Ride Report: Ronde van Nederland gravel adventure
Gravel Union On
21 October 2020
After our trip to Spain with the gravel bikes was cancelled due to the CV19 pandemic, we decided to travel off-road across the Netherlands instead. We started our gravel expedition in the small German pilgrimage town of Kevelaer near the Dutch border, since I knew the area from my first 400 and 600 km brevet rides on the lower Rhine. We first rode our gravel bikes along beautiful forest paths next to the River Maas and then picked up a series of small gravel roads to Venlo. Here we eat our first delicious waffles.
At Roermond we headed west and rode on perfect gravel trails to Eindhoven, where we crossed the "Stabrechtse Heide" - a natural heathland area about 1500 ha in size. Later we followed the old Wilhelmina Canal to Oirschot, a former center of furniture production. Here can be found the largest wooden chair in Europe! After the beautiful village of Ulvenhout, we plowed our gravel bikes through deep sandy trails in dark forests.
Our route made a short detour to Belgium just before Bergen op Zoom. Here we met a group of older men with bicycles who explained to us that the small border crossing trails was a former smuggler's path. After following a dike for a long time, we reached Vlissingen where we witnessed a wonderful sunset.
From Vlissingen it was hundreds of kilometers just riding along beside the sea. The ground conditions changed constantly – we found gravel roads, sandy singletrack and then cobblestone paths.
From Den Helder we took a short ferry ride to the island of Texel, where we took a couple of rest days. On this beautiful island we could watch seals bobbing around in the sea and give our bikes a check over. It turned out that my front brake pads had been completely destroyed by the sand and salt. Unfortunately, no bike dealer on the whole island of Texel was able to repair the braking system. I now had to continue for over 200 kilometers with only the rear brake working! The region of Friesland began at the picturesque coastal town of Harlinge and at this point we left the coast and followed the River Reitdiep to Groningen.
Here we found the Erik Gorter bike shop (thank you very much!) and they managed to repair my front brake quickly and easily, so were able to continue with the last 400 kms of our journey. At Borger we crossed the forests of Drenthe - I still have memories from this area from my 200 km MTB marathon “Drenthe 200” in December 2019. This area is famous for the huge old burial chambers known as barrows, some of which are up to 5000 years old!
At Ommen we stood in front of big sand dunes. The area here is also called "De Sahara" by the Dutch.
After Enschede we crossed the area of Burzerzaan, where fantastic gravel trails pass by ancient farmhouses. On the last evening of our trip we found ourselves in Arnhem - known for its bridge which played a major role in Operation “Market Garden” during World War II. In the city we met three French gravel bikers from Brittany who were also doing a gravel cycling tour through the Netherlands.
At the end of our trip, we followed the large rivers IJssel and Waal on to Nijmegen and then back to the river Maas, which quickly brought us back to our car in Kevelaer. In two weeks and after riding more than 1,300 kilometers, we had discovered dream gravel roads all over the small kingdom of the Netherlands.
Words and images by Timo Rokitta & Mandy Rodriguez
You can find out more about Timo's route here