Author Topic: Touring The Netherlands: Looking for specific-ish answers.  (Read 2793 times)

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Offline Holland

Hi!

I'm brand new to touring, and I'm planning a solo trip covering the country of The Netherlands.  I appreciate any advices and/or experiences you can provide.

My Cycling Experience:
I spent two months cycling to work on a mountain bike; kept on the same gear of 2 and 5 on a 21-speed.  Each way, it took me ½ hour covering 7 miles, including a very steep bridge.  The longest trip I'd ever biked was 9 hrs; it was a rental bike, one gear with coastal brake.  I was tired by the end but I wasn't burnt out; with a few short stop-overs, it was enjoyable riding.  That is the extend of my riding experience.  That said, I am female,  and I am healthy and athletically built.  I don't know how long and fast I would ride with full panniers, does 100km a day sound unreasonable?

Time Needed:
How much time is necessary to cycle through all 12 provinces?  Let's say if one cycled, on average 6 hours or 100km a day, not including stop/rest time, how long would it hypothetically take?  What was your experience?  Would 2 months be enough time to cover The Netherlands?

Bike and Equipment:
1. I'm considering buying a used bike once I reached Netherlands.  Must I have a touring bike or a city bike could work?  I prefer coastal brake, do you think I could get away with only one gear?  The country is said to be fairly flat except for two provinces: Overijssel and Limburg.

2. Is there a ratio formula of gear/pannier:body weight:bike weight?  For example: If I weigh 120 lbs (54 kilos), my personal possession (not including pannier weight,) should not exceed X number of pounds?

3. Are cycling shoes necessary?  I'll be cycling leisurely but I also want to use my energy efficiently.

4. I read that all restaurants carry bike repair kits throughout the country.  What items do I need to keep in my personal repair kit anyway?

Gear Protection:
1. My Dutch friends warned that bike and personal stuff crime is high, even in smaller towns and villages.  Is that true, even in small towns/villages?  I just thought my friends were paranoid.

2. When you go inside somewhere for an hour or so (supermarkets, cafes, restaurants, hostels, etc...), how do lock up your stuff inside the panniers, or do you bring every thing with you in a backpack?

3. I was thinking of a U-lock and a chain one.  My chain ones are 3½ lbs or 8 lbs.  They seem so heavy to lug around while I'm trying to cut down on weight in my stuff.  What do you think?

Accommodations and Camping:
1. I plan on bringing my camping gear.  What is the weather like in August and September?  How cold does it get?  Should I bring a 4C (40F) synthetic sleeping bag or a -17C (0F) down sleeping bag?

2. Are campgrounds easy to find along bike routes?

3. Has anyone stayed with Vrienden op de Fiets?

4. Or camped with the Stichting Natuurkampeerterreinen?  What was your experience?  Do you recommend staying with any of them?
 
Eating and Drinking:
1. I understand the public water is generally safe to drink, do I need to bring a water filter anyway? 
How many water bottles would you bring?  How easy is it to get them refilled?

Packing:
1. Let's say, 2 front panniers and 2 back panniers, how would you pack?  Camping gear in one back pannier, clothes in the other back pannier; food in one front pannier, flashlight/everything else in the other front pannier?  What has worked for you?

2. What are some things you packed for a trip that you regret taking?  What are some "common sense" things that people take on a trip but don't make sense for touring?

3. I've heard people talk about "bum cream" to reduce chafing/sores.  Can anyone explain?  Is it necessary?  What other things are necessary?

Cycling Clothes:
1. I am clueless about cycling shorts.  Where I'm traveling may rain often, and I likely won't have a place to dry my shorts properly.  How many pair of cycling shorts do you suggest?  Are they meant to be washed everyday?

2. What articles of clothing would you pack for a two month trip?

Cycling Routes:
I don't really know how to plan out my trip.  There are so many options and I get confused by where to start once I depart from Amsterdam.  Where would you start off the trip, what routes would you take, and where will your trip end?  Bear in mind I want to cover quaint villages, castles and nature (but not necessarily going to every forests or heath.)  And I don't want to find myself back-tracking all the time.

I have the Noord and Zuid De Sterkste fietskaarts, Landelijke Fietskaart, the ANWB Fietsroutebox and a few other map books.  If you want to suggest some routes, it's possible I can follow what you're saying on my maps.  I also have Lonely Planet and Insight Guides.

I apologize for such a long post.  Thank you for taking the time to read this and for responding!

Regards,
Holland

Offline RussSeaton

Re: Touring The Netherlands: Looking for specific-ish answers.
« Reply #1 on: May 10, 2011, 11:40:51 pm »
A lot of your general touring questions can be answered by reading some of the touring books Adventure Cycling sells.  Libraries may have them too.  They cover the basics and the rest you figure out as you ride.

Netherlands.  I rode in from Germany in the NE corner.  Then along the dam that goes for 30 or more miles along the north coast of the Netherlands.  Bike route on top of the dam/barrier/causeway.  Then south along the coast to Amsterdam and out the south through Rotterdam.  Lot of bike trails from the dam south near the coast.  Officially I think you have to ride on the trails instead of the roads.  Which is a problem if you are trying to get from point A to point B.  The trails aren't direct.  They meander.  Hard to figure out which one goes where.  I stayed in hostels, AYH.  They were scattered so I hit one every 60 miles or so.  I suspect there are cheap motels/hotels/pensiones in most towns.  So camping isn't required.

I rode in August.  Warm.  Windy, windy, windy.  Some rain too.  Good riding weather.  The route I rode was perfectly flat.  I think there are some hills in the eastern areas of the Netherlands.  Its not tough riding terrain.  Towns everywhere, every few miles.

Offline Fred Hiltz

Re: Touring The Netherlands: Looking for specific-ish answers.
« Reply #2 on: May 11, 2011, 06:58:06 am »
What Russ says, plus check out the How-To Department at http://www.adventurecycling.org/index.cfm

Fred

Offline happyriding

Re: Touring The Netherlands: Looking for specific-ish answers.
« Reply #3 on: May 11, 2011, 10:27:16 pm »
Hi!

I'm brand new to touring, and I'm planning a solo trip covering the country of The Netherlands.  I appreciate any advices and/or experiences you can provide.

It sounds like you are in for a great adventure!  I'll try to answer your general questions.
Quote
My Cycling Experience:
I spent two months cycling to work on a mountain bike; kept on the same gear of 2 and 5 on a 21-speed.  Each way, it took me ½ hour covering 7 miles, including a very steep bridge.  The longest trip I'd ever biked was 9 hrs; it was a rental bike, one gear with coastal brake.  I was tired by the end but I wasn't burnt out; with a few short stop-overs, it was enjoyable riding.  That is the extend of my riding experience.  That said, I am female,  and I am healthy and athletically built.  I don't know how long and fast I would ride with full panniers, does 100km a day sound unreasonable?
You don’t have much cycling experience, but if you can ride for nine hours at a time, you’ll be fine—especially if the terrain is flat.  The one thing about not having any cycling experience is: how will your body hold up to riding an unfamiliar bike day after day.  Will your sitbones get bruised and tender from sitting on a bicycle seat so many days in a row?  Will your knees get tendonitis?  Remember, if the front of your knees hurt, raise your saddle a little bit.  If the back of your knees hurt, lower your saddle.  100 km/day on flat terrain is easily doable for an experienced cyclist who is fit.
Quote
2.  Is there a ratio formula of gear/pannier:body weight:bike weight?  For example: If I weigh 120 lbs (54 kilos), my personal possession (not including pannier weight,) should not exceed X number of pounds?
Not really.  First, you need a sturdy bike to carry gear.  A touring bike is built with sturdy tubing to handle the weight of panniers packed with gear, and to withstand being dropped or leaned on things.  A touring bike may also be able to accommodate wider tires, which make the riding more comfortable, and protects the rims from being damaged.


Quote
3. Are cycling shoes necessary?  I'll be cycling leisurely but I also want to use my energy efficiently.
I use them.  They certainly aren’t necessary.  Lots of people tour with sandals.
Quote
4. I read that all restaurants carry bike repair kits throughout the country.  What items do I need to keep in my personal repair kit anyway?
I carry a patch kit and several spare tubes, which I replace as necessary.  Some chain oil, which I put on about every two weeks, or more often if it rained (plan on getting a new chain after 2000 miles or so).  Some surgical gloves and rags for handling greasy chains, and baby wipes for cleaning up afterwards(which I use for other things too).  Some hemostats for pulling steel wires(from car tires) out of my tires.  A FiberFix for replacing a broken spoke.  A chain tool, a foldable set of Allen wrenches(Park brand) for all the various bolts on my bike.  Spare M5 bolts(for the seatpost, fenders, etc.) and some nuts for my fenders.   An extra brake and derailleur cable.  An extra SRAM Power Link to connect my chain.

I also carried one spare tire, which turned out not to be enough.  I went through five Schwalbe tires in 2 1/2 months, and I finished my tour on two more tires.  I used 38mm wide tires which were hard to find, and most bikes don't accommodate tires that wide, so if you are using a more common size, one spare tire is enough.

Quote
2. When you go inside somewhere for an hour or so (supermarkets, cafes, restaurants, hostels, etc...), how do lock up your stuff inside the panniers, or do you bring every thing with you in a backpack?
The longest I ever left my bike on tour was to go into a grocery store to buy food:  15 minutes.  I used a long cable with a combination lock, but a bike thief can easily snip the cable in 5 seconds.  Unloading all your panniers into a grocery cart is an option, but it is also a big hassle.
Quote
3. I was thinking of a U-lock and a chain one.  My chain ones are 3½ lbs or 8 lbs.  They seem so heavy to lug around while I'm trying to cut down on weight in my stuff.  What do you think?
U-locks and chains are too heavy.

Quote
Eating and Drinking:
1. I understand the public water is generally safe to drink, do I need to bring a water filter anyway? 
How many water bottles would you bring?  How easy is it to get them refilled?
I carry three large bottles.  Touring bikes usually have 3 water bottle holders, but you can also make do with two, and put a 100 oz (3 liter) bladder in your panniers, and fill it up with however much water you think you will need to get to the next water stop.

Quote
Packing:
1.   Let's say, 2 front panniers and 2 back panniers, how would you pack?  Camping gear in one back pannier, clothes in the other back pannier; food in one front pannier, flashlight/everything else in the other front pannier?  What has worked for you?
I put my tent and sleeping pad in a waterproof bag and strapped it on top of my rear rack.  Then I put a cargo net over that, and stuffed my sandals under the cargo net.  I also tied one end of a large mesh bag to my saddle, and knotted the other end and tucked it under  the cargo net.   I thought I would be able to hand wash my clothes at night , hang them to dry overnight, and then if they were still wet, put them in the mesh bag to dry out—but that didn’t work because my clothes never dried out overnight, and they remained wet inside the mesh bag.  I ended up just putting my dirty clothes in the mesh bag, which kept them out of my panniers.  I also used the mesh bag to store my tent fly in it if the fly was wet when I packed up in the morning.  Then when I found some sun(or even just a little breeze), I would stop and spread the fly out for 10-15 minutes until it dried. 

The rear panniers are easiest to access,  so I used one rear pannier for cooking equipment (on the bottom) and food on top.   I also kept my toiletry kit and baby wipes in my food pannier, so that anything a bear might be attracted to was only contaminating one pannier.  I found I needed to reserve half the pannier for food.  In the other rear pannier,  I stored lots of miscellaneous things: foldable bucket(for washing clothes, dishes or filtering water),  backpack towel, washcloth, liquid camp soap, silk sleeping bag liner, hanging shower, accessory cord, mosquito jacket,  rain gear, rear flashers for my panniers, bike tools, and water filter.

In one front pannier I stored extra bike clothes, and my sleeping bag;  and in the other front pannier, I stored casual clothes, jacket,  and a warm shirt.  At night, I stuffed my soft fiber fill jacket into a pillow case, and it served admirably as a pillow.

I also had a handlebar bag(which sat on a mini front rack), in which I put maps, powerbars, front flasher, leg and arm warmers, warm gloves, warm cycling hat, camera, headlamp(helpful for fixing flats in the dark), sometimes my rain jacket, etc.  Make sure you get some leg and arm warmers.  They are indispensable.



Quote
2. What are some things you packed for a trip that you regret taking?
Cooking equipment.  I found it was way too big of a hassle to cook and cleanup—especially in bear country(which you won’t have to worry about).  I went on a 2 ½ month tour, and after two weeks I stopped cooking.  Instead, I ate things like turkey jerky, nuts, fruit, carrots, bagels, sandwich meat, milk, and cookies.
Quote
What are some "common sense" things that people take on a trip but don't make sense for touring?
I took two sets of cycling clothing to save weight, and as a result I had to do laundry every other day.  In hindsight, I would have taken three sets of clothing, so I could have done wash less frequently.  Finding a laundry and then doing wash takes a lot of time, and I was riding 70 miles a day(112 km).


Quote
3. I've heard people talk about "bum cream" to reduce chafing/sores.  Can anyone explain?  Is it necessary?  What other things are necessary?
It’s generally known as ‘chamois cream’.  I applied it every morning before setting out, and I applied more during the day.  I also had other tourists ask to borrow some.  At home, I make it myself to save money, but on tour that is too much of a hassle.  I used a brand called ‘Chamois Butter’ because it came in a nice tube, and it was avaiable everywhere.

Quote
Cycling Clothes:
1.   I am clueless about cycling shorts.  Where I'm traveling may rain often, and I likely won't have a place to dry my shorts properly.  How many pair of cycling shorts do you suggest?  Are they meant to be washed everyday?
I can’t stand putting on dirty cycling clothing.  I sweat a lot, but inevitably I had to do it a couple of times.    I suggest three pairs so you can do wash less often.  Riding in the rain is no problem with cycling shorts.  They don’t get water logged, and they dry out fast.  For riding in the rain, I wore cycling shorts plus leg warmers, cycling jersey plus arm warmers, rain booties for my feet, and my rain jacket.  If I got cold  I would put on my rain pants.
Quote
2. What articles of clothing would you pack for a two month trip?
For casual clothes, I packed one short sleeve cotton shirt and some cotton shorts for sleeping(summer tour), one long sleeve REI Safari shirt, one pair of REI Safari pants with zip off legs, a bathing suit, and sandals.  I also packed some warm clothes: one long sleeve warm shirt, some long underwear, a warm cycling hat, and some wool socks.  Typically, I would pull into camp at night, and the first thing I would do is wriggle out of my wet cycling clothing(with my pack towel around my waist), and then put on my warm cycling cap, my warm shirt, my long underwear with the REI Safari pants over that, my wool socks, my sandals, and my warm jacket.  If I needed more protection, I had my rain jacket plus hood, and rain pants.   If it was cold at night, I used my long johns and long sleeve warm shirt for sleeping in (coupled with my 35 degree down bag).  I found that I had just the right amount of clothing for all weather conditions.

Quote
Cycling Routes:
I don't really know how to plan out my trip.  There are so many options and I get confused by where to start once I depart from Amsterdam.  Where would you start off the trip, what routes would you take, and where will your trip end?  Bear in mind I want to cover quaint villages, castles and nature (but not necessarily going to every forests or heath.)  And I don't want to find myself back-tracking all the time.
If you want to ride a lot of miles per day, then there won’t be much time to stop and sightsee.


« Last Edit: May 19, 2011, 06:04:44 pm by happyriding »

Offline Holland

Re: Touring The Netherlands: Looking for specific-ish answers.
« Reply #4 on: May 12, 2011, 12:14:22 am »
Thank you so much for all your replies.  Very helpful info.

Happyriding, wow, I really appreciate your time in corresponding so detailed.  You mentioned a lot of things I didn't even think of asking. :)  Looks like I have more things to add to my packing list.  Yeah, I wasn't even going to bother with cooking; I figured I would eat from supermarkets and restaurants.  Wouldn't the arm and leg warmers get wet in the rain?

Offline happyriding

Re: Touring The Netherlands: Looking for specific-ish answers.
« Reply #5 on: May 12, 2011, 03:16:11 pm »
Thank you so much for all your replies.  Very helpful info.

Happyriding, wow, I really appreciate your time in corresponding so detailed.  You mentioned a lot of things I didn't even think of asking. :)  Looks like I have more things to add to my packing list.  Yeah, I wasn't even going to bother with cooking; I figured I would eat from supermarkets and restaurants.  Wouldn't the arm and leg warmers get wet in the rain?
I don't think it's possible to stay dry in the rain.  The idea is to maintain a comfortable temperature.  I wore a rain jacket in the rain, so my arm warmers didn't get rained on, but they still got damp with sweat.  A good rain jacket will have a back vent and underarm zips to vent steam, and the jacket can also serve as a windbreaker in dry weather with cooler temperatures.  Here is the one I used:

http://www.showerspass.com/catalog/men/mens-jackets/mens-double-century

It's actually a brilliant orange color (v. the mustard yellow color depicted on the website) with 360 degree reflective tape.

Now that I think about, I don't know if I ever wore my leg warmers in the rain.  I think I might have just worn cycling shorts and booties with a rain jacket on top, and if I got too cold I put on my rain paints, and then if I was still cold I added leg warmers underneath my rain pants.

I can only wear my rain hood when it is really cold--otherwise it is just too hot.

I also carried a swiss army knife, which had a couple of screwdrivers on it, which I used along with my other bike tools for bike repair.
« Last Edit: May 19, 2011, 06:02:31 pm by happyriding »

Offline Belgium

Re: Touring The Netherlands: Looking for specific-ish answers.
« Reply #6 on: May 19, 2011, 12:58:18 pm »

Accommodations and Camping:
3. Has anyone stayed with Vrienden op de Fiets?

What was your experience?  Do you recommend staying with any of them?
 

I used to stay with a few of these families in Belgium (Ghent, Namur, Beloeil, Pottes) and I can absolutely recommend this formula.  This year, they charge only 19 euro for one night (including breakfast) and most of them are always very helpful with providing information about the region, where to cycle, fair priced restaurants and more 'inside' information, that's not that easy to find.  Going for 'Vrienden op de Fiets' saves you also from a lot of weight (although their booklet with addresses is not that light), and from the problem of finding adequate camping places.  Nearly every Dutch village counts one or more hosts. http://www.vriendenopdefiets.nl
 
« Last Edit: May 20, 2011, 06:09:24 am by Belgium »

Offline hem

Re: Touring The Netherlands: Looking for specific-ish answers.
« Reply #7 on: May 19, 2011, 03:41:25 pm »
I have ridden a bit in the Netherlands, both solo and with a group. The routes are generally well marked although I spent a lot of time figuring out where I was and getting back on route. Note that the system of route marking includes the infamous concrete mushrooms which are meant to be hidden just to keep you on your toes.http://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://lh5.ggpht.com/_Nion-iSAjJU/TIYpDTwZl4I/AAAAAAAAD3k/p6CB95SEDtA/Holland%2520075.JPG&imgrefurl=http://picasaweb.google.com/ron.beernink/HollandHoliday2010&usg=__WB9BCE63vCYwkVCCF3b8zOiEAi8=&h=1600&w=1200&sz=218&hl=en&start=0&sig2=WRiKR_scN3nW-CqU6krrtQ&zoom=1&tbnid=EAmjnbdeLZIoWM:&tbnh=151&tbnw=124&ei=NXPVTabTJYLKgQeE-OGXBw&prev=/search%3Fq%3Dnetherlands%2Bcycling%2Bmushrooms%26um%3D1%26hl%3Den%26sa%3DN%26rlz%3D1G1GGLQ_ENUS365%26biw%3D1920%26bih%3D1044%26tbm%3Disch&um=1&itbs=1&iact=hc&vpx=1401&vpy=61&dur=85&hovh=259&hovw=194&tx=93&ty=123&sqi=2&page=1&ndsp=62&ved=1t:429,r:8,s:0

It does rain there quite a bit and I used a Campmor Bicycle poncho which did a great job for me as I was mainly in the interior where the winds were mild or moderate. I also wore Shimano sandals. Going today I would take my Rain Legs too.

I also had a compass to orient myself as the sun was often hidden in the clouds. Today I would take my Garmin Vista Hcx with the European maps mainly for finding my self using the LF route maps.

Limburg is not exactly flat down towards Maastricht.

Have a great trip
« Last Edit: May 19, 2011, 03:46:32 pm by hem »

Offline Galloper

Re: Touring The Netherlands: Looking for specific-ish answers.
« Reply #8 on: May 20, 2011, 08:11:58 am »
I thoroughly enjoy cycling in The Netherlands.   Camp sites are fairly common along the coast but a bit rarer away from the holiday resorts.

I'd recommend Michelin maps, they're comprehensive and also show "picturesque" routes.   I'd back Hem up on his comments about route markers, I followed the Nordsee Kuste route a couple of years ago and kept losing it so the map is an essential.

If you're planning on buying a bike over there, you'll have plenty of choice.   The standard "Dutch Bike" will do very well as the equipment includes a rear rack, mudguards (sorry, fenders) and a horse shoe lock.   Cycle paths are everywhere.

http://www.fietsrouteplanner.eu/content/view/104/109/

http://www.landelijkefietsroutes.nl/routes/


Offline bilboburgler

Re: Touring The Netherlands: Looking for specific-ish answers.
« Reply #9 on: June 22, 2011, 09:45:38 am »
1) Its flat, all of it, even the bit the dutch call hilly is flat
2) there are bike paths everywhere (and yes you have to use them) and yes when we say everywhere we mean everywhere.  The country has bikes core to its culture, everyone rides (everyone) and even take precedence over cars in most places.
3) do you need clips on the flat, if so take them.
4) I'm writing a a web page on dutch cycling at the moment but have a look at my "work in progress" http://www.mybikeguide.co.uk/North_Sea_Route.php there are some good links at the bottom of the main table which include the Belgium bike route map (covering Holland) which is very easy to use compared to some of the sites mentioned above (which are good just tough to use).  For maps you couild end up spending silly money at every tourist office (called vvv in dutch) for all the little maps but there are maps stuck on posts all over the place.
5) Concrete mushrooms are being replaced so you will need to get used to sign posts and tin maps on posts, get an over view map to know which cities you want to visit.
6) Theft is an issue, I'd buy a second hand bike when you get here or rent (roughly Euro10 a day).  Security either a big D or a thick chain is all that works, you have to use bike racks if they exist (or police will empound them) and if staying in a hotel park in their garage or shed.

You should give yourself a good nights sleep once in a while.  The B&B concept exists in the country and you should get a good room for Euro 45 to 65 while hotels tend towards euro 85.

I should have more info up on my website by next week.
« Last Edit: July 15, 2011, 08:10:36 am by bilboburgler »

Offline bilboburgler

Re: Touring The Netherlands: Looking for specific-ish answers.
« Reply #10 on: August 26, 2011, 08:10:31 am »
the web site on the North Sea is up and running and can be used for info on most of Holland

Offline Dennis1971

Re: Touring The Netherlands: Looking for specific-ish answers.
« Reply #11 on: September 09, 2011, 04:19:05 am »
I saw this post a little late. I hope you are still enjoying your trip in The Netherlands and don't mind the rain. We had the wettest summer in 100 years  :(

For future travelers to The Netherlands with a GPS, there is a beautiful map available for free: http://sites.google.com/site/openfietsmap/

Also some pictures of our cyclingtrips in The Netherlands:
http://toko-op-fietsvakantie.nl/fietserpad.php
http://www.toko-op-fietsvakantie.nl/terschelling.php
http://www.toko-op-fietsvakantie.nl/antwerpen.php

Short video's:

http://vimeo.com/1905115
http://vimeo.com/23074275