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PalQ May 17th, 2006 09:10 AM

Bike Holland! Great Easy One-Day Bike Rides
Holland and bikes go hand in hand - it seems everyone in Holland rides a bike - the country has a dense network of bike paths - some even with their own stoplights, bridges and overpasses.
A great way to experience the Dutch countryside is to rent a 'fiets' or bike at innumerable rental places and ride on these special bike paths thru the lovely rural Dutch countryside.
I led bike trips in Holland for ten years and the following are some of the better routes i've experienced:

A neat bike ride goes between rail stations in Haarlem and Leiden, slicing right thru the fabled flower fields lying between these two cities. Train to Haarlem and rent a bike at the station there and stop by the VVV (Tourist Office) next to the station to buy a detailed map and get a city map to help you get out of town - but you really just need to follow the red and white signs with a pictogram of a bike on them pointing the way to nearby towns - follow signs to Heemstede, where the pulchritudinous flower belt begins in earnest.
Follow signs for Hillegom, where you want to take small paved roads thru extensive flower fields to the Keukenhof area (this flower show is only open in April and May and at times in August and Sep;
From the Keukenhof area head to Lisse, a nice small town for R&R and - then thru more flowers to Voorhout and on to Leiden, passing several behemoth windmills upon entering the city. At the train station, put yourself and bike back on the train and return to Haarlem to return you bike and go back to Amsterdam.
You actually are riding right thru the flower fields much of the time and there are likely to be many blooms throughout the growing season though the spring tulip time may be the most colorful show of all.
Distance is about 18 miles total best i can figure out.
Both Leiden and Haarlem are wondrous old cities well worth a look.

julies May 17th, 2006 10:17 AM

Thanks much. Is mid-May too late to do this one-day trip? That is the earliest I can ever get away from the college where I teach. Biking Holland is on my to do list someday.

Can you also give suggestions for the best of Holland in say a one week to 10 day trip? A couple years ago I was in contact with a place, I believe was called Tulip Cycling, which offers custom designed self-guided trips. They had lots of options available, and I was kind of overwhelmed with all the choices. I believe some areas had more of a wind problem than others and some were maybe more prone to bad weather. We like quaint small towns, interesting historical areas, gardens, unique natural areas, being places we could stop for a beer in a small cafe etc. A couple summers ago we did a self-guided 9 day trip in the Loire Valley and had such a good time we'd like to repeat the experience in some other areas. I'm free mid-May to mid-August. What would the best time be? Thanks much.

PalQ May 17th, 2006 10:34 AM

Julies - thought the tulips and hyacinths may fade out before mid-May i think this ride would be fine anytime of the summer as there are many other flowers being grown here as well, both in the fields and in huge hothouses.
I'll address your other questions in the future ... longer bike trips - the weather can be dismal anywhere - as i said we did bike trips for ten years and had lots and lots of rain...and wind - generally plan your trip to go from the southwest to the northeast or west to east and the wind i think usually blows in off the coast. And though Holland has few hills, a stiff wind in your face is just as bad.
One of my future one day bike trips i'll describe may well fit your wishes of natural scenery - the lovely bike path between The Hague and Zandvoort, a trail that does have a few short hills as it goes thru the vast sand dunes area, a national park, along the coast.

highledge May 17th, 2006 11:48 AM

This is great info and different than many posts as well. It will get in the to do file!

annettetx May 17th, 2006 12:56 PM

Just one bit of advice:

In order to rent bikes from the train station in Haarlem, you must have your passport.

We didn't when we were there last week, and rented instead from a shop nearer the town square that accepted our driver's licenses as sufficient ID.

We rode round trip from Haarlem to Keukenof, and loved it! There were only a few fields left blooming, but Keukenof was amazing -- I have never seen so many varieties and colors of tulips!

The wind while we were riding was quite formidable -- at one point, all the cyclists on the road were listing at a 15-degree angle into the wind to avoid being blown completely over!

On the good side, the energy we expended on the bikes allowed me to justify the yummy almond cookie I had with lunch!


PalQ May 17th, 2006 01:12 PM

Annette: thanks for the passport tip. As for winds on this route - probably blow laterally but i think i'd go from Leiden to Haarlem as winds may blow more north than south - can easily rent bike at Leiden station as well. Supposed it didn't have passport you'd have to leave enough moolah to cover cost of bike.

annettetx May 17th, 2006 07:15 PM

Perhaps you are right about the passport -- the shop where we rented the bikes required that we leave a 100 Euro deposit. The bike rental itself was only 7 Euro for each bike.

PalQ May 18th, 2006 09:17 AM

One of the nicest day bike putzes goes from Gouda ("How-dah") to the famous Kinderdijk Windmill National Park, a round trip of about 20-25 miles.
Take a train to Gouda and rent a bike at the station (or rent a bike in Amsterdam and take it on the train with you) - Gouda is a sweet regional town famous for its cheese (but no Alkmaar-like cheese market) but the town has a neat old market square and lots of nice old houses, etc. Also an active shopping street.
As usual hit the VVV (Tourist Office) in the main square and get a detailed map for the ride and head south out of town, crossing the only bridge over the Hollands Ijssel river and ride atop dikes along this busy waterway to Krimpen A/D Ijssel (a straight shot along the river, hard to get lost)
From Krimpen A/D Ijssel head southeast to Krimpen a/d Lek, on the larger Lek River and from town take the small car ferry across the Lek (just wheel your bike on - minimal charge) and you emerge on the other side at Kinderdijk, with its 19 working windmills - on Saturdays they often all are working but on weekedays only a few may be setting sail but you can see the behemoth things and tour at least one. You can ride your bike through the windmills, lining a canal for a few miles.
To return to Gouda, bike thru the windmills going east for a few miles and then go north to the Lek, passing yet more windmills and then follow the Lek northeast to a ferry that constantly crosses the Lek to Schoonhaven, a nice small town for R&R
From Schoonhaven follow the Vlist river to Haastrecht, on the Hollands Ijssel and follow the river west a few miles back to Gouda.
Most of this trip goes thru rural Holland, thru low-lying fields dotted with the ubiquitous cows and sheep. Much of it is polder land - meaning it was reclaimed from the sea long ago.
Tot Ziens! (Dutch for see you later or good-bye, don't know exact translation but often say at end of a conversation.

PalQ May 19th, 2006 08:32 AM

The Kinderdijk website will whet your appetite for a visit to this UNESCO World Heritage Site!

"Welcome to Kinderdijk! How to get to the town Kinderdijk, what to do there, to see, it's history, events and a picture gallery."

PalQ May 23rd, 2006 09:10 AM

According to the NS (Netherlands Railway) folding bikes are allowed onboard free if they are completely folded; other bikes may be carried during off-peak hours at an extra charge and they should be parked at the indicated spaces provided on the train.
A Fiets Card is a ticket for your bike and costs around $5 i believe - i don't know whether this is per journey or for the whole day but you do need one and then look for the car with pictograms of bikes on the outside for where the bike should be parked - you of course load and unload yourself and i would lock the bike when it's in the rack.
So ask ahead of time if you can take the bike on the train when you want - rush hours are apparently Verboten even though you see folks bringing on bikes and standing between the cars on many trains, even during rush hours, but that would be too hectic for the average tourist.

Keith May 23rd, 2006 10:03 AM


PalQ May 25th, 2006 12:48 PM

For a nature bike path going through a wild-looking expanse of sea and sand, hop the train to Den Hague (with a bike rented in amsterdam - such as at McBike at the Amsterdam Centraal station) and head to Den Hague Centraal station and then bike through this fine fine world capital to the sea a few miles away, to Scheveningen, a thriving seaside resort with a fine beach.
From Scheveningen the fun begins as the well-paved bike path winds thru the vast dunes bordering the North Sea, going through the pleasant towns on Katwijk ann Zee and Noordwijk ann Zee, two posh seaside resorts.
along the path are several popular beaches, some of which can only be reached by bike.
Nearing Zandvoort, a very thriving seaside resort on a hot day, you'll pass by the officially designated nude beach - so you can swim whether you have a swimsuit or not!

The total distance between Scheveningen and Zandvoort is about 15 miles, and unique in this part of flat Holland, lots of short sweet sand hills - making a roller coaster type ride. The path is very popular with Dutch bikers and those heading to remote beaches.
Zandvoort is an interesting place - miles of sandy beaches - lots of raucous beach pubs catering to younger folk. Unique here is the roving tractor-hauled fish stand that sells sunbathers the ubiquitous Dutch herring and other fishy treats as it plies up and down the beach during busy seasons.
From Zandvoort hop the train back to Amsterdam.

PalQ May 26th, 2006 08:04 AM

Before venturing out on Holland's fabulous network of bike paths, some rules of the road should be known:

before passing another cyclist it's courtesy to sound your bell - a loud shout of "on your left" may seem too boisterous

be sure to ride on bike paths and not on pedstrian paths, which often, especially in cities, parallel each other. Bike paths will have a large circular blue sign with a bike pictogram inside it - pedestrians walk on these paths only at their own peril (a major problem for tourists in Amsterdam - non-chalantly wandering into the bike path, incurring the wrath of bikers who may yell at you)

similarly don't ride on paths with a circular blue sign with the pictogram of a pedestrian on it - these are Verboten to bikes.

Doorgand Verkheer (sp?) signs should always be followed as these mean all directions and will eventually come to a definitive sign pointing to nearby towns. The red-and-white directional signs with a small picto of a bike on them are directions especially for bikers.
"Centrum" signs, if followed, will lead you into the town center.

PalQ May 30th, 2006 10:28 AM

Don't expect to find bike helmets readily available at rental shops - when i asked McBike, a mega Amsterdam rental about helmets they laughed at me - no they had none! Whilst i personally don't wear a helmet - foolishly so i acknowledge if you need one bring one from home or buy one in Amsterdam (bike racers use them but most folks putzing around the bike paths do not. And while you may not get the chuckles helmet-wearing folks on my bike tours did years ago helmets are still not widely worn in Europe.

Keith May 30th, 2006 05:22 PM

But bring your cycling gloves. They take so little space in the luggage, but make ridingmore pleasent.


hopscotch May 30th, 2006 06:24 PM

Filling in a little, PalQ.

The rail tariff for a bike is 6 euros per day. The ticket expires at midnight. It is not a 24 hour ticket.

Scheveningen to Zandvoort is about 40 kilometers, 25 miles. I have done the Zandvoort to Noordwijk portion round trip. Noordwijk is the half way point.

Getting to the Zandvoort nude beach from the bicycle road/path is a difficult exercise. You must climb over the dune. It is more convenient to ride on to Zandvoort and lock your bike to the fence as soon as you enter the city. Then walk the flat sand south for a mile before you drop your shorts.

PalQ May 31st, 2006 09:56 AM

Hopscotch - dank u very wel - thanks for the insight - i haven't ridden this route in a long time so nice to know about accessing the nude beach and the 6 euro fiets pass on trains.
Tot Ziens! (the extent of my Dutch!)

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