Friday, 18 September 2015

Cycling in Amsterdam and The Netherlands - The second edition of our guidebook!

There haven’t been updates on the Cycling Dutchman Blog for a while. This is not because I have run out of things to write, but simply because I have been very busy working on the second edition of our English-language guidebook about cycling in The Netherlands. It is out now!

With the established demand for good, quality information in English about the cyclist’s paradise and knowing that the first edition of our guide would sell out autumn 2015, I set off about a year ago, asking myself how I could make the guidebook better.  How could I make the pack even more informative and how could I make best use of the available pages? Where could I make improvements on the established routes and what were those world-class destinations not yet on the itinerary?

One thing that really had started to bother me about the first edition of the book that it was really exclusively about cycle touring from one accommodation to another, not catering for those who just like to do day rides from one accommodation. At the same time, when making my regular visits to Amsterdam, I noticed an explosion in the availability of bicycle rentals in the city. Where there were about five rentals catering for tourists about five years ago, there are now nearly fifty!

This all has to do with the increased popularity of Amsterdam around the world as one of those cities you want to visit once in your life. Flights are cheaper than ever before and if you have London, Paris, Barcelona, Berlin and Rome on your wish list, Amsterdam is easy appearing on it too. The only problem with Amsterdam is that its historic World Heritage canal belt city centre is only a couple of square miles wide, where other European capitals have much larger city centres, capable of “storing” many more tourists.

Within 15 years, the number of international visitors to Amsterdam has doubled from 4.5 million per year to 9 million visitors per year, with the number of available hotel rooms growing from 16,000 to over 26,000 in the same period. The public space where the visitors wish to roam remained the same though, causing stress on the existing infrastructure. In Amsterdam, locals call this the Disneyland Effect. There is serious concern that Amsterdam’s City Centre starts to become like a 24 hours theme park, not a place to live, work or to do business.

With the City of Amsterdam and the government of The Netherlands now actively seeking ways to attract tourists away from the Amsterdam historic canal belt to other highlights of the country, and at the same time many people still flocking to the Dutch capital, wouldn't it be neat to use the bicycle to get people to explore beyond the obvious and to provide multiple day rides from Amsterdam’s Central station, all with their own themes and sights and all truly showing what the Dutch cycling culture really is about?  

This is how I came about to create six Amsterdam day rides for my new book, all with flexible distances to cater for everyone. Still starting and ending in the historic canal belt, the routes truly show you the great Dutch capital at its best, keeping you away from the rushed locals as much as possible. The green oasis within the city, such as River Amstel, Vondelpark, Westerpark and the Amsterdam Forest (“Amsterdamse Bos”) are all part of the pack, such as are the mighty trading ship “Amsterdam”, Artis Zoo, the Olympic Stadium, Amsterdam’s famous multi-storey bike park fietsflat, the stunning Rijksmuseum cycle tunnel and the sublime NEMO-rooftop (with the very best city views).

If you like design and architecture, you'll enjoy the rides in the revived eastern docklands. Surprisingly green is North Amsterdam, very close to the city centre and trending with the locals as a desirable place to live. In West Amsterdam, the book takes you to its garden cities and on the south side of the city centre you can experience Amsterdam's Expressionist's building style from the 1920s.  



The Amsterdam day rides also leave the city boundaries to explore Amstelland and its patchwork of scenic waterways, superb Muiderslot Castle, the straights of the busy Amsterdam-Rhine shipping canal, World Heritage Sea Fort Pampus, the old Waterland seawall with magnificent views over Lake Markermeer and last but not least, the popular Zaanse Schans windmill reserve. Altogether, the Amsterdam rides in the book cover a distance of 232 kms (143 miles) of routes; good for a great week of relaxed cycling from one accommodation only!


Of course, the original framework of the first edition of the book is still present in the second edition. There is so much more to The Netherlands than just Amsterdam and our Randstad Circle Route is in many respects a Best of The Netherlands Route, showing you as many aspects of the country as possible within a reasonably small distance. The 337 kms (208 miles) circular starts and ends at Amsterdam Central Station, but also connects to all ferries from/to the United Kingdom. With a route from/to Amsterdam Schiphol Airport included in the book too, you can now truly start cycling straight away, whether you arrive by plane, ferry or train. 


A main feature of the Randstad Circle Route is the excellent tarmac cycling highway through the sand dune reserves of the Dutch coast, providing continuous access to Holland's sandy beaches. The city of The Hague features the country's seat of government and some world-class museums. At Scheveningen, with its stylish Kurhaus, The Hague can easily compete with English seaside resorts as Brighton and Blackpool. Other seaside towns on the route are Katwijk, Noordwijk and Zandvoort. Away from the coast, Haarlem, Utrecht, Gouda and Delft have all scenic medieval city centres with historic canal lay outs and great shopping opportunities. 


Of course, the book couldn't miss out on the Dutch tulip fields. A section of the Randstad Circle is especially adapted to be utilised as a day ride from Amsterdam when taking bikes on trains. We did something similar for World Heritage Kinderdijk Windmills (missing out in the first edition), so you can choose to access this special area as a day trip from Amsterdam (again taking bikes on trains) or as part of the Randstad Circle Route. Other highlights of the Randstad Circle are the River Vecht, the Green Heart, a new route through the City of Glass, Holland's lowest lands (6.7 meters below sea level) and the world's largest steam engine.  


The Randstad Circle should easily cater for another week of relaxed cycling fun. If this wasn't enough, the second edition of the book also keeps featuring the Northern, Eastern and Southern routes of the first edition. These routes all link with the Randstad Circle (and thus with Amsterdam) and provide another 428 kms (264 miles) of routes; good for a third week of great cycling! These routes provide further variety on what the Netherlands has an offer. Utrecht Ridge National Park, the River Rhine, the famous Delta Dams, the world's largest reclaimed island and even some real Dutch hills are part of the pack, bringing the total length of routes in the second edition to a staggering 1,064 kms (656 miles)!


So, how was it possible to include so many more routes in the book? Well, I decided to completely redesign the book, making much more effective use of the available page space and also to rewrite all text. In the new book, the 125 maps (with multiple scales for urban and rural areas) are still at the heart of the navigation, but the many directions in the first edition have truly reduced to those which are essential. This has resulted in less fluff and greater clarity! You can see an example of the new design of the pages here. 


Another important content improvement is the facility listings. In the second edition of the guide, you'll find that the number of listed venues is doubled from 150 to 300, now all with full contact details, such as address, phone numbers and website URLs. Besides hotels, B&Bs, hostels and camp sites, bike shops and bike rentals are now included too! Just for Amsterdam, we now show the 25 most conveniently located bike rentals!


Last but not least all general information in the book is also completely reviewed. Besides chapters about the special cycling-minded traffic rules of The Netherlands and the cycle route signage systems, the second edition also puts the history of the Dutch cycling culture in a wider context. With the international interest in the Dutch cycling world at an all time high, the available information is growing by the day. The guidebook provides a great summary of the Dutch cycling story and also pinpoints you towards the best further background reading sources. 


Altogether, I regard Cycling in Amsterdam and The Netherlands as my best guidebook yet, providing an outstanding pack of information and routes, all in a format that easily fits on your handlebars in a standard bag or cycle map. It is not only good for on-the-road, but also provides great prior-to-the-trip planning fun and can serve as a treasurable long-term memory to a great experience. Given the fact that the book provides three weeks of cycling fun, it could even serve you for three one-week holidays! The GPS-tracks download pack also ensures that all routes of the book can easily be cycled with Navigation App of your choice. If you order the book via us you'll receive the GPS-tracks pack at no extra cost. 

The book with 164 full colour pages (page size 225 x 120 mm), spiral/wiro bound and the electronic GPS-tracks pack costs £18.95 for deliveries within the United Kingdom, £22.95 for deliveries in all other EU-countries (including The Netherlands) and £24.95 for deliveries world-wideBuy it now and also receive GPS-tracks of all routes! 

Retailers interested in stocking the book should be in touch with our distributor Cordee (ISBN 9780957661714). 

More guidebooks 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.