I figured I could get to Spijkenisse and then head home. Only problem was no bridge to cross, so again I checked the map and found a ferry. It was only about 100m across and cost 80 cent but was quick and efficient. Over another big bridge (which had a bridge raise the other day to let a ship through when I was passing) and through some parks and forests to get home via Rotterdam Zuid. Coming over the Erasmusbrug was such a scenic way to finish, I’d love to cycle it every day.

Strava Rides

Map of my 4 day trips around Zuid Holland

Date Description Time Distance Climb
Fri, 15 Sep 2017 Brielle 4:07 102 km 400 m
Tue, 19 Sep 2017 Kinderdijk, Utrecht, Gouda 5:53 147 km 265 m
Wed, 20 Sep 2017 Hoek van Holland 5:07 125 km 399 m
Thu, 21 Sep 2017 Zuid Holland 3:21 87 km 260 m

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