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Holland Cycling Guide

Introduction

Cycling in the Netherlands is a revelation. Simply the most bicycle-friendly country on the planet. A haven for cyclists with more than 20,000 miles of traffic-free bike paths, all of which can be used to explore a magnificently pristine countryside dotted with postcard perfect towns and cities. The scenery is truly impressive with acres of tulip fields, dense forests, tranquil waterways, and working, historic windmills. Water is dominant, with only about 50%  of the country being more than 1 meter above sea level, leading to the need for the country to be be managed by the world’s most complex network of dikes and canals.Holland_Guidebook

The following guide is a compilation of  background, safety and day-by-day routes of the area. Complete with restaurant suggestions and “Points of Interest,” this guide will provide you with thorough, applicable travel information for your next cycling tour through Holland.

The Day-by-Day section of the guidebook will preview each days route and scenery or points of interest along the way. It’s suggested that you read this before you head out on the day’s ride. Typically, there are three levels of riding each day: easiest, intermediate and challenge.

We are passionate about cycle touring and believe there is no better way to experience the sights, sounds and scents of an area than on two wheels.

Enjoy!

Background on the Area

Holland Highlights

Holland_tulipsTULIPS – The Dutch are the world leaders in tulip cultivation. They also excel in bulbs such as daffodils, hyacinths, and crocuses.AlkmaarCHEESE MARKETS – Huge wheels of cheese are carried around and weighed on old town market scales which is quite the sight.Holland_museumsMUSEUMS –A world leader in the field of art and culture there are hundreds of museums to visit. Favorites include the Van Gogh Museum, the Anne Frank house, and Molenmuseum de Valk.holland_windmillWINDMILLS – Perhaps nothing more emblematic of the Netherlands than its Windmills. There are more then 1200 surviving originals.dutch_cyclepathINFRASTRUCTURE – With over 20,000 miles of traffic-free cycle paths, trains that welcome bikes, and roads where cyclists have right-of way the Netherlands is built for exploring by bike.

Geography

There’s no arguing that the geography of the Netherlands is a product of human endeavor. Everywhere you look, from the neat rows of polders (areas of drained land to facilitate agriculture) to the omnipresent dykes, everything looks so well-planned and organized. “God created the world, but the Dutch created the Netherlands,” as the saying goes. Much of this tinkering with nature has been out of necessity – it’s hard to live underwater for any length of time. There’s no denying the Netherlands is a low, flat country (Netherlands in Dutch means ‘low land’). Its lowest point – the town of Nieuwerkerk aan den IJessel, near Rotterdam – is 6.74m below sea level, while its highest point – the Vaalserberg in Limburg – is a meagre 321m above.

The term ‘Holland’ is often thought of as the whole country of the Netherlands however it is actually the combined provinces of Noord-Holland (North Holland) and Zuid-Holland (South Holland).

This tour focuses on the west of the Netherlands and our routes explore the provinces of North Holland, South Holland, and Utrecht with the North Sea to the west.

Climate

The climate in Holland is a Marine West Coast climate, similar to England and Northern France. The proximity to the North Sea and Atlantic Ocean result in relatively cool summers and mild winters. Being a small and flat country, Holland has a quite uniform climate though the coast is a little cooler and windier than further inland.

The best time to visit Holland is from mid-May to mid-September, when the temperatures are typically mild or pleasantly warm. From mid-April to mid-May, the country is in bloom with the fields full of tulips and other flowers. June, July and August are the warmest months. Whenever you choose to travel, you should pack waterproofs and some warm clothing as most weeks will have a mixture of sunshine and some rain.

The charts below show the monthly average temperatures (in Fahrenheit) and rainfall (in inches) for Utrecht: a town at the center of our tours.

Average Monthly Temperatures in Fahrenheit*
Average Monthly Rainfall in Inches*

*Data Source: www.intellicast.com

Dutch History for Those …

 … in a Rush

It is complicated. Greed, lust, war, pirates and high-sea adventures. But all works out in the end with a society based on a belief in human rights, tolerance, and consensus.

… with a Little More Time

  • 3,000 – 2,000 BC, People living in what is now the Drenthe province. Long before Stonehenge these people move enormous rocks and create structures.
  • 59 BC, The Romans arrive. They build towns, roads, farms that can still be seen today.
  • 800 AD, Christianity arrives and kills those that don’t convert from various Celtic beliefs.
  • 1150 – 1300, Dams are built in the first efforts of an ongoing tug of war against the sea.
  • 1200, The age of city states is in full bloom with lords ruling riverside towns. Trading between towns results in massive wealth and power for these lords.
  • 1275, Amsterdam is founded and gains its first direct access to the sea via the Zuiderzee.
  • 1287, The Zuiderzee floods and upwards of 80,000 die.
  • 1419, The start of the end of powerful city states. Dukes consolidate. Freedom suffers.
  • 1452, Fire devastates wooden Amsterdam. Only brick and tile to be used in future.
  • 1519, Charles V of Spain is crowned Holy Roman Emperor. Amsterdam becomes Catholic, Protestants are tolerated in some parts.
  • 1555 – 1566, Philip II cracks down on Protestants, religious war ensues.
  • 1566-68, Low Countries revolt against lack of religious freedom, launching the Eighty Years’ War. In Friesland the rebels win their first battle, immortalized in the Dutch national anthem.
  • 1596, The Dutch East India Company is formed.
  • 1600s, The Golden Age places Amsterdam securely on the map with Rembrandt, the grand inner ring of canals constructed, and the population surges to 200,000.
  • 1602, Amsterdam becomes the site of the world’s first stock exchange.
  • 1620, Pilgrims arrive in the New World aboard the leaky Mayflower. Their voyage began in Leiden.
  • 1650, Big mistake: the Dutch infamously trade away the colony of New Amsterdam (now New York) to the British.
  • 1795, French troops arrive. Provinces unite with Amsterdam as their capital.
  • 1813-1814, French are overthrown, and Willem VI of Orange is crowned as Dutch King Willem I. The Protestant north and Catholic south combine as the United Kingdom of the Netherlands.
  • 1830, With help from the French, the southern provinces secede to form the Kingdom of Belgium.
  • 1865-76, A period of rapid economic and social change. The North Sea Canal is dug, the Dutch railway system is expanded, and socialist government established.
  • 1914-20, The Netherlands remains neutral in WWI while trading for both sides.
  • 1919, KLM takes to the skies, now the world’s oldest airline.
  • 1932, after centuries of schemes, dyke-building and floods, the Zuiderzee reclamation begins, spurred on by a deadly 1916 storm surge. The mammoth Afsluitdijk (dyke) is completed, beginning the land-reclamation process. The name is changed to Ijsselmeer (Lake Ijssel).
  • 1939, The Dutch government launches Westerbork as an internment camp to house Jewish refugees. The Nazis later use it as a transportation point for 107,000 Jews sent to death camps.
  • 1940, Germany invades, Rotterdam is destroyed by the Luftwaffe. There is a Dutch exile government in London by Queen Wilhemina.
  • 1944-45, The Allies liberate the southern Netherlands but the north and west are cut off from supplies leading to thousands perishing in the ‘Winter of Hunger’.
  • 1946, The UN-chartered International Court of Justice sets up shop in Den Haag.
  • 1958, The Delta Project is launched following great floods of Zeeland in 1953 (more death and destruction). Vast construction continues for four decades.
  • 1980, The investiture of Queen Beatrix is disrupted by a smoke bomb and riot on the Dam.
  • 2001, Same sex marriage is legalized in the Netherlands, the first country in the world to do so.
  • 2002, Leading politician Pim Fortuyn is assassinated. He took a severe line on immigration and integration.
  • 2004, Activist film maker Theo van Gogh, a critic of Islam, is assassinated, sparking debate over the limits of Dutch multiculturalism.
  • 2013, After a 33-year reign, Queen Beatrix abdicates in favor of her eldest son, Willem-Alexander, who becomes the first king in 123 years.

What You Never Knew…

    1. The Netherlands’ national anthum, the Wilhelmus, is the oldest in the world. Both the words and music date from the 16th century, and in it the Dutch king speaks of “Dietse Bloed” which is an old word for Nederlands (Dutch).
    2. Dutch men are the tallest in the world with a height of 182.5cm, while Dutch women rank as the second tallest in the world with a height of 169cm. Although Europeans and Americans towered over the average Dutch in the mid-18th century, Dutch males have grown some 20cm over the last 200 years compared to just 6cm that Americans grew. Research shows it is not only due to Dutch DNA but also environmental influences such as universal healthcare and nutrition, low social inequality, specifically their substantial intake of dairy products.
    3. The Netherlands produces around 6 million souvenir clogs each year. The exact origin of the wooden footwear is unknown – and not thought to be Dutch – although the oldest surviving clog in Europe was found in Nieuwendijk, Amsterdam, dating almost 800 years and resembling Dutch clogs today. Clogs are rarely worn although they are ingrained in Dutch culture, for example, there are many clog-related idiomatic expressions. Traditionally, klompen (clogs) were used as protective footwear for labor workers as they’re sturdy, waterproof and easy to clean, and in rural Netherlands they are still sometimes seen in the fields.
    4. The Netherlands is the lowest country in Europe with 26 percent of the Netherlands sitting below sea level and some 60 percent of the population living 5m below sea level. Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport, where most visitors land, is three meters below sea level.
    5. There are around 18 million bikes in the country, including the clever (if not so elegant) bakfiets which combine a bike and a wheelbarrow. Ideal for taking the kids to school!
    6. Cycling in the Netherlands is the safest in the world. A study from Rutgers University reported the Netherlands has the lowest rates of serious injuries per million kilometers cycled. This is thanks to 35,000km of excellent cycle lanes and that bikes get the same respect as cars – and not just on the roads.
    7. The people of Alkmaar are called cheese heads and wear this name with pride. This derives from the fact that during the siege the people of Alkmaar wore ‘helmets’ on their heads to defend themselves. These helmets were the cheese molds in which cheeses were pressed, thus the name “cheese heads” was born.

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Towns and Cities

Utrecht

Overview

Utrecht is one of the Netherlands’ oldest cities and is the country’s fourth largest. Its marvel is the central “OldUtrecht Canal” (Oude Gracht”), without doubt the most scenic canal of the country. It is located on the historic course of the River Vecht and was created by damming the river at the city boundaries. This made it possible to lower the water level by approximately four meters, creating an inner-city harbour wharf system with storage cellars below street level. Most cellars now house restaurants, art galleries, offices and even a B&B!

The canals form a restful core to Utrecht town but elsewhere is transformation “cental”. There is a spectacular new train station adjoined by a greatly expanded concert hall that includes five venues.

There is a 40,000 strong student population in Utrecht, the largest in the country, which makes it a vibrant town. There are subterranean music cellars, movie-house-pubs, and a slew of special beer cafés.

For many years Utrecht was regarded as the top city in all the Netherlands, later on replaced by none other than Amsterdam. Throughout the centuries Utrecht was visited by a variety of religions, each trying to become the principal one in the region. Utrecht really has its share of cathedrals, churches and religious headquarters which is clear when you explore the town.

Eating & Drinking

Utrecht has many fantastic restaurants and pubs to choose from. The wharf-side restaurants on the Oudegracht are an obvious place to explore for dining options. However, it’s better known for its views than culinary delights; and generally Utrecht’s best restaurants lie elsewhere.

Gys. Everything is organic at this bright and airy bistro, from the burgers and sandwiches to the salads and desserts. They have recently opened up a second restaurant slightly further out of central Utrecht. Open 10:00 AM – 9:30 PM every day. Address: Voorstraat 77, 3512 AL Utrecht, Netherlands. +31 30 259 1788. https://gysutrecht.nl/

ANNA Pancakes is a great brunch spot for some delicious pancakes (surprise surprise). Service can be slow but if you can grab an outside table and people-watch while you wait you won’t notice. Open 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM every day. Address: Voor Clarenburg 10-12, 3511 JE Utrecht, Netherlands. +31 6 41040929. https://www.annapancakes.nl/

For a fancier meal we recommend De Goedheyd. The menu is French-international oriented with a classic modern twist. Under the leadership of chef Dustin Pardoen, they say “our team has only one goal: to surprise, pamper and enjoy an evening in this warm atmosphere”. Open Tuesday to Saturday 5:30 PM to 1:00 AM. Closed Sunday and Monday. Address: Hamburgerstraat 17, 3512 NP Utrecht. +31 30 246 8472. http://www.degoedheyd.nl/

Restaurant San Siro is a great Italian option, with a fantastic atmosphere to match. Open: Tuesday to Thursday 5:00 PM – 12:00 AM, Friday to Saturday 12:00 PM – 12:00 AM, Sundays 4:00 PM – 11:00 PM. Closed on Mondays. Address: Oudkerkhof 9, 3512 GH Utrecht. +31 30 232 1683. https://www.sansiro.nl/

Blauw is the place for stylist Indonesian food in Utrecht. Young and old alike enjoy superb rijsttafels (an array of spicy dishes served with rice) amid the reddish décor that mixes vintage art with hip minimalism. Open: 6:00 PM -10:00 PM every day, and from 5:00 PM on Saturday and Sunday. Address: Springweg 64, 3511 VT Utrecht. +31 30 234 2463. https://restaurantblauw.nl/indonesisch-restaurant-in-utrecht/

Go for a drink at ‘t Oude Pothuys, a darkened barrel-vaulted medieval cellar. This cozy pub is highly music, from jam sessions by emerging bands to funk, blues, and electro by established acts. Enjoy your drinks on the canal-side pier. Open: Wednesday to Sunday 12:00 PM till late, Monday to Tuesday from 3:00 PM. Address: Oudegracht 279, 3511 PA Utrecht. +31 30 231 8970. http://www.pothuys.nl/

Sites and Things to Do

Hour long canal tours are a fine way to see the old town and the old water-level warehouses. The landing of Schuttevaer Boat Cruise is on Oudegracht just south of Lange Viestraat. Price for adults €12.95. Open 11:00 AM to 5:30 PM every day. +31 30 231 9377. http://www.schuttevaer.com/

The Holland Festival Oude Muziek (Festival of Ancient music) celebrates music from the Middle Ages to the baroque period. It takes place in late August. https://oudemuziek.nl/

The Dutch film industry may be tiny, but its output is generally very good. See for yourself at the Nederlands Film Festival in late September. www.filmfestival.nl

The Domtoren (Dom Tower) is a historical building, a remnant of Utrecht’s original 14th-century cathedral. It is 112m high, Europe’s second highest cathedral tower (the highest being Cologne’s in Germany), with 50 bells. It’s worth the 465-step climb to the top for unbeatable city views; on a clear day you can see Amsterdam. Visit is by guided tour only, departing on the hour. Tickets are purchased at the tourist office across the square (details below). The cathedral with its tower are the Utrecht’s most striking medieval landmarks. Following almost 300 years of construction, in 1674 hurricane-force winds blew down the nave, leaving only the tower, transept and chancel that we see today. A pavement pattern on the square in front of the tower shows the original contours of the cathedral. Open Monday to Saturday 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM, Sunday and Monday 12:00 PM to 5:00 PM. Address: Domplein 21, 3512 JC Utrecht. +31 30 236 0010. https://www.domtoren.nl/en

Flora’s Hof is a petite garden, immediately to the right of the Domtoren entrance. It’s a peaceful retreat from which to observe the tower.

The Domkerk (also known as St Martin’s Cathedral) is immediately north of the Domtoren, the surviving chancel of the cathedral. Behind the church is the most charming component of this ecclesiastical troika: Kloosterhof, a monastic garden and peaceful refuge. Open May to September 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM every day, October to April 11:00 AM to 4:00 PM, and slightly different hours on weekends. Address: Achter de Dom 1, 3512 JN Utrecht. +31 30 231 0403. http://www.domkerk.nl/

Stadskasteel Oudaen is an old city castle, built in 1276 for the Zoudenbalch family. It is a unique structure as it is one of the first stone buildings in Utrecht. It is now a heritage building and restaurant, and even has its own brewery. Open 8:00 AM – 2:00 AM every day. Address: Oudegracht 99, 3511 AE Utrecht. +31 30 202 0800. https://www.oudaen.nl/contact/

There are many, many museums dotted around Utrecht. The Centraal Museum houses applied arts in a wide-ranging collection that also features paintings by artists of the Utrecht School and a bit of De Stijl to boot. Also in the museum is the world’s most extensive Gerrit Rietveld collection, a dream for all minimalist. There’s even a Viking longboat that was excavated from the local mud, plus a sumptuous 17th century dollhouse.

Museum Catharijneconvent is the pick of Utrecht’s museums, with the finest collection of medieval religious art in the Netherlands – virtually the history of Christianity, in fact – precisely laid out in a Gothic former convent and an 18th-century canal-side house. Open Tuesday to Friday 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM, and Saturday to Sunday 11:00 AM – 5:00 PM. Closed on Mondays. Address: Lange Nieuwstraat 38, 3512 PH Utrecht. https://www.catharijneconvent.nl/

Walk down Voetiusstraat from behind the Domkerk to Pieterskerk, completed in 1048 it is the oldest Romanesque church in the Netherlands. Open Monday to Thursday from 8:00 AM – 5:00 PM. Address: Pieterskerkhof 5, 3512 JR Utrecht. http://pieterskerk-utrecht.nl/

A really quaint visit is to Museum voor het Kruideniersbedrijf, an old grocery store. Tucked into a narrow lane, lovely ladies in aprons dole out sweets and tea from decorative containers. Pick up a block of white liquorice candy to add to hot milk – an old Dutch tradition. Free admission. Open: Tuesday to Saturday from 12.30 PM – 4.30 PM. Closed Sunday to Monday. Address: Hoogt 6, 3512 GW Utrecht.http://www.kruideniersmuseum.nl

There is also the Railway Museum where you can discover the story behind 175 years of railway in The Netherlands. There are magnificent historical trains to explore and a mine lift takes you back to the time before the invention of the steam engine. Entrance: € 17.50. Open: 10.00 AM – 5.00 PM Tuesday to Sunday. Closed on Mondays. Address: Maliebaanstation 1, 3581 XW, Utrecht. https://www.visit-utrecht.com/locations/1783520371/railway-museum

If architecture is an interest of yours then the UNESCO World Heritage site of Rietveld Schröder House is a great choice. Designed in 1924 and a private residence until 1985 it is an architectural highlight of the De Stijl movement and an iconic landmark in Utrecht. Tours available for €17 and should be booked in advance. Open: Tuesdays – Sundays from 11.00 AM. Closed on Mondays. Address: Rietveld Schröder House, Prins Hendriklaan 50, 3583 EP, Utrecht. https://www.rietveldschroderhuis.nl/en/rietveld-schroder-house?set_language=en

Useful Contacts

Tourist Information Office. Also sells tickets for the Dom Tower. Open 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM every day. Address: Domplein 9, 3512 JC Utrecht. +31 900 https://www.bezoek-utrecht.nl/plan-je-bezoek/vvv-informatiecentrum

Shopping:

The Hoog Catherijne shopping center makes a formidable buffer zone between the train station and the center of town. Between the shopping center and the town hall are pedestrian streets with lots of chains and mainstream shops. For more interesting choices, wander down Voorstraat and especially Twijnstraat, the southern extension of the Oudegracht’s east bank.

Huge markets take place on Vredenburg on Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday. Potentially the most rare however, is the Saturday fabric market on Breedstraat.

There are many little supermarkets dotted over the town which you will pass during your wanderings.

AH (Albert Heijn) is a very popular chain of supermarkets that you’ll find in every town you stay. There are at least 3 in Utrecht. Open from 7:00 AM / 8:00AM to 9:00 PM, depending on which one you find. One of them is located Oudegracht 85, 3511 AD Utrecht, Netherlands.

Ekoplaza is a chain of organic supermarkets. Open Monday to Saturday 9:00 AM – 7:00 PM, and Sunday 12:00 PM – 6:00 PM. Address: Zadelstraat 16-18, 3511 LT Utrecht, Netherlands.

Leiden

Overview

Leiden is one of the Netherlands’ great cities. Laced with canals that are attractively lined by 17th-century Leidenbuildings, it is renowned for being Rembrandt’s birthplace, the home of the Netherlands’ oldest and most prestigious university (Einstein was a regular professor), and the place America’s pilgrims raised money to lease the leaky Mayflower that took them to the New World in 1620.

Leiden’s cache of museums, all within walking distance of each other, is a major draw, as is wandering along its picturesque canals. There is also a strong night-life scene, fueled by a 23,000-strong student population.

Leiden’s university was a gift from Willem the Silent in 1575 for withstanding two Spanish sieges in 1573 and 1574. It was an awful time, ending only when the Sea Beggars arrived and repelled the invaders. According to folklore, the retreating Spanish retreated so quickly, they left a kettle ofhutspot (hotchpot, stew) abandoned on the stove – today it’s still a staple of Dutch menus in restaurants and homes.

Decades later, Protestants fleeing persecution elsewhere in the Low Countries, France and England arrived to a somewhat warmer welcome. Most notable was the group led by John Robinson, who would sail to America and into history as the pilgrims aboard the Mayflower.

Wealth from the linen industry buttressed Leiden’s growing prosperity, and during the 17th century the town produced several brilliant artists, most famously Rembrandt van Rijn, better known by his first name alone. He was born in Leiden in 1606 and remained here for 26 years before achieving fame in Amsterdam.

Eating & Drinking

Brasserie de Engelenbak is an elegant bistro right next to the 17th-century Marekerk. It has a wonderful menu that changes with the seasons and is local and organic wherever possible. It does have some outside seating to enjoy views of the passing crowds. Open Tuesday to Sunday 11:00 AM to 12:00 AM, closed on Mondays. Address: Lange Mare 38, 2312 GS Leiden. +31 71 512 5440. http://deengelenbak.nl/

A casual Italian that is worth a visit is VIP Leiden. It is a chain, but they have a great selection of pizza, pasta and salads, they give a friendly service with a great atmosphere. Open 11:00 AM – 12:00 AM every day. Address: Turfmarkt 8, 2312 CE Leiden. +31 71 532 6118. http://www.veryitalianpizza.nl/

LeidenAnother great pizza option is Fratelli. The food is wonderful, authentic Italian, with good service (Italian waiters) and central location. Address: Lange Mare 112, 2312 GV Leiden. +31 71 513 0269. https://www.fratelli.nl/

Lot en de Walvis (meaning “little things mean a lot”) has a fantastic terrace on the water’s edge that, on a sunny day, is one of the nicest spots in Leiden. Their food is also delicious, from breakfast (French toast with cinnamon sugar, eggs Benedict on sourdough) to lunch (Thai yellow curry, fish burgers, smoked mackerel pasta) and dinner (fiery harissa lamb skewers with yoghurt dip, pear and hazelnut cake). Reservations strongly advised. Open 9:00 AM – 12:00 AM every day. Address: Haven 1, 2312 MG Leiden, Netherlands. +31 71 763 0383. https://lotendewalvis.nl/

If you’re after extravagance (and the price alongside it) then we highly recommend In den Doofpot. Given the sky-high caliber of chef Patrick Brugman’s food, these prices are a veritable steal. This is extremely assured and creative cooking, as good to look at as it is to eat. Vegetarian menus are available on request, as are wine pairings by the glass. Open Monday to Friday 12:30 PM – 10:00 PM, Saturdays 5:30 PM – 10:00 PM, Closed on Sundays. Address: Turfmarkt 9, 2312 CE Leiden. +31 71 512 2434. https://www.indendoofpot.nl/

De Klok. On one of the town’s major food strips you’ll notice a large klok (clock) and quirky black-and-white awning signally this restaurant. The menu is resolutely European, drawing on the cuisines of countries including Belgium, France, Spain, Italy and Sweden to devise a small but very tasty seasonal menu. Diners can order à la carte or opt for the well-priced set menu. Open 6:00 PM – 10:00 PM every day. Address: Kloksteeg 3, 2311 SK Leiden. +31 71 512 3053. http://www.restaurantdeklok.nl/

For a lively night out try De Twee Spieghels, an intimate wine bar where there is live jazz at least four nights a week. Open Monday to Friday 4:00 PM – 3:00 AM, Saturday 2:00 PM – 4:00 AM, and Sunday 3:00 PM – 3:00 AM. Address: Nieuwstraat 11, 2312 KA Leiden. +31 71 887 3943. https://www.detweespieghels.nl/

Sites and Things to Do

The Wall Poems of Leiden. Over 120 poems can be found on the walls of Leiden, in a wide range of languages and scripts. There are brochures covering the first 101 wall poems, called Dicht op de Muur (Poem on the Wall, or Close to the Wall) parts 1 and 2. These can be found in most bookshops in Leiden. There is a great website (https://muurgedichten.nl/en) with information on the movement and includes tours of the different poems e.g. nature, innovators, liberty.

As the birthplace of the artist it would seem wrong to stay in Leiden and not visit Museum De Lakenhal. The town’s foremost museum, it displays works by native son Rembrandt (among others). It has been recently closed (2016-June 2019) while it undergoes major renovation and expansion. Address: Oude Singel 32, 2312 RA Leiden. https://www.lakenhal.nl/nl

The Rijksmuseum van Oudheden has world-class collections of Greek, Roman and Egyptian artefacts, the pride of which is the extraordinary Temple of Taffeh, a gift from a previous Egyptian president to the Netherlands for helping to save ancient Egyptian monuments from flood. Open 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM every day. Address: Rapenburg 28, 2311 EW Leiden. https://www.rmo.nl/

Hortus Botanicus Leiden is one of Europe’s oldest botanical gardens (1590; the oldest was created in Padua, LeidenItaly, in 1545). It is home to the Netherlands’ oldest descendants of the Dutch tulips. It is a wonderful place to relax, with explosions of tropical color and a fascinating (and steamy) greenhouse. Open Tuesday to Sunday from 10:00 AM – 4:00 PM, closed on Mondays. Address: Rapenburg 73, 2311 GJ Leiden. https://www.hortusleiden.nl/

Molen De Valk is Leiden’s landmark windmill museum. It receives loving care, with constant renovation, and many consider it the best example of its kind. When wind conditions are right its arms are free to turn ‘whenever possible’, and it can still grind grain. Open Tuesday to Saturday 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM, Sundays 1:00 PM – 5:00 PM, closed on Mondays. Address: 2e Binnenvestgracht 1, 2312 BZ Leiden. https://molenmuseumdevalk.nl/

De Burcht is an 11th-century citadel on an artificial hill. It lost its protective functions as the city grew around it. It’s now a park with lovely places to view the steeples and rooftops, with a café at its base. Open 8:00 AM – 10:00 PM every day. Address: Van der Sterrepad 5, 2312 EK Leiden. https://www.visitleiden.nl/nl/

Leiden had several city gates in the Middle Ages, but only the Morspoort (built 1669) and Zijlpoort (built 1667) survived the centuries. The Morspoort is found on the western edge of the city. In the past this was not exactly the most charming point to enter the city since the bodies of hanged criminals were on display here. LeidenFortunately, they no longer do this and the Morspoort is now a beautiful national monument with its striking cupola and wonderful entrance. Both gates were built by Willem van der Helm, who also designed five of the original eight in total. Morspoort address: Park de Put 1, 2312 BM Leiden. Zijlpoorta address: 2312 ME Leiden.

The Netherlands has a great history in the development of sciences and medicine. Museum Boerhaave shows over five centuries of inventions and discoveries in several sciences. Address: Open: 10:00AM – 5:00PM Tuesday to Sundays. Closed on Mondays. Lange Sint Agnietenstraat 10, 2312 WC Leiden. +31 71 751 9999. https://rijksmuseumboerhaave.nl/

Naturalis is the Netherlands Centre for Biodiversity, one of the top five natural history museums in the world. Open: 10:00AM – 5:00PM every day. Address: Darwinweg 2, 2333 CR Leiden. https://www.naturalis.nl/

Leiden grinds to a halt on October 3rd for Leidens Ontzet, commemorating the day the Spanish-caused starvation ended in 1574. The revelry is undiminished more than four centuries later, and there is much eating of the ceremonial hutspot, herring and white bread. Beer-fueled celebrations kick off the night before.

Shopping

Fromagerie Bon is a lovely small cheese shop with cheeses from all over the world. They also have great home-made pâtés and terrines and advise you on matching drinks and other delicious products. Open: 10:00AM – 7:00PM Wednesday to Friday, 9:00AM – 7:00PM Saturdays, 12:00PM – 5:00PM Sundays, 11:00AM – 6:00PM Mondays, closed on Tuesdays. +31 64 616 0173. Address: Oude Rijn 1, 2312 HB Leiden. http://www.fromageriebon.nl/

Useful Contacts

Tourist Information Office is called VVV Leiden and the address is Stationsweg 26, 2312 AV Leiden. Very helpful staff. Open Monday to Friday 7:00 AM – 7:00 PM, Saturday 10:00 AM – 4:00 PM, and Sunday 11:00 AM – 3:00 PM. +31 71 516 6000. https://www.visitleiden.nl/nl/plan-jouw-bezoek/informatie/vvv-leiden

Stores: There are many supermarkets around Leiden. There is a SPAR city located on Lange Mare 78, 2312 GT Leiden. Open Monday to Saturday 8:00 AM – 10:00 PM and Sundays 10:00 AM – 8:00 PM.

There is another AH supermarket in Leiden. Open Monday to Saturday 8:00 AM – 10:00 PM and Sundays 9:00 AM – 8:00 PM. Address: Hooigracht 85, 2312 KP Leiden.

For a lovely, unique interior shop try Wonderful Nature. The name of this store says a lot, because they sell all kinds of interior accessories, including beautiful butterflies in bell jars. The store owner makes these herself in her atelier. Open Tuesday to Saturday 10:00 AM – 5:30PM, closed Sunday – Monday. Address: Breestraat 114C, 2311 CW Leiden.


The Wall Poems of Leiden

This project began in 1992, with the idea to paint 101 poems on external walls in Leiden. There are now more than 114 poems around the city, although some have been damaged or worn away by the weather.


Haarlem

Overview

Haarlem is city characterized by its historic architecture including grand churches and impressive museums,Haarlem cobble-stone streets, intimate bars, fine cafes and unique canals. If you have a rest day here, you could always take the 15-minute train journey into the capital, Amsterdam.

The name Haarlem derives from Haarloheim, meaning a wooded place on high, sandy soil. Its origins date back to the 10th century when the Counts of Holland set up a toll post on the Spaarne River. Haarlem quickly became the most important port after Amsterdam, until the Spanish invasion in 1572. The city surrendered after a seven-month siege, but worse was yet to come: upon capitulation virtually the entire population was slaughtered. After the Spanish were finally repelled by Willem van Oranje, Haarlem soared into the prosperity of the Golden Age, attracting painters and artists from throughout Europe. The 1658-founded Dutch town of Harlem in New York City is named after this quaint Dutch town.

Eating & Drinking

For a truly authentic Italian, we highly recommend Back to Basics. Using only organic ingredients, this small, family-run restaurant is one to remember. Fantastic atmosphere with the Neapolitan family shouting to each other across the restaurant, Dad (who’s the chef) singing along to the Italian music. The décor can feel quite tired when you enter but look past that for a fantastic evening. Reservations advised. Open Wednesday to Sunday from 5:00 PM – 10:00 PM, closed Monday and Tuesday. Address: Zijlstraat 35, 2011 TK Haarlem. +31 23 202 5125. http://www.pizzeriabacktobasics.nl/

We highly recommend Jetties, an organic food and ice cream café. The food is simple but very good, with options of burgers, high tea, salads, pasta and of course ice cream! Open every day 10:30 AM – 9:30 PM. Address: Kruisweg 57, 2011 LB Haarlem. +31 23 524 2876.https://www.jetties.eu/

Café Colette is a lovely evening restaurant with a limited but delicious menu and a great wine menu. Great fish and meat selection, with only 1 or 2 vegetarian options. Open daily from 4:00 PM – 12:00 AM. Address: Oude Groenmarkt 22, 2011 HL Haarlem, Netherlands. +31 23 532 9357. https://cafecolette.nl/

Toujours is a delightfully urbane bistro that has honed its menu to perfection and uses modest, simple ingredients to create outstanding meals that are inspired by French cuisine. Open 11:30 AM – 11:00 PM every day. Address: Oude Groenmarkt 10-12, 2011 HL Haarlem. www.restauranttoujours.nl

For a top pizza and people-watching spot go to Nolita Pizzabar. They also do “pizzattas” which are slightly smaller pizzas with the idea to order a few and share. Open 5:00 PM – 11:00PM every day, (from 4:00 PM on the weekends). Address: Lange Veerstraat 17, 2011 DA Haarlem, Netherlands. +31 23 583 5128. https://www.nolitapizzabar.nl/

Jopenkerk is known as Haarlem’s most atmospheric place to drink. Inside this stained-glass-windowed church from 1910, is an independent brewery. They sell brews such as citrusy Hopen, fruity Lente Bier or chocolatey Koyt along with classic Dutch bar snacks (bitterballen or croquettes, cheese) beneath the gleaming copper vats. Reservations required. Open 10:00 – 1:00 AM every day. Address: Gedempte Voldersgracht 2, 2011 WD Haarlem. +31 23 533 4114. http://www.jopenkerk.nl/haarlem

Sites and Things to Do

Grote_Kerk_van_St_BavoThe great Grote Markt is the stunning town square, lined with historic buildings, cafés, and restaurants. Markets are held here twice a week, with mouthwatering fresh bread and delicious vegetables enticing you to taste the goods. There are other markets around Haarlem, but the largest market is on the Grote Markt square, under St. Bavo Cathedral, and is held on Mondays and Saturdays. Markets have been held on this square since the middle-ages.

The gothic Grote Kerk van St Bavo is topped by a towering 50m-high steeple and contains some fine Renaissance artworks. The “main event” is the incredible Müller organ – one of the most magnificent in the world – standing at 30m high with about 5000 pipes. And to add to the hype, it was played by Handel and a 10-year-old Mozart. There are free hour-long recitals that take place in July and August on Tuesdays at 8:15 PM, on Thursdays at 4:00 PM, and at 2:00 PM on the last Saturday of the month year-round. Open Monday to Saturday from 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM. Also open on Sundays from 12:00 PM to 4:00 PM during July and August. Admission €2.50 per adult. Address: Grote Markt 22, 2011 RD Haarlem. +31 23 553 2040. https://www.bavo.nl/en/

A short stroll south of Grote Markt is the Frans Hals Museum, a beautiful 17th-century building. It displays works by a many of the greatest old masters of Holland. Almost all of the pieces found in the museum date back to the Dutch Golden Age when the Haarlem was a chief painting center. Visitors in the museum can easily spend an entire day viewing the landscapes created by Jacob van Ruisdael, sea battles by Hendrik Cornelisz Vroom and portraits by Frans Hals. Open Tuesday to Sunday from 11:00 AM – 5:00 PM, closed on Mondays. Address: Groot Heiligland 62, 2011 ES Haarlem. +31 23 511 5775. http://www.franshalsmuseum.nl/nl/

In 1778, De Adriaan windmill was built on the foundations of an ancient defensive tower near the center of the town. It is a “smock mill”, a wooden towered mill, and due to its picturesque site on the Spaarne river and also owing to its great height, De Adriaan was one of the most striking features of Haarlem for centuries until the dramatic end to its existence in 1932, when the windmill burnt to the ground. Thankfully, through the efforts of many local citizens, De Adriaan has now been rebuilt. Open: 1:00PM – 5:00PM Monday to Friday, 10:30AM – 5:00PM Saturday to Sunday. Address: Papentorenvest 1A, 2011 AV Haarlem. +31 23 545 0259. http://www.molenadriaan.nl/en/

Teylers Museum is the Netherlands first and oldest museum, open to the public since 1784. A visit to Teylers Museum is like a voyage through time, a voyage of discovery in the world of art and science. It boasts an extensive collection of paintings by the old masters as well as a large collection of fossils, minerals and scientific instruments. Open: 10:00AM – 5:00PM Monday to Friday. 11:00AM – 5:00PM Saturday to Sunday. Address: Spaarne 16, 2011 CH Haarlem. +31 23 516 0960. https://www.teylersmuseum.nl/nl

An interesting visit for those interested in WWII is Corrie ten Boom House, also known as ‘the hiding place’. Named for the matriarch of the family that lived in the house during the war, she used a secret compartment in her bedroom, hiding hundreds of Jews and Dutch resistors until they could be spirited away to safety. In 1944 the family was betrayed and sent to concentration camps where three died. Later, Corrie ten Boom toured the world preaching peace. The museum can only be visited with a guided tour. Reservations must be made at least 5 days in advance. Open Tuesday to Saturday 10:00 AM – 3:30 PM, closed Sunday to Monday. Address: Barteljorisstraat 19, 2011 RA Haarlem. +31 23 531 0823. https://www.corrietenboom.com/en/home

Haarlem also offers canal tours. Take a 75-minute tour in vintage open-top boats, they depart every 90 minutes. Cost is €14 per person. Open April to September, Tuesday to Sunday, first departure at 11:30 AM. Address: Spaarne t.h.v. huisnr. 17 / across from house no. 17, 2011 CD Haarlem.http://www.haarlemcanaltours.com/

 Useful Contacts

Tourist Information Office is called VVV Haarlem and the address is Grote Markt 2, 2011 RD Haarlem. Open Tuesday to Saturday 9:30 AM – 5:00 PM, Sunday 12:00 PM – 3:00 PM, and Monday 1:00 PM – 5:30 PM. +31 23 531 7325. https://www.visithaarlem.com/nl/wat-te-doen/vvv-haarlem

Stores: There are lots of shopping opportunities in Haarlem, it boasts a line-up of clothes shops, jewelry shops, antiques shops, boutiques, international retail chains and specialty shops. The Grote Houtstraat, Barteljorisstraat and Zijlstraat are the big shopping streets in Haarlem. This is where you will find the popular brands that are probably found in every city. Walk a little further and discover the special little shopping streets, where the shops sell surprising objects and special collections. We recommend the Schagchelstraat, Kleine Houtstraat, Anegang, Warmoesstraat, Koningstraat and Gierstraat.

If you need a supermarket there is an AH located Kruisstraat 10, 2011 PX Haarlem. Open Monday to Saturday from 8:00 AM – 10:00 PM, and Sundays from 10:00 AM – 8:00 PM. +31 23 532 3555.

Otherwise there’s a Marqt in town, which is an organic food market. Open Monday to Saturday from 8:00 AM – 8:00 PM, and Sundays from 11:00 AM – 7:00 PM. +31 23 820 0929.

Alkmaar

Overview

Alkmaar holds a special place in Dutch hearts as the first town, in 1573, to repel occupying Spanish troops. AlkmaarLocals opened the locks and flooded the area with seawater, forcing the perplexed invaders to retreat. The victory won the town weighing rights, which laid the foundation for its cheese market.

Alkmaar is known as the city of cheese in Holland, but that title covers only part of what the town has to offer. It has a beautiful old center with many historic monuments, great shopping districts and countless welcoming terraces, cafes and restaurants. Alkmaar also has a range of interesting museums, including the Stedelijk Museum, Beer Museum, Beatles Museum and naturally, the Cheese Museum.

The earliest written mention of Alkmaar dates back to the 10th century. The city looked very different back then, the main street was a dirt road where farms alternated with huts where small livestock scratched about. Rubbish was thrown out onto the streets and the pigs ate the leftovers, what they didn’t eat was left for the rats. Safe to say that health conditions were not good, with no proper drinking water and illnesses and epidemics were rife. Later on they moved the livestock outside the city walls which were surrounded by a ditch with a drawbridge, it was pulled up at night, so it was very important to be back in the city on time. In 1514 Alkmaar had a population of around 3,500 whereas now it is over 94,000.

Eating & Drinking

One of Alkmaar’s best eateries is Restaurant ‘t Stokpaardje. They do not have a menu as such, diners choose from 2,3,4,5 or even 6-course menus! Options of fresh fish, free-range meat and seasonal specialties with each course and vegetarian adaptations aren’t a problem. Recommended to book in advance and is one of the more expensive options in town. Open Thursday to Monday from 6:00 PM to 10.30 PM. Closed Tuesday and Wednesday. Address: Vrouwenstraat 1, 1811 GA Alkmaar. +31 72 512 8870. http://www.stokpaardjealkmaar.nl/

For a whisky themed evening dine at The Hielander. In operation since 1989, this restaurant is a Scottish restaurant owned by Wullie Macmorland and his wife Gerie. It has won many industry awards over the years, and the website claims more than 100 articles have been written about the restaurant. Wullie also organizes the Hielander Whisky Festival every February. For a dram in the Netherlands, this is an important stop. Reservations on weekends are important. Open Wednesday to Sunday from 6:00 PM – 11:00 PM. Closed Monday and Tuesday. Address: Ridderstraat 15, 1811 EX Alkmaar. +31 72 512 0015. http://www.schotsrestauranthielander.nl/

Abby’s is located in the shadow of an old windmill and has a modern, relaxed feel. There is a terrace outside that’s lovely if the weather is warm enough. The menu is varied with quality, fresh options of soups, breads, meats and salads. The staff are professional and knowledgeable, although they have a tendency towards “coolness”. Open Tuesday to Saturday from 9:00 AM – 12:00 AM, and Sunday to Monday from 11:00 AM – 12:00 AM. Address: 60, Ritsevoort, 1811 DP Alkmaar. +31 72 511 1111. https://www.restaurantabbys.nl/

For a very casual, touristy meal we recommend De Vlaminck. They provide superb chips/fries/French fries from their storefront counter and they have 17 different types of sauce! Open 11:00 AM – 7:00 PM every day with late night on Thursdays (9:15 PM). Address: Voordam 2, 1811 MA Alkmaar. +31 72 512 2284. http://www.devlaminck.nl/

Le Bon is a tiny, unique restaurant (maximum 20 place settings) where they work as much as possible with the finest local, sustainable and organic ingredients. Fabulous service and a great atmosphere. Open Wednesday to Sunday from 5:30 PM to 12.30 AM, closed Monday to Tuesday. Address: Ridderstraat 17, 1811 EX Alkmaar. +31 72 512 2879. http://restaurantlebon.nl/

Sites and Things to Do

AlkmaarKaasmarkt – Alkmaar’s famous Cheese Market where waxed rounds of cheese (kaas) are ceremoniously stacked on the town’s main square. Soon, dealers appear in white smocks and insert a hollow rod to extract a cheese sample, and sniff and crumble to check fat and moisture content. Once deals are struck, the porters in colorful hats (denoting the cheese guild), whisk the cheeses away on wooden sledges to the old cheese scale. It’s primarily for show, but as living relics go it’s both fascinating and entertaining. From April to early September on Fridays from 10:00 AM – 12:00 PM. Address: Waagplein, Alkmaar. https://www.kaasmarkt.nl/en

Alkmaar’s Grote Kerk is celebrated for its organs. The most renowned is the smaller ‘Swallow organ’ (1511) in the north ambulatory. Concerts take place on Wednesday evenings and at noon on days when the church is open. The pristine stained-glass windows bathe the inside of the church in soft color. Open March 28th to May 31st, Thursday to Saturday 11:00 AM – 5:00 PM. June 1st to September 15th, Tuesday to Sunday from 11:00 AM – 5:00 PM. Address: Koorstraat 2, 1811 GP Alkmaar. +31 72 – 514 07 07.

Overlooking the world famous Waagplein square in Alkmaar, the Kaas Museum (cheese museum) is the must-see place for cheese. The museum focuses on the two most famous cheeses of the Netherlands: Edammer and Gouda cheese. Open: 10:00AM – 4:00PM Monday to Saturday. 1:00PM – 3:30PM Sundays. Address: Waagplein 2, 1811 JP Alkmaar. +31 72 515 5516. https://www.kaasmuseum.nl/

Stedelijk Museum Alkmaar showcases superb collections of old and early modern paintings and decorative art. ‘The Golden Age’, ‘Victory!’ and ‘Portrait of Alkmaar’ shed light on the city’s glorious history. Open: 11:00AM – 5:00PM Tuesday to Sunday. Closed on Mondays. Address: Canadaplein 1, 1811 KE Alkmaar. +31 72 548 9789. https://stedelijkmuseumalkmaar.nl/

Nationaal Biermuseum De Boom (The Beer Museum) is located in the historic building of the former De Boom brewery, near the cheese market. It opened in April 1987 and has tools, equipment and machines that have been used to brew “the golden wet” for the past two hundred years to answer questions such as “how is it brewed?” and “what is malting and why is yeast so important?”. Open Monday to Saturday from 1:00 PM – 4:00 PM. Address: Houttil 1, 1811 JL Alkmaar. +31 72 511 3801. https://www.biermuseum.nl/

De Molen van Piet. Only one windmill endures in the old town; there used to be ten just on the town walls, but De_Molen_van_Pietthe Piet windmill (the Piet family own and operate it) is the last one. Although you can no longer enter the mill, it is still a fascinating structure to admire and the photo opportunities are many. Address: Clarissenbuurt 4, 1811 GC Alkmaar.

If you are visiting Alkmaar and happen to be a Beatles fan, you shouldn’t miss out on the Beatles Museum. The museum is a private project and stocks the combined work of two die-hard Beatles fans. If you consider that John Lennon’s first guitar was actually made in Alkmaar, it is an excellent location for the museum. Open Tuesday to Saturday from 11:00 AM – 4:30 PM, and Sunday to Monday 12:00 PM – 4:30 PM. Address: Pettemerstraat 12A, 1823 CW Alkmaar. +31 6 38305895. https://www.beatlesmuseum.nl/

Alkmaar’s canal tours (Grachtenrondvaart) are fun 45 minute boat tours through Alkmaar’s center.  Your captain and guide show you some of Alkmaar’s most beautiful places while you relax and enjoy the scenery, including 22 very low bridges where everyone needs to duck down! Open Monday to Saturday from April to October. The last departure is dependent on the weather and the number of passengers. Adults €7,00. The boat departs from De Mient near the Waaggebouw.  Follow signs for the VVV or Cheese Market.  You will see flags and a sign for ‘Grachtenrondvaart Alkmaar’. http://www.rondvaartalkmaar.nl/

Useful Contacts

Tourist Information Office, one is located in the Cheese Museum called Foundation Regional VVV Heart of N Holland. Open Monday to Saturday from 9:30 AM – 5:00 PM, and Sundays from 12:00 PM – 5:00 PM. Address: Waagplein 2, 1811 JP Alkmaar.

Stores: In addition to the big chain stores, which can be found mainly on Laat and Langestraat, there are numerous smaller, unique shops in the side streets. If you prefer one of a kind shops, Houttil or Ritsevoort just outside the center are full of them. These streets offer everything from fashion to art to welcoming cafes and restaurants.

Alkmaar also boasts the “Holland’s smallest cheese shop”! Kaan’s Kaashandel matures their cheese in their own storehouse and have 70 varieties of Dutch cheese in their tiny shop. Open Tuesday to Saturday from 9:00 AM – 6:00 PM (closes at 5:00 PM on Saturdays), Mondays from 1:00 PM – 6:00 PM. Closed on Sundays. Address: Koorstraat 11, 1811 GM Alkmaar. +31 72 511 3455.

If you need a supermarket there is a Jumbo located Muiderwaard 416, 1824 XT Alkmaar. + +31 72 576 3210. Open Monday to Saturday 7:00 AM – 10:00 PM, and Sundays 10:00 AM – 8:00 PM.


Alkmaar Folk Song

Who did not hear of Alkmaar?

Of the battle at the Frisian Gate

For more than six times fifty years?

When Spain’s lust for Dutch blood

Was reined in by Alkmaar’s valor

Mortally terrifying the enemies’ soldiers

The you learn from the country’s history

Of the Victory at Alkmaar


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Day-by-Day

Naarden to Utrecht

Overview

Intermediate riders start their Dutch bike tour in Naarden: famous for its 16th-century, star-shaped fort. You ride Naardenout of town on a network of bike paths that travel alongside canals, across open grassland and through scenic forests. Hilversum is a great place to stop for lunch. Once called the Garden of Amsterdam, Hilversum is home to over 600 species of trees. After Hilversum, you are once more on bike paths – riding south through forests and farmland to Utrecht. Here, the bike-path network takes you all the way to the city center alongside canals and traditional Dutch streets.

For the Easiest route, riders will be transferred to Hilversum where you will join the route described above.

Challenge riders start their journey in Weesp and follow the river Vecht north towards Muiden before riding along Lake IJsselmeer. You then join the Intermediate route in Naarden.

Route Options

Easiest Route

Riders wanting to ride the Easiest route will transfer further along the Intermediate route to start their ride at the HilversumTown Hall in Hilversum. The town hall itself is very interesting, it was designed by architect Dudok, but the interiors are also absolutely stunning. If your timing allows, it is well worth taking the guided tour (1.30pm Thursday to Sunday) as this gives you a good look round with a knowledgeable guide (we suggest a guide booklet in English as the tour is in Dutch) and the opportunity to go climb to the top of the tower (over 200 steps).

After Hilversum, you ride south out of the town, using the national cycle routes through forests and farmlands to take you to Utrecht. In Utrecht you ride alongside canals and traditional Dutch streets and buildings dating back hundreds of years.

Intermediate Route

Your trip starts with a van transfer to Naarden an area known as the Het Gooi. Naarden was made famous by the star-shaped fort that surrounds it and is a town that was granted city status in 1300 and remains the only town in the Het Gooi area with city rights. The town was later fortified by the Spanish empire in 1572. The area is known for its mixed countryside landscape of forests and heaths.

You ride out of town and over the moat that surrounds Naarden. You soon start to take advantage of the wonderful Dutch cycle lane network. Before you know it, you will be riding alongside canals and open grassland with far reaching views.

There is a forest just outside Hilversum which marks the start of the town, after which you ride through treelined avenues leading you into the center of the town, a great place to stop for lunch or an explore. See Eastiest route for information about Hilversum town hall. After Hilversum, you ride south out of the town, using the national cycle routes through forests and farmlands to take you to Utrecht. In Utrecht you ride alongside canals and traditional Dutch streets and buildings dating back hundreds of years.

Challenge Route

The Challenge riders will start their journey in Weesp and follow the river Vecht north towards Muiden before riding to the coast and turning southeast to join the intermediate route in Naarden.


Lunch

Where you lunch will depend largely on which route you choose.  See the route summaries above for the best towns for lunch on each route option.

In Hilversum: Your Coffee is a great little place, and a little hidden off the main shopping street, look for Fellows Coffee. Choose a well-made sourdough sandwich (white, whole-wheat or spelt), a tasty sandwich or a fresh salad. Their Buddha bowls and apple cakes are especially good. Gluten-free bread is available. Open Monday to Saturday from 8:30 AM – 6:00 PM, Sundays 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM. Address: Kerkstraat 38a, 1211 CP Hilversum +31 35 631 5919. https://yourcoffeehilversum.nl

Restaurant Parc is known for delicious food in a beautiful setting. Lots of fish options, as well as salads, soups, and fresh bread. The seating in the pavilion is lovely as it looks across the water. Open 11:00 AM – 11:30 PM every day. Address: Havenstraat 58 | kruising Havenstaat, Taludweg, Bosdrift, 1211 KM Hilversum +31 35 533 7758

In Naarden there are multiple options for lunch. We recommend Het HERT eetcafe in the center of the old town. They have multiple seating areas including a large light conservatory, a cozy brown café and a large sunny outdoor terrace. Food is great with bistro options such as roasted tuna, steaks, and salads. Open 12:00 PM – 11:00 PM every day. Address: Cattenhagestraat 12, 1411 CT Naarden. +31 35 694 8055. https://www.hethert.com/

Also in Naarden, Arsenaal Restaurants has 2 restaurants and we recommend the brasserie. They have an extensive menu, delicious food, and a lovely location. Food can be on the pricier side. Open Monday from 9:30 AM – 5:30 PM, Tuesday to Friday from 10:00 AM – 9:30 PM, and Sundays from 1:00 PM – 9:30 PM. Address: Kooltjesbuurt 1, 1411 RZ Naarden. +31 35 694 9148. https://www.arsenaalrestaurants.nl/

Passionata is a stylish Italian deli and a perfect spot to source picnic supplies for your day.  They make fantastic sandwiches including prosciutto, bresaola, ricotta, Gorgonzola, truffle mayo, sundried tomatoes and rocket. Open Tuesday to Saturday from 10:00 AM – 6:00 PM, Sundays from 12:00 PM – 6:00 PM, closed on Mondays. Address: Marktstraat 31, 1411 CZ Naarden. +31 35 678 2416.

For lunch options in Utrecht look to the Towns and Cities section of this guidebook.

Points of Interest en Route

In Weesp, at the start of the challenge route, there is a beautiful Theetuin (Tea Garden) that has been hidden behind the fortification wall of Weesp for 30 years. It describes itself as “a small paradise that is best known to the true garden lover”. This model garden is a feast for the eyes, hidden behind old beech hedges from which stately black birches rise and, with a central resting point, a pond surrounded by an immense Thuja hedge. Open Monday to Saturday from 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM. Address: Ossenmarkt 34, 1381 LX Weesp. +31 6 37410027. http://www.theetuin.nl/

As you ride through Muiden (4.5km on the CHLG route), we recommend you take a short detour to the castle, Muiderslot. It is a restored & striking 13th-century moated castle with ramparts & hands-on museum, plus formal gardens. As you ride away from the town you get fantastic views of the castle. Open Monday to Friday from 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM, and Saturday to Sunday from 12:00 PM – 5:00 PM. Address: Herengracht 1, 1398 AA Muiden. +31 294 256 262. https://www.muiderslot.nl/

The Grote Kerk Naarden (church) is right in the center of Naarden and dominates the city. There are tours of the church that tell you the history and details of the city. They often have concerts and sometimes art exhibitions. Address: Marktstraat 13, 1411 CX Naarden. +31 35 694 9873. http://www.grotekerknaarden.nl/wp/

Het Nederlands Vestingmuseum is a museum in Naarden based on the Dutch Fortresses. The Heritage Site is an open air museum with exciting exhibitions displayed in four casemates showing the importance of fortresses and fortified towns in Dutch history. Open Tuesday to Sunday from 10:30 AM – 5:00 PM, closed on Mondays. Address: Westwalstraat 6, 1411 PB Naarden. +31 35 694 5459. http://www.vestingmuseum.nl/en/museum/

A quirky option in Hilversum is to go and see the World’s Largest Mosaic Egg! Made out of 41,900 pieces of mosaic, it weighs 1,800 kilos (nearly 4,000 pounds) and stands at 3.5 meters (11.5 feet) tall. Created by Marja van Woerkom, it took two years to complete. You can see the egg and lots of other mosaic sculptures on Saturdays and Sundays during the day. Address: 139 Soestdijkerstraatweg, Hilversum.

Fort Blauwkapel, the only inhabited fort in the Netherlands, was built around 1818-1821. It has a military and cultural heritage as part of the New Dutch Waterline and of the Stelling van Utrecht. It was also nominated for the UNESCO World Heritage List. Located at around 20km (EAS), 33km (INT), and 54km (CHLG), Kerkje Blauwkapel, a beautiful church, is also on the fort site.

Stores

There is a small AH Marktstraat supermarket in the center of Naarden. Open Monday to Saturday from 8:00 AM – 6:00 PM. Address: Marktstraat 21, 1411 CX Naarden.

In Hilversum there is an AH supermarket on route (1km / 12km / 27km). Open Monday to Saturday from 8:00 AM – 10:00 PM, and Sundays 12:00 PM – 8:00 PM. Address: Langestraat 53, 1211 GV Hilversum.


Naarden

Naarden is found in the the Het Gooi area and is famous thanks to the extraordinary fortress, Naarden-Vesting, on its northwest boarder. This military work of art has the shape of a 12-pointed star, with arrowheads at each tip. The ideaNaarden behind the shape of the fort is defense. Naarden-Vesting is one of the best preserved in the country but unfortunately came a little too late – it was built only after the Spanish massacred the inhabitants in the 16th century. The bastions were staffed until the 1920s by the Dutch army, long after its tactical significance had become moot.

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Utrecht Loop

Overview

Today’s loop to the east of Utrecht visits the Utrechtse Heuvelrug National Park. It takes in some quieter, more rural areas, enjoying large areas of forest. A peaceful and inspiring natural landscape surrounds you and visually it’s Pyramide_van_Austerlitzdistinctly different from other areas on this tour. This is one of the few times that you’re above sea level during your trip.

There are many sights on today’s routes including Fort bij Rijnauwen, Pyramide van Austerlitz, Den Treek Estate and the National Military Museum.

All of the routes for today start by riding southeast out of town to Fort bij Rijnauwen, and it is early in the ride that great pancakes are available. You then skirt around the edge of Zeist and pass the great Slot Zeist palace. At Austerlitz our routes start to diverge.

Route Options

Easiest Route

The Easiest route starts with Utrecht Botanic Gardens as you leave town which “houses” unusual plants from all over the world. Soon after the gardens you can find delicious pancakes at Teahouse Rhijnauwen (5km into your route). This restaurant is located at Fort bij Rijnauwen and the two can easily be a combined visit.

After the fort, the route passes through stunning forests and is peaceful, traffic-free and you will be joined by fellow cyclists and outdoor enthusiasts. At Soesterberg you have the option of a detour to the National Military Museum before turning back towards Utrecht.

Intermediate Route

Intermediate riders follow the easiest route of town and pass by Utrecht Botanic Gardens and Fort bij Rijnauwen early on. At 18km the easiest and intermediate routes separate and not long after the intermediate riders pass the Pyramide van Austerlitz, the only pyramid in the Netherlands! After which the route continues east to the Den Treek Henschoten estate before starting the return leg via the National Military Museum.

Challenge Route

Challenge riders will do the intermediate route with the addition of riding into Amersfoort, often described as the most photogenic city in the Netherlands.

Amersfoort was made an exceedingly rich town from the 16th century onwards due to beer, wool and tobacco. It has many prominent merchants’ homes that have been lovingly restored, and the egg-shaped old town offers peaceful, evocative strolls along canals and narrow alleys that retain their medieval mystery.

Amersfoort is also home to a unique piece of art history: the house in which Piet Mondrian was born. This abstract painter became world famous as one of the founders of abstract art. The house now has works by Mondrian on display, as well as temporary exhibitions by artists who have been inspired by him.

On your route back to Utrecht you pass through an amazing sand dune, home to wind-whipped trees with “floating” roots. Though it looks like the trees are climbing out from the sand to take their own walk throughout the park, their exposed roots are actually a result of wind erosion.

Lunch

Where you lunch will depend largely on the route you choose.  See the route summaries above for the best towns for lunch on each route option.

For delicious pancakes Teahouse Rhijnauwen is the place to stop (5km). They have a tremendous selection, try to serve organic, fair-trade and sustainable where possible, they have gluten-free options too, all in a beautiful setting. Located alongside Fort bij Rijnauwen. Open 10:00 AM – 9:30 PM every day. Address: Rhijnauwenselaan 16, 3981 HH Bunnik. +31 30 656 1285. http://www.theehuisrhijnauwen.nl/

Brasserie Slot Zeist (11.4km) is a good lunch spot around 11km on your route. Basic lunch at the restaurant but in a stunning setting. Better yet, pack a picnic, and eat it in the gardens of the house. Open Tuesday to Sunday from 11:00 AM – 5:00 PM. Closed on Mondays. Address: Het Slot en omgeving, Zeist, Netherlands. +31 30 721 06 00. https://www.slotzeist.nl/slot-zeist/brasserie

Around 17.5km there is a cozy café, Beauforthuis, a nice place to pause for a coffee or even lunch. They serve decent lunches and daily pies (the carrot cake is also very good!). This café is on the main road between two forest sections. Open 9:00 AM – 8:00 PM every day. Address: Woudenbergseweg 70, 3711 AB Austerlitz. +31 343 491 858. https://cafe-beaufort.nl

On the EAS route (22km), the INT route (38km), and the CHL route (47km), The Oriental Swan offers great Cantonese food. Portions can be on the small side, but the food is delicious, with great flavors and exceptional service. Open Tuesday to Sunday from 2:00 PM – 10:00 PM. Closed on Mondays. Address: Rademakerstraat 2, 3769 BD Soesterberg. +31 346 351 423. https://www.orientalswan.nl/

The Van der Valk Hotel has a very good restaurant (29km / 44km / 54km). It may seem slightly flashy at first glance but the service is friendly, and the restaurant is à la carte. Open 7:00 AM – 11:00 PM every day. Address: De Holle Bilt 1, 3732 HM De Bilt. +31 30 220 5811.

There is a café at the National Military Museum on the EAS (22km), INT (36.5km) and the CHLG (45.6km) routes so if you are visiting the museum it might make sense to eat there as well. Open Tuesday to Sunday from 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM. Closed on Mondays. Address: Verlengde Paltzerweg 1, 3768 MX Soest. +31 85 003 6000. https://www.nmm.nl/

In Amersfoort, Coffee Corazon is an excellent place to pause as the coffees, teas and fresh juices are superb and the delicious apple cobbler is baked just along the street. Open 10:00 AM – 6:00 PM every day. Address: Krommestraat 18, 3811 CC Amersfoort. +31 33 465 6844. http://www.coffeecorazon.nl/

Another popular pancake restaurant is De Kabouterhut on the CHLG route (37.5km). Tasty pancakes with plenty of toppings and fast service. Open Tuesday to Sunday from 11:30 AM – 9:00 PM, and Mondays from 4:00 PM – 9:00 PM. Address: Barchman Wuytierslaan 202, 3819 AC Amersfoort. +31 33 461 9092. http://www.kabouterhut.nl/

Points of Interest en Route

There are many sights on today’s routes including Fort bij Rijnauwen, Pyramide van Austerlitz, Den Treek Estate and the National Military Museum.

Utrecht Botanic Gardens. There are unusual flowers and plants from all over the world, backed by a chorus of murmuring streams and buzzing insects. There is also some unique architecture to spot on your wander around the gardens. At 3.4km, turn LEFT at Weg tot de Wetenschap, LEFT onto Sorbonnelaan, RIGHT onto Leuvenlaan, and finally LEFT onto Budapestlaan.  Open from March 1st to December 1st. Address: Budapestlaan 17, 3584 CD Utrecht. +31 30 253 1826. https://www.uu.nl/en/utrecht-botanic-gardens

Fort bij Rijnauwen, an old Dutch fortress, was once part of the New Dutch Water Line. Around the fortress there are some restored bunkers and defense positions, with plaques explaining the story of the fortifications but we highly recommend attending a guided tour if possible. Teahouse Rhijnauwen is right next door. Open Wednesday from 10:30 AM – 1:00PM, and Saturday to Sunday from 1:30 PM – 4:00 PM. Tours are Wednesday at 10:30 AM, Saturdays at 1:30 PM, and Sundays 10:30 AM and 1:30 PM. More excursions take approximately 2 hours and cost €8.50 per person. Address: Vossegatsedijk 5, 3981 HS Bunnik. +31 6 53402296. https://www.fortbijrijnauwen.nl/

In Amersfoort, just below the Koppelpoort (city gate), is De Drie Ringen, a much-heralded microbrewery, which takes its name from a 17th-century predecessor. You can sample the crisp, golden Stadsbier and the velvety Vuurvogel (7.5% alcohol), based on a hallowed Amersfoort recipe. Open Tuesday to Thursday from 2:00 PM 7:30 PM, Friday to Sunday from 1:00 PM – 7:30 PM. Closed on Mondays. Address: Kleine Spui 18, 3811 BE Amersfoort. +31 33 465 6575. https://www.dedrieringen.nl/

Mondriaanhuis, the birthplace of Piet Mondriaan is now a modern museum with exhibits on the artist & his works. Open Tuesday to Sunday from 11:00 AM – 5:00 PM. Closed on Mondays. Address: 11, Kortegracht, 3811 KG Amersfoort. +31 33 460 0170. https://www.mondriaanhuis.nl/nl

Worth viewing is Onze Lieve Vrouwetoren, a 98m tall Gothic tower. But perhaps more interesting than its height is that the tower forms the cadastral zero point (the middle point of the Dutch grid reference system is situated in the tower) of the Netherlands and has been since the founding of the Land Registry in 1832: the X and Y axis are indicated in the pavement. Amersfoort is often referred to as the cadastral center of the Netherlands, or geographic center, because the Onze Lieve Vrouwetoren is the central point of the stereographic projection of the Dutch topographical maps and of the Reich triangle. Moreover, Amersfoort was the zero point of the National Triangle Coordinates until it was relocated around 1970. Address: Krankeledenstraat 30, 3811 BN Amersfoort. +31 900 1122364. http://www.onzelievevrouwetoren.nl/

On the INT and CHLG route (20.5km) there is Pyramide van Austerlitz, the only pyramid in the Netherlands! The Pyramide_van_Austerlitzpyramid is located on the highest point of the Utrechtse Heuvelrug. The monument dates from the time of Napoleon from the early 1800s. In 1804 General Marmont had the French-Batavian army build the pyramid as a tribute to his friend and example Napoleon Bonaparte. Inspired by his campaign to Egypt, Marmont chose a pyramid, crowned with an obelisk. You can climb the pyramid and visit the visitor center. Open April to June / Sept to Oct, Tuesday to Sunday from 11:00 AM – 4:30 PM, July to August from 11:00 AM – 4:30 PM every day. Address: Zeisterweg 98, 3931 MG Woudenberg. +31 30 220 5534. https://www.monumentdepyramidevanausterlitz.nl/

DierenPark Amersfoort is a long-established zoo, keeping 150 different species, with rope climbing bridges above the bear pit. Located at 38km on the CHLG route. Open 9:00 AM – 6:00 PM every day. Address: Barchman Wuytierslaan 224, 3819 AC Amersfoort. +31 33 422 7100. https://dierenparkamersfoort.nl/

The National Military Museum (NMM) is an interesting insight into the military world. The museum states that they “stand for the conviction that the role of the armed forces is essential for our society. The NMM wants to actively propagate this conviction by establishing and showing connections between the armed forces and society.” On the INT and CHLG routes the museum is en route. On the EAS route, at 22km, continue straight. At the end of the road join the CR55 through the park and you’ll see signposts for the Museum. Open Tuesday to Sunday from 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM. Closed on Mondays. Address: Verlengde Paltzerweg 1, 3768 MX Soest. +31 85 003 6000. https://www.nmm.nl/

Stores

There is a Supermarket PLUS in Soesterberg located at the 22.5km on the EAS route, 38.5km on the INT route, and 47.5km on the CHL route. Open Monday to Saturday from 8:00 AM – 9:00 PM, and Sundays from 12:00 PM – 6:00 PM. Address: Rademakerstraat 6, 3769 BD Soesterberg. +31 346 351 331.

There is a PLUS Amersfoort supermarket as you enter Amersfoort. Open 8:00 AM – 10:00 PM every day. Address: Arnhemseweg 4, 3817 CH Amersfoort. +31 33 448 1060.


National Military Museum

This interactive museum offers an impressive introduction to the history of the Netherlands and its military forces, where past, present and future come to life. The site of the museum is where the Dutch Royal Air Force was founded in 1913. Since 2013 it has been possible to stroll at leisure among cannons, tanks, aircraft and more.

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Utrecht to Leiden

Overview

Today you journey through the Green Heart of Holland, a water-rich, rural region dotted with charming historical Goudatowns. The Green Heart is the common name for the greenbelt surrounding the “big four” cities of The Netherlands: Amsterdam, The Hague, Utrecht, and Rotterdam.

Highlights of the route are the center of Gouda, famous for its cheese market and canals, and Oudewater, where alleged witches from all over Europe came to be weighed to prove their innocence.

Beyond Oudewater, on the way to Gouda, you have the opportunity to stock up on authentic Gouda cheese directly from some Gouda cheese farms. You’ll also pass the historic site of Goejanverwellesluis in the village of Hekendorp. Dirty details below…

The Intermediate and Challenge route takes you south out of the city before turning westwards and arriving in Oudewater. Here you can discover the Heksenwaag (Witches Weighing house) and then follow the dyke and tow path along the river to Hekendorp and Haastrecht. You arrive in the center of Gouda following the River Hollandse IJssel on the south side of town. Your route takes you past the town hall of Gouda which is one of the oldest Gothic town halls in Holland.

Intermediate riders will ride to Gouda and then take a train to Leiden, via Den Hague!

Challenge riders continue west from Gouda to Leiden, known for its centuries-old architecture and for Leiden University, the country’s oldest, dating from 1575.

The Easiest route starts with a train journey to Gouda, riding to Leiden from there after wandering around “cheese central”.

Route Options

Easiest Route

For the easiest route, start by taking a train from Utrecht to Gouda. The train station is located to the west of the city, address: 3511 CA Utrecht, Netherlands. It is a large station, not easy to miss. There are around 8 trains an hour, the journey takes 18 minutes, and is a direct service.

We recommend exploring Gouda when you arrive. Find lunch here in one of the many restaurants or shortly after in Boskoop (11.8km), otherwise ride to Leiden and find lunch at one of the many restaurants there.

Your route to Leiden is pretty, alternating between working fields lined with canals, and small towns full of charm.

Intermediate Route

The Intermediate route is from Utrecht to Gouda via Oudewater. The second part of the route is by train to Leiden via Dan Haag.

The route to Gouda starts south out of Utrecht. The first 10km out of the city are quite built-up but it’s pretty along the canal. Once you turn west, out of the city limits, the route changes drastically to wide-open fields and farmland. The towns along route are particularly picturesque, with the historical Oudewater a real highlight. The route finishes in Gouda at the train station but we highly recommend you explore Gouda before you hop on a train.

Your train journey from Gouda to Leiden is in two parts. Firstly you go from Gouda to Den Haag Central, the route usually has 5 stops, lasting around 28 minutes. When you arrive in Den Haag, we suggest you leave the station and wander around the city, the Netherlands third-largest and the Dutch seat of government. Den Haag is a stately, regal place filled with embassies and mansions, green boulevards and parks, a refined culinary scene, a clutch of fine museums and a café culture.

Challenge Route

The Challenge route combines the cycling parts of the easiest route and the intermediate route. Details above.

Lunch

Where you lunch will depend on the route you choose.  See the route summaries above for the best towns for lunch on each route option.

In Boskoop Eeterij Het Keldertje is a simple, cozy restaurant with good hearty meals and cracking apple pie. Open Tuesday to Saturday from 10:30 AM – 10:00 PM, Sundays 3:00 PM – 10:00 PM, closed on Mondays. Address: Burgemeester Colijnstraat 1A, 2771 GC Boskoop. +31 172 212 467. http://www.eeterijhetkeldertje.nl/

Not lunch, per say, but perhaps more important, dessert! Janssen’s IJssalon is an absolutely incredible ice cream shop in Boskoop, 10km outside of Gouda. With all the classics plus a few surprises it makes a great pause in your ride. Open Sunday to Friday from 12:00 PM – 10:00PM, and Saturdays from 10:00 – 10:00 PM. (located 11.8km on the EAS route, 50km on the CHLG route), address: Koninginneweg 28, 2771 DN Boskoop. +31 172 217 337. http://www.janssensijssalon.nl/

In Oudewater you have a few options for lunch: for a quirky, delicious meal go to 3 keuken & bar. Prices are relatively high, but the food is imaginative, and they pride themselves on using top-quality, local food. They can tell you the exact company where they buy their products, and many of them are in Oudewater. Open Wednesday to Sunday from 12:00 PM – 11:00 PM, closed Monday to Tuesday. Address: 2VCC+XR Oudewater. +31 348 723 923. https://www.keukenbar3.nl/

Brasserie Joia offers great food, a welcoming atmosphere and helpful staff. Menu favorites include Thai curry, roast duck, and ravioli. Open Wednesday to Sunday from 11:00 AM – 10:30 PM, closed Monday to Tuesday. Address: Havenstraat 1-2 3421 BS Oudewater, 3421 AH Oudewater. +31 348 567 150. https://www.joiabrasserie.nl/

In Gouda Lunchcafé curcuma is a delightful organic restaurant serving delicious, healthy food such as sweet-potato waffles, cauliflower and chickpea curry, tomato soup with hummus. There can be a wait for your food but if you get a window seat you can watch passersby while you wait. Open Tuesday to Saturday 10:00 AM – 5:30 PM, closed Sunday to Monday. Address: Korte Groenendaal 21, 2801 JP Gouda. +31 6 48117954.

Brownies & downieS is a sweet café in the center of Gouda. Their menu includes home-made soup, fresh salads and delicious hot and cold sandwiches. Open Tuesday to Saturday from 9:30 AM – 5:00 PM, Sundays 12:00 PM – 5:00 PM, and Mondays 11:30 AM – 5:00 PM. Address: Korte Tiendeweg 15, 2801 JS Gouda. +31 182 605 695. https://browniesanddowniesgouda.nl/

Points of Interest en Route

In Oudewater there is the Museum de Heksenwaag (Witch Weighing Museum). The house has a modest display of Oudewaterwitchcraft history in the loft upstairs and at the end of your visit you’ll be invited to step onto the old scale. This weighing house was supposed to have the most accurate scales in the land; women who were suspected of being witches came from all over Europe to be weighed here. This small museum is a recipe for fun, especially because you can check yourself and your family on “witchcraft”-worthiness on the original scales! Open April 1st to November 1st from 11:00 AM – 5:00 PM. Closed on Mondays. Your gpx file takes you to the museum, address Leeuweringerstraat 2, 3421 AC Oudewater. +31 348 563 400.

Also, in Oudewater is the Rope Museum. Thanks to the rope industry, Oudewater was an extremely rich town in the seventeenth century. Not only can this wealth be seen in the many beautiful gables in town, but also the farmers on the outskirts of town became rich and built some quite imposing farmhouses. You will have seen some of them on your ride into town.  The farmers grew hemp on small fields that were covered in manure and mud. Then, in town, the ropemakers spun the rope. In order to spin the first thread for rope, a bundle of hemp threads was bound around their bellies where it left yellow stains. That’s why the people of Oudewater are still called “Geelbuiken” (yellow bellies). Open April 1st to November 1st, Tuesday – Saturday from 11:00 AM – 5:00 PM. Sundays 12:00 PM – 5:00 PM.  Address: Reijersteeg 4, Oudewater. +31 348 567 832. Adults €3.50, children €2.00. Make your own rope €1.50.

Oudewater’s weekly market is on a Wednesday.

GoudaGouda is, of course, world famous for CHEESE. On its large triangular market square with its prominent town hall, a traditional cheese market is held on Thursdays from April – August, 10:00 AM – 1:00 PM. A few locals dress up in costume and pose for endless photos. The regal Gothic town hall is mid-15th century and constructed from shimmering sandstone, showing the wealth Gouda enjoyed from the cloth trade when it was built. The red and white shutters provide a fine counterpoint to the carefully maintained stonework and the ceremonial rooms inside are worth a look. Open April to September, Tuesday – Saturday from 10:00 AM – 4:00 PM and Sundays 11:00 AM – 4:00 PM. October to March, Tuesday – Sunday from 11:00 AM – 3:00 PM. In 2020 Gouda Cheese experience will open in the monumental building which will be an interactive journey in the world of cheese.

The Goudse Waag Cheese Museum, Gouda, is based in the historic weigh house, built in 1668. Check out the reliefs carved into the side showing the cheese being weighed. Open daily 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM. Address: Markt 35, 2801 JK Gouda. +31 182 529 996. €5 per person.

The Sint Jans Church, Gouda is renowned for its stained-glass windows displaying scenes of the Bible and has been placed on the UNESCO list of Dutch monuments. Open Monday – Saturday from 10:00 AM – 4:00 PM. Address: Achter de Kerk 2, 2801 JW Gouda. +31 182-512 684. €4 per person.

Stores

EMTÉ Oudewater is a small supermarket. Open Monday to Saturday from 8:00 AM – 8:00 PM, and Sunday 10:00 – 6:00 PM. Address: Joostenplein 35, 3421 TC Oudewater. +31 348 562 671

Gouds Kaashuis is a fantastic cheese shop in Gouda. There are more than 50 types of local cheese on display in this knowledgeable cheese shop, with plenty of free samples to know what you are buying. It also sells locally milled oils, as well as vinegar. Open Monday from 10:00 AM – 6:00 PM, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday from 9:30 AM – 6:00 PM, Thursday from 9:30 AM – 9:00 PM, and Saturdays from 9:00 AM – 6:00 PM. Address: Hoogstraat 1, 2801 HG Gouda. +31 182 507 418.

Another great cheese shop for those on the EAS (26km) or CHLG (64km) route is Kaasboerderij Captein. Open Wednesday to Saturday from 11:00 AM – 6:00 PM, closed Sunday to Tuesday. Address Weipoortseweg 29b, 2381 NC Zoeterwoude. +31 71 580 3245. https://kaasboerderijcaptein.nl/

AH Markt is a small supermarket in Gouda, which sells a wide range of products despite being a small shop. Open Monday to Saturday from 8:00 AM – 8:00 PM, and Sunday 10:00 – 6:00 PM. Address: Markt 50, 2801 JL Gouda. +31 182 512 855.


Witchery

Although often remembered with a sense of lightheartedness, the horrific witch-hunts of the 16th century caused nearly a million women all over Europe to be executed – they were burnt, drowned or otherwise tortured to death – on suspicion of being witches. Weighing was one of the more common methods of determining witchery, as popular belief held that any woman who was too light for the size of her frame was obviously a witch. A woman who weighed the ‘proper’ amount was too heavy to ride a broom and thus not a witch. Women who passed the test were given a certificate, good for life, proclaiming them to be human.

Holy Roman Emperor Charles V (reign 1519-1556) was convinced that the Oudewater weighing scales were the only “fair equipment” in his European empire to determine whether or not someone was a witch.

The town of Oudewater emerges with some honor as no woman weighed there was ever proved to be a witch and this is held up as a symbol of the honesty of the locals, as they refused to take bribes to rig the weights. It is also seen as the first stirrings of people power and a turn against the church, which was behind the witch-hunts.


The Goejanverwellesluis History

In 1787, Dutch Republicans (referring to themselves as “patriots”) gained enough power to deny their King William V the control of the army and access to his royal palace in The Hague. The King was forced to reside in the east of the Goejanverwellesluis country. This defeat was not taken lightly by his wife, Wilhelmina of Prussia, and she decided to head for The Hague. News about her journey spread. Gouda Republicans stopped her horse and carriage and entourage at the bridge over the locks of Goejanverwellesluis. Wilhelmina was sent back east. Her brother, in charge of Prussia (part of today’s Germany), was not pleased. The Prussian army invaded the Netherlands and ended the Republican revolt, reinstating William V and his wife in the Hague.

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Leiden Loop Day

Overview

The loop rides today are a banquet of windmills, lakes, and boats. The routes take you around the lakes in the Kaag en Braassem region, which are all connected by rivers and canals. Some of the highlights of today are the windmills which were built to regulate the water level in the surrounding polders. They are less famous than the windmills of Kinderdijk but equally worth a visit.Kaag_en_Braassem

Warmond is a popular boating village towards the start of your loop ride. The village lies on the old trade route between Leiden and Haarlem and was a popular location for wealthy noblemen’s estates. Huys te Warmont is one of these mansions built in the 18th century. The grounds, in English landscape garden style are open to the public and are one of the few places along your route where you can enjoy sitting in the shade of the monumental trees.

All three route options visit the Kagerplassen, a large system of interconnected lakes that are best explored by bike or boat. On all of the larger islands between the lakes there is at least one windmill – the oldest date back to the 17th century. These polder mills were constructed to pump away the excess water and allowed farmers to graze their cattle on the boggy peatland. The Braassemmermeer is the largest lake in the area. Formed by turf digging, the lake catches a lot of wind which makes it very popular for yachting in the summer and ice sailing in the winter.

Route Options

Easiest Route

Today’s easiest route goes around the Kaag en Braassem, alternating between lake-views, open fields and small towns. After passing through Warmond, between Buitenkaag to Vredeburg, you cycle along the ring dyke around the Haarlemmermeerpolder. See below for details of the amazing creation.

Intermediate Route

Today’s Intermediate route follows the Easiest route out of Leiden all the way to Roelofarendsveen, known for its flower cultivation. Here the route turns east and loops out to Braassemmermeer Lakes before rejoining the easiest route at Rijpwetering, another option for lunch.

Challenge Route

This challenge route follows the intermediate route past Roelofarendsveen, known for its flower cultivation, where it turns and you do a loop around the Braassemmermeer Lakes. You follow the Woudwetering canal for 1500m until you can cross it and continue your route along the Wijde Aa river to Hoogmade; a charming town with a river running through it.

Lunch

Where you lunch will depend largely on the route you choose.  See the route summaries above for the best towns for lunch on each route option.

Although early on in the easiest route, Warmond, at 10km, does have options for lunch. We recommend Restaurant De Moerbei for a great, fresh lunch. Fish from the North Sea plays an important role in their fish dishes, such as sole, turbot and lobster. Dutch suckling lamb, directly from the polder, is a chef’s favorite when it comes to meat dishes. Open for lunch Tuesday to Friday from 12:00 PM – 2:00 PM. Closed Saturday to Monday. Address: Dorpsstraat 5, 2361 AK Warmond. +31 71 515 6898. http://www.demoerbeiwarmond.nl/

In Buitenkaag, there are a couple of options for lunch. The is Jachtwerf Möllers, Lakeside Food and Drinks which is very popular. Simple lunches, good coffee and tasty apple cakes! Opening hours vary in summer. Address Huigsloterdijk 412, 2158 LS Buitenkaag.

Restaurant De Hanepoel is just past Buitenkaag, around 19km en route. They have an extensive menu including soups, sandwiches, and specials such as “dirty fingers” (spareribs), hamburgers, and fish dishes. Open Wednesday to Sunday from 11:00AM – 9:30 PM (open at 10:00 on Sundays). Closed Monday to Tuesday. Address: Huigsloterdijk 257, 2157 LN Abbenes. +31 252 544 384. http://www.hanepoel.nl/

De Vergulde Vos (The guilded Fox) in Rijpwetering is a great lunch option. A beautiful spot on the water, excellent food, and lovely hosts. It’s an interesting building, dating back 400 years, it was originally an inn before being used as a courthouse. Interestingly, this restaurant is next to the birth house of Joop Zoetemelk (the only Dutch person who won the Tour de France in 1980). This restaurant in en route for the EAS loop. For the INT and CHLG riders continue straight at 31km / 45km. Open 10:30 AM – 11:00 PM every day. Address: Koppoellaan 22, 2375 AB Rijpwetering. +31 71 501 8273. http://www.deverguldevos.nl/

On the CHLG route in Hoogmade there is a pleasant restaurant De Kromme Does. A variety of seafood including a mega crab salad sandwich. Staff are lovely and they have a large outdoor seating area for a nice-weather day. Turn right at 41.8km onto Visserweg. Open 10:00 AM – 10:00 PM every day. Address: Vissersweg 1, 2355 AL Hoogmade. +31 71 501 8377. http://restaurant-kaag-braassem.nl/

Points of Interest en Route

The popular boating village of Warmond lies on the old trade route between Leiden and Haarlem and wealthy noblemen used to have their estates here. Warmond is located on a sand ridge. Sand was a much more reliable foundation for a big brick house than the surrounding wet peat bog, where houses often subsided over time or even got washed away altogether. That’s why in this part of Holland the more upmarket areas in towns are usually built on sand. Huys te Warmont is one of the many mansions built here in the 18th century. The grounds – in English landscape garden style – are open to the public. It’s one of the few places along this route where you can enjoy sitting in the shade of monumental trees. The house itself is now a private residence and can only be admired from the outside. Open 8:00 AM – 7:00 PM every day. +31 10 272 2222. https://www.zuidhollandslandschap.nl/gebieden/huys-te-warmont

Stores

There is an AH supermarket in Warmond, approximately 10km into your route. Open Monday to Saturday from 8:00 AM – 6:00 PM, and Sundays from 10:00 AM – 6:00 PM. Address: Dorpsstraat 2, 2361 BB Warmond.

There is a small Coop supermarket in Hoogmade (CHLG route only). Open Monday to Saturday from 8:00 AM – 8:00 PM (6:00 PM on Saturdays), and Sundays 12:00 PM – 6:00 PM. Address: Plein 1-5, 2355 BT Hoogmade.


Haarlemmermeerpolder

From Buitenkaag to Vredeburg you cycle along the ring dyke around the Haarlemmermeerpolder. Until the mid 19th century all the land on your left would have been water – the Haarlemmermeer. In 1531 the lake was only 26 km2, a hundred years later the Haarlemmermeer had expanded to 150 km2. Erosion, storms and a series of floods had washed away large stretches of land and all the villages on it, turning the Haarlemmermeer and three neighboring lakes into one single lake, covering most of the area between Leiden, Haarlem and Amsterdam. What is now Schiphol Airport was then the bottom of the lake!

Jan Adriaanszoon Leeghwater (1575-1650) – inventor of an improved pumping mechanism for windmills which made drainage of larger lakes possible – was the first to suggest draining the Haarlemmermeer and turning it into a polder. But the area was still too vast and even his improved windmills simply didn’t have the capacity needed to pump away such huge quantities of water. Two centuries later the invention of the steam engine changed all that. In 1839 the ring dyke and canal, you cycle along, were constructed. It took three steam pumping stations from 1848 to 1852 to pump away the 800 million tons of water.

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Leiden to Haarlem

Overview

Today you journey north to the town of Haarlem. Haarlem was once a major North Sea trading port and is enclosed byHaarlem a defensive wall. It is the center of a sight to behold – a major flower-bulb-growing region and famous for its outlying tulip fields, art museums and hofjes (almshouses built around leafy courtyards).

Your route up the coast takes you on the LF1, a simply stunning cycle route. Before you get to the costal section of today’s ride, you ride through the heart of tulip country. Surprisingly, while you ride up the coast, you don’t get a view of the sea as you’re riding between the sand dunes. There are footpaths along the route if you want to hike up a dune for sea views.

On the coast, just as your turn inland to Haarlem, you pass through Zandvoort, a beach town. The beach is beautiful!

The easiest route starts with an easy train journey to Voorhout (5 minutes). The challenge route follows the intermediate route but with an extra loop inland that visits Keukenhof Botanical Gardens, a famous, expansive 19th century park showcasing multicolored Dutch spring flowers.

Route Options

Easiest Route

This route starts with a train transfer to Voorhout, an easy 5 minute journey from Leiden. You begin from Voorhout train station and soon rejoin the intermediate route heading into Noordwijk. Your train journey shortens the intermediate route by approximately 10km. See the intermediate route for ride details.

Intermediate Route

This route takes you out of Leiden via Corpus, a giant, medically acurate model of the human body, afterwhich it is straight into flower country: tulip fields, daffodil fields, crocuses, and more.

You pass the seaside town of Noordwijk at approximately 14km (to head into the town, continue straight instead of turning right). Noordwijk was a quiet fishing village for about 800 years, until in the 20th century, it was transformed into a holiday resort. It attracts over one million visitors per year with its beach, vibrant nightlife and the nearby tulip fields.

Beyond Noordwijk you enter the forests of Noordwijkerhout. The pine trees are not native to the sand dunes but were planted to help control erosion.

We recommend stopping for lunch at either Langevelderslag (24km), Zandvoort (33.4km). The stretch in between is the most remote section of the coastal route.

Challenge Route

The Challenge route follows the intermediate ride for 20km where it splits, and the challenge riders continue straight Haarlemand turn inland for an extra loop. The challenge ride rejoins the intermediate route at 39km. See the intermediate route above for details.

The extra inland loop to Keukenhof Botanical Gardens is one of the Netherlands’ top attractions (see Points of Interests, below).

After this loop, you rejoin the intermediate route north to Haarlem.

Lunch

Where you lunch will depend on the route you choose.  See the route summaries above for the best towns for lunch on each route option.

In Langevelderslag (24km) we recommend Strandrestaurant Nederzandt which is the beach pavilion. They do basic, good food such as burgers, soups, salads etc. On a sunny day this is the place to be and it does get busy in summer months. Open 9:00 AM – 11:30 PM every day. Address: Langevelderslag 52, 2204 AH Noordwijk. +31 252 372 430. https://etenbijnederzandt.nl/

There are many restaurant options in Zandvoort (33.4km), unfortunately many of them are only open for dinner! For lunch we recommend De Zeerover for pancakes “and more”! It’s a large restaurant that can get busy on a sunny day due to its outside seating area. Open 10:00 AM – 6:00 PM every day. Address: Strandweg 1, 2042 JA Zandvoort. +31 23 573 8740. https://dezeerover.nl/

The beach pavilion on the seafront Strandpaviljoen Thalassa (there are several to choose from), is another good option for a more relaxed watch-the-world-go-by lunch (the service can be on the slow side). The food is very simple but good, with great fish and seafood options. Open 9:30 AM – 12:00 AM every day. Address: Boulevard Barnaart 18, 2041 KB Zandvoort. +31 23 571 5660.


Tulipmania

When it comes to investment frenzy, the Dutch tulip craze of 1636 to 1637 ranks alongside the greatest economic booms and busts in history. The cautionary story of the Dutch tulip craze is considered the first example of an economic bubble.

Tulips, originally from central Asia, were introduced from Turkey into Europe around 1550, and the delicately formed, vividly colored flowers became a popular, if costly, item. The demand for differently colored varieties of tulips soon exceeded the supply, and the price for individual bulbs of rare types rose to unjustifiable heights in northern Europe. By about 1610 an individual bulb of a new variety was acceptable as dowry for a bride! The craze reached its height in Holland during 1633–37. Before 1633, Holland’s tulip trade had been restricted to professional growers and experts, but the steadily rising prices lured many ordinary middle-class and poor families to speculate in the tulip market. Homes, estates, and industries were mortgaged so that bulbs could be bought for resale at higher prices. Sales and resales were made many times over without the bulbs ever leaving the ground, and rare varieties of bulbs sold for the equivalent of hundreds of dollars each.

The market crashed in early 1637 when doubts surfaced as to whether prices would continue to increase. Seemingly overnight the price structure for tulips collapsed, stealing fortunes and leaving financial ruin for many including ordinary Dutch families.


Points of Interest en Route

Corpus is an interesting attraction. It is a giant, medically accurate model of the human body – unique to the world. It houses a walk-through audio tour of how the human body functions! Prices are €18.75 pp or €17.25 if you book online. Booking online recommended as it can get very busy. Located at approximately 3km on the intermediate and challenge routes. Open Tuesday to Sunday from 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM, closed on Mondays. Address: Willem Einthovenstraat 1, 2342 BH Oegstgeest, Netherlands. +31 71 751 0200. https://corpusexperience.nl/en/#!

Keukenhof Gardens is the world’s largest bulb-flower garden. It draws nearly 800,000 visitors during its short season (8-weeks), which is almost as short-lived as the blooms on the millions of multicolored tulips, daffodils and hyacinths. According to the official website for the Keukenhof Park, approximately 7 million flower bulbs are planted annually in the park, which covers an area of 32 hectares. Pre-purchase tickets online to help avoid huge queues. Open last week of March to the middle of May (exact dates change every year) from 8:00 AM – 7:30 PM every day.  Address: Stationsweg 166A, 2161 AM Lisse. +31 252 465 555. https://keukenhof.nl/en/

Stores

As you enter Noordwijkerhout there is an AH supermarket to the left of your route. Turn left onto Zeestraat and it is on your right-hand-side. It is open 8:00 AM – 9:30 PM Monday – Saturday & 12:00 PM – 6:00 PM on Sundays. Left turn at 8.3km (EAS route), 18.8km (INT and CHLG route). Address: Zeestraat 14, 2211 XG Noordwijkerhout. There are lots of shops in Noordwijkerhout and there are other choices of supermarkets etc.

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Haarlem Loop Day

Overview

The route options for today show you two different sides to Haarlem: east and west. The eastern part of the route displays the typical Dutch polders and the western part shows stunningly sand dunes and beaches. The highlight of today’s route is the National Park Zuid-Kennermerland. After Haarlem the ride turns inland and winds through flat open polders to the villages of Penningsveer, Spaarnwoude and Spaarndam. You pass numerous fortifications of the Defense Line of Amsterdam which is a UNESCO World Heritage site. From Santpoort you ride through the dunes of National Park Zuid-Kennermerland.

On the Easiest route, riders first head east before heading towards the sea for a short section of coast before turning inland at Bloemendaal and riding back towards Haarlem.

On the Intermediate route, you ride through Bloemendaal and then continue south to Zandvoort, one of the most popular seaside resorts in Holland, before turning inland towards Haarlem.

For the Challenge ride, the route first heads over the Binnentoeleidingskanaal. After a loop of North Holland, you return south to join the Intermediate route back to Haarlem.

Route Options

Easiest Route

The easiest route starts eastwards heading to Penningsveer. At Penningsveer you pass Fort Penningsveer and further on, just after Spaarndam, you cycle past Fort Benoorden Spaarndam. These are part of the Defense Line of Amsterdam, a 135 km-long ring of fortifications built between 1874 and 1914 to protect the Dutch capital from enemy invasion.

From Spaarndam, you continue your anti-clockwise loop to Santpoort and then explore the National Park Zuid-Kennemerland. At Bloemendaal you turn east and head back inland to Haarlem.

Intermediate Route

This route follows the easiest route for most of the day. The difference between the two routes is that the intermediate loop continues south at Bloemendaal to Zandvoort before heading back to Haarlem.

Challenge Route

For the challenge ride, the route continues heading due north, following the canals out of Haarlem. After Sandpoort-Zuid, you pass Ruïne van Brederode (Brederode Castle) and continue north to over the Binnentoeleidingskanaal (via ferry!) where your route takes you in a loop passing the Museum Huis van Hilde, an exciting discovery through the archeology of North Holland. You will also pass the Visitor center De Hoep in Castricum, a beautifully peaceful place that explains about the purification of water and the North Holland dunes. The loop then sends you south again to join the intermediate route back to Haarlem.

Lunch

Where you lunch will depend on the route you choose.  See the route summaries above for the best towns for lunch on each route option.

In Santpoort-Noord (14km on the EAS and INT routes, 8.8km on the CHLG route) there is a charming restaurant called Klein Hoeve Duin en Kruidberg. They sell exceptional ice creams as well as snacks and sandwiches. Open 10:00 AM – 8:00 PM every day. Address: Duin- en Kruidbergerweg 89, 2071 LG Santpoort-Noord. +31 6 20707597. https://hoeveduinenkruidberg.nl/

In Bloemendaal aan zee there are fewer options for lunch. Rapa Nui is a popular beach pavilion that serves “snacky” food, although their fries are very good! Opening hours vary in summer (usually depending on the weather!) so we recommend calling on the day to see and to reserve a table. Address: Boulevard Barnaart 27, 2041 JA Zandvoort. +31 23 573 7060. https://www.rapanui.nl/

There is a steakhouse in Castricum, called Steakhouse Bij de Buurvrouw. They serve typical lunches such as soups and an amazing array of sandwiches as well as superb meat options. Open 11:00 AM – 9:30 PM every day. Address: Mient 1, 1901 AB Castricum. +31 251 235 579. https://www.bijdebuurvrouw.nl/

Restaurant Efes is a fabulous Turkish restaurant in Wijk aan Zee. A varied menu includes mixed grilled dishes and kebabs. Open 12:00 PM – 12:00 AM every day. This restaurant is just off route at 39.4km on the CHLG route. Continue straight on Verlendge Voorstradt (rather than turn right), follow the road around to the right and the restaurant is on your RHS. Address: Verlengde Voorstraat 2, 1949 CM Wijk aan Zee. +31 251 375 262. http://www.efesaanzee.nl/

In Zandvoort, the restaurants on the seafront are much of a muchness, so we recommend looking in the town. Lunchbreek is a very cosy modern breakfast and lunch spot with fresh and delicious food, attentive staff and nice outside seating. Open Monday to Saturday 8:00 AM – 5:00 PM, Sundays from 10:00 AM. Address: Haltestraat 57, 2042 LL Zandvoort. +31 23 573 6360. https://www.lunchbreek.nl/

Points of Interest en Route

The easiest and intermediate routes visit the picturesque village of Spaarndam. The town is built around a dam between the river Spaarne and the IJ (the IJ is a body of water, formally a bay, known as Amsterdam’s waterfront). The dam dates back to the 13th century when the IJ was still connected to the open sea (the Zuiderzee) and the low polders were under constant threat of flooding. The Kolksluis – the oldest working sluice of its kind in Europe – was constructed where part of the dam washed away during a storm. The hole behind the dam was turned into a harbor. To symbolize Holland’s constant battle with the water, there is a statue of the fictional character Hans Brinker – the boy who stuck his finger in the dyke to prevent his town from flooding. You’ll see this statue to your left as you enter the village. Unfortunately no dyke was ever saved by somebody sticking their finger into a small hole; the story is merely a romanticized invention of a 19th-century American novelist. Spaarndam is located at 9km on the EAS and INT routes.

Ruïne van Brederode (Brederode Castle) is located around 8km on the CHLG route. It is the stunning ruins of a 13th-century brick castle built by William I van Brederode & surrounded by a moat. You can view the historical remains of the castle, discover the history of the Brederode family and climb the keep for a beautiful view. There is a terrace with a tea garden / terrace on the front castle. They also have tours of the castle. Entrance fee of €5 per adult. Open Wednesday and Friday from 12:00 PM – 5:00 PM, and Saturday to Sunday from 11:00 AM – 5:00 PM. Address: Velserenderlaan 2, 2082 LA Santpoort-Zuid. http://www.ruinevanbrederode.nl/

The intermediate and challenge routes visit Zandvoort, one of the most popular seaside resorts in Holland. The first bathing house was built in 1827 when sea-bathing was all the rage for the elite. It was considered to be greatly beneficial to one’s health. Beach tourism boomed at the end of the 19th century when Zandvoort became accessible by train and by hypermodern electric tram. The famous Blauwe Tram (Blue Tram), which connected Zandvoort with Haarlem and Amsterdam made it possible for ordinary Amsterdamers to visit Zandvoort for the day. The tram service was discontinued in the 1950s. Since then part of the old tram track has been turned into a cycle path. Zandvoort is located at 27km / 64km on the INT and CHLG routes.

On the challenge route at approximately 28.5km, Bezoekerscentrum De Hoep is a fascinating museum that displays information about the flora and fauna of the dune area as well as everything there is to know about purifying water. The building is completely overgrown and therefore looks like a giant rabbit hole. Open Tuesday to Sunday 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM, closed on Mondays. Address: Johannisweg 2, 1901 NX Castricum. +31 251 661 066. https://www.pwn.nl/bezoekerscentrum-de-hoep

Stores

As you enter Spaarndam there is an AH supermarket on your left-hand-side. Open 7:00 AM – 8:00 PM every day. Address: Lageweg 1, 2064 KZ Spaarndam, Netherlands.

There is another AH supermarket in Zandvoort. Open 8:00 AM – 9:00 PM every day. Address: Grote Krocht 1, 2042 LT Zandvoort.


Defense Line of Amsterdam

At Penningsveer you pass Fort Penningsveer and further on, just after Spaarndam, you cycle past Fort Benoorden Spaarndam. These are part of the Defense Line of Amsterdam, a 135 km-long ring of fortifications built between 1874 and 1914 to protect the Dutch capital from enemy invasion. It uses a typically Dutch means of defense that dates back to the 16th century water management. In times of danger, large areas of land could be inundated in a matter of days thanks to a complex system of sluices, dams, dykes and flood canals. The water would only have been around 40 cm deep, but that was enough to make it impossible for the enemy to cross by foot or by boat and advance to Holland’s major cities.

The weak points in this natural defense line were the higher grounds which could not be flooded, like the area around Spaarndam. These sections were strengthened with bunkers, group shelters, forts (46 in total) and batteries. The defense line was never fully used and became obsolete with the introduction of airplanes that could fly over the inundated areas. Now the Defense Line of Amsterdam is on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
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Haarlem to Alkmaar

Overview

There are three options available for your ride to Alkmaar today. There are two routes: an intermediate route and a challenge route. For the easiest route, riders take a train along the intermediate route to Beverwijk. Alkmaar is north of Haarlem and the intermediate route takes you up, over the Binnentoeleidingskanaal (via ferry) and then follows the coast before heading inland to Alkmaar.

Both routes pass Ruïne van Brederode, which are ruins of a 13th-century brick castle built by William I van Brederode & surrounded by a moat. Here the challenge riders turn and follow the canal eastwards. The path along the canal runs the length of Spaarnwoude nature reserve and golf course. Riders then cross the canal via ferry and follow the waterways northwards from Zaanse Schans, a neighborhood in the Dutch town of Zaandam. Historic windmills and characteristic green wooden houses were transferred here to recreate the image of an 18th/19th-century village and it is a magical sight.

 Route Options

Easiest Route

This route starts with a train journey from Haarlem to Beverwijk. Haarlem train station is to the north of the city, address: Stationsplein 11 L, 2011 LR Haarlem. There are usually direct trains every 30 minutes and the journey lasts 16 minutes. From there, you follow the intermediate route described below.

Intermediate Route

You leave the city of Haarlem and almost immediately enter the Zuid-Kennemerland National Park, which is beautiful and quiet. You pass Brederode Castle at around 9.5km, details below. Continuing north the route meets the Binnentoeleidingskanaal which is crossed via the (free) ferry.

After the canal crossing, the route becomes slightly more urban as it skirts around Beverwijk before turning west towards the coast to Wijk aan Zee (a suggested lunch stop).Zuid-Kennemerland_National_Park

After Wijk aan Zee, where (if it’s a sunny day) we recommend you stop and cross the dunes to see the sea, the route turns due north and immediately enters beautifully quiet woodland where there are cows, sheep, and wild horses. The woodland alternates between covered areas and sand dunes, and if you haven’t noticed the wind before, chances are you’ll feel it here.

At around 31km there is the second recommended lunch stop at Johanna’s Hof after which the route passes Bezoekerscentrum De Hoep, a museum where one can learn about the dunes and their water purification systems. The route continues north along the coast before heading inland to Alkmaar. 

Challenge Route

River ZaanThis route follows along the intermediate route for the first 10km and then splits as it reaches the Binnentoeleidingskanaal. The challenge route does not cross the canal here but turns east through Spaarnwoude park and gardens and then crosses north after this.

The route here becomes built-up, but you will pass a range of interesting museums on your way through Zaandijk to Zaanse Schans. For example the Cacao Museum, and the Copper Museum, and the Albert Heijn (supermarket) Museum. Zaanse Schans is a nostalgic Dutch village with picturesque windmills & artisans making cheese, baked goods & more.

From Zaanse Schans the route winds north along the picturesque River Zaan with its historic windmills. At approximately 40km, you pass Stoomgemaal polder ‘t Woud Gemeentelijk Monument, an 1877 old pumping mill that is an interesting monument along the route with its large brick chimney. Hortus Bulborum, a stunning tulip “garden”, is approximately 54km into your route and open in April and May.

Lunch

Where you lunch will depend on the route you choose.  See the route summaries above for the best towns for lunch on each route option.

In Wijk aan Zee (approx. 21km on intermediate route and 4.5km on the easiest route), a small seaside village with some good options for lunch, although many are closed on a Monday. We recommend Puur Zee restaurant by IMKO’s for a very high quality seafood meal. Open Wednesday and Saturday from 6:30 PM – 9:30 PM, Thursday, Friday and Sunday from 12:00 PM – 1:30 PM and then 6:30 PM – 9:30 PM. Closed Monday and Tuesday. Address: Van Ogtropweg 2, 1949 BA Wijk aan Zee. +31 251 374 304. https://www.puurzee.nl/

There is also Brasserie wijk aan zee, where they sell great burgers and steaks. Service can be a little hit and miss. Open Thursday to Sunday from 11:30 AM – 10:00 PM. Closed Monday to Wednesday. Address: De Zwaanstraat 16-18, 1949 BC Wijk aan Zee. +31 251 293 272. https://brasserie-wijk-aan-zee.business.site/

Hotel Sonnevanck is a great option and open every day. Good food, mainly classic fish and meat dishes but also some more modern as well as vegetarian options, including delicious salads. Great cheesecake for dessert. Friendly staff and warm interior and they have a lovely terrace for a drink on sunny days. Open 9:00 AM until late every day. Address: Rijckert Aertszweg 2, 1949 BD Wijk aan Zee. +31 251 375 300. https://www.hotel-sonnevanck.nl/

Further along the intermediate route, at approx. 31km, there is a restaurant called Johanna’s Hof near the Bezoekerscentrum De Hoep (museum). This restaurant has plenty of lunch options including a complete menu, a la carte, or simply their delicious pancakes. It is situated beautifully in the woods and is very popular in the summer. Open 11:30 AM – 8:00 PM every day. Address: Johannisweg 3, 1901 NX Castricum. +31 251 652 486. https://www.johannashof.nl/

For lunch options on the Challenge route, we recommend e Hoop op d’Swarte Walvis B.V. in Zaanse Schans (approximately 32.5 km): sit outside on the terrace if possible. Good menu with lots of options including cheese platters, smoked salmon salad, “catch of the day”, burgers, and beef stew. Open Tuesday to Sunday from 11:00 AM – 9:00 PM, closed on Mondays. Address: Kalverringdijk 15, 1509 BT Zaandam. +31 75 616 5629. https://www.dewalvis.nl/

There is a more casual (but equally delicious) pancake restaurant (they also sell sandwiches, soups, and pastries) in Zaanse Schans. Instead of turning left at 32km continue straight and the restaurant is on your left-hand side after 500m. Open 9:00 AM – 6:00 PM every day. Address: Kraaienpad 1, 1509 AX Zaandam. +31 75 615 6403. https://www.dekraai.nl/nl

Another popular option further along the route at approximately 46.5km is Restaurant Havenrijk Uitgeest. Set in a beautiful location on the water, the service is good, and the food is great. Reservations highly recommended. Open Wednesday to Sunday 12:00 PM – 12:00 AM. Address: Lagendijk 41, 1911 MT Uitgeest. +31 251 313 937. http://havenrijk.nl/

In Uitgeest (around 48km), there is Bistro ‘t Schippersrijk, an a-la-carte restaurant on the Uitgeestermeer. The lake-side location is fantastic and the food and service just as special. They are renowned for their one-meter boards (pictured left), composed of various cold and hot delicacies: including various meats, carpaccio, smoked salmon, shrimp, cheese fondue, croquettes, goat cheese patties, soups and sandwiches. Open Tuesday to Sunday from 12:00 PM – 10:00 PM, closed on Mondays. Address: Lagendijk 3, 1911 MT Uitgeest. +31 251 312 626. https://www.schippersrijk.nl/

Points of Interest en Route

Challenge riders have the option to visit Hortus Bulborum: nowhere in the world can such an enormous variety of historical tulips be found as in this garden. More than 2,650 varieties and species all neatly grouped and well specified. Among them the Duc van Told, Red and Yellow that was grown in Holland for the first time in 1595 and laid the foundation of commercial bulb growing. As well as the tulips there are over 1,100 different varieties and species of daffodils and more than 100 varieties of both crocuses and hyacinths. The garden is run by volunteers and many of them are or were active in the bulb industry so there should always be someone to answer your questions. Guided tours are available. Their small café where, as well as tea and coffee, bulbs, souvenirs, postcards and books are available. Open approximately 3rd April to 16th May only (changes slightly every year). Monday to Saturday from 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM, and Sundays 12:00 PM – 5:00 PM. Address: Zuidkerkenlaan 23A, 1906 AC Limmen (approximately 54km into the route). +31 6 11889489. https://www.hortus-bulborum.nl/

Ruïne van Brederode is located around 9.6km along both the intermediate and challenge routes. It is the historic ruins of a 13th-century brick castle built by William I van Brederode & surrounded by a moat. You can view the remains of the castle, discover the history of the Brederode family and climb the keep for a beautiful view. There is a terrace with a tea garden / terrace on the front castle. They also have tours of the castle. Entrance fee of €5 per adult. Open Wednesday and Friday from 12:00 PM – 5:00 PM, and Saturday to Sunday from 11:00 AM – 5:00 PM. Address: Velserenderlaan 2, 2082 LA Santpoort-Zuid. http://www.ruinevanbrederode.nl/

The challenge route visits the Zaanse Schans, a unique part of the Netherlands. It is a residential zone in which the 18th and 19th centuries are brought to life. There is a bakery museum where you can enjoy the smell of fresh cookies or there is an interesting warehouse where clogs are made. Other parts  not to miss are the cheese factory, pewter foundry and the many windmills. www.dezaanseschans.nl

The Cacaomuseum (challenge route) offers an assortment of the world’s best fine flavor “bean to bar” chocolates, and surprising products such as cacaocheese, cacaosausages, cacaobeer, cacaoconfiture and cacaotea. They also serve coffee, teas and special hot chocolate drinks …. with delicious chocolate cake. There is a permanent exposition on the world of cacao and chocolate with chocolate paintings and special objects, starting in South America, where cacao originates, and finishing in the Netherlands. Open Tuesday to Saturday from 10:00 AM – 6:00 PM, closed Sunday to Monday. Address: Stationsstraat, 1541 LC Koog aan de Zaan. +31 6 12797707. https://cacaomuseum.nl/

Stoomgemaal polder ‘t Woud Gemeentelijk Monument is a pumping station on the challenge route that was built in 1877 to drain the polder ‘t Woud, together with a small pumping station near the Woudaap mill. This building stands out along the Noordervaartdijk and a remnant from the time of the polder that now has a new function. Address: Noordervaartdijk 26, 1561 PT Krommenie. https://www.hgc-krommenie.nl/noordervaartdijk-26-27/

Bezoekerscentrum De Hoep is a fascinating museum on the easiest and intermediate routes that displays
information about the flora and fauna of the dune area as well as information about purifying water. The building is completely overgrown and therefore looks like a giant rabbit hole. Open Tuesday to Sunday 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM, closed on Mondays. Address: Johannisweg 2, 1901 NX Castricum. +31 251 661 066. https://www.pwn.nl/bezoekerscentrum-de-hoep

 

Stores

On the easiest and intermediate route there is a SPAR supermarket just as you enter Wijk aan Zee (4.5km and 21km respectively). Open Monday to Saturday from 8:00 AM – 6:30 PM, and Sundays 3:00 PM – 6:00 PM.

On the Challenge route there is a Jumbo supermarket as you ride through Uitgeest at approximately 49km. Open Monday to Saturday 8:00 AM – 9:00 PM, and Sundays 10:00 AM – 6:00 PM. Address: Melis Stokelaan 1-3, 1911 SM Uitgeest.

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Safety and Enjoyment

Cycle Route Safety

The Dutch cycling network is very conspicuous in the general infrastructure of The Netherlands. Traffic rules are considerably different to North America.

Give way to all motorized and non-motorized traffic approaching from the right hand side, unless stated otherwise.


Cycle path. 
If there is a cycle path adjacent to a main road marked with the blue round cycle path sign you must use the path. You will not only be honked at by drivers if you don’t, but you can also be fined for cycling on the main carriageway.

Obviously, you are not allowed to cycle on motorways or interstates (in the Netherlands these roads have A-numbers). There are also other main roads where cycling is not allowed. In these situations, you’ll find the ‘no cycling sign’ clearly displayed. Also watch out for footpaths where cycling is not allowed.

On cycle paths and roads, it is completely acceptable to ring your bell to indicate that other users should get out of your way. They will normally do this immediately, without the need for you to slow down. Occasionally though, you might find yourself cycling on a shared cycle path. These paths, where walking has priority will be marked with this blue sign, indicates that cycling is permitted (“toegestaan”) or that you are a guest (“te gast”) on your bike. On these paths you need to give way to walkers!

Priority issues – clearly marked junctions. If a cycle path crosses a road, it varies whether the cyclist on the crossing has priority or the traffic on the road. You’ll need to get used to reading the triangle “give way” markings, also known as “shark teeth”. These are marked on the road surface or
with “give way” signs.

Mopeds. No country is perfect, and the Dutch cycle network has one particular hazard; the legal use of mopeds, scooters and small cars (for use by the disabled) on most cycle paths. On Dutch cycle paths, a speed limit of 45 km/h (30 mph) applies, but mopeds, scooters and electric bikes can go faster. This can be hazardous, especially in urban areas.

Tram tracks & railway crossings. Be careful crossing trams and train tracks. Steer your wheel at right angles to the track to prevent your wheels getting stuck in the tracks. In cities, turning trams always have right of way. At railway crossings you must wait when any lights flash red.

Riding Safely

Your safety is our first priority and should be yours, too! Here, we share some ideas on helping you get the most from your cycling tour – safely and while having fun.

We have a few simple rules we ask you to follow:

    1. Always wear a cycle helmet fastened securely while cycling.
    2. Do not ride at night or in the dim light of dawn or dusk.
    3. Ride in single file and with the direction of traffic.
    4. Carry identification, details of your medical/travel insurance and emergency contact details.
    5. Sign an accident waiver indicating you are fit to ride and understand the risks.
    6. All cyclists under 16 years of age:
      • Must wear a florescent safety triangle or high visibility clothing.
      • Need to be accompanied by an adult over the age of 21 who is responsible for their safety at all times while cycling.

Daily Bike Checks

Your rental bikes are checked and tuned before every trip.  However, it is useful to do some regular checks just to keep things running smoothly. These checks should take less than five minutes to do.  Of course, if you’re in any doubt or have any concerns, give us a call and we’ll have a guide come out to you.  If they can’t fix a problem they’ll arrange for a new bike.

Brakes: 

  • Do both brake levers engage the brakes smoothly?  This test is best performed first on a stationary bike and then on a moving bike.
  • Are the shoes spaced evenly on either side of the wheel and the brake blocks close to but not rubbing on the wheel rims?
  • Are cables OK – not frayed – and under tension?

Handlebars & stem:

  • Check alignment – does the wheel point forward when the handlebars point forward?
  • Holding front wheel between legs check for lateral movement when flexing/twisting handlebars.
  • With front brake engaged, move bike back and forth to check for any rocking.  If there is movement, the headset may need tightening.

Gear changing.  This check is easily done as you set out at the start of your ride:

  • Check all front gears engage/change smoothly
  • Check all rear gears engage/change smoothly
  • Are cables OK – not frayed?

Chain:

  • If you’ve been riding in rain or on wet roads, you may want to wipe off your chain and apply a little lube the night before.  In the morning, run a clean rag over the chain to remove any excess oil.
  • But don’t overdo it; an over-oiled chain just attracts dirt.

Wheels & tires:

  • Inflate front & back tires to recommended tire pressure which should be written on the side.
  • Check front & rear wheels spin smoothly with little friction or noise and are true (no wobbles).
  • Check there are no loose or broken spokes in either wheel.
  • Check tires including sidewalls for cuts or other damage.
  • Check tires for any foreign bodies embedded in the tires and remove / replace tires as needed.
  • Are the quick-release mechanisms secure, correctly engaged and pointing backwards?

Frame:

  • Check for cracks and alignment in the frame, the headset & the handlebars – especially if you accidentally dropped the bike.
  • Pay extra attention and feel for problems in carbon forks and carbon rear stays where fitted.
  • General check for any loose parts.

Riding Safely

Here are our favorite top tips to help you have a safe trip.

  1. Ride predictably in smooth lines and avoid weaving or wobbling. When you stop – for example to check your map – we recommend that you move off the road. The more people there are in your group, the more important this becomes.
  2. Stay alert, be aware and anticipate; anticipate what other vehicles will do, anticipate what gear you will need to be in after you stop and anticipate the approaching road surface – do you need to avoid gravel, potholes or broken glass? Should you dismount to cross railroad tracks?  [FACT: 50% of urban accidents happen solo.  That is, people just fall off of their own accord.  A little anticipation would work wonders here.]
  3. Be as visible as you can be. Our fluorescent triangles are available to all guests and we recommend that riders of all standards wear them.  [When riding with our florescent triangles, we have noticed that cars give us a noticeably wider berth as they pass by.]
  4. Choose a safe riding position on the road. Stay as close as is safe to the right-hand side of the road as possible but do not be cowed into a dangerous riding position.  For example, avoid riding on grit, or dangerously broken pavement or where you are at risk of being hit by an opening car door.
  5. Obey the law. Drivers will give cyclist more respect, and you are far safer, if you obey all the traffic laws – including stopping at stop signs, riding on the right-hand side of the road and not riding under the influence of alcohol.  [FACT: 10% of ‘cyclist at fault’ accidents are caused by cyclist using the wrong side of the road.]
  6. Ride assertively but defensively. At intersections, make eye contact with drivers.  Assertive riding is easier for drivers to predict, but cars are bigger and harder than we are, so we always try to avoid getting into confrontations with them.  [FACT: 63% of cyclist collisions occur at intersections.  The most common cause of accidents, where the driver is at fault, is the driver’s failure to yield the right of way.]
  7. Check out your bike and make sure you are confident that it is roadworthy. Everyday check brakes, tires, quick release mechanisms, pedals and headsets.  Everything should fit snuggly and move smoothly.  Whether you are riding your own or a rented bike, the roadworthiness of that bike is your responsibility.

7 Habits of Highly Effective Cyclists

[Apologies to Stephen Covey]

As well as having a safe tour, we are keen for you to enjoy cycling and achieve a real sense of accomplishment.  This is likely to include riding within your limits and not exhausting yourself before lunch.  Here are some thoughts on how to stay happy on your bike.

  1. Eat before you are hungry. Even moderate cycling burns around 300 calories per hour so eat plenty of snacks such as power bars or trail mix.  We need to eat in enough time to allow our bodies to process the food and get the fuel to our legs before the fuel gauge reaches on empty.  Recovering from a fuel deficit is very difficult and will leave you tired for the rest of the day.  So, indulge yourself.  [Everybody’s metabolism is different, but when riding extended distances, it is typical to need to eat something every 45 minutes.  A nice big bowl of pasta the night before and a carbohydrate rich breakfast in the morning also help.]
  2. Drink before you are thirsty. It can get very hot on the bike in this area.  As you sweat, you will lose both water and essential salts.  You will not notice the effects until it is too late.  Drink plenty of water before you start to ride and then take regular sips en route.  [A good target is to drink either water or a sports drink at least every 30 minutes.]
  3. Ride at a pace that feels comfortable. Even when climbing hills, it is good practice to be able to keep a conversation going without being out of breath.  This means changing down to a low gear, keeping your cadence high and taking things easy.  If you are a slow rider riding with fitter friends, have them ride at your pace rather than you struggling to keep up with them.  This will also help them avoid sore legs the next day.
  4. The sun can get very intense, especially in the middle of the day so keep your shirt on and use a high factor sunscreen. [Watch for being burned through the gaps in your cycle helmet.  Many of the best helmets have extra wide gaps for better ventilation.  A bandana under the helmet can make all the difference.]
  5. Relax and change your hand position regularly. This helps avoid shoulder cricks or back aches.  Drop handlebars are better for being able to do this than straight handlebars.
  6. Check your bike. A sticking brake or skipping gear stops you relaxing and can be dangerous.  If you are unsure, talk to your guide, who will be happy to help you check things out if you have a concern.
  7. Smile, you are on vacation!

Seat Height Adjustment

Seat height adjustment is more craft than science.  The most important thing is that you feel safe and confident on the bike.  However, getting your saddle to the right height will also help you stay comfortable on longer rides, avoid saddle sores and conserve your energy while you pedal.

Bike fitters can spend hours getting your fit just right, but here are some simple rules of thumb.

  1. Stand and hold or prop yourself up against a wall.
  2. Position the pedals so the pedal cranks are vertical (one pedals at 12 o’clock and one pedal at 6 o’clock).
  3. Get on your bike and place your feet on the pedals. Move your foot so that your heel is on the pedal at 6 o’clock.
  4. When your seat is at the correct height, your leg (of the foot at 6 o’clock) should be straight but your knee shouldn’t be locked (technically, there should be a 25-30-degree flexion in the knee when the pedal is at the bottom most point).

If your seat is too low, it will make it harder to pedal and you may get knee pain at the front of the knee.  Too high and your hips will go from side to side which will make you tend to ride in too high a gear and you may develop pain at the back of your knees.

Saddle Sores

Saddle sores are the great unmentioned subject of cycling.  However, if you have not been riding much recently and start doing a lot of miles on a bike, you may well become just a little too familiar with this phenomenon.

To prevent sores, it’s helpful to know what they are.  Definition: A saddle sore is a skin ailment on the buttocks due to, or exacerbated by, riding on a bicycle saddle.  It often develops in three stages: skin abrasion, folliculitis (inflammation of the hair follicles) and, finally, abscess.  If it’s not obvious from the definition, it is better to stop the sores in the early stages than try and treat it in the final stage.

The best cure of all is to not get them in the first place.  The best way not to get them is to gradually build up your riding mileage and get used to your bike seat.  Doing rides before you come on the trip will help with this.  Other good preventative measures include:

  • Reducing the friction due to bobbing or swinging motion while pedaling, by setting the appropriate saddle height – see above.
  • If you have a favorite saddle, bring it along and we’ll fit it to your rental bike.
  • Wearing good cycling shorts, with a high-quality chamois insert.
  • Use petroleum jelly, chamois cream or lubricating gel on the chamois to further reduce friction.
  • Do not sit around in damp bike shorts after your ride and thoroughly wash and dry the affected area.
  • A friend who guides extreme mountain biking trips in the Colorado Rockies swears by putting hemorrhoid cream on the affected area. If all else fails, it’s worth a try!

There are pharmacies in all the main towns you’ll stay in if you need medical treatment.  Our primary message would be, if you think you have them, don’t ignore them.

Fixing a Flat

Of course, we hope you won’t ever need this skill – but just in case here is a checklist for fixing a flat – or repairing a puncture in your tyre as the English would say!  If it seems as though there are a lot of steps, you may be reassured by the fact we have seen all these steps completed in just over a minute

Remove the wheel. Sounds simple, but a couple of hints might make this easier.

  • If it’s the rear wheel, first put the chain on the smallest cog. This makes it easier to remove and replace the wheel.
  • Undo the quick release.
  • If it’s the front wheel, you will need to unscrew the quick release a little to get it over the lips on the fork – they’re known as lawyers’ lips!
  • You may have to loosen the brakes a little to get the tire past the brake blocks if there is still some air in the tires. On hybrid bikes this usually means squeezing the brake calipers together and unhitching the cable.  On road bikes there is usually a release mechanism on the caliper itself (or on the brake lever).
  • For the back wheel, you may need to ease back the derailleur a little before the wheel just drops out under gravity.

Let the air out of the tire.

  • For Presta valves, loosen the small nut at the top of the valve and press down.
  • For Schrader valves (like the valves on car tires) press the tip of a tool or stick onto the valve tip.

Before doing anything else, spin the wheel to see if you can find out what caused the flat. If you find it, either remove it now or mark it so you can remove it when you remove the tire.

If you’re very lucky, you’ll now be able to ease the tire off the rim with your bare hands. But to do this you may well need bear’s hands. Alternatively, you’ll need to use tire levers (irons):

  1. Insert the curved end of two tire levers under the edge of the tire about two spokes apart.
  2. Lever back the first tire lever to take the tire off the rim being careful not to pinch the inner tube and so add an extra hole to patch! Hook the free end of the lever around a spoke.  This leaves your hands free to lever back the second tire lever.
  3. Keeping the hooked lever stationary work the other lever around the tire until one side of the tire is completely removed from the rim but leaving the other side still seated on the rim. If a tire is very tight, you may need to engage a third lever.  When the third is in place, the middle one can be removed and re-inserted farther over.
  4. Remove the valve stem of the inner tube first then pull the rest of the inner tube from the tire. Try to keep the inner tube oriented with the tire so that when you find the hole you can navigate back to the same point in the tire and double check that what caused the flat isn’t still embedded.
  5. Look over the external and inside of the tire for damage and embedded debris. Remove any objects.  Then run your finger around the inside of the tire (carefully!) to detect any glass or thorns.  As a final check, inflate the tube and locate the puncture hole.  Check the tire at the corresponding place to ensure the offending object has been removed.  If you skip this step or are just a bit sloppy you may have another flat five minutes after getting back on your bike!
  6. Hopefully, you have a spare tube that your nice tour company gave you at the start of your ride. If not you’ll need to repair the hole in the old tube using a patch kit.
  7. Place some air in the new (or repaired) tube – just enough to give it some shape. Insert the valve stem on the tube into the valve hole in the wheel and then ease the rest of the tube into the tire.  Then ease the tire wall so the tube is sitting in line with the wheel not hanging outside of the wheel.

Now the tricky part.  Starting at the valve, work the tire back onto the rim using your thumbs or the muscle in the palm just under the thumb (actually the abductor pollicis brevis though knowing this won’t help you get the tire back on).  If the last section is hard to get on, try these things:

  • Ensure that the tire that is inside of the wheel is sitting well into the rim.
  • Hold the wheel horizontally against your stomach with the section of wheel without the tire on furthest away from you. Then use your abductor pollicis brevises to roll the tire onto the rim.
  • If none of this helps, use tire levers to work the bead onto the rim. However, if you resort to this there is a real risk of pinching the inner tube and creating another hole and being back to Step 4 above!

Inflate the tire.

As you inflate ensure that the tire is sitting evenly in the wheel.  If not, let out a little wire and reseat the tire in the rim.

When inflated, spin the wheel to ensure there are no bulges or wobbles. If there are, deflate the tire, reseat the tire on the rim and re-inflate.

Replace the wheel. (This is pretty much the reverse of Step 1.)

  • If you didn’t need to loosen the brakes to get the deflated wheel off, you may find you need to do it now to get it back on. A tap with the palm of your hand can also do the trick to ease the tire past the brake blocks.  DON’T FORGET TO RETIGHTEN THE BRAKES BEFORE HEADING OFF!
  • If it’s the front wheel, you will need to retighten the quick release a little after getting it over the fork lips before reengaging the quick release. The pressure needed to close the quick release should be enough to leave a small mark on the palm of your hand but not so much you need to apply all your strength and all the strength of your cycling partner to close it.
  • For the back wheel, you may need to ease back the derailleur a little before the wheel drops into place.

My Customized Itinerary

If you’ve made it this far, there’s likely an Oregon cycling trip in your future. We’d love to create the perfect custom itinerary for you! Please submit your request below for a no-obligation personalized cycling vacation to be created for you.

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