the 600 km bike date: netherlands to germany on two wheels

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Today’s bike date post comes from Cora, who lives in The Hague with her husband and two cats. She loves to run, (mountain)bike and dive (diving in The Netherlands is suprisingly good). When she’s not doing those things, she’s a policy officer for the Dutch fishing industry. Cora wrote in with photos and tales of her nine day bike tour from the Netherlands to Germany, sharing with us the ultimate bike date across country lines and through all kinds of weather…

Living in The Netherlands (The Hague), I’m used to biking everywhere I go. Still, a biking holiday is a whole different beast.

Bike date in the Netherlands

Our trusty steeds

After going on trips to France and the Ardennes (Belgium), this year my husband and I planned to visit Germany. Our original plan was to bike through Holland, and all the way up to Berlin, following the R1:

Bike date in the Netherlands
Source: http://www.euroroute-r1.de

The R1 seemed like a nice route, but we quickly cancelled our plan, since the R1 only takes you on scenic routes. That’s all very pretty and nice, but if you actually want to get somewhere, it literally becomes a pain in the tush. A route from A to B, which was about 50 km (31 miles), took us 90 km (56 miles) following the R1.

Starting a day later than we had planned, and with less progress than we had hoped for, we decided that Berlin would be too far for the 10 days we had. We followed the R1 for two days and then decided to follow the river Weser up to Bremen. We also cheated a little on our first day, by taking a train to the Dutch-German border, to make up for the lost day. We cheated on our last day as well, by hitching a ride home with a nice family member.
All in all, we biked approximately 600 km (373 miles), covering 30 km (19 miles) up to 97 km (60 miles) a day, in 9 days.

Bike date in the Netherlands

Why did we start a day late? Well, if your living room looks like this on the evening before you leave, you might want to reschedule a little…

Bike date in the Netherlands

The usual biking day looked like this: get up, pack everything onto the bikes, bike for 4-6 hours, pitch a tent, take a shower, make diner, take a walk, go to bed. We had very nice weather, with some rain during the nights. On our last day, however, we had to pack everything under dark clouds and soon after setting off, it started to rain.

Bike date in the Netherlands

Whatever you do, don’t look behind you….

And it kept raining for a few hours. Not good. That’s when I decided enough was enough. On day one, I troubled my knees with new SPD-shoes, which kept bugging me for the whole holiday. Put in some rain, and my level of comfort got too low. We still had some fun though:

Bike date in the Netherlands
Why does it always rain on me?

Bike date in the Netherlands

Just after that light shower, we came across this lovely lady. I just had to pose with/like her.

 

If you’re considering going on a biking holiday, here are some tips:

  • Take a few long test rides on the bike you will be using. I didn’t really do this, which resulted in sore elbows and wrists, because of the fixed position I had to sit in all day. We bought a new handlebar for my bike, which helped a lot. But we had to add the ‘old’ handlebar to the luggage (never one to throw away good bicycle parts). Not smart. Same with my SPD-shoes: my knees weren’t used to pushing and pulling the pedals, which caused unnecessary pains.
  • Don’t fix the bikes the day before you plan to set off. That’s why we had to delay our plans, and you miss the chance to go on test rides.
  • Make sure the bikes you take can handle some (heavy) load. My bike had to endure ‘only’ 10 kg (22 pounds) on top of my own weight, but my husband’s bike carried almost 35 kg (77 pounds) extra! Since the weight distribution is different with front loaders and panniers, you tax your bike more heavily. You might also want to take some test-drives with your luggage, to get used to the handling of the bike.
  • Be realistic in the distances you will cover. North-Germany isn’t full of campsites, and some are more than 30 km (19 miles) apart, so we had to really plan our routes each day, and figure how far we could go. When visiting France or Belgium (or The Netherlands) we never encountered this problem, and this was the first biking holiday where we had to use our SatNav to help us plan our route.
  • Take enough clothes, but not too much. You want to keep your bags as light as possible, so get used to the idea that you will use the same sweaty clothes a few days in a row. I usually have a couple of biking clothes, and some after-biking clothes to change into after showering. You also have to make sure that you have some warm clothes, keeping your muscles from cooling down too much, to prevent aching. Then pack everything in plastic bags in plastic bags, etc. Just make sure your clothes and sleeping gear stay dry. Once everything gets wet, it will be difficult to get it all dry again.
  • Same for tools: don’t pack too much, don’t pack too little. You have to be able to fix minor problems yourself, so learn how to repair a tire. This was our first biking holiday with no troubles at all, but we’ve had broken spokes, flat tires, and even a broken frame (although that was something even the cycle repairer couldn’t fix) on other trips.
  • Do a little research into the biking customs of the country you’re visiting. I knew most Germans wear biking helmets, but I wasn’t sure if that is mandatory (thankfully, it isn’t). There were a lot of biking trails we could follow, so biking was quite safe. In France, however, you often cycle on country roads with a lot of traffic, so you have to think about safety and visibility.

There are many more tips and tricks for a biking holiday. Have you ever been on one? Would you do it (again)? And what are your tips?

Thanks so much for sharing your adventure with us, Cora! If you’ve taken an extensive bike tour, I’d love to hear your tips and take on it! Please share them in the comments below! One day, I hope to be able to take an overnight trip by bike, so until then, I’ll be collecting and storing all the suggestions I can.

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About simplybike

{Bikes, a new baby, and the story of us.}
This entry was posted in Bike Dates, Bike Touring, Guest Posts, Travel. Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to the 600 km bike date: netherlands to germany on two wheels

  1. burcu says:

    This looks like a lot of fun, but I don’t think I am ready for a trip like this, not now at least! As far as extensive bike tours here is a guy how traveled by bike from Turkey to Japan!
    http://dogaicinpedalla.blogspot.com/ (it is in Turkish, but you can view it in English)

  2. Shalini says:

    Whoa, this will go on my “after kids are grown list.” Only fifteen years to go! Hopefully my legs stay happy until then.

  3. Cora says:

    You can do this with kids as well, just smaller distances and more breaks. And I guess you, and your kids, have to like camping.
    My hasband has been on biking holidays since he was 10: he was in charge of chairs and beds (aka the camping mattresses).

  4. anniebikes says:

    This is more of a tour than a date…but thanks for sharing their story. By the way, the Netherlands has the best bikeways of any country – period.

  5. andrea says:

    kasy and i love bike touring! the longest trip we’ve done, in recent past, was from Pittsburgh, PA to Leesburg, VA on the Great Allegheny Passage and C&O Trail. It was a bit colder than we expected, for an early June trip, so I didn’t pack enough warm clothes for myself. This proved to be a bit of a downer when the last 3 days of the trip it rained pretty consistently. Always being cold and wet can really suck, so make sure you have an extra wool layer in your (waterproof) panniers to change into when you get to the camp ground. The nice thing about these trails is the hiker biker sites along the way and the beautiful woods, and small little towns you pass. It’s a pretty easy ride and lots of fun. Great, long mountain tunnels to wiz through! I want to do it again.

    Other than that, we also do overnight camping trips by bike. That is a great way to test out your gear, get used to riding with a fully loaded bike, etc. The closest campground we go to, near Philly, is about 30 miles from our house. There are other ones further out that we visit as well. It’s a nice ride both ways, with a good distance but not too far so that if something does go wrong on your testing your gear rides, you can figure out how to get home pretty easily.

    Next we want to do a multi-year bike tour around the world. If you haven’t read any bike touring books, you should. Anything by Josie Dew is excellent. And then the two classics: Odysseuss’ Last Stand and Miles From Nowhere. Must reads for bike enthusiasts!

    Bike touring is great! Everyone should do it!

    • Jenny says:

      My pleasure, Mike. Yep the pandidg/bladder of a camelbak has come in handy for me on several occasions before, too! And when I’m riding without one and just using the back pockets of my jersey for storage, I make sure I only put soft items like food in the middle pocket. At least if I flip on my back I’ll only squash the food, and not squash a multitool or CO2 cartridge into my spine!

  6. Fiona says:

    Wow, this looks amazing. My parents used to force to on tours like this when I was a child. At that time I hated it having to go somewhere by bike every Sunday or during the summer holidays. Looking back, it really was quite nice…

    Regarding camping in Germany, you’re unfortunately right especially in comparison to the Netherlands (my personal dream country for biking). However, in southern Germany it is a little better than where you went through. Maybe a train ride to Bayern and you can take the enchanting Altmühltalweg… (http://www.naturpark-altmuehltal.de/en/index.php?content_id=243)

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