Mountain biking in the time of Corona


My goodness, it was busy in the woods on the Utrechtse Heuvelrug yesterday. I thought I must be going (even) slower than usual by the number of people passing me, but then I stopped for a break and saw that there were just a lot more people mountain biking than usual. It was a bit like taking part in an organized tour.  I must say, everyone was doing their best to keep the required 1.5 meters distance from each other; no one tried to push their way past on narrow paths and when people stopped, they formed little groups away from each other. The only thing is that at the car park I did see various groups getting in and out of cars and I wondered if they were really all in the same household.

I was cycling alone because our club has cancelled all activities. I am happy that so far, here in the Netherlands we are not (or not yet) in total lockdown and still able to get out on our bikes so long as we keep 1.5m distance from each other. It makes you wonder how long that will continue though. In Spain, they said that one of the reasons that cycling is banned is that if cyclists have an accident then that is an extra strain on emergency and health services. That is certainly something to bear in mind, and perhaps a good idea of take a few less risks (resist trying to jump over that log which is maybe just too high) and not going too far from road (ambulance) access (the Veluwe being one of the few areas of the Netherlands where that is actually possible). If you do go cycling on your own, an app like Beacon is a good way for your family to see where you are. Google Maps location sharing is often inaccurate when you're not in a city. 

Cycling and mountain biking keeps you fit, boosts your immune system, helps you make vitamin D (critical for your immune system) and increases your lung capacity.


Flooded heathland

This peaceful lake isn't a lake at all, but a patch of heathland and grassland which had flooded. We have had so much rain in the last week, indeed the whole month, that everything is incredibly sodden. Despite the sandy ground, the water just could not get away fast enough. We made a detour around the 'lake', following a thin animal track through the woods until we came back onto a normal track and skirted around the edge of the water. The normally dry path was crossed with small streams, which looked innocent enough until my companion crossed one and discovered that it was much deeper than it looked, and he got completely soaked up to his middle. Unfortunately for him, but conveniently for me, at that point we decided that the flooding made it impossible to go on, so he had no choice but to come back through the water for a second time. From that point on, we were much more wary, skirting around the outside of the scary looking puddles, but after a while we were off the sand and onto soils with much more clay and loam, and then it was just incredibly muddy. A couple of weeks ago my nice chunky winter back tyre had given up the ghost, and I had replaced it with one which was a bit faster but no match for these conditions, so from time to time my wheels literally just spun round and I had no option but to get off and walk a few metes until I was on something approaching dry land again. It was hard work and when we approached Wageningen with the option of an extra loop or not, my shoulders, aching from trying to steer though all that liquid mud, definitely prompted me to head for home. 

Muddy bike


Winter Trees

This photo was taken on the Amerongen section of the Heuvelrug trails. It was actually quite spring-like with blue skies and mild weather, but that's not anything that a bit of high contrast black and white couldn't fix

Winter(tour) is coming

It is less than a month to go until the Wageningen Winter Tour! On the Friday after Christmas, 27th December, our club will be organising the annual winter tour. You can read about it here. It is is always a great event, so make sure you put it in your diary. 

Yesterday, it certainly felt wintry. We set off with the thermometer a few degrees below zero, which meant that there was spectacular hoar frost coating all the vegetation. After a bit it melted slightly so that there was mist in the trees. I wished I had a proper camera with me instead of my phone, but the photo below at least gives some idea of what the sun shining through that mist looked like. The frozen mist and icy puddles did mean that our toes were getting quite cold by the time we got home, but nevertheless it was all so spectacular that it was well worth it.

I don't suppose we will be lucky enough to have such good weather on the 27th, but no matter what it does, the tour will be great fun. Guaranteed. 


Mountain bike route Texel

Texel MTB

If you read the review of the Texel mountain bike route on, you will find some negative comments. If you are hoping for a technical trail or a lot of elevation, then I can understand that you might find the Texel route disappointing. It is also clearly the case that only about 1/3 of the track (so half the time) is off road. But if you know that in advance, then this is a great track. That also depends on which route you take. The official route is 100 km long, but it is quite easy to take some short cuts and of course to make sure you cut the tarmac, not the dunes. Whichever route you take, make sure you have a GPS; the signs are mostly good, but there are a few missing.

The sections that are off road are really good. Lots of twisting and turning and ups and downs, mostly in a nice species-rich mixed woodland and otherwise in and along the dunes.  A lot of the rest of the route is along the dikes, which either has dramatic views out over the sea, or runs alongside some nature reserves for birds just inside the dike. As one of the Frisian islands, Texel is well-known for its birds, including waders (like the Ruddy Turnstone below), but also things like the Avocet and Spoonbills. The only problem is that as you are whizzing along on your bike, there is no time to look properly at the birds, so I had to go back later with a proper camera and tripod to take the photo below.

[Text continues under photo]Ruddy Turnstone

The dune slacks are full of all sorts of interesting plants. We visited Texel in September and, to be honest, I had not really expected anything to be in flower. But I was pleasantly mistaken. Not only was there quite a lot out, but we even saw some really quite rare plants like the Erigeron acris (Blue Fleabane) below, which I had never seen before. Very exciting! Like with the birds, it was a matter of going back later to get a decent photo.

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Erigeron acris, blue fleabane

In summary, if you are expecting a fair quantity of tarmac, then the dramatic landscapes, diverse plants and animals and wonderful track through the dunes means that this is a great track. 

Posbank remade

A few years ago, the Posbank route (a.k.a. Rheden or Veluwezoom) used to be one the the most popular and challenging routes in the country. The combination of the beautiful landscape and a good quantity of height-meters made it one of the most attractive places to ride. However, in recent years, nearby trails (like on the Utrechtse Heuvelrug and near Ede) have been revamped and greatly improved, whilst the Posbank route gradually got eroded and overcrowded. As you have to pay to use the route, it was definitely time to do something about it. And they have certainly done that. The southern loop has been completely renewed. On the southwest part it now goes a completely different way than the steeper parts that were getting badly eroded, with some great open views over the heathland, albeit at the expense of some of the more challenging hills. This is made up for by a number (three as I write, more promised later) of extra loops which are extra challenging. I did one by mistake as unfortunately someone forgot that red and green arrows look identical for the many people who are colour-blind, but it was a fun and enjoyable mistake. 

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The southeast part is where it has been most improved. Parts of it were with a lot of very loose sand (a colleague of mine even managed to break his collar bone there) and other parts were rather straight and boring. They have made it much more twisty and challenging, in a similar way to the other new trails in the region. They are sufficiently technical that sometimes you need to stop and look at the views, as otherwise all your concentration is taken up in staying on the trail, not to mention that you might want an excuse to get your breath back.

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Posbank woods Rheden

It is worth mentioning that the new routes mean that you go past the café at the top of the hill (the Paviljoen) rather than the visitor's centre near Rheden. That does give a more spectacular view (that's where the first photo in this blog is from), but unfortunately you cannot buy the MTB permit from there, which means either taking a diversion or buying it online beforehand. If you buy it online, you have to buy it for the whole year, you cannot buy a day-permit online. 

The northern loop has not been renewed (August 2019). That is a pity as it is rather boring. A large part of it is straight, flat, broad gravel tracks, which could quite comfortably be driven in a family car. There are some height meters, so the most fun is to be had going fast down some stretches, but otherwise it has to be seen more as a recovery (or warm-up) for the real route to the south. I do hope that sooner or later the northern loop will also be 'modernised' as well, as it is now, it is a bit of a cheek to ask money for riding it. 

The new route is very clearly signposted, but it is always a good idea to take a gps track with you. You can get that from