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"Playful King of the Mountains"

Ever Spring we are lucky enough to spend a week in the North Eifel, which is an area of Germany that has a number of things to recommend it , including that it is hilly, it is full of orchids and it is only 2 1/2 hours drive from Wageningen. I have written before about Andreas Meyer and Tobias Mommer's excellent book of mountain bike routes in the area. Route number eight in the book is called 'Verspielte Bergwertung', which you could translate as 'Playful King of the Mountains". They give the route four out of five points for both technique and condition, but is coded red (not the more demanding black), so I was curious to see how difficult it would be.  Although 'only' 30 km long, it does have almost a thousand meters of climb, which makes 30 km quite enough.  The route was cleverly chosen so that the long, steep uphills were mostly on tarmac and the downhills were virtually without exception wonderful singletracks through some really beautiful woodland.

Broadleaf woodland in the EifelNormally I'm not so keen on tarmac, but in this case it did make going up the long hills more practical. At least it was not as bad as taking the ski lift. I noticed that there were some parallel tracks to the road, so probably if you wanted, you could manage to do some of the uphills off road as well. For instance the photo below was taken after a long (albeit beautiful) pull up on a road (to the left), but there was also a track running up the other side of the valley. I guess that was one of their criterion for making it a red route.

Tour 8 Verspielte_Bergwertung

At the top of the hill there were some quite spectacular views (mostly, sometimes you were in the woods, so no views to be seen). Of course, the knowledge that you have cycled over the hills in the distance makes them even more spectacular!

Verspielte Bergwertung

At the bottom of the hills you come out of the typical flat-bottomed valleys of the Eifel.  The rivers have cut through the soft chalk, leaving a plateau at the top, steep side (unsuitable for agriculture, so covered in trees) and the farmland at the bottom. Fortunately, this is mostly not too intensive, but either wildflower meadows, or at least grassland filled with dandelions, buttercups and sometimes oxlips.

 Verspielte Bergwertung

The nature of the landscape means that you can virtually guarantee that here will be some quite challenging downhill slopes. The photo below shows one that would have been quite impossible if I had not put my saddle right down. As you can clearly see, it was very wet and slippery.  What you cannot see so well (a bit if you look hard at the top of the photo), is that parts of it were incredibly steep, so that only by hanging right over the back of the saddle (or by putting it right down), could you possibly hope to get down without tumbling over the handlebars. And at the bottom, Veronica beccabunga, a lovely chalk-stream flower (albeit not yet flowering).  What more could you want?

 Verspielte Bergwertung

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Route planner

The Dutch cyclists' union ('fietsersbond') has created a brilliant route planner which has detailed information about all the cycle paths in the Netherlands, including data such as the surface type, if it is in nature and if it is away from cars.

This is now also as an embedable app, and so also available from my own website, or you can go to the original site.

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Montia

One of the joys of cycling in the woods at this time of year is that you can come across a spectacle such as in the photo below.  Montia sibirica is its name.  I remember the first time I saw it, growing under an oak tree in the English Lake District, not far from Tarn Hows.  It must have made an impression on me, because that was over 30 years ago.  But I have never seen it is quite such profusion as this. Spectacular!

 

Montia fontana in Benekomsebos

 

 

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Spring on the heathland

Spring sunshine, perfect temperatures, skylarks singing in the air and spring flowers on the ground. Perfection!

Edese Heide

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Petition

Cutbacks in government spending mean that paths in the woods for mountain bikers and other recreational users are not being maintained. It makes no sense to have expensive campaigns to get people to take more exercise if you do not provide the facilities for them to do so.  Please go to the link below and sign the petition!

http://reddebuitenrit.petities.nl/

The only note of caution I would add about such petitions is that we have to be very careful not to give the impression that we think that mountain bikers should be confined to official paths. In Wageningen we are fortunate that in a number of areas there is not that restriction.  Not far away, on the Utrechtse Heuvelrug, that is strictly enforced.  In areas like that, if the paths are not maintained then the woods will be closed to mountain bikers. The forestry service is muttering about charging admission instead.  Whilst that might sound reasonable, it does not fit well with the aim of encouraging everyone to be fit and to get out into nature. The woods should be open to everyone, and that means providing the facilities.  Sign the petition!

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Twelve degrees

It really has been the most bizarre winter. No snow at all. Hardly a day of frost. Crocuses in flower in January and daffodils in flower in February. Hardly any days where long trousers were necessary on the mountain bike. Now it is nearly March and I'm wondering, are we going to get a winter or not?  There is certainly enough water.  With the lack of frost, the trails round here are like they usually are in November; deep slushy mud. My daughter's new bike has Racing Ralph tyres on the wheels, which are all very well for speed, but in these conditions spin around hopelessly. I guess we will need to swap at last the front one for something with bigger knobbly bits. Maybe my back tyre can go on her front.  Thank goodness we did not decide to go for 29" wheels, that makes this sort of thing ever so much easier.

Mountianbiking by Wageningen

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