Blog

Mountain biking in South-Limburg

The Netherlands is internationally famed for its overwhelming flatness, but there is one part for which that is not true, right down in the south of the country, there is a relatively narrow 'finger' sandwiched between Belgium and Germany, called South Limburg (or Zuid-Limburg in Dutch). The hills are still not as large as the Ardennes in Belgium a little further south, but in a couple of hours cycling you can notch up 6-800 height meters, which is not bad. What is more, the landscape is a treat.

Near Valkenburg

Much of it is rolling pastures with twisting country roads (very different from the straight lines everywhere else in the country) and little villages nestling in the hills. The underlying rock (a novelty in itself, much of the country just has sand or peat under the soil) is chalk, which means that there is a diverse flora and so also a lot of insects and so on. On one cycle ride I saw at least eight different butterfly species.

Hollow roads

The landscape also has a more ancient feel to it than the more constructed landscapes further north. There are a lot of hollow roads, formed by a combination of natural features and centuries of use, with trees arching over the top to make a complete tunnel in some cases. The network of mountain bike trails makes good use of these tracks, many of which are rough and steep. There are eight official routes in the district, as well as a few close by just over the Belgium border. The Dutch routes can be found on http://mtbroutes.nl/ and the Belgium/Flemish routes here: https://www.sport.vlaanderen/waar-sporten/sporten-in-de-natuur/mountainbikeroutes/.

Here is an overview of the Limburg routes:

  Km HM

Rating on

mtbroutes.nl

Maastricht 30 302 3.5
Epen 26 629 4.5
Mechelen 25 359 3.5
Margraten 30 359 3.5
Meersen 30 490 3.5
Nuth-Voerendaal 35 308 2
Sint Geertrud 35 441 4.5
Valkenburg 30 439 4.5
Gulpen 25 536 4

It is well worth downloading the GPS routes from those sites as some of the signs are hard to see or missing due to fast growing vegetation (nettle-proof gloves are also useful!) and vandalism. Some have more tarmac than others (not a problem seeing it is mostly pleasant back roads and you can regard it as recovery between the tougher bits) and some have more hills than others. The hills are often steep (up to 20-25%) and difficult (depending a bit on the weather) with loose pebbles and rocks (though it must be said that the photo below was a 'short cut' on one of the Belgium routes).

rocky road

The general consensus on mtbroutes.nl seems to be that the Epen route is the best one. It is indeed a super ride, with lovely diverse woodlands (photo below), including the Vijlenerbos, famous for its wild cats), some difficult hills and little tarmac.  However, my favourite was definitely the Voeren route (blue+black), which you can start in the village of Mheer (in the Netherlands) but is otherwise virtually all in Belgium. That has a great combination of gorgeous scenery and challenging trails.

Add a comment

Sunday morning trundle

For some reason I've been tired all week, so this weekend I skipped getting up in time to go with the club and instead had a bit of a trundle round the woods on Sunday morning. A couple of weeks ago it was really warm and since then there has been and awful lot of rain, so everything had grown enormously. The bare sand of a few weeks ago has transformed itself to small forests of Impatiens parviflora with its pretty little flowers (below) on the sides of the track and Polygonum persicaria where there has been some standing water. All the dense green vegetation means that the woods have quite a different feel to them than a few weeks ago.

Impatiens parviflora

Add a comment

Hell of Ede-Wageningen 2017

Last weekend, it was that time of year again; time to help out with the 'Hell of Ede-Wageningen'. This year we had a completely new route, unfortunately due mainly to increasing unfriendliness of landowners where we used to go. That meant a huge amount of work for those planning it. There were also one or two puzzles for those of us helping putting the arrows out, like the spot below where it splits and which way you go depends on not only if you choose for the shorter or longer route, but also if it is the first or second time that you reach that point. You would imagine the sign below would be so clear that no one could make a mistake, but there were still some people who were going so fast that they didn't have time to think about it before taking the wrong turn.

Hell van Ede-Wageningen

Over 850 people took part in the tour, so that was a great success, and we heard a lot of positive remarks about the new route. It was a long day helping out, with an early start and 70 km cycling (despite our bit to sign only being 5 km long), but all in all very worthwhile.

Add a comment

Rhenen and Amerongen

They've been at it again.  The trail builders have added some new bits to the Amerongen route on the Utrechtse Heuvelrug and so it is even better. Warm dry sunny weather meant that it was quite crowded, so if you go at my pace, it was a matter of stopping every so often to let the 'whippets' whizz past, but that did not spoil the enjoyment of a great round this morning.

Amerongen

Add a comment

Wierden

The last time I cycled the official route at Wierden it was remarkably unpleasant weather with large quantities of rain and wind making the tracks into a sort of nasty sandpaper that got everywhere. Last Sunday it could not have been more different. Blue skies, sunshine, little or no wind - a beautiful spring day. The route has also been improved in the last years by adding some extra bits in the woods. The route consists of bits of woodland with bendy singletrack connected with longish stretches of tarmac in between giving a chance for recovery and to admire the pretty traditional rural landscape. The people who made the track have been very creative, with some sections of singletrack squeezed into the middle of what is barely more than a wide hedge between roads. The recovery on the roads is not such a problem as the bits in the woodlands are designed to challenge you to cycle as fast as possible round the bends, with built-up cambers and so on. The best bit is without doubt the section just to the north of Wierden, by the 'Lageveld' recreational area, with a 4km long section of fun twisty bits as shown in the photo below. It is definitely worthwhile downloading the route as otherwise it is easy to miss the good bits. The route on the site is 31 km, but there are signs to an extra 10 km section that doesn't so far seem to have a GPS route. The reviews there are very mixed, some people are clearly a bit disappointed by all the tarmac, but I think that is a matter of expectation, if you  know that is the case you can enjoy the singletrack in the woodland and in the sections on the road just sit back and enjoy the landscape.

Wierden

Add a comment

Wildlife

A couple of weeks ago we were visiting the North Eifel.  It is only a couple of hours away, just over the border, with a very different landscape and flora from here, and great mountain biking. One of the things I always notice there is that you see much more wildlife than here. And sure enough, we were treated to the spectacle below:

A pair of young piglets, showing how well their stripes work as camouflage in amongst the rushes and grasses, came to within a few meters of us, showing no fear at all, and even more remarkably the adults in the background were not particularly bothered either.

Another day at dusk we were treated to a fox snacking on a take-away just outside our cottage.

Fox

 So when we got back home and I was out cycling with the club, it was natural to be talking about how we don't see so much here.  But what happened, within half an hour we saw a fallow deer and two red squirrels!

Add a comment