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Category Archives: Cycling in the Netherlands

Share the Road

I have a “Share the Road” sticker on my car.  It reminds other drivers to do their bit to help make our roads safer for cyclists.

During last Sunday’s ride up Genting Peres I was reminded that cyclists share roads and bike paths with more than just vehicles.  I have encountered enough birds and animals while on my bike to stock a small zoo.

Dogs are of course everywhere.  Fortunately I haven’t been chased by any.  Though I do recall a particularly ornery dog that used to lie in wait on Sylvan Road in Houston for us to ride by.  Our Taco Rides would be enlivened by this dog barking furiously as it burst onto the street.  I keep a wary eye on the feral dogs that roam the back roads of Hulu Langat and Genting Sempah, though I have yet to hear even a whimper out of any of them.

I expected to see more cats than I did in the Netherlands.  A lot of our riding was through villages and towns, but I guess the majority were house cats and therefore weren’t out and about.

Ducks, geese and swans were another matter.  Water birds are everywhere in the Netherlands.  I had to stop frequently for various birds as they ambled across the bike path.  More infrequent were pheasant bolting across the bike paths when we passed too close to their nests.

In Malaysia we come across the occasional chicken trying to cross the road.  The challenge with chickens is that they often change their minds about the direction they want to head in.  I haven’t seen anyone hit a chicken yet, but there have been some near misses.

I’ve had a few near misses with rabbits.  The dunes along the coast north and south of Den Haag teem with baby rabbits in the spring.  The best tasting greenery always seemed to be on the other side of the bike path.  Like chickens, baby rabbits often don’t have the courage of their convictions, and turn around mid-path.  Much to the alarm of cyclists.

The dunes are also home to foxes, which don’t like to be out in the open and move very quickly when exposed.  I saw very few foxes, and when I did it was late in the evening.

The same is true of hedgehogs.  Out late in the evening I mean.  Not moving very quickly.

It was broad daylight when the Not Possibles got the shock of our lives.  A large deer  appeared out of nowhere and ran beside us for a good fifty meters or so before veering off into the bushes and trees of the dunes.

Many bike paths in the Netherlands are shared with people on horseback.  Although to be honest we spent much more time dodging piles of manure than we did skirting around horses and ponies.

I’ve mentioned the monkeys on the roads in Malaysia in previous posts.  Monkeys feature on this sign at the summit of Genting Peres.  It warns road users that this is an area where wild animals cross the road, and lists what drivers should do when animals are on the road..


I’ve yet to encounter the other two species on this sign.  It would be quite something to share the road with a tapir.

O Spring, Spring! Wherefore Art Thou Spring? *

My northern latitude friends, quite reasonably, expected warmer weather by the time of the March equinox.  My northern latitude cycling friends perhaps mark the arrival of spring by the running of the first Spring Classic bike race of the year.  Milan – San Remo.  Raced this year on 17th March.

Milan San Remo

Photo courtesy of Graham Watson at

Things didn’t improve through the rest of March.  It was only 3° C / 37° F in Den Haag at 10.00am on Saturday 30th March.  It was even worse for the Not Possibles on their morning ride.  Out in the 21 kph / 13 mph wind gusts it felt like -1° C / 30° F.

To the relief of cyclists and non-cyclists alike, spring seems to be finally making its appearance in Europe.  It promises to be 10° C / 50° F this Sunday for Paris – Roubaix, the last of the Cobbled classics.  My Not Possibles friends will be hoping the warming trend continues to the first of the Ardennes classics on 14th April.  The Amstel Gold Race.  They will be joining 12,000 like-minded cyclists for the Tourversion the day before the professional race.

Here in the tropics we think in terms of wet and dry seasons rather than in terms of winter, spring, summer and autumn.  However there is some evidence around of the spring concepts of renewal and rebirth.

Macaque with Baby

Photo courtesy of Rodrigo Sala at

We saw lots of mums with new babies during the ride to Genting Sempah last Sunday.

Despite being 35° C / 95° F at the foot of the climb, it was much cooler in the breeze at 639 meters / 2,100 feet.  Almost springlike!

Photo courtesy of They Wei Chon

Photo courtesy of They Wei Chon

* With apologies to William Shakespeare.

Whatever the Weather

My Not Possibles friends in Den Haag rode the Joop Zoetemelk Classic yesterday.  By all accounts it was cold and windy, with a high of 8°C / 46°F.  My West End friends in Houston are just about to start the Tour de Houston.  It is a balmy 17°C / 62°F in downtown Houston now.  It was 34°C / 93°F by the time Chon, Mark, Marvin and I finished our ride in Hulu Langat today.  Houston wins the best biking weather award for this weekend.

We rode from Kampung Batu 18 along Jalan Sungai Lui to the T-junction with the B32 and the B19.  Logically enough Jalan Sungai Lui follows the Lui River along the valley floor.  At the junction the only option is to turn left onto the B32 road.  The B19 is still closed 5km from the T-junction because of the landslide that dropped a section of tarmac into the reservoir.

Genting Peres Route

The B32 takes you to the border between the states of Selangor and Negeri Sembilan.  The border is at the top of a 10km climb that rises from 170 meters / 560 feet above sea level to 500 meters / 1,640 feet above sea level.  It was very misty at the start, which meant great views once we got about a third of the way up the climb.

IMG_1191 IMG_1188

Genting Peres isn’t the steepest climb in the area.  Nevertheless we appreciated the stop to take photographs.

Genting Peres Photo Stop

Photo courtesy of They Wei Chon

It was still hard work, especially after we broke through the mist into bright sunshine.  I am sure I leaked the equivalent of a Camelbak Podium Chill bottle by the time I got to the summit.  Mark and Chon are waiting for Marvin, who got extra credit for doing the ride on a 29er mountain bike with knobbly tires.


I explored a bit, and found these decorative blocks at the base of the “Terima Kasih.  Sila Datang Lagi / Thank You.  Please Come Again” sign behind the guys.  Not bad for a sign that most people whizz past in cars.


The plan was to go back the way we came to Kampung Batu 18, and then ride on to Sungai Chongkak Recreational Forest for a nasi lemak and teh tarik breakfast.   It was a hot and humid second half of the ride.  The thought of packets of tasty nasi lemak sustained us through the 6km climb to the restaurant.



Our disappointment was palpable.  Our mood was not improved by the very mediocre roti canai we ended up with at Kampung Batu 18.

There was one saving grace for all of us.  The thick undergrowth between where we always park and the river has recently been cleared.  So we could get to some cool water to wash the sweat off our faces and arms.


There was another plus for me.  ISKY 2 has stopped ticking.

UCI Worlds Cyclosportive 2012

The UCI Road World Championships came to Limburg in the Netherlands in September 2012.  A number of Not Possibles signed up for the Toertocht or Cyclosportive.

UCI Toertocht Graphic

Thomas and some of his riding buddies came all the way from Aberdeen to join Christine, David, Richard, Rogier and I, along with some 7,000 other enthusiasts, at the start in Landgraaf.  We were all looking forward to riding over the Worlds course . .

UCI Toertocht Route

and tackling some of the vaunted climbs like the Bemeleberg and the Cauberg.

UCI World Championship Sportive 2012 05

We rolled over the start line at about 8.20am.  We wouldn’t see Thomas and his friends again until the end of the ride.  As for myself, this shot is misleading.

UCI World Championship Sportive 2012 082352a

By the time I was 10km into the ride I was not looking so happy.  I was struggling to keep up with the others.  So much so that I began to worry that at the rate I was going, I would not make the time cutoff for the 170km route that we were attempting.  Fortunately whatever it was that was making me feel unwell passed, and I caught up to Christine and the rest of the group at the first rest stop.  No doubt the waffles there helped!

UCI World Championship Sportive 2012 03

About halfway into the ride David and I spotted a group of riders sporting the Dutch colours.  We picked up the pace and caught up with them.  We started chatting a learned that they were members of the Dutch junior team.

UCI World Championship Sportive 2012 120625a

We were feeling quite pleased with ourselves for keeping pace with riders from the Dutch national junior squad.  That is until they decided it was time to stop dawdling and shot off down the road.

We all made it over the 1,500 meters of climbing, including the iconic Cauberg, which would be the final climb before the finish of the mens’ and womens’ elite races.  Fortunately we didn’t have to ride up the Cauberg ten times like the elite racers would have to in their races.  When we crossed the finish line I was able to strike the pose I had at the start.

UCI World Championship Sportive 2012 163334

Rogier and I at the finish with our finisher’s certificates and medals.

UCI World Championship Sportive 2012 01

Lastly here’s the video of this ride in which some of my Not Possibles friends appear.

Gerrie Knetemann Classic 2012

Travel has taken up a lot of time in the past month.  So I haven’t done much riding lately.  I have made plans to do a couple of “special event” rides in April and May.  At the least I will have something to write about then.

The cycling surprise of the past few weeks was the email I received on 8th February from MySports B.V. to tell me that my High Definition race videos from the 2012 Gerrie Knetemann Classic were ready to be downloaded.  Surprising because that ride was on 9th September last year.  Let me tell you about it.

The late Gerrie Knetemann won the 1978 UCI Road World Championship by outsprinting the defending world champion, the Italian Francesco Moser.  He also won the Amstel Gold Race twice, Paris-Nice and host of other races.  Knetemann was born in Amsterdam.  The 2012 event was the eighth running of the classic in his honour.

The ride started and ended in the Olympic Stadium in Amsterdam, the site of the 1928 Olympiad.  Seven Not Possibles cyclists tackled the 120km route.  From the left:  Jonathan, David, Micke, Christine, Johan, Andrew and Graham.

Gerrie Knetemann Classic 2012 09

Gerrie Knetemann 2012 Route

The route took through the Groene Hart, a particularly scenic slice of Dutch countryside.  For some variety we also rode along a section of perimeter fence at Schiphol Airport.

Gerrie Knetemann Classic 2012 14

Photo courtesy of Jonathan K

It was a particularly hot day so the two rest stops were appreciated.

Photo courtesy of Jonathan K

Photo courtesy of Jonathan K

As were the stops forced upon us by open bridges.

Gerrie Knetemann Classic 2012 Bridge 02

Like in the Witte Kruis Classic, the organisers included a time trial well into the route.  In this case at the 112km mark.  As you will see I did not attack the time trial.  Six kilometers later we rolled into the Olympic Stadium, with some of us doing our best Wiggo impersonations.

Gerrie Knetemann Classic 2012 Aktiefoto 01

Photo courtesy of Aktiefoto

Did I tell you that it was a hot day?  Not long after this photo was taken we scrambled to find some shade to escape the heat as we destroyed some frites and cold drinks.

Gerrie Knetemann Classic 2012 08

Photo courtesy of either Andrew B or Mike R

This post started with mention of race videos.  Here is a compilation:

Local Weather Alert: Snow at Times.

Winter has truly arrived in the Netherlands.  There is snow in the forecast for Den Haag.

I can’t say I miss getting dressed for winter weather.

-3C 26F on the thermometer Felt like -8C 17F in th

I do miss the winter scenery though.  These frosty fields are near Delft.

Delft Distant View

This was near the Kyocera soccer stadium.  Home of ADO Den Haag.

Frosty today

On one weekend the ice on the Rottermeren was thick enough for people to skate.

Rottemeren Skating 03

The ducks could skate on the canals for longer.

It was colder today than it was yesterday 4C at be

I had wet feet over the weekend from riding in the rain.  I’ll take that over cold feet any day of the week.

Thermal Shock

I had a week to recover from the culture shock of the Witte Kruis Classic before I embarked on my second organised ride in the Netherlands.  I knew the Joop Zoetemelk Classic would be a better experience in at least one respect.  I would have company.  A mutual friend had connected me to Eugene N.  A fellow Malaysian living in Rotterdam.  We signed up for the 150 km event.

Joop Zoetemelk held the record for the most Tour de France finishes until that achievement was bettered by George Hincapie this year.  Perhaps more impressively Joop won ‘La Grande Boucle‘ in 1980, came second six times and finished fourth three times.  He was also World Champion in 1985.

Joop started his cycling career with the Swift club in Leiden.  A look inside the clubhouse reveals a long and illustrious history.

JZC 2011 Swift Club 01

The 2011 event was the fifth time the Swift club had organised a ride in Joop Zoetemelk’s honor.  The 150 km route was an anti-clockwise loop from the Swift clubhouse around the Groene Hart (Green Heart) between Leiden and Utrecht.

This is the route map for the 2011 JZC

I may have been ready this time for the minimalist directions and infrequent rest stops, but I wasn’t prepared for the weather at the start.

JZC 2011 Start 02

It was a damp 1° C / 33° F.  Eugene and I were bundled up like a pair of Michelin men.  The first 30 km or so was just plain miserable.  My feet and hands were freezing despite the wool socks and double gloves.  My glasses fogged up so badly in the mist that I had to take them off.  The sun eventually broke through the mist so by the time we got to the first rest stop it was brighter, though not necessarily any warmer.

We followed local practice by going indoors for coffee and apple pie.  We didn’t want to offend anyone.

JZC 2011 Stop 1 03

That was at kilometer 56.  We had a very pleasant surprise at kilometer 91.  An unexpected rest stop!  With sports drinks and krentenbollen (raisin buns).  Outdoors this time, but it was a bit warmer by then.  Not that you can tell from what Eugene was wearing.

JZC 2011 Stop 2 02

The route was quite well sign-posted with large arrows at junctions.  It also helped that Eugene and I managed to stay with other riders for most of the time.  Trust us to miss a turn anyway.  That was a 5 km diversion that we did not need.

The length of the ride was beginning to tell on both of us by the time we got to the final rest stop at Leimuiden.  We had what was looking like a long 30 km to go.  So another indoor stop was much appreciated.

JZC 2011 Stop 3 01

The final leg of the ride took us through Rijpwetering, where Joop Zoetemelk was born.  This statue commemorates his World Championship win.

Joop Zoetemelk statue

9 km later we were a pair of happy campers.

JZC 2011 Finish 02

We had helped each other make it through a very cold start and a middle section where cramps threatened to cut short our ride.  This was our longest ride in the Netherlands to date so we were both pleased to have finished.  I don’t know about Eugene but I still wear the event jersey on occasion.  Fortunately it is better suited to more tropical climes than what we found in Leiden that morning.

JZC 2011 Shirt

Culture Shock

I did my first organised ride in the Netherlands in early March 2011.  The Witte Kruis (White Cross) Classic was a 100 km clockwise loop through South Holland.  Much of the route covered new ground for me.  I had ridden to Kijkduin and Meijendel but my wheels had yet to traverse points further east like Benthuizen and south like Oud Verlaat and Schipluiden.  I had yet to find any cycling buddies in Den Haag so I rolled up to the start by myself.  I had done a number of organised rides in Texas so I had a preconceived idea of what this ride would be like.

Things were different right from the get-go.  We were all given timing chips to mount on our front forks.  For many participants this wasn’t just a jaunt through the countryside.

WKC 2011 Transponder

The Dutch idea of a supported ride turned out to be a bit different from what I had experienced in Texas.  I had come to expect lots of people giving directions along the route, or at the very least, large signs.  This is what we had to guide us during the Witte Kruis Classic.

WKC 2011 Direction

All was well until I had a puncture after about 60 km.  Everyone else in the group I had tagged onto kept riding.  Once back in the saddle I could see one rider ahead of me in the distance.  I put my head down and started chasing.  5 km later I caught up to a group of five riders.  We were at a T-junction in Terbregge.  With nary a tiny painted arrow on the road in sight.

We knew that we were about 6 km from the rest stop.  Between us we managed to figure out which way to head and after a couple of kilometers we picked up the white arrows pointing us toward the rest stop at the RWC Ahoy.

Which brings me to my next supported ride, Dutch style, surprise.  I don’t recall having ridden more than about 35 km / 20 mi before coming upon a rest stop on my Texan rides.  The one and only rest stop during the Witte Kruis Classic was at the 55 km / 34 mi point.

The location of the rest stop was an eye opener in itself.  We were on the premises of the Rotterdam Wielrennen Club Ahoy.  Not only does the RWC Ahoy have a nice clubhouse . . .

WKC 2011 RWC Club House

but it also has its own racetrack.

WKC 2011 RWC Ahow Racetrack

There was a race in progress, complete with electronic timing board and race announcer.  This was my first glimpse of the serious side of Dutch amateur cycling.

After a much-needed drink, some food and a comfort break I set out off again to the roar of aircraft landing and taking off from the adjacent Rotterdam The Hague Airport.

At the 85 km mark there was a three kilometer timed sprint.  I had forgotten about that little feature of the ride.  Not that I was in any state to ride any faster at that point.  All I wanted to do by then was to just finish.

This photograph was taken in the dunes south of Kijkduin.  Before I realised that the ride was 10 km longer than advertised.

WKC 2011

I did not enjoy the last 10 km to the finish.  Especially knowing that I had a further 8 km to get home, having cycled to the start.

I felt a lot better after a shower and lunch.  I did like the ride, despite being on my own and those extra kilometers.  I now knew what to expect on my next organised ride, which was the Joop Zoetemelk Classic the following weekend.  In addition to windmills that is!


No Chip Seal Here

I bought my first bike in Houston.  My early solo rides were on the few bike trails along the Columbia Tap to Trail and Brays Bayou.  Then I met the Six Thirty group.  The majority of our group riding was done on city streets.  In most cases there were no bike lanes.  Where there were bike lanes you tended to stay out of them.  I remember Washington Avenue having a bike lane in name only.  What had been designated as a bike lane was badly rutted filled and with debris.  So we took our chances toward the center of the lane.

We also rode on the farm-to-market roads outside Houston.  There was less traffic on them, which was a plus.  They tended to be chip sealed, which was a minus.  Chip seal has a layer of aggregate embedded in the bitumen or asphalt.  On that surface we were were modern-day Rough Riders.

The Dutch cyclist has the good fortune to have 29,000 km of bike paths.   The Dutch cyclist is truly blessed to have 29,000 km of bike paths that are almost without exception well-maintained.  The majority of the paths are asphalt.  Those are generally the smoothest.  Some paths are made of concrete slabs or pavers.  Those sometimes have cracks and bumps in them.  Then come the brick bike paths, which run the range from smooth to bumpy.

Bike paths in towns and cities are usually red.  This differentiates the bike paths from the road where bicycles and motor traffic share the same road-space.  This one is asphalt.

Bike path

In the center of towns and villages the surface is occasionally brick.  Ideally the bricks form a smooth surface.  Sometimes though you are in for a rough ride.

Kinderdijk Ride Brick Road

Concrete pavers often appear around the edges of towns.  This a section of the new bike path on the beach south of Kijkduin.  The dashed center line indicates that this is a two-way path.  The surface is good enough for the Not Possibles to hit 45 kph / 28 mph or more when the wind is right.

Katwijk Pavers

Outside towns the paths are almost always asphalt.  Usually smooth and fast, although this section of the LF 1 near Monster is due for resurfacing.

Hoek Van Holland 02

This smooth asphalt path is in Midden Delfland.

Kinderdijk Ride Seat View 1

Where the paths follow roads the two are usually separated.  Like this one in Noordwijk.

IJmuiden aan Zee Nordwijk Trees

Now that I am in Kuala Lumpur I am back to riding on city streets and sharing the roads with other traffic.  Riding in Kuala Lumpur is a lot like riding in Houston.  Except there is no chip seal here.

Where Do I Go From Here?

The Netherlands is criss-crossed with a network of dedicated bike paths.  Every part of the country is accessible by bicycle.  If your bucket list includes riding every path, you would have to cycle about 29,000 km.  There isn’t anywhere that you can’t cycle to.  It was clear from my “Bicycling 101” class that all I had to do was wheel my bike outside the front door, choose a direction and start pedalling.  And be sure to avoid the 53 ways to pick up a road rules fine.

I used a Garmin Edge 705 GPS cycle computer in Houston.  It came with a detailed road map and points of interest.  So I could use the unit to navigate with exact, turn-by-turn directions to any address or intersection.  I used my Edge more for tracking where I had been rather than for planning routes.  Nevertheless I installed a map of the Netherlands.  If nothing else I would be able to see on the screen exactly where I was hopelessly lost.

The best thing about the unit is that when maps and sign posts fail, it will get me back to where I began my ride.

Garmin Edge 705

I quickly discovered that I would have little use for the navigation functions on my Edge 705 in the Netherlands.  The 29,000 km of bike paths are sign posted.  And since the Dutch are nothing if not meticulous, they didn’t stop at just one sign post system.  They have four that I know of.

The first type of sign post is much like what you would see on normal roads.  Signs point in the direction of cities and towns, listing the distance to each.  A more distant major destination is listed on the bottom of each ‘finger’, and the closer, minor destination is shown on the top.  Once a destination is listed, every subsequent sign along the route will list that destination until you reach it.

The sign posts for cyclists feature red or green lettering on a white background.  The options shown in green are less-direct alternatives that offer scenic routes through the Dutch countryside.

Maassluis to Hoek van Holland Ride 02

The second type of sign post for cyclists sits low to the ground and is mushroom-shaped.  These signs are located in more rural areas where the bike paths intersect away from roads.  Each of the four sides has direction and distance information for destinations nearby.  The sign below with the red lettering on a white background is a newer one.  The older style has the same shape but features black lettering on a white background.


The third system of providing directions for cyclists is the Bicycle Node Network (Fietsknooppuntennetwerk).  Each junction on the cycling path network has been given a unique one or two-digit number.  You need a map showing all the ‘knooppunten’ or nodes.  These maps also list the distance between nodes so you can work out how far away your destination is.

Planning a route from the starting node to the ending node is a simple matter of making a list of all the intermediate nodes that you want to cycle through.  There is a list of online route planners at to help with this.

Knoppunkt Map 2

Each junction or node is marked with a sign showing the node number and a map of the immediate area.

Knoppunkt Map

Signs like this show you which way to go to the next closest nodes.

The fourth system is a network of long-distance, or LF (Lange afstands Fietsnetwerk) routes.  There are currently 30 LF routes covering some 4,500 km in total.  These routes include the LF 1 North Sea Route, which starts in the south near Sluis at the Belgian border, and continues up the coast to Den Helder in the north.  The Not Possibles often cover sections of this route between Hoek van Holland and Zandvoort during their Saturday morning rides.

The LF routes are marked in both directions with rectangular white signs with green lettering.  In this case the sign pointing in the opposite direction reads “LF 1a”.


With few exceptions the various wayfinding systems on the bike paths served me well.  I would pick a destination and let the signs show me the way.  Confident that if I did get lost, which happened on a few occasions, I could always access the menu on my Edge 705 and select “Back to Start”.