The Netherlands

With over 16 million people on an area roughly twice the size of New Jersey, it's a densely populated country with its gorgeous capital Amsterdam being just one of many interesting cities. Once a great naval power, this small nation boasts a wealth of cultural heritage and is famous for its painters, windmills, clogs and notoriously flat lands.

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Basic Information

Home. Even though I've lived here all my life, I still haven't seen everything this little country has to offer. Thank Satan I haven't, because otherwise I wouldn't be able to write this at the moment. If you've never been to either the Netherlands or Djibouti, I'd recommend visiting Djibouti first.

All the jokes aside, I will be testing all of my gear in this country. So instead of making this a travel page, I'll document the short trips I've made in preparation for the big 8000km one.

There are some roads that are good fun to ride throughout the country. It just takes a little local knowledge and a whole bunch of luck to actually find them. Accommodations are plentiful, the people are usually friendly, the local cuisine is awful and the landscape is mediocre at best.

Map

External Info
Distance traveled 1050 km
Time spent 2 days

Places of Interest

disclaimer   These are only places that make up 90% of the plan for this trip. Whether or not I've actually managed to visit each and every one of them can be found in the ride report.

Lieshout

My office is located here. Known for its local brewery, Lieshout is the epicenter of beer fueled software engineering in the region. Some of the back roads leading to the village are absolutely awesome. The biggest risk this poses is losing my license before I leave.

There are plenty of dirt roads around to work on my off road skills a bit when commuting between home and the office. Especially through the forests and along the canal. There are no guard rails or anything, so if anything happens I'm pretty much screwed. Fishing a motorcycle out of a canal is frowned upon by local authorities.

Lieshout
Lieshout

CC-BY-2.5 Dgb at nl.wikipedia

Veldhoven

It's not really an interesting village in and of itself. What's located there is interesting. My local toy store. Obviously I don't have to explain the specifics for you to understand what they're selling.

I just had mention them somewhere. They've done an awesome job upgrading my Transalp with the necessary farkles and keeping the thing from falling apart. In preparation for this trip I'll be visiting more often to get the bike as ready as can be.

Motoport Veldhoven
Toy store

Burgh-Haamstede

Before I leave for the big trip, there are two major test trips to be taken. One of the targeted 300-350km daily distance and one big trip of twice that testing the limits of both me and the bike.

This is the destination of the easier trip. Back and forth between Burgh-Haamstede and home should be about 300km. I used to visit Burgh-Haamstede during holidays back when I was a little kid. I've got fond memories of this place and I haven't been there for over ten years. So it's time to revisit some of those old memories.

Located in the province of Zeeland, it offers some nice beaches, forests and dunes nearby. Lots of tourists too. I remember some hiking routes with some publicly accessible watch towers. But I'm afraid they've shrunk quite a bit in the past ten years.

Burgh-Haamstede
North Sea beach

CC-BY-NC-ND-2.0 Jackie Kever

Friesland

The long test trip will take me from Eindhoven north to Nijmegen and Arnhem. From there I can go west through Flevoland or east along Apeldoorn and Zwolle. Further up north is my half-way point, Leeuwarden. From there I'll go the other way around down south until I reach Eindhoven again, roughly 600km later.

Avoiding motorways as much as possible, this will take about twelve hours of continuous riding. This should, I hope, help me find all the little pains and niggles (both physically and mechanically) before embarking on the 8000km trip.

I haven't been that far up north very often. I know I'll pass along the Hoge Veluwe national park and the woods in that region. The rest of the route will probably consist of standard flat Dutch farmlands. Boring roads, economically laid out in straight lines going from one town to the next. The region in between the great rivers is interesting though. Ferries are awesome.

Hoge Veluwe
Hoge Veluwe

CC-BY-NC-ND-2.0 F.d.W.


Ride Report

This is only what I remeber of The Netherlands and quickly wrote down during the trip. I'm sure I've missed some details here and there. Sorry! It's chronological, mostly.

Veldhoven and Burgh

The first test trip! The weather man had promised a day full of rain, rain and maybe a little more rain. I don't mind rain. It's a good test for all of the gear.

I had to make a quick stop at the Toy Store first. The bike didn't have much compressed pixy dust left on the brake pads, so those had to be replaced beforehand. A few days before most of the needed stuff was already fitted, but the brake pads I needed were out of stock. While I was waiting for the mechanic to do his magic, I met a customer who told me about his daughter. Don't know why, but he did. Riding motorcycles since her 18th birthday, quit school to start her own IT shop. Happily married. (d'oh) Interesting fellow nonetheless.

It sounded like the weather man was right. The heavens produced an amount of water giving even the average river a run for its money. Throughout Noord-Brabant the rain continued. I was mentally preparing for a drenched visit to the beach. The moment I crossed the bridge into Zeeland the clouds parted, the rain stopped and the sun threw its happy heating death ray down onto my person. Blue skies and dry roads as far as the eye could see. And a storm. Don't forget the storm. Even though the pictures are pretty nice, the wind wasn't. Those brand new Heidenau rubbers were put to the test properly, working to keep the bike from being blown away. The everything but aerodynamic top box didn't help either. The Bags Connection tank bag lost its waterproof cover somewhere. I haven't seen it being torn of, but it was gone at a certain point. Now I have to waterproof some of the electronics inside of the tank bag, because I'm not getting a replacement tank bag just because of Bad Design™.

Before I left I had given myself a destination. I watch cooking shows. There. I said it. Hairy Bikers is one of those shows. During their last season, the "bakeation", they visited Burgh. What a coincidence. A little bakery is what they were after. And especially the famous local product "bolus". It's kind of like a wet doughnut with loads of sugar and cinnamon. I think. It's tasty, that's for sure. It sure doesn't look tasty.

The bakery wasn't that hard to find. After eating a bunch of those sugary bundles of joy I went to the beach. The beach where I used to play as a child. Nothing changed, really. Somehow I didn't feel like playing anymore. Maybe it's because the Alp wasn't allowed on the beach.

The way home was extremely uneventful. No rain, either. I did decide that I need a new pair of motorcycle pants. The knee pads started pressing into my knee caps after roughly 300 km. When I got home my knees were both decorated with a dark, painful bruise. I knew about this, but never really thought about it. Repeating a trip like this every day for a month is going to be unbearable if I don't fix this.

All in all this test trip has had the results I was hoping for.

Leeuwarden

Time to test the new riding gear! I bought a new pair of pants just a few days before. A new jacket as well. Pretty cheap stuff, too. The decision to go cheap might get back to bite me on the long run. Don't know yet.

As usual, I failed to do the right preparations in time. Like programming the GPS with the route I wanted to take. In retrospect I'm glad I didn't. The Garmin guided me through some of the most interesting roads in the area. It ended up being a little over 700 km in 12 hours.

From Eindhoven it sent me to the German border at Gennep, through Kleve and Emmerich to Doetinchem. I love the German roads. Spacious, sane and interesting to ride. Crossed the river Rhein at Emmerich. Even though this little piece of Germany is surrounded by Dutch borders, the difference between the two countries couldn't be more apparent. City layout, architecture, cars, clothing and the people in general were all slightly different.

Continuing up north, the Dutch region of De Achterhoek was next. It used to be a huge forest, of which only a small part has been left standing. The bits and pieces that do remain are pretty nice, though. The last ice age has left hills scattered across the landscape, making roads a little less boring than usual in the Netherlands. I followed the river IJssel from Zutphen, Deventer and all the way up to Zwolle. Because of a closed road I had to make a detour from there.

The only possible detour, avoiding the main A28 highway, was right through the Dutch bible belt. Luckily only the northern most tip of it. This is the kind of place where people don't just look at you funny for riding a motorcycle on a Sunday. Luckily it was Monday, and all they could do was look at me funny. Everyone was dressed in black, so I kind of blended in. Maybe that's one of the reasons I'm still alive. There was this old farmer in Staphorst, cutting grass with a scythe, waving the thing at me while I passed by. I hope he only meant it as a friendly gesture.

After leaving the bible belt far behind me, I was almost at the Frisian border. The province of Friesland is flat. Really flat. Some interesting scenery, lots of lakes and boring roads. The scenery kind of made up for that. I raced through Friesland, passing Drachten and approaching my half-way point Leeuwarden at German speeds. Apparently, some of the Frisian provincial roads have been made into highways without changing the road's name. The Garmin didn't know, can't blame him.

Leeuwarden is small. I really didn't know it was that small. It's pretty much a miniature Utrecht with much nicer people. Of course that's an over-generalization, but you get the point. After 3 hours or so of exploring the city and meeting some of its people it was time to go home.

Apart from the occasional near-accident the trip home was uneventful. The Garmin chose some other (nicer) roads this time, and completely avoided the detour and the bible belt. I've got no idea how it did that. I'm glad I ditched the TomTom.

While the first half of the trip was only occasionally plagued by rain, the second half was wet. It thoroughly tested the new gear, and it held up like a charm. Even the external pockets of the jacket were completely dry inside. Now I can only hope this stuff can cope with the heat just as well. The inner lining of the jacket kind of sounds like a garbage bag. It would explain the waterproofness of the thing, but doesn't bide well for the hot days.

Leaving The Country

Packing is difficult. Leaving things out is the key. I really didn't want to ride around with yet another dry bag strapped to the bike. Everything had to fit in the panniers and top box. And it did! Even things like a shovel, camping gear and a fully stocked first aid kit.

The day has finally arrived. Today's the day I leave for the journey I've been preparing for the past few months. Pretty exciting, although I have to admit some second thoughts did crop up. Is it alright to do this all by myself? Will the bike survive? What if I crash? What if...?

It's too late now. I just had to do it. Early in the morning, at 7 am-ish, I went for it. Pointed the GPS to Husum, Germany and started riding. It didn't take long before I hit the first patch of roadwork. The planners thought of every possible detour, except one towards Germany. Because, let's be honest, who would want to go there anyway, right? So let's ask the GPS for a detour. It should be able to calculate one.

Twenty minutes later it was done calculating. Twenty. Fucking. Minutes. It must have been a glitch or something, so I pressed on. Towards Germany it is! A few kilometers later, more roadwork. No feasible detours. Let's give mister Garmin another chance. Again, twenty minutes later, it came up with an answer. It sent me through (quite fun) dusty forest sand roads I didn't even know existed right into another closed off section of road. There was a sign. Eindhoven 30 km. What? I'm riding for over two hours and I'm only 30 kilometers from home? The temperature started rising as well. But wait a minute. I'm from here. I was born and raised in this region. I don't need a stupid GPS to tell me the way to Germany. An hour later I found myself well into Germany when the GPS picked up on the route again.


Photos

These are the photos taken during the trip through The Netherlands using this gear. Hopefully they're in chronological order. If you'd like a larger version of a particular photo, just let me know and I'd be happy to make it available to you. All photos can be redistributed freely under the Creative Commons BY-SA 3.0 license.