Biking: Amsterdam->Gouda, Netherlands

What are you doing?

After the recent traveling this past spring and summer, our kids are back in school. Things are settling down, but not completely.

For several years now, I (Jeremy) had been mulling going on a bike tour, and we decided that now was a good time for me to do so. As background, I had been bike commuting to work for the past 5 years. Extending that, I wanted try to bike somewhere with a change of scenery.

Given where we live, one route that I considered was the California coast from SF to LA. That said, after reading up on it in more detail, I was concerned about biking along highway 1 for non-trivial distances, given how narrow and congested with cars it can be.

The route that I chose was from Amsterdam to Paris, which is a nice stretch – should be substantial but not completely crazy. I did rent a bike when staying in Amsterdam in the past, for an easy family day ride with the 4 of us, and found the countryside in the Netherlands to be very beautiful. And also very, very flat. =) With fairly good bike infrastructure as well. My expected route is 10 days of riding, with about 50 miles (80km) per day.

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Since this is my first cycling trip, I booked with a company that will haul my suitcase between hotels (ok, I’m a wimp), and that rented me a bike with the planned routes programmed on a GPS (given that the airline dented my suitcase coming here, I’m feeling good about not taking my own bike on the plane).

I did plan this trip fairly last minute – within the past 3 weeks. But it was either now, or effectively waiting until the spring, since the Netherlands can get very rainy, and the tour companies stop booking tours past the beginning of September. Hence, my training was a little compressed as well, but I did a few longer rides to help prep.

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So far this week – I arrived in Amsterdam on Wednesday night. On Thursday morning/afternoon, I wandered Amsterdam a bit, and got in a quick visit to the Rijksmuseum. Thursday evening, there was an meeting for people doing this route, where they gave us information and handed out the rental bicycles. And this morning (Friday), the ride started.

Friday, August 31, 2018

The first day of the ride was from Amsterdam to Gouda, about 50 miles / 80km. The hotel had a really nice breakfast downstairs, but I couldn’t linger for long, since I needed to finish repacking my bags. The bike company’s luggage shuttle service needed the suitcase to be left at the desk by 9am, and I definitely didn’t want to cut it too close.

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I checked over my rental bike last night in the garage, but the moment of truth came as I rode out of the hotel’s garage. I turned on the GPS, which did the turn-by-turn directions quite nicely. The route necessitated riding across Amsterdam, which was quite neat – it has lots of special bike routes, and is well set up for bicycling.

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Less than 10km (6mi) outside of the city center, and it felt like we were in the countryside already, albeit with some joggers, bikers, and boats.

The scenery was very beautiful, initially following the Amstel river away from the city, but over time passing by many small canals. Some of the scenes looked like they might inspire the landscape paintings in art museums. The temperature was pleasantly cool, roughly low-to-mid 60’s Fahrenheit, occasionally with a bit of mist, but no rain.

One neat thing was a bike/pedestrian ferry that I had to take across a small river. There were lots of small bridges everywhere, but this ferry goes back and forth every few minutes (costs less than a dollar).

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Overall, the road quality was very good and felt very safe – it was largely a mixture of dedicated bike paths, one-lane country roads (with a speed limit of 30km/h -> ~20mph, and not much traffic), and paths separated from bigger roads. That said, there were a few more rustic segments of the route, like this one, with sheep invading:

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That said, I had a blast biking through this land of windmills, cows, churches, and canals.

There were places to eat in the various villages/towns, but I probably ate too much for breakfast, so I wasn’t super hungry around noon. Leaving the hotel at 8:45, I made it to Gouda at 1:30pm, with lots of breaks to look at the scenery and take pictures. My pace was fairly leisurely.

After arriving in Gouda, I checked into the hotel and took a hot shower. I also did some quick laundry, to give it time to dry. By the time this was done and was settled, it was 3pm, after which point I started exploring the town.

The town center was a few minutes walk from the hotel, and by the time I got there, my skipped lunch was weighing on me, so I stopped by a bakery. Out of curiosity, I chose a big “hazelnut ball,” which was good, though a little messy.

After that, I walked by a cheese shop. Since Gouda is famous for its cheese, I thought that I should eat some here. I bought one of the smaller pieces in the store (I chose “extra medium” – what doea that mean?), but later realized that it was still close to half a pound of cheese. I still ate it all – it was delicious 🙂 (benefits to biking 50 miles today)

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Gouda had many canals and vaguely reminded me a little of Bruges, Belgium (which isn’t too far from here). If you are here on Thursdays, there’s apparently a big cheese auction in the main square.

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Otherwise, I went to the Cheese Museum, in the old cheese customs house, which was worth a brief visit. I also went to the main church in town, St Jan’s. Both closed at 5pm, so I had just enough time to see them, plus some extra time to see the town.

Overall, I’m very happy about this first tour day, and looking forward to the days to come.

5 comments

  1. This sounds like so much fun!!! Thanks for sharing your adventures. I’m so impressed with the bike-friendliness of the Netherlands and with the whole organization of the tour. Have you talked to bsr about biking cross-country? I think he did that in 1998 from east coast to west coast (or vice versa, I guess).

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