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Winter for a change

Last year we did not really have a winter, so this morning when it was only a degree or so above freezing, that was the first time that it really felt cold for ages.  The weather was beautiful, blue skies and mist, so the sunbeams coming through the trees looked incredible. It was so nice that the woods were full of mountain bikers (through strangely enough fewer walkers and horse riders than I often see), I have never seen so many cyclists in the woods.  At first I thought there must be an organised tour or something, but they were all coming from different directions and different paths (and come to that there were no sign posts), so it was just beautiful weather tempting everyone out into the woods.

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The new MTB route by Rhenen

The new mountain bike  route at Rhenen is great! There are two loops, and both are full of swoopy ups and downs, beautiful woodland and twisty singletrack. The start of the first one is incredible, with a logn downhill that is great fun. The only complaint is that it is quite short, only 6.7 km and 100 height meters.  However that is easily remedied. If you start cycling from Wageningen and when you are half way around the northern loop head off towards the Amerongen route (there is a pretty narrow road, with very few cars, joining them), whiz around that route and then complete the Rhenen route, then that is plenty long enough. In fact that it is a bit of an understatement, that was over 50 km and I was quite worn out by the time I got home. Excellent!

You can download the GPS of the Rhenen route here and of the combined route here (right-click, Save As).

Rhenen MTB

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Autumn tour

Even though only a few others were, like me, wearing shorts, it was not cold enough for long trousers, and beautiful weather. It certainly did not live up to its name of 'winter tour'. 580 mountain bikers took part (according to Tour Club Wageningen's website), and as usual it was very well organized, and perfectly signed. I did the 45 km (53 km according to my gps, although that included cycling to the start) and as a bonus there were two coffee breaks (that privilege is normally reserved for the longest distance). Anyway, a great ride, and I'm already looking forward to the second winter tour in the Christmas holidays. Perhaps we can expect a bit of unpleasant sleety rain to keep the numbers down and make it a proper winter tour then.

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Doorwerth Castle

Wageningen is in the province of Gelderland, and Gelderland has a remarkable selection of castles.  One of the most impressive is the medieval Doorwerth castle, which is (not surprisingly) near the village of Doorwerth and within cycling distance of Wageningen.  The other good thing about that castle is that it is right next to the rather steep edge of a glacial moraine, which is quite challenging to cycle up and down.  It is not that it is so super-steep (about 15% maximum, but mostly 8-10%), but that the steep bits also have loose sand and roots across the path in such a way as to make life quite difficult.  The path nearest to the castle is sufficiently difficult that I always feel quite a sense of achievement getting to the top (even if I have to stop and reposition the bike a couple of times) and if the sand is really dry, in the summer, it is (at least for me) quite impossible.

You can find a couple of routes to cycle there and back from Wageningen here.

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MTB Route Zeist

The official route near Zeist tends to get enthusiastic reviews on the MTBroutes.nl site, so  when I got the chance to ride it yesterday, I was intrigued to see what it would be like. The reviewers were right!  The creators have really done their best to make it as interesting and challenging as possible within the constraints of the landscape.  It is very twisty, and you really have to do your best and keep concentrating to stay on the path.  If your mind wanders elsewhere you can be sure that your bike will also end up elsewhere as well.  Even though the land is pretty flat, they have still managed to create enough local elevation difference to gives some challenging slopes.  It was very dry, having not rained for a weeks, so on some uphills my bike wheel just spun and I could only walk. And coming down was a constant challenge to focus and keep from slipping over.  It is on the 'Utrechtse Heuvelrug', which is a glacial moraine, which means that it does have some natural slopes, and also that it is a dry sandy forest.  I was having to focus so hard on my steering that I could not spend a lot of time looking at the forest (you cannot have everything), but it was clearly a nice forest, with patches lilly-of-the-valley next to the path and the distinctive shrill call of goldcrests above my head as I went through some pines. The other positive point was that it was not too crowded. There were lots of mountain bikers and other cyclists around when I started, so I feared the worst, but (probably aided by by the one-way recommendation (clockwise)), once on the track I only saw two other groups. It is very different from the more natural trails on the Veluwe, feeling very man-made, but very enjoyable.

MTB route Zeist

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