Mountain biking in the Netherlands: An uphill climb or a flat disappointment?
I used to live in Boise, Idaho, a small city situated on the sunny slopes of the Rocky Mountains in the western United States. Boise is renowned for its isolated location along a forested river valley that cascades down from the nearby snowcapped mountains.
In between those two extremes are the sun-drenched foothills of the Boise Front which are crisscrossed with hundreds of kilometers of hardpacked, single-track bike trails. With 1000-meter leg-burning climbs which culminate in long, undulating descents that can last more than half an hour, this is some of the best mountain biking in the United States and where I first learned to ride.
So, when I moved to soggy and pancake-flat North-Holland I was expecting to hang up my knobby tires and save my mountain bike outings for the occasional weekend down in the Ardennen only to discover that All-Terrain-Biking (ATB) has become increasingly popular here in The Netherlands and the options are getting better and better each year. I would still hesitate to characterize it as “mountain biking”, but I have found a few routes that offer some great riding and can keep you in shape for when you get a chance to hit the real mountains down in Belgium.
The following are three of my favorites:
Spaarnwoude: This route is in Haarlem’s back yard and winds its way around the artificial SnowPlanet ski hill. This 8K loop is great fun for a summer evening during the week when it’s not so crowded with folks coming from Amsterdam. You climb the ski hill no less than three times in a single loop with one great leg burner that takes you almost straight up the back-side to the top. There are also some fun down-hills across the fields where you have a lot of visibility and can pick up a good speed. Use your first loop around to get a feel for the terrain then your second loop can be a real screamer.
Schoorl: A 17KM circuit in the dunes above the village of Schoorl, about a 45-minute drive north of Haarlem. This route offers rolling hills in a beautiful setting of forests and dunes. You’ll find a lot of whoop-de-doo type of riding with one good climb at the end of the loop. The biggest challenge with Schoorl is the sand. This route has become so popular over the years that it is increasingly hard to keep the trail maintained. They’ve added ground mesh in places, but it’s still best riding after some wet weather. Let a bit of air out of your tires and have fun picking your way through the many sand traps. The village is also a great place to enjoy lunch after a morning on the trails.
Veluwezoom National Park: A bit further afield, but well worth the trip. The train station in Rheden (2 hours from Haarlem) is only 2K from the start of this 57KM ATB route which takes you through absolutely stunning natural landscapes. With several trail options, including many constructed berms, single-track, forest roads, and fields of heather, this is the best riding that I’ve found so far in The Netherlands. The topography is surprisingly hilly, capped by an (almost mountain) overlook at the Postbank. There are plenty of good climbs and long descents throughout the forest. I’d recommend overnighting in a Glamping Pod at Buitenplaats Beekhuizen so you get two days on the trails and an evening walking the park to spot wild boar – always a thrill to see. A permit is required and can be obtained online or at the National Park Welcome Center.
So, there you have it. No more “I live in a flat country” excuses…get out and enjoy some Mountain Biking!
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