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Archive for October, 2013

My wife Linda, and I are in our 60’s.  We live in the Midwest and cycle indoors when the weather is cold and outside once the weather begins to warm up.  Linda cycles approximately 2000 miles each year and I cycle more than 3500 miles each year.  On New Years Eve 2011, Linda and I met a young couple who live in Amsterdam.  We discussed our mutual interest in cycling and they suggested that we come to the Netherlands and do the cycle and barge tour.  We had been to the Netherlands on two prior occasions and traveled mostly by train to and from Amsterdam.  We thought cycling in the Netherlands would give us a wonderful opportunity to meet people and see the countryside first hand from our saddle.  We already had plans for cycling on bicycle trails in South Dakota and Idaho in the summer of 2012 and that fall when we returned, I shared our experiences on these trails with our bicycle shop owner.  We also discussed Linda’s and my thoughts of cycling next in the Netherlands and he told me of a couple that lived only a few miles from us who had just returned from a cycling tour north of Amsterdam.  In the next few weeks I met the couple and we had a nice visit about their two week cycling tour.  From my visit with them, Linda and I decided that we were definitely going, we would take our own bicycles and we were going for more than two weeks.  In January 2013 we began investigating the barge and cycling tours.  After reading different websites and looking at Google Maps we decided that for us, the barge and cycle tours were not the format that we wanted to use for our tour.

IMG_1477We read the website, Nederland Fiets Land.  From this we gathered information for our cycling tour including our map selections.  The first map selection was Basiskaart which are in Dutch but we could download the manual printed in English.  These maps have very clear markings for the LF routes, which you can learn more about from the above website.  They are a set of 22 pages of maps printed on both sides and they come in a plastic carrying case.  We ordered this set of maps on line and we could use our credit card or Paypal to pay the 20 Euros for the maps.  We do not speak or read Dutch but these maps are fantastic and we would not go on the tour without them.  The second set of maps shown below, are from Omnimap located in North Carolina.  We chose the Netherlands Cycling Maps with a 1:100,000 scale.  These maps are in English and the cost is $14.99 each plus shipping.  We ordered the seven cycling maps that we would need for our tour.  Order well in advance of your tour.  The company sent the maps that they had in stock and the rest were on back order.  Omnimaps did a great job of communicating with us and it took no more than several weeks to get all of the maps that we ordered.  These maps are much larger in size and have a very accurate listing of kilometers between each intersection.  We would highly recommend the purchase of both sets of maps.  As a matter of fact, for us it was the only way to go.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   IMG_1468

Once we had our maps in hand we were ready to start plotting out our tour but first we had some questions to answer.  When was the best time for us to go?  Weather?  Where do we want to cycle?  Bicycles?  How many days are we going to cycle?  Where are we going to stay?  After much discussion we chose the first part of May to begin our tour.  We checked the weather and May and June seemed the driest for our tour and we also wanted to see the tulip fields in bloom.  We studied our maps, made some general decisions on where we wanted to go and decided that we would cycle for 24 continuous days and our plan was to average 40 to 50 kilometers on each ride.  We also decided that we wanted the familiarity of riding our own bicycles.  The cost of shipping was $150.00 each way per bicycle on Delta Airlines.  We purchased a nonstop flight to assure that if the bicycles got on the plane with us they would also arrive in Amsterdam with us.  We did not want to arrive in Amsterdam, prepared to cycle and no bicycles.  Since neither of the bicycles were worth the $150.00 to ship home we decided that we would leave our bicycles in Amsterdam once our cycling tour had ended.  Linda would ride a Trek 7200 Multi Trac that was very serviceable and I have a collection of bikes one of which was a Batavus Monte Carlo road bike that I decided to get in working order for our bicycle tour.

We decided that we wanted to stay in bed and breakfasts each of our nights while on our tour and we wanted to have them booked prior to leaving for the Netherlands.  The plan of booking all of the rooms prior to departure was Linda’s idea, while I wanted a little more adventure by finding a place at the end of each day.  It turned out, Linda’s idea was for us, the best way for us on this tour.  We knew our destination each day, we could relax, take our time and enjoy the scenery, events and the people knowing that we had a place to stay.  To accomplish this bed and breakfast plan we first used Google Maps and entered, for example:  Schiphol Airport to the Keukenhof Gardens, we clicked on the bicycle square and this gave us the directions and kilometers to our destination.  We were only interested in the kilometers so that we could get a general idea as to the distance we would travel each day.  Before our tour began we did not plot out each days route, only our destination for each day’s ride.  When you have the opportunity to study the maps we suggest,  you will quickly become aware that there are many routes that a cyclist can take to get to your destination.  We then looked on the Omni or Basiskaart maps for towns at or near our 40 to 50 kilometer daily ride for bed and breakfasts.  Once a destination was selected we used the websites bedandbreakfast.nl and bedandbreakfast.eu to find a place to stay.  These are two great sites that we used to book our rooms.  There is no cost to book.  Language is not a problem.  You email them to inquire if they have a room.  They email back, yes or no, for the date you request.  We always asked in our inquiry if they had a lockable storage shed for our bicycles.  You accept and they confirm and you are done.  There is no payment prior to your arrival as this system is based upon trust that you will honor your commitment.  You pay with cash when you arrive at the B&B.  Once Linda and I had a B&B confirmed we again used the Google Maps by entering the address of where we would be staying.  We could draw the map in close for street names that led to our B&B from what we believed to be the bicycle road we would be arriving.  We made a copy of the map and attached it to the confirmation information for each B&B.

IMG_1470 2Now to pack what we would need for 24 days of riding and the 2 days we would hang out before our return home.  First the bags to carry our belongings were selected.  We wanted frame bags, bags that fit the entire area of the frame of our bicycles.  We checked websites and Revelate Designs made exactly what we wanted.  We measured our frames and purchased a bag for each of our bicycles from our local bicycle shop.  In addition to these bags we each had a very small bag attached to the saddle of our bicycle.  Over the back tire of Linda’s bicycle was a rack and my bicycle also had a similar rack that I attached a small set of very used panniers for additional storage.  Realizing that we had limited space and recognizing that we had to prepare for inclement weather we began our choice of clothing.  Linda and I both wore on the plane a pair of jeans, long sleeve shirt, a hooded sweatshirt, socks and tennis shoes.  We carried only a medium sized gym bag on the plane with items that we did not want to put in the boxes with the bicycles.  When we were ready to ride the plan would be to roll the gym bag up and stow it away in the panniers so that we could use it on our return home.  In addition to the clothes we wore we also chose to each take rain jackets and pants for our tour.  We each also had two pairs of biking shorts, two GoLite all wool, light weight, long sleeve shirts and we each had a short sleeve shirt.  Socks and various under garmets were also packed away in our bags.  We also carried our maps and a packet that included the B & B reservations and a closeup Google Map of the immediate area for each night.  The frame bags and panniers carried these items plus 20 granola bars, shampoo, grooming items, a curling iron, electrical adapter, tire changing tools, 6 inter tubes, a patching kit, tire pump, tools to put the bikes together after removal from the boxes, a small roll of electrical tape, a first aid kit we put together, a knife, scissors, water bottle, camera, diary, iPad, cell phone.  After much discussion Linda chose to take her helmet and I chose to leave mine at home.  Kryptonite Evolution locks were held secure with velcro strappings on top of our rear racks.  Prior to our departure we purchased a roll of velcro strapping at Home Depot.  We cut strips of it and tightly wrapped each article of clothing.  It made it much easier to pack our clothes in our bags and much easier to grab what we would need at the end of our day when we arrived at our B&B.  We also used gallon sized plastic baggies to group things together that we would need each evening.

IMG_1103We got used boxes at our local bicycle shop to transport our bicycles to the Netherlands.  Prior to our departure I broke each bicycle down and prepared them for transport and then put them back together to make sure there were no problems in the assembly.  We also packed all of the articles we would take in our bags to make sure everything would fit and we rode our bicycles fully loaded prior to our departure.  When I packed the bicycles in the boxes for shipment I left the panniers on the bike as well as the small bag on the back of each saddle and the frame bags.  The frame bags, the small bags under the saddles and a small cardboard box were packed with articles that we did not need to carry on the airplane.  I also put Linda’s helmet in the box and the locks, a bell, light and a bike computer were also left on each bicycle.

We were ready to go.  A blog titled, “Our Cycling Adventure in the Netherlands” will be coming.IMG_1104

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