Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Observations and Lessons from Our Six-Day Bike Ride in The Netherlands


A windmill in Maasland, the Netherlands.A bike trail in Maasland, the Netherlands.
View from a flour mill in Brielle, the Netherlands, molen 't Vliegend Hert Brielle.A bike in 's-Hertogenbosch overlooking a canal.View of Markt in Delft with rainbow.
Upper Left: A windmill in Maasland, the Netherlands.
Upper Right: A bike trail in Maasland, the Netherlands.
Lower Left: View from a flour mill in Brielle, the Netherlands, molen 't Vliegend Hert Brielle.
Lower Center: A bike in 's-Hertogenbosch overlooking a canal.
Lower Right: View of Markt  (main square) in Delft with rainbow.

Overview



This blog post is about a six-day bike ride we did in Netherlands covering 200 km (124 miles).  We rented bikes and carried our “luggage” with us. Now before you tsk tsk us for the low number of miles we clocked  assuming you remembered that Holland is pretty flat – hear us out as we try to convince you to that this was actually too many miles a day.

Before we get to the details of the ride, let’s talk about names for a moment, namely the difference between the names Netherlands and Holland. The Netherlands is the official name of the country. Holland is a region (and former province) on the western coast of the Netherlands that is sometimes used as nonofficial synonym for the Netherlands by both the Dutch* and non-Dutch. The three largest cities in the Netherlands are in Holland: Amsterdam, Rotterdam and The Hague.

* The official demonym of people living in the Netherlands is in English the word “Dutch”, which derives from the German deutsch ("German"). “Dutch” referred originally to both Germany and the Netherlands but came to be restricted to the people and language of the Netherlands when that country became independent in the seventeenth century.” [ref]

In this ride, we visited a few of cities in region NL3 (West Netherlands or Holland) and region NL4 (South Netherlands, also called North Brabant).  Why did we choose these areas?  For a couple of reasons. First, we were flying in and out of Eindhoven and these regions were nearby. And second, we were planning a rendezvous with friends – also traveling on bikes – that were coming from Brussels and these two regions made the most sense for meeting up. However, in retrospect after having experienced the efficiency and frequency of trains, I’d say we could have met our friends and started anywhere we wanted.

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Renting Bikes


One of the first questions you might ask is if you should do a bike package tour or a do-it-yourself tour? The benefit of a package tour, for example, those offered by dutch-biketours.com, is that you don’t have to worry about bike rentals, hotels, and planning, which can be stressful to set up on your own. The benefit of doing your own tour is that you can customize your time how you want. We decided to do it ourselves.

So, if you are planning your tour yourself, how and where to rent a bike is your first challenge to figure out, unless you are coming with your own bike. It seemed to us that bigger cities (Amsterdam) have a lot of rental options while smaller towns have less. Also, returning the bike to the rental location is a factor that should be considered. (There were few services that we saw that allow you to pick up in one location and drop off in another.) However, it turns out that returning bikes back to a rental location isn’t that much of a constraint given the efficiency of the trains, which are frequent and efficient.. You can plan a loop route to return to the starting location. Or, you can take a route that isn’t a loop and use trains to fill in the gaps.  

In our case, we ended up renting bikes in the sleepy town of Roosendaal. We did this because we felt it would be a good point for our rendezvous with friends. But, the plan of meeting with them fell apart and we ended up taking a train from Roosendaal to Spijkenisse to meet them and start riding.

Our costs for two hybrid bike rentals (with panniers) was about 150 euros for seven days, a pretty reasonable deal. We spent as much in train tickets over the six days.

Rented bike with tow 20 L panniers on the back.Our rented bikes in Roosendaal in front of Hotel Tongerlo.Bikes on a metro train from Rotterdam to Spijkenisse.Bikes on a national train. These should have the panniers removed. If not, you could be fined.A ferry crossing the Nieuwe Mass, the Maasluis - Rozenburg connection.A ferry crossing the Beneden Merwede, the Merwekade - Veerdam connection.
Upper Left: Rented bike with tow 20 L panniers on the back.
Upper Center: Rented bikes in Roosendaal in front of Hotel Tongerlo.
Upper Right: Bikes on a metro train from Rotterdam to Spijkenisse.
Lower Left: Bikes on a national train. These should have the panniers removed! If not, you could be fined.
Lower Center: A ferry crossing the Nieuwe Mass, the Maassluis - Rozenburg connection.
Lower Right: A ferry crossing the Beneden Merwede, the Merwekade - Veerdam connection.

Itinerary


Our itinerary represents just one of an infinite number of possible bike tours. Given that this was our first time doing this, and being hastily planned at that, it didn’t turn out so bad. Our go-to source for information for planning was by far the comprehensive web site hollandcyclingroutes.com (see, even they use the word Holland). We encourage you to watch the introduction videos, which give a nice overview of the bike trails in Netherlands. As well, play around with their Cycle Route Planner to understand distances and routes. You can use Google Maps to plan out “biking” trips, but the Holland Cycling Routes is more comprehensive in terms of its knowledge of trail types.

Our six days in Holland had one part of a day on the front end where we arrived late in the evening (designated as Day 0) and one travel day at the end (designated as Day 7).  We also specifically designed our last tour day, Day 6, to be one with no biking riding so that we could explore a city. That city turned out to be ‘s-Hertogenbosch (also called Den Bosch, home of Hieronymus Bosch).

An overview of our Netherlands six day bike trip, including segments we planned in bike but didn't do and five train trips we took to complete the tour.
An overview of our Netherlands six day bike trip, including segments we planned in bike but didn't do and five train trips we took to complete the tour.

Day 0: Wednesday, August 8

  • Arrive late evening into Eindhoven on a RyanAir flight.
  • Take a train to Roosendaal.
  • Lodging: Hotel Tongerlo.

Day 1: Thursday, August 9

  • Rent bikes at Roosendaal train station (Rijwielshop Roosendaal).
  • Train to Spijkenisse to meet our friends.
  • Bike to Rockanje. Distance 30 km (19 mi).
  • Lodging: Badhotel – “bad” in Dutch is “bath” in English as in you can swim there or nearby at the beach.
  • Dinner: Badhotel

The original plan was to meet our friends in Middelburg and bike from there to Rockanje, but weather and our friends’ previous long days of riding dictated we change our plan. So, we trained to Spijkenisse to meet them and took a shorter ride for our first day. It did rain and we got soaked.

Day 2: Friday, August 10


Day 3: Saturday, August 11

  • Bike from Delft to Gouda by way of The Hague. Distance 50 km (31 mi).
  • Before leaving Delft, visit the Vermeer Centrum Delft to get an overview of the life and times of Johannes Vermeer.
  • Visit the Mauritshuis museum. Besides being the home of the original Girl with a Pearl Earring by Vermeer, there is lots of other interesting art and it's a cool building.
  • Lunch nearby the museum at Barlow.
  • Lodging: Best Western City Plus in Gouda.
  • Dinner at Koeien en Kaas - Steaks & Cheese.

The Vermeer Centrum in Delft is all about the life and times of Vermeer using video, interactive exhibits and high-quality reproductions. Later this day we would see real Vermeer works in the Maurithuis museum in the Hague. The Hague (Den Haag) is the third largest city in the Netherlands, after Amsterdam and Rotterdam. The name is probably most familiar to most as the home of the International Criminal Court. 

Inside the Vermeer Centrum in Delft.Canal in Delft.East city gate in Delft.East city gate in Delft.Delft main square - markt.
The old city hall of Gouda.A canal in Maasluis, a little town we stopped in for lunch.The Hague and Hofvijver (pond).Rembrandt's The Anatomy Lesson of Dr Nicholaes Tulp (1632) in the Mauritshuis museum.
Top Row: Views of Delft. From left to right, Vermeer Centrum, canal leading to east gate, east gate (VE Oostpoort te Delft) internal view, east gate external view, and markt square. Bottom Row: From left to right, Gouda, Maassluis, The Hague and Hofvijver (pond), Rembrandt's The Anatomy Lesson of Dr Nicholaes Tulp (1632) in the Mauritshuis museum.

Day 4: Sunday, August 12


The Kinderdijk (Child’s Dike) is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The windmills have pumped water from the low-lying farmlands to the Rhine river since the Middle Ages. And they are still working today. The bike paths take you through Kinderdijk without needing to pay, although dodging tourists on the trail is tricky. You pay if you want access to the museum and some of the windmills.

View of Kinderdijk, The Netherlands. Biking trails run through the park.View of Kinderdijk, The Netherlands. Biking trails run through the park.View of Kinderdijk, The Netherlands. Biking trails run through the park.View of Kinderdijk, The Netherlands. Biking trails run through the park.
Views of Kinderdijk, The Netherlands. Biking trails run through the park and you are free to enter.

Villa Augustus Hotel & Restaurant was a wonderful find a little west from city center. It’s the kind of magical and whimsical place that you never want to leave. It’s there we ran into bleekpotten literally translated as “bleaching jars” or rhubarb forcers. These traditionally terracotta pots are cover plants to limit photosynthesis and produced blanched stems.

Villa Augustus hotel.View of Villa Augustus formal garden.View of Villa Augustus vegetable garden.Cabbages and rhubarb forcing pots.Rhubarb forcing pots.Villa Augustus formal garden.Villa Augustus vegetable garden.
Views of Villa Augusts, Dordrecht, The Netherlands.   Top Row: View of Villa Augustus, gardens, and bleekpotten or rhubarb forcers. Bottom Row: Formal garden of Villa Augustus and view of former water tower turned hotel.

Day 5: Monday, August 13


Restaurant ff Swanjéé in ‘s-Hertogenbosch was one of the rare restaurants experiences that for us works on many levels, inventiveness of dishes, service, and ambiance. We don’t often rave that much about food (oh, right!?), but this place is an exception.

Day 6: Tuesday, August 14


Hieronymus Bosch (c. 1450 – 1516) was born and spent most of his life in Den Bosch. (I felt slightly dumb that I didn’t immediately make the connection of his surname to the city.) Bosch is famous for his pessimistic, erotic, and fantastical imagery depicting all manners of torture in hell, as probably familiar to most in his most famous work The Garden of Earthly Delights. The benefit of the Jheronimus Bosch Art Center is that through these high-quality prints you can get close to the works and examine the details. The center occupies a former church dedicated to Saint James, which lends a contemplative if not somewhat appropriate environment for thinking about hell.

Talking about earthly delights, we be remiss not to mention Den Bosch’s signature desert which is a large ball-shaped profiterole called a bossche bol

Jheronimus Bosch Art Center in Den Bosch - sculpture in front.Jheronimus Bosch Art Center in Den Bosch - inside.Detail of a reproduction of The Garden of Earthly Delights.Studying The Garden of Earthly Delights up close.
Scenes from the Jheronimus Bosch Art Center in Den Bosch. From left to right: entrance, inside the church-museum space, detail of a reproduction of The Garden of Earthly Delights, and studying the triptych closely.

Day 7: Wednesday, August 15

  • Spend the morning in ‘s-Hertogenbosch (Den Bosch).
  • Drab Coffee in the morning again.
  • Second breakfast at Robbies.
  • Visit Het Noordbrabants Museum.
  • Lunch at Restaurant ff Swanjéé. We really liked this place and a second visit was fine by us.
  • Train to Roosendaal to drop bikes off.
  • Train to Eindhoven to catch flight.

We had plenty of time to ride this last day but decided instead to spend some more time in Den Bosch visiting the Het Noordbrabants Museum, a museum dedicated to art, culture, and history of the North Brabant, a province in the south of Netherlands where Den Bosch is located. Van Gogh was born in this region and the museum features ten of his early, darker works.

A whimsical reminder of Hieronymus Bosch in a Den Bosch canal.A whimsical reminder of Hieronymus Bosch in a Den Bosch canal.A whimsical reminder of Hieronymus Bosch in a Den Bosch canal.A whimsical reminder of Hieronymus Bosch in a Den Bosch canal.A whimsical reminder of Hieronymus Bosch in a Den Bosch canal.A whimsical reminder of Hieronymus Bosch in a Den Bosch canal.
A canal underneath the town of Den Bosch.A canal underneath the town of Den Bosch.Sint-Janskathedraal (St. John’s Cathedral) in Den Bosch.A Den Bosch canal.
Scenes from around Den Bosch ('s-Hertogenbosch). In the canals, there are whimsical figures taken from Bosch's work. You can see them on foot or take the Binnendieze tour. While on the boat tour you will pass under parts of the city. 

Observations


The Soul of the Home

When we visited Amsterdam 15 years ago, I remember being struck by the architecture, particularly of houses. On this visit it was no different. 

  • Overall, houses are modest, yet charming and always neat as a pin.  The EveryCulture.com site puts it this way about Dutch architecture and use of space: “The Dutch have a desire for spatial organization that is informed by Calvinist assumptions about order as a synonym for cleanliness and sinlessness.” There is a uniformity – or let’s say a harmony – of styles. We concluded that there is probably variation but that we can’t detect it because there are none of the expected architectural outliers we’ve come to know in the USA. Outliers like double-wide trailers with couches and derelict cars in the front yard, or McMansions and their hackneyed two-story porticoes and extra-wide garages.
  • House architecture is “open”, specifically, windows invite you from the outside to look inside. Pretty objects are often lined up on windowsills as if to embellish your experience of looking in. There are rarely obscuring curtains, or metals bars, or worse those horrible rolling metal shutters, which unfortunately are de rigueur in Italy. The windows are the key to the soul of a typical Dutch house, and we like that openness. Our friend traveling with us said it was more simply a function of letting in more light. Perhaps, but it probably has more to do with the idea of projecting comfort and coziness, captured in the word gezellig and the closely related Dutch term of hygge.
  • Yards, even if fenced, don’t present daunting obstacles. We are sorry to wag a finger again, but have you every experienced a high stone wall in Italy with embedded glass shards and barbed wire as a deterrent? If you have spent any significant amount of time in Italy, you know what we are talking about. We didn’t see anything close to the broken glass – barbed wire combination in the Netherlands. Crime rates may explain the difference between the two countries, but we feel there must be some cultural component to it as well.


The flour mill in Brielle, The Netherlands (molen 't Vliegend Hert Brielle).The flour mill in Brielle products - tarwe zemelen (wheat bran), tarwebloem (wheat flour), tarwegries (wheat groats), volkoren meel (wholegrain flour).Inside mechanisms of the flour mill in Brielle, The Netherlands (molen 't Vliegend Hert Brielle).The flour mill in Brielle, The Netherlands (molen 't Vliegend Hert Brielle).
The flour mill in Brielle, The Netherlands (molen 't Vliegend Hert Brielle). Note the steep stairs and different types of product produced tarwe zemelen (wheat bran), tarwebloem (wheat flour), tarwegries (wheat groats), volkoren meel (wholegrain flour).

Another aspect that stood out to us in the Netherlands was the steepness of stairs in houses, and in general. The sensation of steepness really hit me this trip in the town of Brielle while visiting a windmill. The molen 't Vliegend Hert Brielle produces flour you can buy in the nearby store. What’s more, visitors can climb up and go inside the mill to see it working. All this was impressive and highly recommended, but I kept thinking of my descent on those steep stairs. (The trick was to treat it like a ladder and face the stairs.) It’s reported (here and here) that steep stairs in house have to do with a history of taxing houses based on their width, which over time led to narrow and tall houses with stairs designed to not take up much room.

Food

In general, we ate well, and for a reasonable price. The Dutch are great at making killer sandwiches. Most mid-level, casual restaurants feature creative and delicious sandwiches, from ones you can manage to pick up and eat to ones you need a fork and knife to tackle. The only quibble we have was that Dutch wait staff we experienced was okay at best and indifferent and negligent at worse. The exception for us was at the wonderful Restaurant ff Swanjéé in ‘s-Hertogenbosch. Besides great food they have a great wait staff.

Sandwich at Restaurant ff Swanjéé in Den Bosch.Sandwich at Restaurant ff Swanjéé in Den Bosch.Sandwich at Viswinkel Visch in Den Bosch.Sandwich at Monsieur Paul in Maasluis.Sandwich and soup at  't Raedhuijs in Alblasserdam.A brisket dish at Restaurant ff Swanjéé in Den Bosch.Pickled herring street food in Den Bosch.
Examples of food we encountered on the trip with emphasis on sandwiches. Top Row: Sandwiches at Restaurant ff Swanjéé in Den Bosch (first two), at Viswinkel Visch in Den Bosch (middle two), and at Monsieur Paul in Maassluis (last two). Bottom Row: Sandwich and soup at 't Raedhuijs in Alblasserdam, a Boscche bol sweet in Den Bosch, a brisket dish at Restaurant ff Swanjéé in Den Bosch, and pickled herring street food in Den Bosch.




Big People, Small Ponies

The Dutch are tall. By some accounts (BBC Science & Environment report) the tallest in the world and by other accounts pretty darn high in the list (Wikipedia – human height worldwide). The average Dutch male height is over 6 feet tall, and he average Dutch female ain’t no slouch either coming in at 5 feet and 7 inches. We felt small compared to Dutch people.

The BBC report delves into some possible reasons including diet, genetics, and natural selection. The diet angle hinges on Dutch consumption of ample dairy products, third among countries of the world according to the World Atlas.  More milk means more calcium and that leads to more bone growth – or so this line of reasoning goes. We did my best over our six days to routinely consume as much dairy as we could but to no avail because we grew wider not taller.

Considering the size of the Dutch, we were puzzled over the number of miniature ponies we saw in pastures. Apparently, others have noticed too. The jury is out on the big people and small ponies connection.

Helmet or No Helmet?

Before we left on our trip to Holland The Netherlands, we were researching bike rentals and wondering about renting helmets. In the end, we did not rent them, and we observed maybe 1 out of 25 bicyclists or fewer with helmets on the trails. They Cycle Helmets site gives an estimate of about 0.5% of cyclists in the Netherlands that wear helmets. Note that in the promotional videos of hollandcyclingroutes.com riders are not wearing helmets.

In the Netherlands, bicycle helmets are not required, but get one if you feel comfortable wearing one. Beyond helmet requirements, the holland-cycling site has a good summary of other the rules to follow while biking.

For as many bicyclists there are in Netherlands (and Denmark), they have a low helmet use and a low number of fatalities. In general, the number of cyclists killed per billion km of bicycle travel in the Netherlands is 25% of that in the USA, while the number bicycle miles traveled per inhabitant per year is almost 20 times greater in Netherlands than the USA. [Source: OECD data.] Like many unresolved questions in this post (tall people, small ponies, and steep stairs), we can only speculate as to why. The StreetsBlog USA site comments with “Do more people on bikes cause cycling to become safer, or does safer infrastructure attract more people to bike? There’s no conclusive evidence either way, but the answer is probably a mix of both.”

Water and Sky with Some Earth

The geography of the European* Netherlands Wikipedia page reports of the total area of the country of 41,543 km2 (16,040 square miles or about two New Jerseys), the area of water as 7,650 km2 (2,954 square miles – just over one Delaware) or about 18%. It sure felt like we were pretty much at sea level while we were riding around. Well, the reason for our perception was that we rode mostly in the sections of the country that are truly the lowest parts of the West Netherlands with an average elevation of about 3 m (10 feet) and much of the surface area below sea level.

* Why “European” Netherlands? Because the Netherlands also contains three island territories in the Caribbean (Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba) that together with European Netherlands is the Kingdom of the Netherlands. What!? There is a kingdom – and royals – of Netherlands?  Yup, read all about them. They look tall from their photos.

Considering all the Kingdom of the Netherlands, the mean elevation is 30 m (98 feet). The lowest point is Nieuwerkerk aan den Ijssel at -7 m (-23 feet). (Nieuwerkerk aan den Ijssel is not far from Kinderdijk.) The highest point is on the island of Saba in the Caribbean that is part of the Kingdom of Netherlands.  In European Netherlands, the highest point is Vaalserberg at 322.7 m (1,059 feet).

Beach at RockanThe Loonse en Drunense Duinen (Loonse and Drunense Dunes) national park in the south of the Netherlands, between the cities of Tilburg, Waalwijk & 's-Hertogenbosch.The Loonse en Drunense Duinen (Loonse and Drunense Dunes) national park in the south of the Netherlands, between the cities of Tilburg, Waalwijk & 's-Hertogenbosch.
Big skies and sand. Left: Beach at Rockanje. Center and right: The Loonse en Drunense Duinen (Loonse and Drunense Dunes) national park in the south of the Netherlands, between the cities of Tilburg, Waalwijk & 's-Hertogenbosch.

Lessons


Rules of the Road

The holland-cycling.com site has a good summary of rules to follow while biking. Bells, lights and reflectors, and signaling turns are compulsory. Helmets are not compulsory. Talking on the phone or listening to music are allowed but not recommended. Riding with no hands is not allowed.

Speaking of signaling turns, the correct way to do it apparently is to extend your right arm straight out for a right turn and your left arm straight out for a left turn. We goofed this up, just using our left arm to signal both types of turns. We also made some bonehead moves pulling out into intersections with oncoming traffic and not waiting for the dedicated bike traffic light to change.

Another flub: we nearly got a ticket for not removing panniers from our bikes when riding a train. The conductor let us off the hook because the train was not crowded or, so she said. The idea is that without the panniers more bikes can be stacked side by side. We left the panniers on because we were lazy. It makes sense to remove them, because then you have your belongings with you and you don’t have to sit close to your bikes to “watch” your belongings in the panniers. For security on trains, we would engage the back-tire lock for short trips. For longer trips, we would also chain our bikes together and to a handhold, less for security and more to keep them from tumbling over.

If you get one thing out of this blog post, it will be to go to both the holland-cycling.com and  hollandcyclingroutes.com sites. On the latter, there are some overview videos that give you an idea of planning routes and using junction routes (local features) and long-distance routes (LF routes).

Trail View - Heading into Brielle.Trail View - Heading to Gouda.Trail View - Leaving Brielle and Heading to Delft.Trail View - Leaving Gouda and heading to Dordrecht.Trail View - Maassluis.Trail View - Riding near the Nationaal Park De Loonse en Drunense Duinen.Trail View - Riding to Dordrecht.Trail View - On the way to Gouda.
Views of the trails we rode on. Top Row: Heading into Brielle; Heading to Gouda; Leaving Brielle and Heading to Delft; Leaving Gouda and heading to Dordrecht.  Bottom Row: Maassluis, Riding near the Nationaal Park De Loonse en Drunense Duinen; Riding to Dordrecht.; On the way to Gouda.

Navigation

In our group of four, we designated one person as the navigator who used the Fietsplanner app to ride in front. One challenge of this app is that it is only in Dutch, as of writing this. However, navigation instructions are kind of universal and so it’s not out of the question to use it if you are comfortable with other mapping applications. The phone running the Fietsplanner app app was in a bike phone holder mounted on the center bar for hands-free operation.

A backseat driver in our group used Google Maps to second guess us most of the way and the agreement between Fietsplanner and Google Maps wasn’t bad, but Fietsplanner knows more about the prettiest and most interesting routes to take.

You can also see in the videos on hollandcyclingroutes.com and, as well we saw in stores, what are node cards (knooppuntkaartjes) for following directions. The idea is you plan out your trip ahead creating a node card which has a sequence of nodes and each node indicates a trail change. See the attached image.

Some of routes included a ferry passage across a river. We found in one case, a machine to buy tickets, in all three times we used a ferry we found you could pay on board, usually 1 – 2 euros per person.

Pack Lightly

With a typical rental (like ours) panniers are either included or an extra small feed per day. We only used panniers attached to the frame over the rear tire of our bikes. Panniers are either water proof as is or come with a rain cover. (If your panniers are not waterproof, make sure the rental place gives you covers.) Each of our bikes had two panniers of 20 liters a piece for 40 L per person. We also brought our own handlebar bag, which was useful for holding a snack, a bottle of water, and other easy to grab stuff that could be accessed while riding.

We found that the strategy of using small soft containers (for example, Eagle Creek packing cubes) was a good organizational principle. One for underwear and socks. One for shirts. One for toiletries. One for pullovers and outer gear. One for electronics (plugs, cables, chargers, etc.). Packing our unpacking the panniers was then just a matter of pulling out the smaller containers.

When we left our bikes for a period, say to go into a restaurant, we had a small shoulder bag we used to hold valuables so that they were always with us.

Expect Wind and Rain

How profound is that?  We thought that it being summer (August) we would see little rain. Well, we got drenched day one (and then never again) as if to teach us a lesson. We discovered the hard way that wearing light biking gear that dries easily is key with rain. (We didn’t have it on the day it rained.) Having panniers that are water-resistant or have a rain cover is also important, so that you have dry clothes to change into.

We tried to look at wind forecasts and seasonal wind patterns to understand what we might be facing in terms of wind, but, in the end, we didn’t come up with anything useful. Probably the most useful thing you can do is keep track of the weather systems unfolding around you and plan accordingly.

Less Miles is More

Our advice: don’t try to rack up the miles each day. Rather, make sure you stop to enjoy the sights. When we were in the planning phase of this trip, we thought we could easily hit about 60 – 70 km (37 to 43 miles) a day and we could have but didn’t. Our actual average mileage per day was more like 40 km (25 miles) a day.

If you are going for maximum miles, you will end up “seeing” the country from the seat of the bike with less “experiencing” or “learning” about it on foo. To be honest, we would have gladly ridden less miles than we did to free up more time to see sights along the way and in each city where we stayed. As it was, I felt we missed a lot.

If we had more time, we probably would have alternated ride days with days in the city on foot. That would have been more like a 10-day tour, but I think we would have gotten more out of it because we learn more about a city walking around, as well as visiting museums.

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Glossary


This Dutch to English glossary was developed for two reasons. First, in what scanty research we did before departing for Holland, we found that we quickly needed to know a few basic words just to understand the bike rental web sites.

Second, once on the ground in Holland, we became interested in understanding the signs we saw and so we started keeping a list of the most common signs we encountered.

This glossary will not help you speak Dutch but might be of use in some situations such as understanding if a shop is open or closed, where the entrance or exit is, negotiating the train station, and maybe deciphering just a few terms on a menu. Good luck!

Example of a bike route sign, route 83 to Den Bosch. Reading a route map in Maasluis.Notice advising of a closure, gesloten.Node cards (knooppuntkaartjes).
Left: Example of a bike route sign, route 83 to Den Bosch. Center left: Reading a route map in Maassluis. Center right: Notice advising of a closure, gesloten. Right: Node cards (knooppuntkaartjes).

Dutch – English (to the best of our ability)

adres – address, as on a web site to put in your address

akkoord = accept, as on a web site to accept cookies

bezoek – visit

boek nu – book now

binnenstad – inner city

dank je – thank you

dijk – dike or dyke. A common feature in Holland. Didn’t know this word was so overloaded in English.

drinken – drink

fiets inruilen – bike exchange/trade-in

fietsaanhanger – bike trailer

fietsen – bicycles

fietsenhuis – cycling house; a shop that deals in bikes, either renting or selling them.

fietsenstalling – bike storage

fietsers welkom! = cyclists welcome! Sign to indicate that a hotel or restaurant welcomes bikers. In other words, don’t feel bad about wearing your bike shorts!

fietshuur – bike rental

fietspad – bake path

fietstassen – panniers for a bike

fietswinkel – bike shop

forel – trout (fish)

geen – no

geopend – opened. Geopend and gesloten are what you see in shop windows. So, before pushing extra hard to open a closed door, check if it is geopend or gesloten.

gereserveerd – reserved, as in a space reserved on the train for bikes or a table reserved in a restaurant.

gesloten – closed

groente – vegetable

haring – herring (fish)

honde – dog

huur – rent. See verhuur.

hybride fiets – hybrid bike, the most practical bike for this kind of touring described in the blog post.

helm – helmet

ingang – entrance

je – you, as in dank je or “thank you”

kerk – church

kinderzitje voor – child seat

kinderzitje achter – rear child seat

koffie – coffee

maak verbinding – connect, as in when you join a WIFI and you need click “connect”

makreel – mackerel (fish)

markt – market. Easy, huh?

melk – milk

naar – to, as in “to” where you are going when working with the Holland Cyling Route Planner.

nieu/nieuwe – new. In Delft, for example, there is Nieuwe Kerk (“new church”) and Oude Kerk (“old church”).

noorden – north

opmerkingen – comments, as in on a web site.

oost – east

oude – old. See nieu/we.

over ons – about us, as typically used on a web site.

pad – path as in fietspad

paling – eel (fish)

pedalen racefiets – race pedals. Really not needed for the kind of biking described in this blog post.

roken – smoking

rijwielshop – bike shop

rookzones – smoking areas

spoor – track. Useful for finding what track your train is arriving on or departing from.

stadfiets – city bike. You probably don’t want this type of bike for the kind of biking described in this blog post.

stadhius – town hall. Head to the town hall to find the heart of the city.

tarwe – wheat. Wheat bran would be tarwe zemelen like we saw in the flour mill in Brielle.

te huur – for rent

te koop – for sale

tonijn – tuna (fish)

tots ziens – goodbye. You typically see this sign when leaving a city.

trein – train

tuin – garden

tweewieler – two-wheeler, referring to bikes

tweewielercentrum – bike center

uitgang – exit

uitzondering – exception. It’s useful to know this word for signs on trails or streets that restrict some modes of transportation, like cars or motorcycles, but allow bikes.

van – from, as in “from” where you are coming when working with the Holland Cyling Route Planner.

verhuur – rental

verzenden – send, as in sending request or completing a form on a web site.

vijver – pond. In the center of Hague, there is the famous pond Hofvijver.

voorrang – priority. Look for this sign on trains to see where bikes can be stored.

welkom – welcome

westen – west

winkel – store. For example, kookwinkel is a cooking store.

zalm – salmon (fish)

zuiden – south

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