Rheden kinderroute

The Rheden mountain bike route has a number of extra bits tacked on, mostly quite technical. One of those is the 'kinderroute'. Despite the name ('kinder' is children), it is certainly not only a route for children. It has a lot of tight bends and curves, which makes it suitable for small bikes. However, that also means that it is a really good practice of your steering skills if you are on a full-sized bike, especially one with modern 29-inch wheels.

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There is also plenty of up and down, and a few drop-offs as well. Some are on the regular route, and for other, larger ones, there are a few little diversions, marked with an open (not-filled) MTB icon, indicating a harder alternative. 

It is on very sandy soil, and that means that, with the recent dry summers, there is always the problem of loose sand and erosion. The track maintenance crew have done a lot of work in embedding wire mesh into the track to prevent this. However, there are still some treacherous patches left, which you need to look out for.

All in all, an enjoyable and challenging small route. Perfect as an addition to the longer Rheden route, or (like I did this morning) as a quick breath of fresh air before leaving for home at the end of your holiday. It is worth riding twice as the second time round you know what is coming and can take those corners just that little bit faster.

De Hattemer Herfst ATB tocht 2023

Hattemer is just a bit too far away from Wageningen, so I had never been on their tour before. I guess that is so for more people, because I heard that there were only 250 participants. We usually get at least twice that for the tours we organise in Wageningen. However, last Saturday I was on holiday nearby and joined the tour. I and all the others who not normally take part in the eight previous editions had definitely been missing out on something special. 

It was a great route, through a diverse and varied landscape. It started off from the ice skating association clubhouse (it was cool, but not that cold) and for the first few kilometres we could warm up as we cycled on the road. Then the route branched off into the woods and the fun started. We went through all different sorts of woodland; conifers, broadleaved and mixed, with occasional stretches of heathland and grassland. After that first bit, and a short stretch at the end, almost none of it was on asphalt. Because the landscape was varied, so was the soil, we went from loose and slippery sand (I was very happy it had rained heavily the night before, or it would have been really hard work indeed) to grippy loamy forest soil. There were a few small hills, leading to a total of about 300 m of climbing.

Due to the time of year, when we set off, there was some mist in the forest, which gave some spectacular effects with the sunlight coming through the trees.

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Woods near Hattemer

We were very luck with the weather. Not only did the rain the night before mean that it was all rideable, but it was not too hot and not too cold (aside from the first half hour, when I needed a jacket, dry, and quite a lot of sunshine.

It was a well-organised tour, with a great atmosphere ('gezellig'), clear signing and two breaks, which was generous for a tour of only 45 kms. 

So far as I could see, the route is all on tracks that are normally open, so you can follow it from here. But ff you are in the area next September, it is definitely worthwhile to join the tour and support the club that organises it.

Everyone is crazy except me

 On Friday evening, the general consensus was that with a feel-like temperature of minus six, and a bitter East wind, it would be no weather for mountain biking on Saturday.  No one wanted to come. Madness! It turned out to be beautiful conditions for cycling.  Ok, it was cold, but that was nothing that a few layers of clothing and a flask of warm coffee could not fix. It was sunny with a clear blue sky and once in the woods, the wind was gone. The seasonally low sun shone through the autumn leaves, and it was glorious. 



MTB Route Den Treek-Henschoten

Den Treek-Henschoten is a mountain bike route on a private estate which is only half an hour's drive away from Wageningen. Although of course that half hour is not counting the unpredictable amount of time faffing around trying to attach three bikes to the back of a car. With three hardtails, it wouldn't have been so bad, but the rear suspension was in the way of the attaching struts almost no matter how we arranged the bikes, so we had to be quite creative to get them all attached in something approaching a secure way. But in the end we succeeded and arrived at the start. Within a few meters of the car park, we were on the trail and with no chance for a warm-up, we were on a winding, twisting route. Although the route as a whole is virtually flat, with no big hills, especially in the southern (red) route there is hardly any section which is actually, flat, you are climbing and descending the whole time, but each climb is only a few height-meters. Nevertheless, that means that there is hardly a moment of rest for kilometres at a time, especially as the turns and mini-climbs are all together. The northern (blue) route is 25 km and the southern (red) is 16 km long. There is a slight overlap, but that is a particularly nice bit, so that is no problem.

We were lucky to be there in autumn, as the colours were quite spectacular. There were also loads of mushrooms everywhere. Lots of fly agarics (the red with white spots toadstools that gnomes sit on, Amantia muscaria) and huge amounts of birch bolete (Leccinum scabrum). It took quite some discipline to keep my eyes (and therefore wheels) on the trail and not to peer at them as I went past. I was also happy that there had been some rain in the week before, as some parts of the trail had quite loose sand, and at one point I almost spun out of control. If it was a bit drier, it would have all been much more difficult and the flow would have been lost. The trail is nearly all woodland, with a few bits of open heathland for variety. There is one stretch on tarmac, but that is a very small proportion of the total. There are lots of walkers around, and we came across a few on the MTB route (not everyone knows that the international MTB sign looks like), so you have to keep alert for that.

The trail is on private land, and it is necessary to buy a permit to ride it. You can do that online. If you go there often, that will be quite expensive, but the day ticket is a reasonable price. Note that if you buy that one, you need to buy it on the day you ride. In general, the Utrechtse Heuvelrug can be very busy at weekends, so having to pay for the permit might mean that these trails are less busy than the nearby Zeist route. A definite plus point is that it begins and ends at a pancake restaurant, which has good food and welcomes mountain bikers.



Web of life

After a long hot summer, all of a sudden (or so it seems to me), the autumn has arrived. The trees are turning spectacular colours, their scary slippery leaves are covering the mountain bike paths, and there is picturesque mist in the morning. Not that it is cool; it is in fact bizarrely warm, perhaps even as much as 20 degrees today. The misty start meant that, in places, the spider webs were quite spectacular. There wasn't just the one shown below, but dozens, perhaps even hundreds, all catching the sunlight filtering through the trees at a low angle.

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It was not only the glorious autumn weather that made yesterday's ride special. After two and a half years of doing my best to avoid covid, last month I finally succumbed, which meant being confined to my house for three weeks and for the last week barely going outside. But I finally felt well enough to get out again yesterday. It was a joy to be out on the bike and a joy to be out in the woods. Even better, we only had a short ride, so there was time on the way back to stop off for delicious homemade cake and coffee. What more could you want?

Rhododendron ponticum

This plant is a serious threat to natural areas in the West of Britain as it loves the wet conditions and spreads rapidly, killing all other plants with its dense leaf litter. But round here, with the dry summers, it just looks pretty for passing mountain bikers, without doing much damage to other vegetation. #BotanicalMountainBiking

Rhododendron ponticum