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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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Coffee break

If you look carefully at the photo below, you will see not only that the heather is still flowering in mid-September (not bad, seeing it was already in full bloom right at the beginning of August), but a large black cylinder in my bottle-holder.  Maybe not so remarkable if it was a water bottle, but it is not.  It is a flask full of hot coffee.  Now that the mornings are getting chillier (not that it was cold today, far from it), it is nice to have a coffee or tea to drink as well as water, and these brilliant flasks just fit into your bottle cage as if they were made for it (which they probably are). I had had one for about ten years, but it finally died on me, so I got a new one recently.  I was pleased to see that they had improved its few shortcomings; the lip is no longer as sharp, so it is more comfortable to drink from, and the body is made on one solid piece of metal, so the bottom cannot slip sideways (which is what happened on my old one).  They are also nicely painted rather than shiny steel, but whether that is a good idea for something designed to scrape in and out of a metal cage, we will have to see.

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Muddy MTB

Anyone would think it had been raining...

Mud

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