Mountain biking in the time of Corona Part 2

Normally I cycle into work, but seeing we're all working from home, that's not happening any more. Fortunately we are still allowed out on our bikes here, so long as we keep 1.5 m from anyone else and only with your own household or alone. So every day I have been out on my bike a bit, but sticking to cycle paths, not off-road. The photos below are one from each day of last week.

This week we have had amazing weather, with blue skies and cold nights. Here you can see how the light brings out the shapes of this avenue of beech trees.

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Spring is definitely on the way. This Coltsfoot flower is always a sure sign that winter has come to and end and is a joy to see. It looks superficially like a dandelion but the scales running up its flower-stalk are quite distinctive.

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I have discovered that a good time to go out for my exercise is early evening, when many people are still eating or putting the children to bed. That has also meant seeing some spectacular sunsets in the last few days. Note the complete absence of aircraft vapour trails! Going at that time also has the advantage that it is deserted everywhere. Although everyone does their best to cycle at the opposite edge of the cycle path when you meet them, it is still easier if that isn't necessary.

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The Binnenveld is an area to the west of Wageningen which has recently had a large area converted from farmland to nature reserves. Last week the water levels were high and it was full of all sorts of wading birds, especially oystercatchers and lapwings (or peewits as we used to call them). However, after a week of no rain at all it is all drying out and the waders were mostly gone. This small lake (or large pond) still had plenty of birds though.

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The photo below was taken in the middle of the day on what is usually a reasonably busy road. Not a car or bike to be seen!

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Today it is Saturday and there was time to go mountain biking for a few hours rather than just a quick ride on the road as it got dark. Aside from not transmitting deadly diseases to your club-mates, mountain biking by yourself has a couple of other advantages. Firstly, you can take a flask of coffee to drink on the way. And secondly, you see a lot more wildlife. In addition to the cowslips below, this morning I saw a couple of storks (really close and not bothered by me), a hare and all sorts of other birds.

This evening the clocks go forward and it will be lighter in the evening. Unless there is a tightening of the regulations, cycling off-road in the evenings should then be possible!

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.

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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.