Monday, 9 June 2014

The Netherlands’ Top 12 Cycle Routes

The Netherlands is famous for its amazing cycling infrastructure, but what are the most amazing cycle routes which will really blow your mind and give you the very best cycling experience you can have in this world? I decided to treat you with a personal Top 12. Together, these routes represent the different types of cycle experiences you can have in The Netherlands. All listed routes are included in my Cycling in Amsterdam and The Netherlands guidebook.

1. North Sea Cycle Route: The Hague – Zandvoort

The 6000 km long North Sea Cycle Route is nowhere more splendid than on its traffic-free track across the extensive Dutch sand dune systems between The Hague and Zandvoort. On this 40 km (25 miles) stretch, cycling truly comes “home”. Whether you are on a Dutch shopper or on a racing bicycle with all the gears, this is truly one of the very best cycle paths in the world with fantastic scenery to take in. Every other mile, there is access to the beach for cyclists and pedestrians only; providing plenty of opportunities for the perfect seaside break!

2. Amsterdam Forest (Amsterdamse Bos)

With paths either dedicated to walking, cycling or horse-riding, the Amsterdam Forest (Amsterdamse Bos) is probably the best park for cycling in the world. Three times bigger than New York’s Central Park, it has 50 kms (30 miles) of smooth, wide, tarmac cycle paths, dedicated to cycling only. The routes take you through a mosaic of wooded areas, grassland, reed lands and open water. With a high density of things to see and do, it is the perfect playground for youngsters getting used to explore by bike!

3. Vecht River: Weesp – Utrecht

There are probably only a few places more tranquil in the world than the sleepy Vecht River. The merchants of the Dutch Golden Age built their country mansions on these Vecht riverbanks, in between the numerous dairy farms and windmills. The country lanes on both sides of the river are a cycling heaven, taking you through a leafy, green, Dutch landscape, with another peaceful view awaiting you every 100 metres or so. The 35 km route (22 miles) has its epic final stretch alongside Utrecht’s “Old Canal”, without doubt the most scenic canal of the country.

4. Oosterschelde Barrier

Fancying literally riding the waves on the most expensive cycle path of the world? The traffic-free cycle path on the Oosterschelde Estuary Storm Surge Barrier gives you premium sea views and a unique smell of fresh sea air while riding your bike! The average maintenance bill of this route is about 10 million Euros per year, so you better enjoy this thrill ride on the floodgates. The total length of the flood gates is about 2 miles. The experience is best the first hours after high tide, when over 800 billion litres of water squeeze through the dam, back into the North Sea.

5. Dutch cycling rush hour – Utrecht

To truly experience a Dutch cycling rush hour, you should get on the bike between 8 and 9 am on any main cycle route between a Dutch city centre and its suburbs.  To be truly amazed, head for a place where there are few alternative routes, for example the bottleneck bridge over the Amsterdam-Rhine Canal between Lombok and Terwijde in Utrecht. You’ll find yourself cycling in a fast moving cycling crowd on a truly Cycling Super Highway. Cycle route builders in London must take notice; this is what a Cycling Super Highway really looks like!

6. Waal Dyke, Nijmegen

For grant open vistas, where you can cycle high above the surrounding landscape, you should head for one of the Rhine branches in The Netherlands, such as Lek, Waal or Nederrijn. We favour the traffic-calmed dyke of the Waal River between Dodewaard and Nijmegen. On this 20 km (13 miles) dyke ride stretch, you look down on fruit orchards on one side and Europe’s busiest inland shipping lane on the other side. The views over the City of Nijmegen, with its stylish river bridges, are fabulous. The Snelbinder bridge is a truly unique way to enter a city entirely traffic-free!

7. Utrecht Ridge National Park: Hollandse Rading – Amerongen

Large parts of The Netherlands lie below sea level, but there are also a few distinctively higher lying areas, such as the Dutch Moors Veluwe and Utrecht Ridge (Utrechtse Heuvelrug). Heavily forested, both moors have an extensive network of cycle paths, well away from motorised traffic. I favour the 40 km (25 miles) section between Hollandse Rading and Amerongen. Where else can you eat as many pancakes as you like, play crazy golf on three full-size 18-hole golf courses, visit a Napoleon pyramid and ride your bike on a former NATO-airbase runway?

8. Lange Linschoten: Woerden – Gouda

The Dutch Green Heart may well be on its prettiest alongside the “Lange Linschoten” stream, on both sides lined with (knotted) weeping willows and old, scenic, dairy farms with their thatched roofs. Cows graze onto the horizon here. Buy authentic Dutch Gouda cheese straight from the barn, go for a canoe adventure on narrow countryside canals or check whether you are a witch at the old weighing table of Oudewater. Just having a pint on the medieval town square is very well possible as well. This 20 km (13 miles) stretch is a favourite among many cycling Dutchies.

9: Waterland “Sea Dyke” Amsterdam – Marken Island

A few places in this world are more wind-swept than the old man-made sea defenses alongside what is now “Lake Ijsselmeer”. Ensure only to embark on this route when winds are light or when tailwinds blow you strongly towards your destination. In direct reach from Amsterdam station, this 20 km (13 miles) route via a cycle path on the old sea defenses’ ridge provides splendid views over Lake Ijsselmeer. Marken Island, with its traditional wooden houses build on wooden pillars, represents the natural history of The Netherlands as no other.

10: Dyke Enkhuizen – Lelystad

Cycling on dams and dykes; it is a must in The Netherlands. There is one more which truly deserves a spot in our top 12. Not to be confused with the "Afsluitdijk" (between North-Holland and Friesland at the north end of Lake Ijsselmeer), the dyke Enkhuizen – Lelystad is the truly ultimate dyke ride for cyclists keen on a challenge. What makes the route special is that you’ll cycle away from the main road most of the way (which is on the other side of the dyke ridge), allowing you to feel truly on your own, cycling on a 27 km (16 miles) long cycle path in the middle of a sea.

11: Unesco World Heritage Kinderdijk Windmills

Oops; I nearly forgot. Of course you’d like to cycle by some authentic Dutch windmills! Head for Unesco World Heritage Kinderdijk for the largest conglomeration of traditional Dutch windmills. It is one of the few places in The Netherlands where you can still witness how low-lying areas are kept dry by windmills pumping water up from one canal to another. The area is only accessible on foot or by bike. A beautiful cycle path through the centre of the reserve provides stunning views.  

12: Vogelweg, Flevoland

If you enjoy cycling broad, empty stretches and like to experience cycling on the former seabed (over 4 metres below sea level), you should ride the Vogelweg in Flevoland. The scenery reminds me of grant, flat, open vistas in America’s Midwest; a crop farming landscape, interceded by long, straight roads and scattered with wind turbines. There is not much out there; large scale and very unusual. Where else can you experience such a landscape while cycling entirely traffic-free on a smooth cycle path? It can only be in the cyclist’s paradise of The Netherlands!

All routes above feature in my book Cycling in  Amsterdam and The Netherlands - The very best routes in the cyclist's paradise makes you travel beyond Dutch cliches like clogs, windmills and the Amsterdam red light district, allowing you to truly explore the lowlands. The book features 1064 kms of routes and has special chapters explaining the unique Dutch cycling-minded traffic rules and its cycle route signage systems; 164 pages, colour, wiro bound, fits in standard handlebar bag. 

Buy it now and also receive GPS-tracks of all routes!

Another guidebook by the Cycling Dutchman:

The London - Land's End Cycle Route Book is designed for those who LOVE cycling, but don't like traffic. The book takes you onto the most beautiful cycle routes of southern England, including the Camel Trail, Devon Coast to Coast Route, Bristol and Bath Railway path, Thames Valley route and many more! What makes the book unique is that the route is completely continuous, including detailed directions and local knowledge all the way. Get inspired; choose your favourite route sections or go for a full summer holiday adventure; 164 pages, colour, wiro bound, fits in standard handlebar bag.


Buy it now and also receive GPS-tracks of all routes!

The Devon Coast to Coast is southern England's best developed cycle route. Traffic-free paths on former railway lines, such as the Tarka TrailGranite WayDrake's Trail and Plym Valley Way, allow you to explore Devon's stunning countryside at an easy pace. Whether you are young or old, fast or slow, the limited mileage and stunning countryside makes the Devon Coast to Coast an adventure suitable for all! If you love sightseeing from your bike, you can't go wrong with my latest guidebook; 40 pages, colour, wiro bound, fits in standard handlebar bag.