Andrea Giardini

Consultant / Trainer in the field of Cloud Technologies

28 Oct 2020

Cycling the LF7 Oeverlandroute

During October, I moved from Germany to the Netherlands and I figured out the best way to dive straight into the Dutch culture: Cycling! The Netherlands accommodates 17 million inhabitants and 23 million bicycles making it one of the most bike-friendly countries in the world.

I started planning this trip with very little advance and in this article, I would like to share with you my experience and stops in case you are planning to do a similar trip yourself.

The route

The LF7 Oeverlandroute — River Bank Route goes from Maastricht to Schoorl for a grand total of 385km, you can find a lot of info about this route in the HollandCyclingRoutes website. The route is pretty much flat, ideal for beginners, cycling uphill/downhill is needed only when you encounter overpass/underpass for streets and highways.

The route can be travelled in both directions (Maastricht to Schoor or vice versa). I recommend starting from Maastricht, in this way you will end your trip on the north coast of the Netherlands which is beautiful.

I wanted to complete the trip in five days total, leaving home on Monday and coming back on Friday evening. Five days of travel gave me a good balance between the exploration side and the physical challenge. If you want to have a more relaxed trip I would plan for six/seven days.

From the website linked above you can also download the GPX track… Do it! The track is easy to follow but the directions are given by a mix of panels/stickers that are very easy to miss, especially on such a long trip. When you go on a bike you want to enjoy the trip and not spend every second scanning the surroundings for direction panels. Get a phone stand, an app that can read GPX files, download the offline maps and you are good to go. Do not use Google Maps, it will give you the shortest way, not the most scenic one.

Accommodation

I evaluated different alternatives: Airbnb, B&B, hotels are all valid solutions but I ended up using Vrienden op de Fiets.

Vrienden op de Fiets is an association of biking/hiking enthusiasts that provides affordable accommodation for people that are travelling. This association is quite widespread in the Netherlands and it is getting more and more traction in other countries as well. I didn’t know it beforehand, but I found the idea pretty interesting and I wanted to give it a try.

The deal is pretty much the following: you pay €22.50 + tourist tax (2/3 euros) per night per person, including breakfast. Registering to the website costs 9€ / year. Some hosts will have a separate room with a shared bathroom, others will give you access to a separate part of their house, it is all written on the website. Generally, all the hosts will have a safe place to store your bike so that you do not risk leaving it in the street.

Based on the stops I planned, I used the website to search for hosts and then contacted them via WhatsApp. The experience was very nice, I am always a big fan of spending time with the locals and know more about the places you visit. Most of the hosts answer in a matter of hours, allowing you to plan your trip accordingly. It is recommended to contact them in advance, a couple of days should suffice.

Bike / Equipment

I own a bike to move around Amsterdam, but it is not a good one. For this trip I decided to rent a bike from a shop in Amsterdam called Bike City, in particular I got their Hybrid bike. It is a normal bike (not electric) with anti-puncture tires, waterproof bags and a lighter frame than traditional bikes.

The owner was easy going and helpful. After explaining to him my idea of the trip he gave me plenty of suggestions about the equipment to get and the brands/shops that he recommends. Being a newcomer in Amsterdam, this made the process much smoother.

You should not cheap-out on jacket, trousers, gloves and shoe cover. All of them need to be waterproof and reliable. They will make a difference.

There is no such thing as bad weather, just bad equipment.

I got all my equipment from Bever (you can order online or go in the physical shop). They have all kind of equipment and brands for all kind of prices.

The trip

Day 1 — Amsterdam → Maastricht → Thorn (~50km)

I started my trip from Amsterdam, where I live. I planned this day to be shorter than the others because I wanted to understand how my body would react to such a stress. I am glad I made this decision because I figured out only later than bikes are not allowed on trains before 9 am. Surprise!

Considering 2.5 hours of train to reach Maastricht plus the time to reach the beginning of the trail… This meant I only had half-day of cycling.

Thunderstorm Approaching ☁️

Thunderstorm Approaching ☁️

The first day was very exciting. Most of the track leading to Thorn follows the border with Belgium, giving you a nice mix of scenery and landscapes.

I got into an intense thunderstorm during my first day, it didn’t last for long (15–20 minutes) but it was very strong and forced me to stop and put all my waterproof equipment. Thankfully the waterproof jacket/trousers and bike bags did the job, nothing got wet and I could continue without any trouble.

I reached Thorn (also called the white town) around 5 pm and, after meeting my host for the night, I had the chance to have a look around this beautiful village.

Day 2 — Thorn → Eindhoven (~80km)

The second day was a bit longer than the first one. I left Thorn at around 9 am and reached Eindhoven at 3.30 pm. The landscape was unfortunately way less exciting than the previous day with never-ending fields and flat countryside.

Approaching Eindhoven, I encountered a part of the trail that was quite sandy and, I have to admit, I struggled a bit. Coincidentally this happened after I complained about the monotony of my ride up until that point. Better shut up next time…

I arrived at my destination pretty early, which allowed me to have a quick look at the city centre and such. Unfortunately, due to the current situation (thanks Corona), most of the places were closed or open for limited hours. Quite annoying!

Day 3 — Eindhoven → Leerdam (~85km)

Here we go! Day three was probably the best day of the whole trip. The landscape, the host, the food… everything went just right!

I started cycling at around 8 am. At lunchtime, I reached the city of ‘s-Hertogenbosch and decided to stop there for a break. I ended up spending more than one hour there, walking around the city, eating fish and chips from the local market and simply wandering around. The city is beautiful and I can recommend stopping here overnight or for a quick visit.

After lunch, I grabbed a quick coffee and decided to continue my trip. That’s when the landscape got exciting. From ‘s-Hertogenbosch to Leerdam I had to pass nearby (and sometimes cross) several different rivers and lakes. Crossing the rivers is very easy, you will need to wait for the boat to pass by ⛵️.

I want to take a little time here to describe something that happened to me that I will probably remember for a long time:

While cycling, I met a mother walking on the same street with her three children. When we crossed paths, I stopped before them since the woman was taking a picture of her three kids and I didn’t want to interrupt that moment. After she was done with the camera, she thanked me and I continued following my router. It took me a couple of seconds to realize that the kids started screaming and laughing while running trying to catch me.

It was a special moment.

A couple of hundreds meter later I got to my first river crossing, the boat was luckily already on my side of the river, so I got on board. An old captain with a very funny moustache and his dog welcomed me.

I was the only passenger

The old man started the engine and slowly the boat started moving towards the opposite side of the river. I was enjoying the landscape, the company of the dog and the captain when I started to hear screams coming from the side of the river I just left.

The children and their mom were waving at me.

It was a special moment.

Later that day I reached Leerdam, that is home to the famous cheese Leerdammer

Day 4 — Leerdam → Baambrugge (~65km)

The day started with a very abundant breakfast. My host in Leerdam was very generous and welcoming.

I left quite late because I took the time to have a chat with my host over breakfast. Meeting and talking to people was one of the best parts of this trip. Take your time.

The route from Leerdam to Baambrugge crosses the city of Utrecht, the fourth-largest city of the Netherlands.

Day four was quite short, mainly because I wanted to keep my energies for the last (and longest) day. Even in this case my host was extremely welcoming and I took some to time to relax and read a nice book in front of the fireplace.

Day 5 — Baambrugge → Schoorl → Amsterdam (~100km)

Final stretch to reach the coast of Schoorl.

Passing through Amsterdam, Zaanse Schans and Alkmaar gave me the right mix of city / village / countryside that I enjoy the most.

The final day was the longest in term of distance, but I was eager to arrive so I made few stops on the way. The scenery in Zaanse Schans was just beautiful when I will come back to visit I will make sure to have a longer break and visit one of the windmills.

The GPS track ends in a crossing in the middle of the forest, which left me a bit… confused! I decided to continue a couple of more kilometers and reach the coast.

To go back to Amsterdam I then had to… cycle back to Alkmaar (~15km) and hop on a train. Keep in mind that 4.00–6.30 pm is “peak hours” so you won’t be able to bring your bike on the train in that interval. Train back to Amsterdam from Alkmaar

Train back from Alkmaar to Amsterdam

Train back from Alkmaar to Amsterdam

Final thoughts

In hand sight, I would not change too much the plan. It was a nice and challenging experience with its ups and downs.

Doing this trip solo was also a good idea. I was never a bike enthusiast (this was my first long-distance trip), but now I can understand why a lot of people like it so much: It is extremely freeing. When you bike you can free your mind and leave all the problems behind. You focus on the landscapes, the people and the nature surrounding you.