Ride the Netherlands 2021
Thanks for expressing interest. If it can happen, I’ll give the first shout on places to all those who have expressed interest (and their party). Best attempt to give you my thoughts below.
Dealing with the obvious first …I don’t know if this can happen, but you will all know as much as me. The next lair of that issue is that there almost certainly has to be some judgment from us all about what can happen and when – as I don’t expect an announcement that ‘everything is back to normal now’. There were no travel restrictions to The Netherlands in early summer 2020, but that’s not to say I would have organised a group to go cycling there at that time this year. The further complication is that a small business like mine might have been able to defer 2020 plans to 2021 but I don’t think that can happen for a second year …which creates pressure to do something if something is possible, even if that something is not perfect! It’s all a wait and see.
The only sensible thing seems to be to wait and make a judgment as circumstances change. In a perfect world, I’d set a date in June. If June is not looking likely, I’d look at August, then September. I could say keep the first or second week of June free …BUT I am not keen to give anyone the temptation to book flights/ferry …but I’ve given you a hint! I have made some enquiries with hotels and I will judge going forward if/when I set a provisional date. I am especially wary of landing in a position where is doesn’t feel right to go …but airlines say you can go and it’s your loss if you decide not to.
I will not regard the itinerary as ‘set in stone’ BUT I am looking at something along the lines of a 4 day ride that will go from the South West to the North East – possibly The Hague to Groningen. Give or take, that generally involves days that average around 100km (60 ish miles). There is a ‘BUT’ or two below!
My thinking is a route that might be:
Day One – The Hague-Utrecht (via the smaller cities of Leiden and Gouda),
Day Two – Utrecht-Arnhem (via Amersfoort and Hoge Veluwe National Park)
Day Three – Arnhem-Zwolle (via smaller cities of Zuphter and Deventer)
Day Four – Zwolle-Groningen (it gets more rural further north. Going via town of Meppel & Drents-Friese Wold National Park)
It is The Netherlands and it will be flat. I do feel compelled to look for a hill somewhere (there is one around Zwolle)!! Flat isn’t always easy and if we get a windy day, it might get a whole lot more challenging. I have set a (provisional) route thinking a little about the wind probabilities …there are quite a lot of unknowns and that’s another one!
On each of the four days I will share the core route AND a purely optional longer version. For instance if the day one is as above (The Hague-Leiden-Gouda-Utrecht) then there will be a second version of the route the will have all the same waypoints/café stops, but will just have slightly longer ways to get there. I expect this means that you will have options for days that are 60 or 80 miles …and you could even split the difference by switching from one to the other half way through.
In locations other than The Netherlands, I’d set a route that avoids riding through cities, but I think it’s part of the Dutch experience …but have sought to pick out mostly historic cities that might be nice place to spend an hour or two. It won’t feature Amsterdam or Rotterdam. Groningen and Utrecht are sometimes talked of as the leading Dutch (world?) cycling cities, so I had in mind a route that would include both.
The Group Dynamic
The cycling each day is independent …in that I won’t be telling anyone when to leave, when to stop and what pace to ride. If you come with partner or friends and plan to ride just with them, that is absolutely fine. If you come alone, I am certain there will be others happy to link up. I envisage a trip that will have multiple ‘recommended’ cafes marked on the route and that will make it easier to connect with others. Obviously, you don’t have to stop in cafés.
We will have a support cyclist each day to ensure nobody is left alone at the back. That person will depart at a published time/place each morning so can be joined by others.
I shall see interest levels, but I don’t have a fixed idea of numbers …maybe 30-40 but if there is more interest, there are lots of hotel, cafes and bike lanes, so I’d see what happens. As above, I don’t think I am setting anyone up to be in a large group, either for cycling or for food, but you won’t be left on your own.
I am looking at this and so I am not yet sure exactly how we do it …and that obviously determines the cost. I will explore hotel options and decide whether I am booking the hotels and selling a packaged trip OR if I am inviting each to book the hotels themselves.
There will be a bag transfer service each day, with bags collected from your hotel after breakfast and dropped at your destination hotel. That part is straightforward.
The cycling is independent BUT we will have a vehicle that can come to the rescue of anyone who is stuck. Being in a nation with a cycling culture means that local places do have bike shops more than home and there is a bike-friendly rail network that we will rarely be too far from. However, we will provide a service to help if you should need it. There are likely to be cycle paths through National Parks that are not accessible for vehicles.
The routes will be provided digitally for download to a GPS device. Navigation will be important and following a route downloaded to a device on your handlebars is an awful lot easier than other options. This being the Netherlands, there are cycling routes in all directions and the worst case scenario is that if you know you are heading towards Utrecht, you will pick up bike route signs to take you to Utrecht, but the route will be planned to try and offer best cycling rather than just quickest A to B.
My intention is to run a vehicle from Aberdeen (with pick up points in Dundee/Central Belt if demand) to carry bikes there and back. Again there are some uncertainties about whether crossing with goods to Europe is more complicated after the Brexit transition is over and I will wait and see before deciding how this looks. All being well, we’d take a boxed bike (proper box or cardboard box) and deliver to your hotel the night before ride begins. At the end, bikes will be boxed again and the vehicle will make the return trip.
There are direct trains from Schiphol airport to The Hague (30 min) and from Groningen (2 hours).
Cycling in NL
If you haven’t cycled in/visited The Netherlands before and you have any concerns about the cycling elements, I thought a few pictures from Google streetview can tell you a lot. Not every km of our route will be on segregated cycle lanes, but you don’t be on any busy roads. I saved a few pics from possible 4th day route that can be seen here