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Concrete Jungle

One of the nice things about living in Wageningenconcrete is that the large area of woodland to the north of us has a network of cycle paths runing through so that even without a mountain bike you can go cycling in the woods. The province is busy spending €20 million (as an aside, does the fact that Americans speak of tax dollars and the Dutch of tax cents (belastingcenten) have any significance?) making new paths (which is good) and upgrading the current paths. I am less impressed with the upgrade. What used to be a nice path made out of shells snaking through the woods from Wageningen to the pancake house, has been transformed to a 2 m wide concrete strip. It is ugly (but maybe will mellow), and has hard edges (to slip off when the soil next to it gets eroded). The province thinks it will be more resistant to damage from tree roots than its predecessor. That may be so for the asphalt sections they are "upgrading" but I doubt it for concrete. Condensation will form underneath it, and the tree roots will go searching for the water and break it open.

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Winter boots

You would think that given that we get reasonably wet winters here, the local bike shops would have a good selection of good waterproof mountain bike boots for in the winter. But strangely enough that does not seem to be the case. My local shop offered to order a pair from Shimano from me, but given that Shimano boots are usually a bit tight on me I was not so keen. I suppose there is just not the demand. All it takes is a bit of foul weather and I have the woods completely to myself. There are enough days when it is dry if you do not like getting wet. It is another story in England. There is about twice the rainfall as here (depending where you are) so when I was making a family vist to Yorkshire a few weeks ago I was fairly sure to find something. And sure enough, the friendly people at Boneshakers in Harrogate were able to help me. At first I was not so sure beause I had been thinking of a more walking boot-like sole, but in practice I do not normally have to walk long distances with the bike, so decided that was not an issue and bought the Northwave Celsius boots that you can see above. Before today I had established that they were comfortable, but it was raining quite a lot last week, the ground water is high, and the woods are full of puddles. So this morning when I came across water-filled ruts and other puddles like in the photo above, I made sure that I did not skirt around them but went right through the middle. So how did they do? The boots claim to be waterproof, and indeed if you go reasonably slowly and it is not too deep (not deeper than my ankles), that seems to be the case. Anyway, with big puddles like that it is not an idea to go so fast as you cannot see what holes, logs, etc are lurking hidden beneath the surface. Having established that, I then had a good excuse to have some more fun and also went a high speed through deeper water. Of course there is no avoiding that when you do that the water splashes over the tops and you get water inside the boots. But they still did a good job, my feet were very quickly warm again and the gortex did what it is supposed to in terms of passing the moisture outside really quickly. I guess in cold weather (it was about 10 degrees today) I would be a bit less carefree in spashing through puddles and filling them up with water, but aside from that I have to say that I am very happy with them.

Puddle

Northwave boots (Photo Suzanne Spink)

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Oirschot

The official route at Oirschot consists of 2 loops.Oirschot  As I had my 11-year old daughter with me, we intended to do just one of them, which would have been a bit over 20 km. However at the branch we headed off in the wrong direction, and ended up doing over 30 km (although the last few we headed straight back for the car along tarmac).  But we made it and, despite 2 punctures along the way, Suzanne was not even too exhausted by the time we got back to the car.  It helped that the route was as flat as a proverbial pancake.  Although it was flat, that did not mean it was boring.  It had long stretches of bendy singletrack and wound its way through a landscape of sandy heathland, mixed forest and fen pools (left). The shore was full of interesting mosses, which looked worth investigating on a different occassion. All in all, a well worthwhile track.

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November flowers

The mountain bike route over the Sallandse Heuvelrug has a number of features in its favour. Cowberry One is that it starts close to where some friends of ours live.  Another is that it has some of the best quality heathland in the country.  The flowers on the left are not the more common bilberry (which has purple fruit) but the cowberry (which as well as red berries has evergreen leves) is less common. It is of course typical of our warm autumn that they are still flowering now, when they 'ought' to have finished last month. There are also all sorts of other rare birds and plants living there.  The disadvantage of that, for the mountainbiker is that this means that a lot of the area is protected and that you can only cycle along the official route.  That also means that the tracks near to car parks for walkers are very busy with dogs, push, chairs, people spread out all over the path, etc.  Definately a route to be prefered in some nice rainy weather to scare off the crowds. Although some of the route is along straight cycle paths, there are some nice stretches of singletrack and it does include 280 of elevation. 

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Winter Tour Number One 2011

The Tour Club Wageningen organises 3 mountain bike tours every winter for non-members tcw 1and the first this year was today.The weather was perfect; cool without being cold, sunny, and dry without the ground being too loose.  Their website said there was a choice of 30 and 50 kms, but in fact the longer route turned out to be 60 km.  It was an excellent route, along many of my favourate tracks, and even better I discovered a couple of new ones. The photo on the left is going acrosss the Ginkelse Heide (heath), and instead of taking the way I normally do they cut across with a nice (and long) singletrack across the heath, ending in an incredible twisting and difficult bit through a sort of sunken passgeway (bomb craters, quarries?).  So many people turned up* (or went the longer route) that by the time I got to the second break they had run out of coffee and soup, and indeed there were a lot of people around.  Cycling through the woods you have impression there are only a few, but when I got to a level crossing and had to wait a minute for a train there were soon something like 50 people waiting with me. And on top of everything well organised and good signposting.
*520 - for more details (in Dutch) and photos see the club website

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New bridge for cyclists

Wageningen has the Veluwe to to the north and east and the Utrechtse Heuveulrug (morraine) New bridgeto the west.The area in between is called the Binnenveld, and it is an area of open fields, most of which are farmed, and a few of them are nature, including birds, orchids and rare mosses. A small river called the Grift runs down the centre of the valley (oddly enough, flowing north, away from the Rhine). A new bridge has been built across the river, connecting the cycle paths (here). Some conservationists opposed building this bridge as they think the increased numbers of cyclists will be hardful to the birdlife, but on the other hand one of biggest problems in the Binnenveld are all the cars which illegally go down the small roads, and an increased number of bikes may help against that.

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