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Category Archives: Cycling in the Netherlands

Weer Fietsen in Nederland

My Ritchey Break-Away came with me on a trip to Cuba.  Unfortunately I didn’t do any riding in Cuba.  My bike stayed in its case in La Habana while the group I was with explored Cuba by van.  About 1,800kms / 1,100mi over nine days.

I saw a lot of Cubans on bicycles, especially in towns outside La Habana.  Some towns have pedal powered taxis.

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A number of visitors were on touring bikes, especially on the south coast around Trinidad.  And we drove past these guys on road bikes in La Habana one evening.

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I brought my bike with me because my biker chick and I had a stopover in Den Haag on the way home.  My bike was out of its case and I was on the fietspaden (bike paths) the day after we arrived in the Netherlands.  It was so nice to be back in the dunes.

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It was not so nice to be back in the wind.

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Welkom in Nederland!

The group I cycled with when I lived in Den Haag, the Not Possibles, is still going strong.  I joined them for their regular Saturday ride.

I say “joined.”  In reality I got dropped within the first five kilometers of leaving DAKA Leidschendam.  I blamed it on the flu bug I picked up in Cuba.

Fortunately Jeff was kind enough to ride with me as I sniffled and coughed my way around the Zoeterwoude-Rijndijk to Hazwerswoude to Kruisweg to Leidschenveen loop, and back to the Coffee Club in Leidschendam.

It was nice to see old friends, and to meet new ones, over a coffee or two.

I rode six more times.  Alone, or with Jeff, or with David and Jeff, and one more time with the Not Possibles.  By that second ride with the Not Possibles I had flushed most of the flu bug out of my system.  I can honestly say that I rode “with” them that day.

What a great place for cycling the Netherlands is.  There are bike paths like this one to explore.

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The countryside is lovely.

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And of course there is this to look forward to . . .

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Now if the Dutch could find a way to eliminate getting something like this in your tyre, the Netherlands would be absolutely fantastic for cycling :).

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That puncture was a small price to pay for a wonderful week on my bike.  This is what I will remember.

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An Abridged History

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June has been a quiet month for riding.  The weather, weekend travel, illness and idleness have all kept me off my bikes.  I started 2015 with aspirations to average 1,000km a month.  So far I am 150km per month short of that goal.  Nevertheless 2015 is shaping up to be one of my better years for cycling.

I consider my first day as an avid cyclist to be Sunday January 31st, 2010.  That was the day Big Bill B guided me on a 53km loop around Houston, including a food stop at Carter & Cooley Company Delicatessen in The Heights.

It was the first time I rode with a Garmin cycling computer on my handlebar, which allowed me to commit this and all future rides to that collective memory that is the internet.  I am a bit of a ride data geek.  I started feeding that habit with Garmin Connect.  After a few years I supplemented that with Ride With GPS, and very soon after Strava was added to the mix.  Lately Veloviewer has joined the party.

Why so many tracking apps?  In my case, mostly because they each provide different ways to view my ride data.  Ride With GPS provides nice summaries by month or year.  I can see what my buddies have been up to in Strava.  Veloviewer makes annual comparisons easy.  Charts like these ones provide the grist for this post.

Charts courtesy of Veloviewer

Charts courtesy of Veloviewer

Between January and the end of April 2010 I rode in and around Houston.  Those rides included my first century ride, The Space Race, and my first BP MS150.

Heat Map courtesy of Strava

Heat Map courtesy of Strava

My biker chick had started her new job in Den Haag, The Netherlands, in April.  So my bike spent May in a container, along with our other possessions, on a ship bound for Europe.

I spent the rest of the year exploring the bike paths around Den Haag.

I logged 2,831kms in 2010.  My average ride distance was 59kms.  My average ride time was 2 hours 28 minutes.

In 2011 my total distance covered jumped to 6,886kms.  My average distance went up slightly to 63kms.  The average ride length went up in tandem to 2 hours 33 minutes.

Much of that increase in total distance ridden is testament to the outstanding cycling infrastructure in The Netherlands.  You can’t help but get on your bicycle in a country where the riding in so safe, convenient, and scenic.

In 2012 my mileage again jumped significantly over the previous year.  To 11,019kms.  The average distance stayed almost the same at 62.25kms.  I picked up speed though, with my rides averaging 2 hours 29 minutes.

Heat map courtesy of Strava

Heat map courtesy of Strava

Almost all of my riding over these two years was in The Netherlands.  I did occasionally venture further afield.  I made my first extended cycling trip in 2011.  I went to Ninove in Belgium, to ride in the Ronde van Vlaanderen sportif.

In 2012 I did the Ronde van Vlaanderen again, which started and ended this time in Oudernaarde.  I also took two trips to Maastricht, for the UCI World Championships and the Amstel Gold sportifs.

Heat map courtesy of Strava

Heat map courtesy of Strava

In October 2012 my biker chick and I returned to Kuala Lumpur.  My bikes (by this time I had two) followed soon after by air freight.  So it wasn’t long before I was immersing myself in the relatively new and booming road cycling scene in Malaysia.

Cycling in Kuala Lumpur reminds me a lot of cycling in Houston.  You share the roads with traffic.  Sometimes a lot of traffic.  City riding is best done at night, when the roads, or motorcycle lanes where provided, are quieter.  The popular daytime cycling routes are mostly outside the city.

In 2013 I started venturing further afield.  Century rides in various cities around the country become a regular activity, including one international road trip to Hatyai in Thailand.

Despite the number of century rides, my mileage in 2013 was only 7,102kms.  My rides had become shorter, averaging 49kms and 1 hour 58 minutes per ride.  I remember that tropical rainstorms had a lot to do with curtailing riding time in 2013.

The downward trend continued in 2014.  I had four months of enforced time off my bikes because of a crash, and two unrelated surgeries.  Those breaks from cycling resulted in only 3,918kms ridden.  My average ride was surprisingly long though, at 66kms and 2 hours 35 minutes.

Heat map courtesy of Strava

Heat map courtesy of Strava

Almost all of my cycling since the end of 2012 has been in Malaysia.  The exceptions were in 2013, when I flew to the United States to ride in the BP MS150 from Houston to Austin, and to ride in the 5 Boros Ride in New York City.  In between those rides I visited an old friend in Denver, where  I managed to squeeze in a few rides as well.  I came home with bicycle number three.

Heat Map courtesy of Strava

Heat Map courtesy of Strava

That bicycle is a Ritchey Breakaway.  It came with me to Melbourne in December 2013.  My last cycling trip away from home to date.

Heat map courtesy of Strave

Heat map courtesy of Strava

2015 looks good so far.  I am up to 5,078kms as at the end of June.  My average ride length for the year is 71kms.  I must be a bit fitter than I was last year too.  I am riding on average 5kms further this year as compared to last, but my average time is the saddle is only 3 minutes more, at 2 hours 38 minutes.

I’m hoping to take at least one cycling trip outside Malaysia this year.  And I am looking forward to staying healthy and spending as much time as possible riding.

JFK Quote 3

Kilo Months

I started keeping track of my rides in January 2010.  I had a new road bike, and an even newer Garmin Edge 705 cycle computer.  Uploading the details to the Garmin Connect web site after every ride became standard practice.   That year I rode 3,173 kilometers.

The heat map below shows where I rode for the first six months of 2010.  The most-ridden routes are depicted in red.  Click on the heat map to open the image in a new window.  You will see that most of my kilometers were accrued on the West End Tuesday and Thursday evening rides, and the Sunday Taco rides through Houston.

2010 Heat Map

Heat Map courtesy of Strava

I had some big rides outside metro Houston:  The Humble Lions Club Ride, The Space Race, and the BP MS150.  But I didn’t have a kilo month, which is my term for riding more than 1,000 kilometers in a month.

In mid-2010 I moved with my biker chick to The Netherlands.  The excellent cycling infrastructure there gave me more opportunity to ride, albeit on my own as I didn’t connect with a cycling group until the following year.

I started riding with the Not Possibles in March 2011.  The Saturday and occasional weekday rides with them boosted the distance I rode in 2011 to 6,985 kilometers.  In 2012 that number increased to 11,054 kilometers.  Almost of those kilometers were around Den Haag, with the 2011 and 2012 Ronde van Vlaanderen sportives, and the 2012 UCI World Championships sportive in Belgium thrown in for good measure.

Heat map courtesy of Strave

Heat Map courtesy of Strave

I racked up my first kilo month in August 2011.  The fine summer weather allowed me to ride eighteen times that month for a total of 1,085 kilometers.

Somewhat surprisingly I didn’t have another kilo month until January 2012, when I rode 1,091 kilometers.  I then had four more kilo months that year.  March, and three in a row from June to August.  My Not Possibles friends and I had a good summer that year.  My biggest ever kilo month was in July, when I rode 1,718 kilometers.  I had the luxury of being able to go on twenty five rides that month.

In October 2012 my biker chick and I moved home to Kuala Lumpur.   My ride frequency and average distance dropped dramatically for some months before slowly increasing again.  So it took more than a year before I had another kilo month, in September 2013.  Helped by five rides of at least 100 kilometers each.

My 2013 heat map looks a lot like my 2010 Houston heat map in that most of my rides are limited to a couple of routes.  Int his case KESAS and the Guthrie Corridor Expressway, with Putrajya and Genting Sempah thrown in for variety.  Scattered around the map are the one-off events that I rode in Johor Bahru, Kuala Terengganu, Kuantan and Penang,  My Racun buddies and I also rode to Fraser’s Hill, and I joined Dave Ern on a ride to Cameron Highlands.  You can also read about the Bike X and Broga 116 rides.

Heat Map courtesy of Strava

Heat Map courtesy of Strava

It looks like I will ride about 7,300 kilometers in 2013.  And perhaps have another kilo month this quarter.  Garmin Connect will reveal all.

Ramadan Rides

We are in the ninth month of the Islamic calendar.  Ramadan.  Which for Muslims means fasting during the daylight hours from dawn to dusk.

The Islamic lunar calendar year is eleven or twelve days shorter than the solar calendar year.  There is no intercalation, or insertion of a leap day, week or month, to realign the lunar calendar with the solar calendar.  So Ramadan migrates through the seasons.

My biker chick and I spent the last two Ramadan months in the Netherlands.  Where the summer daylight hours extend for eighteen or more hours.  There are advantages to being back in Malaysia where there is little variation in the length of the day throughout the year.  Here we have only about fourteen hours between sahur, or the pre-fast meal, and iftar, or the fast-breaking meal.

The length of the fast at this time of the year in northern Europe means that iftar is not until almost 10pm.  So rather than spend the last hours sitting at home thinking about food I would go for an evening bike ride.  Sometimes on my own and sometimes in the company of David or others from the Not Possibles.

Ramadan Ride 1

After a loop like this one, and a shower, I was very ready for that iftar drink and meal.

I did the Saturday morning Not Possibles rides as well.  Those rides were too much fun to miss.  A very large banana and blueberry smoothie at sahur set me up nicely for the ride.  I must admit the post-ride koffie verkeerd and appeltaart at The Coffee Club were tempting.

Ramadan rides in Kuala Lumpur are a bit more challenging because of the heat and humidity.  Fortunately with iftar being at 7.30pm or so there is no need for evening rides to divert the mind from food and drink.  So rather than riding late in the day on an empty stomach, as I did in the Netherlands, I do the Tuesday and Thursday night rides in Kuala Lumpur on a very full stomach.  I am usually eager to get started at 9pm, but during this month I am happy for any delay that adds to my digestion time.

Weekend rides will continue here as well during Ramadan.  The heat and humidity mean that I have to be selective about the routes, and the pace.  The Guthrie Corridor Expressway route is very open and gets too hot for a ride sans hydration.  Which leaves Genting Sempah as the ride of choice.  That route winds though forest so is shaded and breezy.

Photo courtesy of abuomar at http://basikalgunung.blogspot.com

Photo courtesy of abuomar at http://basikalgunung.blogspot.com

Having lots of scenic spots for rest stops helps too.

Photo curtesy of Mark Lim

Photo courtesy of Mark Lim

There is the elevation to deal with, but if taken at a relaxed pace that isn’t a problem.  Most importantly for my non-fasting riding companions, the nasi lemak shop at the end of the ride is open during Ramadan.

I get to ride during Ramadan, and my non-Muslim friends get their teh tarik.  Everyone is a winner!

Things to See on a Bike in the Netherlands: Wall Art

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Drivers sometimes experience highway hypnosis.  That state of driving on autopilot and arriving at the destination without any memory of what you saw along the way.  Highway hypnosis is brought about by the monotony of driving along a boring road for an extended period of time.

I often finish a ride with little recollection of what was around me along the way.  But not because the ride was monotonous.  It is because the ride was fast.

The faster I ride the more I have to concentrate on the road just ahead of me.  Looking out for pot holes, gravel, sand, broken glass and other debris which could bring my ride to an abrupt halt.  If I am riding in a group my focus is even tighter; most of the time on the rider in front of me. Watching closely for sudden swerving or braking.  So I miss a lot of what is around me.

There is a web site called 18 Miles Per Hour, where “speed, calmness and observation all live together.”  The site is about seeing and absorbing the world around you while you ride.  Good reasons for going on slow rides once in a while.

I know I missed a lot of wall art the Netherlands.  Fortunately this wall was at the turn-around point in Alphen aan de Rijn.  I was going slow enough to notice it.

M.C. Escher is a very well-known Dutch graphic artist.  A number of his murals adorn buildings.  This three-dimensional mural, titled Fish and Birds, is on the Delfluent water treatment plant in Scheveningen.

The Escher in het Paleis museum is in Den Haag.  A large print of his Day and Night hangs over the entrance.

Look who I discovered living in Harmelen.

This mosaic is over the escalators that take pedestrians and cyclists in to and out of the south entrance of the Maastunnel in Rotterdam.  The tunnel is 585 meters / 1,920 feet long, and runs up to 20 meters / 66 feet below the river Nieuwe Maas.

The mosaic on the north side, visible in the following video, features mermen instead of mermaids.

Translated Lyrics
Two big copper dome roofs: north and south
Is where this tunnel sees them all go in and out
On the escalator cyclists stand oblique
They carry bags with lunch and start their working week

[Chorus]
Back to you, under the river Maas
Back to you, your echo I can’t lose
Back to you, and endless corridor
Tiles up the wall, I long for more
Back to you

I just go on, for there is still no end in sight
I get back in time, by the 1940’s light
The escalators rattle on the other side
You – at the end of this long tunnel – end my ride

[Chorus]

Closer to home is this mosaic on a wall of the sports center in Voorschoten.

The bike path to Rottermeren runs under the A12 highway and the train tracks near Moerkapelle.  The tunnels are tiled with patterns of flowers and birds.

This last piece was not on a wall but on the side of a truck.  It is however quite emblematic of the Netherlands, which is the center of production for the European floral market, as well as a major international supplier to other continents. More than Euro 5 billion worth of cut flowers are exported annually.

It certainly is worth slowing down to smell the flowers once in a while.

Things to See on a Bike in the Netherlands: Public Art

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It is not just windmills, cheese and tulips in the Netherlands.  The country is also a center for the visual arts, and has been since the 17th century.  Every town and city has at least one art museum.  The Dutch website Museum.nl lists 325 museums in the ‘fine arts’ category.

If you want to see a Rembrandt, a Vermeer or a van Gogh you will of course have to visit a museum.  (Click the arrow below to hear how the Dutch pronounce “Vincent van Gogh”).

Sculpture, on the other hand, is not confined to sculpture gardens like that at the Kröller-Müller Museum or the Museum Beelden aan Zee.  Public art is everywhere in the Netherlands.

Some is in a classic style.

This statue commemorates the many Maassluis residents who have lost their lives at sea. The inscription on this statue is from the poem “The Sea” by Antoine “Toon” Hermans, a noted Dutch comedian, singer and writer.

It reads “. . . en de zee zal mijn zwijgen wel verstaan . . .” / “. . . and the sea will understand my silence . . . ”

This memorial is in Hoek van Holland.  It is called “Channel Crossing to Life.”  It commemorates the 10,000 mainly Jewish children from Germany, Austria and Czechoslovakia, who were permitted to enter England without their parents and escape Nazi persecution.  Most crossed the English Channel to Harwich from Hoek van Holland.

This gentleman can be found in Delft.

This fine fellow is watching the world go by in Leiden.

Some public art is in a modern style.

This statue is in Maassluis.

The Dutch equine industry is highly regarded in the Sports Horse sector, and particularly in terms of the standard of breeding and bloodlines. The equine industry in the Netherlands is worth more than Euro 1.5 billion per year.  This horse graces a field in Valkenburg.

I see lots of people out and about on horseback Ho

I noticed Dick Tracey in Den Haag soon after I arrived.  It was much later before I discovered that the building behind him is occupied by a branch of the Dutch police.

I’ve never seen anyone lounging on this seat in Hoek van Holland.

I am embarrassed to admit that I rode this route on the outskirts of Zoetermeer many times before I noticed this sculpture.

And some public art is just plain weird.

This melange of animals stands outside the Stadhuis in Den Haag.

Den Haag Stadhuis Sculpture

Surrendering in Hoek van Holland.

This multi-headed creature is in the Grote Markt in Den Haag.

Somewhere near Rijpwetering.  Interpretations anyone?

Classic, modern or weird:  all are visible from your bicycle.

Stuck Indoors

Peat lands, forests and palm oil plantations are burning in Riau province, Sumatra.  At this time of the year westerly monsoon winds blow from Indonesia across the Strait of Malacca to Malaysia.

Malaysia uses the Air Pollution Index (API) to measure air quality.  The amount of sulphur dioxide, carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, ozone and particulate matter in the air is used to calculate the API.  A value above 100 is unhealthy.  A value above 200 is very unhealthy.  A value above 300 is hazardous.  People are advised to stay indoors when the API is above 300.

In the past week the API hit 750 in Muar, Johor.  The highest API in Malaysia in sixteen years.  Readings in Kuala Lumpur and Shah Alam nudged 200.

This was Kuala Lumpur a few days ago.

Haze

Photo courtesy of Lai Seng Sin at AP Photo

The air quality in Kuala Lumpur is not great at the best of times.  For some years now there have been too many poorly-maintained diesel engined buses and lorries spewing black smoke, and too many poorly maintained two-stroke engined motorcycles spewing white smoke.

When my biker chick and I moved to Den Haag in 2010 we immediately noticed the clearer air there.  I was later told that the air quality in the Netherlands is amongst the worst in the European Union.  The Dutch may emit excessive amounts of nitrogen dioxide and carbon dioxide, but it certainly looks like they have less particulate matter floating about.

I dug up some photographs I took while riding in the Den Haag area to remind me of what clear air and blue sky look like.

It was a beautiful evening when I left home Blue s

The Drie Molens (Three Mills) in Leidschendam They

Schiphol Ride 02

 

Kinderdijk Ride Seat View 1

The API this evening for Shah Alam is much improved compared to what it has been recently.

API courtesy of apps.evozi.com

API courtesy of apps.evozi.com

Tomorrow we ride!