Showing posts with label Cycle touring. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Cycle touring. Show all posts

Friday, 18 September 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The book with 164 full colour pages (page size 225 x 120 mm), spiral/wiro bound and the electronic GPS-tracks pack costs £18.95 for deliveries within the United Kingdom, £22.95 for deliveries in all other EU-countries (including The Netherlands) and £24.95 for deliveries world-wide. Find out more and order the book via Retailers interested in stocking the book should be in touch with our distributor Cordee (ISBN 9780957661714). 

What about another great guidebook by the Cycling Dutchman?

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

Other popular Cycling Dutchman blog articles:

Explaining Dutch cycling infrastructure:

Dutch bike rides and Dutch cycling culture:

Dutch style bike rides in the United Kingdom:

Sunday, 1 March 2015

Cycling around the English Channel with the Tour de Manche

With the spring in the air, you may fancy heading out with the bike on my London-Land’s End Cycle Route. If you find Land’s End in Cornwall "a bridge too far" though, you may want to look into the great new traffic-calmed cycle touring opportunities southbound towards the English Channel. With our Skip the Exmoor Hills Offer it is easy to take in the gentle Devon Coast to Coast Cycle Route to Plymouth, where the London-Land’s End Route connects to a wealth of new route choices.

Let me introduce you to my friends Roy and Jacqui Gisborne of Signpost Cycling. Roy and Jacqui (on left in this picture) are pioneering cycling tourism in Dorset and have developed a similar guidebook product as “London-Land’s End” for the coastal route between Plymouth and Weymouth/Poole. Their Tour de Manche pack provides great mapping through the Sustrans Cycle City Guide series and reliable information in their 16-pages guidebook.

This product takes you in nine stages from Plymouth to Poole, with opportunities to take a ferry to France in Plymouth, Weymouth and Poole. If you have completed the Devon Coast to Coast with my London-Land's End Route in Plymouth, I’d recommend taking bikes on the train to Exeter as the section between Plymouth and Exeter still takes you partly on busy main roads (NCN 279). From Exeter, you can then comfortably join Roy and Jacqui’s pack. The brand-new Exe Valley Trail (see picture) is simply amazing and takes you quickly to the Jurassic Coast from where the Tour de Manche fun truly starts.    

Although very hilly, this route section to Bridport is truly traffic-calmed, providing you with amazing views and fabulous hidden attractions, such as the Donkey Sancuary, Beer Quarry Caves and the Seaton Tramway. Near scenic Dorchester you’ll also cycle via the famous Hardy Monument before having the choice to cycle either to Weymouth or Poole. If heading to Weymouth, you’ll have panoramic views over Chessil Beach and Weymouth, as Roy and Jacqui show in this picture.

So, what about the routes on the French side of the Channel then? As you can see on the map, there are various Tour de Manche route options possible. In the January issue of the Belgian Cyclelive Magazine, Cycling Dutchman Teus Korporaal explains how the routes on the French side are well signposted, but that you may need additional local maps to work out the individual stretches of the route. 

The only product describing the French side in English is the Petit Tour De Manche guide by Mark Porter. Similar to our London-Land’s End guide and the Tour de Manche pack by the Gisbornes, this book covers visitor information and accommodation suggestions for the section between St Malo and Cherbourg. It includes cycling via famous Mont St Michel (see picture, courtesy of Tour de Manche). The route section Roscoff-St Malo is not covered by this guidebook.  Except some broad information on the official website, detailed info about this section seems to be currently unavailable in English

In summary, I’d like to conclude that the international Tour de Manche project has opened up a wealth of new cycle touring itineraries, previously under-explored. On the official Tour de Manche website you'll find general useful information about all individual route sections. Some great products are available to help you cycling individual shorter sections of the route. It is unfortunate though that there is no product available that covers the full 1200 km network and that some route sections are likely to remain sketchy in the years to come. 

In this respect, the latest publication by (again!) another Cycling Dutchman Kees Swart should serve an inspiration. His independently produced Cycling around the Channel-books are a brave attempt to map all the available cycle routes around the English Channel. It is currently only available in Dutch, but I am confident it will be published in English by a fellow cycling tourism pioneer in the future. 

All Tour De Manche products in summary:

Tour de Manche - Cycle Route Guide Pack Plymouth - Poole by Roy and Jacqui Gisborne; guidebook of 16 pages in full colour, two Sustrans Cycle Maps and GPS-tracks pack, £ 19.95, see also

Petit Tour de Manche - Cycle Route Guide St Malo - Cherbourg by Mark Porter, paperback guidebook, 168 pages, also including the English section Weymouth-Poole, £ 11.99, see also

Cycling around the Channel (Fietsen rond het Kanaal - Dutch) by Kees Swart,  two guidebooks of both 172 pages, colour, wiro bound, fits in standard handlebar bag, includes GPS-tracks pack, € 19.50 per book, see

London - Land's End Cycle Route Book by the author of this article, connects Dover to Plymouth via London, Bath and Bristol, includes the Devon Coast-to-Coast route and also makes cycling to Poole possible; the ultimate product to access the Tour de Manche by bike! 164 pages, colour, wiro bound, fits in standard handlebar bag, includes GPS-tracks pack, £ 15.99, see

Other popular Cycling Dutchman blog articles:

Explaining Dutch cycling infrastructure:

Dutch bike rides and Dutch cycling culture:

The 12 best bike rides of The Netherlands

Dutch style bike rides in the United Kingdom:

Friday, 3 October 2014

Long distance cycling with two toddlers!

How did you do it? What did you bring? Which routes did you take? How much distance did you cover in a day? These are all regular questions to be answered by those who completed any long-distance multiple day cycle trip. I can usually answer such questions myself, but when talking long distance cycling with toddlers I have to turn to a friend of mine. Tom Burslem is a GIS and mapping specialist who recently spent the summer cycling across The Netherlands, Germany and Denmarktogether with his wife and two small children. This is their story:

We have always enjoyed cycle touring, and have undertaken numerous trips both in the UK and Europe. However since having children we’ve had to hang up our panniers thinking that touring with babies, toddlers and the associated paraphernalia which goes with little ones would be too difficult.

Emily (3) and Sebastian (15 months) are both very used to travelling on bikes in either a seat mounted to the rear rack or in a trailer, and they seemed to be happy to be transported this way for just as long as they are willing to sit in a pushchair. This got us thinking - maybe a cycle tour would be possible.

We were still put off a bit by thinking about how much stuff we would have to take. Clothes alone for 4 people would require pairing down to the bare minimum. But what is the bare minimum? How many t-shirts do you take for a 15 month-old boy who has a magnetic attraction to all things messy? With this, and a thousand other questions in mind, we did a mini cycle tour close to home and decided what was essential and what wasn’t. This trip gave us confidence and we started to think about where else we could go. It needed to be easy to get to. It needed to be flat, and there needed to be plenty of campsites and playgrounds. 

We plumped for the Hook of Holland to Denmark for a number of reasons, the main one being the cycle friendliness of the countries we would go through. With this in mind we booked a one-way ticket from Harwich to the Hook and started worrying about how long we would be able to last. From the Hook we travelled north up the Dutch coast, via the Afsluitdijk to the Frisian part of the Netherlands, and then via Groningen into Germany

In Germany, we took ferries across the Weser and Elbe rivers and then headed north to Flensburg, where we crossed into Denmark. In Denmark we cycled and took ferries via Sonderborg and Svendborg to end up in Rodbyhaven. We then took the ferry back to Germany, got a train back to the Hook and a ferry back to the UK. We cycled just under 1000 km (over 600 miles) and were away 6 weeks.


Travelling with kids meant taking a lot of stuff – hence the need for a flat route! We took a bike seat for the back of Tania's bike and a 2 berth trailer (Burley d'lite for those interested in such details) which I towed. Our trial runs taught us that it would be good to have options in swapping the kids around, and they tend to start unsuitable hitting competitions if they are both in the trailer. The Burley was excellent, but not perfect. It is waterproof but water does get in when it is raining very hard. The straps are a bit fiddly and the tyres supplied aren’t great. However the kids are happy in it so must be comfy, and the boot is nice and big, even with two children in the front.

Our decision to take a bike seat in addition to a trailer meant that we could not take rear panniers for Tania’s bike. We therefore needed the boot space in the trailer. We also took a rucksack which we attached to the bike seat when both kids were in the trailer. We allowed Emily one bag of toys and books, which she chose when we were packing. Space was also made for two favourite soft toys, both of which very much enjoyed the experience.

A typical day

We very quickly established a daily routine. Seb usually wakes us up at about 6:15. He is very vocal until he has breakfast so we rush to do this before he wakes the whole campsite. We then packed up and were away by 9:00. Both kids loved camping. However Seb got very nervous when he saw us packing up in the morning. He worried that he would be forgotten so we put him in a sling to assure him he wouldn’t be left behind. This made packing quite a time consuming process.

In the morning Seb went in the trailer and Emily in the bike seat. Seb went straight to sleep and we cycled until he woke up. We tried to get the majority of mileage done while he was asleep. He could easily do 90 minutes. Emily loved the bike seat and was constantly asking questions about the passing scenery, most of which started with 'why'. 

When Seb woke up we would have a long break at a playground and lunch, and then they swapped berths for the much shorter afternoon cycle. The daily distances covered were typically 30 to 40 km. We would arrive at the campsite early which meant we could put the tents up, make dinner, find yet more playgrounds, wash and get the kids to sleep by about 7pm.

The kids' appetites increased hugely on this trip and they started eating - something we didn’t anticipate, and our small Trangia stove wasn’t big enough to cook a meal in one go so we ended up cooking and eating in shifts.

I love cycling in The Netherlands. There cycling is the norm and you become one of the crowd. You don’t get strange looks from onlookers, and your fellow road users are so polite. We’ve never experienced threatening behaviour from drivers, or the impatient revving that you get in the UK. We put this down to cyclists having their own space and the fact that most motorists are also cyclists, but maybe it is just because the Dutch as a nation are not in so much of a hurry to get from A to B.

I find crossing borders very exciting, but the crossing from the Netherlands into Germany was a bit of an anti-climax. It was nothing more than a bridge over a canal and a man gave us a very strange look as we stopped to take a photo. There wasn’t even a sign mentioning the fact we were going from one country to the next. 

I'm always surprised how different things are immediately after you cross a border. The scenery was the same (flat and agricultural) but everything else was completely different. In the Netherlands most villages have a playground, whereas in Germany it is rare to find one. The campsites have a very different feel to them as well. The Dutch use campsites as places to spend a family holiday, but in Germany were quieter and a little run down.

The other main difference was of course the language. We immediately went from being understood by nearly everyone to being understood by almost no one. The Dutch spoke English very well, which made us very lazy about learning their language. We were just catching on to saying ‘hello’, ‘thank you’ and simple phrases by the time we left. However in Germany we learnt much more very quickly.

The border between Germany and Denmark was similarly unremarkable but still an unmanned hut on both sides where once upon a time you would have had to show a passport.

The journey home

To get home we travelled by train from Puttgarden in Germany to Hook of Holland. We did it over a number of days to ease the pain. I was expecting problems travelling with two bikes and a trailer on a train, but it couldn’t have been easier. We travelled by Deutsche Bahn Regional train to Hamburg. These were double-decker trains, and they have a dedicated space for bikes on a lower deck of one carriage. You buy a ticket for your bike and can just turn up and get on. There is plenty of space and we didn’t have any problems. We then travelled from Hamburg to Amsterdam on an Intercity service. We had to book this (ourselves and the bikes) but it was not a problem either. We needed to book three bike spaces (two for the bikes and one for the trailer). Amsterdam to the Hook was also not a problem.

The most stressful part of the return journey was wondering whether the British rail network would accept two bikes and a trailer. It is not possible to book and there is nothing telling you whether you are allowed to take a trailer. We were lucky and had no problems travelling on quiet trains in the middle of the day. I would not like to travel on a crowded service however.

Would we do the trip again?

Cycle touring with toddlers is hard work. The cycling was the easy bit as they are strapped into the trailer and bike seat. However once you have done the cycling, they jump off the bikes full of energy, wanting to run around and play just when we wanted to sit and relax.  But we had a great time. The kids were outside almost continuously for six weeks. They became urchins and looked ridiculously healthy. We stayed in 25 different campsites and visited about 50 playgrounds, and Emily learned to say thank you in three languages. We worried that the children would get both sunstroke and hypothermia (though not on the same day). We questioned our sanity on a daily basis, but are very glad we did it. Maybe next year we’ll head for France...

For a full account of the cycling trip see Tom's Cycling Toddlers Blog.

What about going for a traffic-calmed cycling holiday yourself with a high quality "Cycling Dutchman" guidebook?

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

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

Other popular Cycling Dutchman blog articles:

Explaining Dutch cycling infrastructure:

Dutch bike rides and Dutch cycling culture:

The 12 best bike rides of The Netherlands

Dutch style bike rides in the United Kingdom:
Older Posts Home