Ok, I admit that it's really a Wickford to Amsterdam ride, only because I couldn't be bothered with the formality of taking the train into London only to cycle back out to home. :-)


This was a ride I'd planned for a while, though it sounds more impressive ride than it is. The reality is a 52-mile ride to Harwich, an overnight ferry, and a 62-mile ride to Amsterdam (plus another 41 miles added exploring, in this case).

The trickiest part of the logistics, believe it or not, was finding a hotel in Amsterdam with secure cycle parking! Cycle theft is endemic in Amsterdam, most apparently of the casual 'borrowed bike to get home when drunk' variety, but that's of limited comfort when your bike has vanished. Since Amsterdam is something of a cycling mecca, you might expect hotels to be geared up for cycling guests, but it appeared not.

Web-searches failed. Asking for advice on cycle-touring forums failed (this got some recommendations, but none with availability for my dates). I finally met with success by resorting to the old-fashioned approach: phoning the Dutch Tourist Board.

A fellow CycleChat member, Martin, had very kindly lent me two 50,000:1 maps that covered our route and showed cycle-paths. These were to prove invaluable.

I put the ride up on the London Cycling Meetup, as well as a post on CycleChat, and got one other taker: an Italian rider called Tiz.

The second-trickiest part of the challenge was packing! I always travel light anyway, but the Radical podbags are not large, and one of them is already filled with cycling gear (tools, spares and waterproofs). This left me with one small-ish bag for five days' clothing, toiletries and, of course, gadgets. I compromised on three days' clothing and doing laundry at the hotel.


Since our ferry wasn't until quarter to midnight, we had the luxury of a late start. We thus set off at noon. The weather was perfect!

Tiz was on a road bike (coincidentally, the same model I'd very briefly owned), so her luggage was all in a backpack:

I thought a study in contrasts between UK and Dutch cycle paths might prove interesting. The first cycle path on the UK side was a few miles from me, and lasted for about half a mile:

Though the route I'd plotted was on backroads as much as possible (and yes, I do know I still have the LEJOG lettering on the fairing - it's on the to-do list ...).

I'd planned the first stop at somewhere in the 15-20 mile range. Backroads are great, but you can go surprising distances without seeing any signs of civilisation, so when we reached Maldon at 15 miles, we decided it was a good idea to stop for lunch.

I'd bought a new bulletcam system for work, and thought it might add something to cycle blogs to include a few video clips. I set it up in the cafe so I could do a few test-clips en-route to Harwich before using it in earnest in the Netherlands.

One of the great things about the VIO system is it includes every possible mounting system, including one that proved ideal for a baseball cap. :-)

Duly refreshed, back on the road:

And our second UK cycle path:

Which skirted half a roundabout and then dumped you back on the road at the exit:

One urban area couldn't be avoided: Colchester.

The far side had a 50mph dual-carriageway, though with a shared-use path alongside:

For about half a mile, when it petered out into a pavement. As it was uphill, we opted to be naughty.

At 36 miles, it felt like time for afternoon tea.

A bonus of a night ferry, is that we were in no hurry at all, so could make our stops very relaxed one, with plenty of time for eating, digesting and, of course, several cups of tea.

Then back on the road:

Part of the route was on one of the National Cycling Routes. For the benefit of any Dutch readers, this does not, as you might imagine, mean cycle paths, just quieter roads whose bumpiness is illustrated by the blurriness of this snap:

But very pretty roads:

A 'Road Closed' sign with diversions always poses a bit of a dilemma for cyclists: you have no idea how long the diversion might be, and more often than not the closed section is navigable by bicycle. We chanced it, and were rewarded by our own private section of road with just a few holes.

We reached Harwich at 52 miles, and first went to check out the port. As I'd suspected, it was the usual windswept place with nowhere appetising to eat. We thus headed off to a nearby pub, where we found a table with a view of the cycles (it was starting to get a little chilly for al fresco dining by this time).

We weren't incredibly hungry, so opted to share a starter and a pudding - supplemented by some red grape juice, of course ...

And thence to the ferry:

Tiz's bike was strapped in place, while I just put the handbrake on and the deckhands produced a pair of chocks:

This was a very new ferry, and the cabins were very plush: a bottom bunk that was about midway in size between a single bed and a double one, and a single bunk above. Small desk and stool, en-suite loo & shower, and a huge porthole. And unlike standard-class rail sleepers, you don't have to share.

And for true civilsiation, free wifi!

Though, bizarrely, you still needed a voucher to access it.

It turned out that a friend had spotted us en-route:


A combination of the ride and the grape-juice meant I slept very well indeed, though wasn't terribly impressed by being woken by a PA announcement at 06:45 which was merely attempting (without success) to sell me breakfast.

But peering bleerily out of the window, there appeared to be Netherlands out there.

We declined the on-board breakfast, figuring that we'd find something nicer en-route.

We wanted cycle path LF1 (the North Sea Route), and initially finding it appeared very simple: almost as soon as we rode out of the port, we spotted this sign.

Unfortunately that was about the only cycle route sign we saw for some time, and the path we'd been pointed to was gradually doing a U-turn.

I had no familiarity with the route to Amsterdam, but was of the opinion that the sea belonged on the left. The path appeared not to share this view.

We consulted a map by the side of the path, but it was only further confusing us.

While I cycled round checking other signs, Tiz accosted a random Dutchman who kindly gave us directions that sounded a little unlikely (basically keep heading in the wrong direction for half a mile or so) but turned out to be correct.

The path itself was looking quite promising:


Finally the geography aligned itself with the sun and the sea and we were off on what was undeniably the North Sea Route in the correct northward direction.

We passed a great many greenhouses:

We were flagged-down alongside one of these by a cameraman. He was making some programme for a Dutch TV channel and wanted to film us. Would we mind going back a bit and then riding towards him? It would have been rude to refuse, so we duly did our best impression of intrepid cyclists battling the elements, or whatever it was he wanted. He checked the footage and seemed happy.

I shall add appearing on some unknown Dutch TV programme to my list of obscure claims to fame.

Having got ourselves pointed in the right direction, item 2 on the agenda was finding a cash-machine, and item 3 a cafe. We found a coffee-shop, but it was closed. A local directed us into a small town, but expressed doubts at us finding much open before 11am. He thought we might find a bakery that served coffee and pastries, and we assured him that would do nicely.

Even the residential roads had clearly deliniated cycle paths:

Cash-machine and bakery were indeed found, and tea (the Englishman), coffee (the Italian woman) and tasty items of dubious nutritional value were consumed.

Then back to the North Sea Route, aka LF1a, which was spectacular:

Before long, we reached Den Haag:

The one weakness of the LF1 route we'd found so far was that it sort of dumped you at one end of a town and then left you to your own devices until you managed to pick it up again at the far end. Keeping the sea to our left didn't quite prove sufficient navigational principle, and a dead-end or two were explored.

But then we were back among the dunes.

And, later, trees.

Another town (from memory, this one was Scheveningen), more zen navigation.

I'm not sure what this was:

Once more, we resorted to keeping the sea on our left:

And did a U-turn at the end of the exceedingly long beach car-park:

I have to confess that at this stage we cheated and consulted the map. This told us we should be heading for a park, so we added 'look for trees' to our 'keep the sea on our left' guideline. The combination of the two navigational principles did the trick, putting us back on the LF1.

Tiz was amused at my patented 'balance the camera on my head facing backwards and shooting blind' trick.

The next section was on a diagonal brick surface. The trike vibrated like crazy at any speed over about 8mph, so I was not especially impressed when it continued like that for miles.

Especially when junctions were marked by speed-bumps.

But riding slowly wasn't such a hardship in such scenery, so we just slowed to the pace of the locals.

It was a sunny Saturday, so families were out in force.

The scenery grew gradually less sand-duney and more wooded.

20 miles in, we stopped for brunch. I'll admit that nutritional content wasn't absolute priority.

We were now far enough up the coast that we needed to figure out at what point to turn right to head across to Amsterdam. We consulted Martin's maps.

Our hotel was in the south of the city, so we didn't want to go too far north. We decided to turn right at Noordwijk and then hope to spot signs to Sassenheim. As our hotel was in the south part of Amsterdam, we figured that passing by Schipol had to be a reasonable route, and hopefully low-flying aircraft would make that an easy-to-find landmark.

We were back into sand-dune territory now.

I was amused that bends were sign-posted, and wondered how fast you'd have to be cycling to need them.

The next town was Katwijk, where they'd very kindly laid on a marching-band to mark the occasion of our arrival.

Though the ceremonial guard was tasked with ensuring that there was no slacking on our part.

Onward aand northward, then.

Noordwijk presented the usual navigational challenge, coupled to the fact that this was where we needed to turn right.

I programmed the next town into my GPS, and although it would try to take us there by road, I was expecting most cycle paths to follow the roads, which did indeed prove to be the case.

I was surprised at one point to see a UK-style cycle path, complete with pinch-points:

But then realised that if we crossed the road, there beyond the hedgrow was the real path:

We spotted some flower pickers, and one of them helpfully held up a bunch when I asked if I could take his photo.

And then we were at Sassenheim. All was going to plan.

Unlike UK cycle routes, which deviate from the shortest route by miles, Dutch ones just parallel the main roads, up to and including motorways. Sometimes directly alongside:

Other times a short distance away:

Some sections were gorgeous:

Others rather more utilitarian:

The path ended at one point, and we couldn't spot where it picked up again. We decided we were happy enough on the roads, but it seems Dutch drivers aren't. This is the one downside I'd found to the cycle paths: drivers expect you to be on them. With the help(!) of a gesticulation from a driver, I spotted a cut-through to the approved cycling route, though my signalling to Tiz left something to be desired. No Bianchis or Trices were harmed in the making of this incident.

The cycle route was indeed an improvement.

We were now going to be following the river for quite some time, before cutting up to Schipol.

Delightful as the riverside route was, it was distinctly lacking in cafes! As the day was going to be around 60 miles in all, and we'd stopped at 21 miles, I'd planned the next stop at somewhere around the 42-mile mark, but 42 miles came and went, as did 45 miles and then 48. I'd earlier joked to Tiz that if we couldn't find anything else, we could always eat at the airport. I really shouldn't joke about such things.

Our refreshment break was at one of the airport hotels.

Duly refreshed, we headed under the runway for the last 10 miles to the hotel.

I felt it obligatory to have a photo in front of the windmill, but the windmill was feeling shy and positioned itself in front of the sun.

The final ten miles were feeling like really hard work. I thought I was just tired, and I was ... but mentally rather than physically: I'd left the handbrake on! Doh. My speed doubled when I took it off.

Following the roads in Amsterdam itself was working less well, especially when roadworks forced a bike path diversion totally unsuited to trikes:

I then realised that switching the GPS into off-road mode (where it just pointed directly to our final destination) was the sensible approach, and we were then able to follow whatever cycle path went in the right direction. This was a vast improvement.

The final section was directly through a park.

And then we were there! 62 hot but highly enjoyable miles.

We'd booked the hotel on the basis of secure parking for our bikes. This was in the garden, which was fine for Tiz's bike:

But as this involved cutting through the kitchen and several narrow doorways, the extremely friendly and helpful receptionist suggested that I simply park the trike in reception! This did require a small amount of creativity.

And that was London to Amsterdam (ok, ok, Wickford to Amsterdam) ticked off. :-)

We unpacked, showered and then went for a rather lovely dinner. I felt that wine followed by single malt was the appropriate way to celebrate the ride and ensure a good night's sleep.


Tiz, with her heavy rucksack, was feeling the strain more than me, so she opted to start the day with a massage at a local spa while I headed out to cycle round the city, and then we'd switch to trams and walking.

I started with the local park.

Where it was clearly family cycling day. One of the kids is hidden behind his dad, but this bike had three kids!

I'm not quite sure where dad fitted on.

The methods of transporting kids on bikes were many and varied.

Another great thing about Holland: no paranoia about photos of kids. Every parent I asked smiled and said yes.

There were a great many rental bikes in evidence:

And while you could see every type of bike imaginable in the city, most were the classic Dutch bike.

Tiz's massage had obviously done the trick, and she now declared herself fit for cycling again, so we spent the day riding around the city in a relatively aimless fashion.

I advised Tiz that my tea-guage was almost on empty, so we stopped to refuel.

(Once more, tea for the Englishman and coffee for the Italian woman.)

Dinner was sadly disappointing: a rather snazzy-looking bar-cum-Chinese restaurant which had extremely decorative waitresses but poor service and very bland food. Ah well, can't win 'em all.


Tiz had decided she wasn't up for riding back from Amsterdam to the Hook of Holland, so wanted to spend the day in the city then catch an evening train to the port. I wanted to do a bit of riding, but figured that 62 miles on my own might leave something to be desired, so came up with a plan B. While Tiz stayed in the city, I'd catch a train down to Rotterdam, explore the city a bit and then cycle from there to the port (about 20 miles).

First I needed to check that the trike would be ok on the train to Rotterdam. The ticket staff seemed dubious but sold me a ticket anyway, and it turned out not to be a problem.

A Dutch boy wanted to try it for size, and then his sister wanted a go too:

The weather in Rotterdam was dry but very uninspiring light.

I nipped into the toourist office, told them I had an afternoon to spend there, and asked what I should see. They gave me a map of a recommended circular route, which I duly followed.

Rotterdam is a very different place from Amsterdam.

But has some funky architecture.

Including the famous cube houses (I'd been wanting to see those for some time):

Following the waterside has a few obstacles along the way.

I was a bit peckish, and opted for a nice, healthy banana (which they served with a bit of garnish).

The city loop completed, I decided to meander gently towards Hook of Holland and just stop off anywhere interesting-looking along the way. In contrast with Friday's journey, this one was extremely well sign-posted.

This was also part of LF1 (LF1a, indeed), but couldn't really compare for scenery.

Then it was farewell to Rotterdam.

The first half of the journey was entirely urban.

Though with the occasional interesting building.

Including a better chance for my windmill shot:

Though asking a passing mum to take the same photo with me in the trike was less successful: she managed to photograph a lot of pavement and only half a windmill.

Sign-posting continued to be excellent.

Things then got rather more desolate.

There was a pretty strong headwind at this point, but I had all afternoon to ride the short-ish distance, so it wasn't an issue.

My camera switched itself into b&w mode without me noticing, a rather irritating habit it has and which I really must cure with the aid of gaffa-tape. I passed someone doing a decent pace on a handcycle trike.

It wasn't the ideal time for the camera to be shooting b&w, as things were just starting to get more scenic.

Time for tea (and to notice my camera was on b&w).

A local itinerant noticed the biscuit that came with the tea and asked whether I could spare a crumb or two. I told him to quack off.

A very funky church, which appeared to be stretched canvas over a metal framework.

Please could some Dutchie explain why these are everywhere?

The previously excellent signs petered-out, and I got directions from a couple of locals. The scenery then got increasingly bleak and industrial as the path followed the waterfront to the port.

And then a sign for the ferry.

I arrived at the port several hours early, so went for a snack and a chat with some of the others waiting, including a group from a Honda CB1100R owners club, who were quite interested in the trike.

I also met a couple of fellow TRICE owners but neglected to take a photo.

The ferry boarded very early, which was nice. Unfortunately the contrast with the outbound journey wasn't good. The marshalling staff were hopeless, pointing me in contradictory directions; I had to go in search of my own chocks; my cabin key didn't work; the wifi was up & down like a lady of negotiable virtue's intimate apparel; and the customer service staff didn't appear familiar with the concepts of either 'customer' or 'service'.

Ah well, the Australian Shiraz was functional.

The ferry was an older model, and it showed in the small touches: square window, two single bunks - and no wifi in the room!

Tiz arrived on the train later, and we met in the bar for a drink, and to bid farewell to the Nertherlands ... for now. I shall definitely be back for a longer cycling holiday another time.

My camera battery had almost perfect timing: it died after taking the above photo (I'd expected it to last the five days, so hadn't brought a charger with me given the limited packing space).


We were again woken an hour early by the annoying breakfast PA announcement.

The original plan had been to ride back home. We set off to do so, but the heavens soon opened and, six miles in, it was absolutely bucketing down. We decided a strategic retreat was in order, so turned around and rode the six miles back to Harwich before breakfast at a cafe and the train home.

A most enjoyable break - I can't wait to get back there for another trip. In the meantime, I'd better plan that London to Paris ride ...