Heather Week

Last week it was 'Heideweek' (heather week) in Ede, complete with parade, the heather queen and so on, and so the heather is flowering magnifiicantly. Nice bullfinch on the heathland as well.heather

Sandy Hills

The slope on the left does not look much, and it is in fact only 12% gradient (still more than most hills round here),hill but it is in fact exceptionally difficult to cycle up. The surface is very loose sand, interrupted by roots at a variety of angles. That means that getting up in one go is virtually impossible, and even if I have to stop a couple of times on the way up to reorient myself as the back wheel spins, I still feel quite proud of myself for getting to the top. The hill is a glacial moraine (big heap of stones dumped by a glacier), with the slope cut by the river Rhine. It is only a couple of hundred metes long, but you can go up and down the moriane a number of time as you work your way along from West to East. Be careful on the downhills, as you can unexpectedly come across trees placed across the tracks. The location of the slope is shown as a waypoint on the GPS track.

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.

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.


Northwave boots (Photo Suzanne Spink)


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.

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.