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On Tuesday, the local club organised its traditional after-Christmas winter tour, which was as usual a resounding success. Many hundreds of happy participants, blue skies and enough mud on the ground to make it a proper mountain bike event combined together very nicely (see here for an account in Dutch). I was helping put out the arrows to mark the route. Setting them out is not so bad, but collecting them afterwards is like a rather intense interval training, with a couple of hundred meters sprint to the next arrow, stop, bend down, pull it out of the ground, start off again leapfrogging past your partner and on to the next one and repeat until our ten kilometre stretch was completed. So I arrived back home quite weary and hungrily ate everything with a high energy content that I could see.

Yesterday it was a different story.

 

The blue skies were replaced with a dense mysterious mist percolating through the Scots pines and the crowds of mountain bikers were replaced with just my neighbour and myself. And that was about it.  Not counting the bits within a hundred meters of a car park or view point, I think we saw one other mountain biker. And a squirrel. For a change we did not set off from home but first drove to Planken Wambuis and then rode off in the direction of Mossel. There is definitely a wilder feel to the woods there with a more developed understory and some wide open spaces across the moors - not that we could see the open spaces through the fog. But that just enhanced the feeling of remoteness and added to the atmosphere.

 

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Buzzards

I don't know if it was the freezing weather, or the time of the year, or what, but there were an awful lot of buzzards around this morning. One of them even flew along in front of us for a good 500m, following the twists and turns of the track. But it was the amazing weather, with crisp white frost and sunshine filtering through golden leaves that really made it. Perfect.

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Autumn colours

The autumn colours are quite spectacular at the moment, with yellow birch, orange-brown oaks and bright orange-red American Oaks (or Red Oaks as the Americans call it) looking amazing, especially with the morning mist filtering through the trees and the sunlight through the dewdrops.  Even the Molinia grass (purple moor-grass, the tall grass you see in the photo below) has a seasonal orange tint to it. For some reason, Molinia has done really well this year, with clumps growing to a meter high or so in places, looking quite magnificent — almost as magnificent as the group of mountain bikers below.

TCW group relaxed Ginkelse Heide

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Veluwe Challenge 2016

Over six hundred mountain bikers turned out for this year's Veluwe Challenge and even though the weather was better than some previous years,  it was still quite a challenge, or at least it was for me. I did the 50 km route, which was a bit over 60 km by the time I'd cycled from home, and by the time I got back home I was quite exhausted. In the beginning, despite my average speed being higher than my usual, I was clearly holding back my fellow club-mate and it was only after his shoulder somehow got entangled with a fence as he passed it that I could feel less guilty for holding him back. The (literal) high point of the route was the Goudsberg. That is an area of very steep slopes made of loose sand which was especially challenging. I must admit I was not so pleased with my performance there, I've (just) managed to get up all the slopes there before and this time I had to get off and push several times.  Mostly that was because the cyclists in front of me stopped, but not every time.  I guess my rhythm was broken by those stops.  Still, I guess it is not much of a challenge if you can succeed every time. Anyway, it was a good ride, with impeccable organisation by WV Ede and the usual friendly atmosphere of such events. 

Photo © 2016  Harald Kouseband Oypo

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End of summer

The ridiculous summer temperatures that we experienced all through September have finally come to an end. The last flowers on the heather are finally fading and when I set off it was cool enough to give me quite a chill for a while. The cloudy sky was looking quite definitely threatening. All those things (well, all except the flowers) were a Good Thing, for the simple reason that after months of sharing the paths with countless dog-walkers, horse-riders and sundry other people out enjoying the countryside, the mere threat of a little drizzle was enough to keep them all inside and out of my way. This week I could not go out with the club, so the sense of having the heaths and woods to myself was even stronger. Bring on the winter, it can only get better!

Ginkelse Heide

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Drunen

MTBroutes.nl gives the Drunen route a relatively high ranking, so when I found I had to be near to there the other day I took the opportunity to take a look.  It is in an area of inland sand dunes call the Loonsche & Drunensche duinen (‘duinen’ means dunes) which means that the landscape is impressive and that there are enough small hills to make it challenging.  They have indeed done their best to make the most of the landscape.  For a start the track winds its way through quite some diversity of different habitats from open sand dunes (the loose sand was tough going in parts) to heathland (August was definitely a good time to be there with all the heather in flower) to mixed woodland with a well-developed understory.  It was in places quite similar to more sandy parts of the Veluwe, but just a little bit more fertile soil, with more brambles and so on in the woods. The track is sufficiently challenging in parts that you need to keep your wits about you, with various small drop-offs and steep (but short) climbs which are definitely easier if you see them coming. Another reason to keep your wits about you is that the area is also extensively used by walkers and horse riders.  Where the paths cross footpaths and bridleways there are clear warning signs but I came across quite a lot of walkers on the mountain bike route, despite many signs saying it was forbidden. The other thing to remember is that you do need a permit, though if you already have one for the Posbank that is valid here, and I did run into a warden (not literally) in the middle of the route, so they do check.

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 MTB Drunen

The route is very clearly signed, though if your colour vision is like mine then the black and green routes look quite similar, but nevertheless a gps route in front of you is certainly handy to let you know when sharp bends are coming up. If you do follow a gps route, make sure you go the right way round (anti-clockwise).  This is not only to avoid bumping into everyone going the other direction but because a lot of the short steep slopes have a metal grid on the uphill bit. This doubtless does a great job in preventing erosion, but it is not a surface I would like to be braking on.

I imagine that the weather in the preceding week is going to make a huge difference to the track.  When I went there, there had been a lot of rain and then dry for a day, which was probably optimal.  In dry weather there will be much more loose sand, which makes it more difficult.  If it is really wet, then parts of the woodland in the second half of the route which were now hard and fast, will be sticky or slippery. Is it worth its high ranking on mtbroutes.nl?  I suggest you go and form your own opinion, you won’t be disappointed.

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