All about cycling in the Netherlands
The debate is still ongoing about what is more annoying: Dutch head winds or hills. I’m not sure yet either, but I do know now what is worst: riding uphill against a Dutch head wind on a heavy single-speed back pedal brake rental bicycle. One for the category: don’t try this yourself!
I’ve shown you some of the Dutch hills around Nijmegen earlier. That time I took the Van Randwijckweg in Berg en Dal which has a maximum incline of 9.6%. I was holding my camera in my hand on that occasion and there is no way you can cycle up (or down) a hill that steep, one-handed, on an single speed OV-fiets (rental bike) with a back pedal brake, safely. So for that video I just filmed other people struggling uphill, or enjoying the downhill ride. The additional problem with hills is that you can’t really see or comprehend their steepness on a video. Everything looks much flatter than it is in reality. However, I got that 360 degree camera recently. That camera is attached to the bicycle and offers 3D images if you watch the result via VR-glasses. This – I hoped – would solve both problems. In an attempt to better convey the fact that the Netherlands does have some hills I decided to do an experiment. This involved cycling the road from Groesbeek to Nijmegen. Not just any road. This road is called “Zevenheuvelenweg” which means Seven Hills Road. And yes, the road lives up to its name…
I wasn’t alone. I had my partner with me. We had visited family in Nijmegen and from their home we then cycled to Groesbeek via Malden. That ride is almost flat and after being on the fast cycle route to Mook/Molenhoek (The Maas-Waalpad which I showed you earlier) for a big part, our route then took us alongside the old abandoned railway line (going from Nijmegen to Cleves in Germany), mostly between hills. The ride from Groesbeek back to Nijmegen station (where we had rented our OV-Fietsen) is exactly 10 kilometres, but we experienced an unfortunate fierce headwind to begin with, and then came the hills… The entire ride involves an ascent of 64 meters and a descent of 95 metres (according to Google). The steepest part is the second hill (Kampheuvel), with a maximum incline of 8.4%. In just 1.2 kilometres you climb 47 metres. We tried to cycle up the hill but that proved just not possible on the bikes we had against the wind we experienced. So at exactly the steepest point (I found out later) I jumped off the bike and walked. I wasn’t alone in that decision, we both pushed our bicycles up the hill for a few hundred metres. Of course, in very clear words (though maybe not the friendliest) I was asked how I could come up with this totally stupid idea of trying to cycle in these hills on a heavy ordinary Dutch bicycle. Well… apparently I underestimated the steepness of the route and overestimated our physical abilities… But after that hill we rode for most of the way again. Down, but also up. Again cursing at the fact that in the countryside you need to give way at side streets at the bottom of the hills which makes you loose all your momentum right before you have to cycle uphill again.
People argue whether there are really seven hills, I read on the internet, and we didn’t count them either, but we did encounter several more. One of the other hills was too much for us as well. So we walked twice for a few hundred metres in total of the entire 10 kilometre ride. Six of the hills are named and those names sound rather impressive when translated into English: Giant hill, Camp Hill, Box Hill, Fourth Mountain, Angels’ Mountain and Devil’s Mountain. (Knotseklef, Kampheuvel, Boksheuvel, Vierenberg, Engelenberg and Duivelsberg). But maybe the Dutch are exaggerating slightly when it comes to bumps in their flat land… Once we had reached the town centre of Berg en Dal (which means Mountain and Valley) it was almost all downhill to Nijmegen. That was very convenient, even in the head wind. I stopped filming when we reached the edge of Nijmegen.
You can watch the video normally on your PC or in 360-degree on your PC and smartphone. If you don’t like the 360 effect just watch it like you normally would: in one direction only. I did find out, however, that the best way to see that we really cycled in hills is by watching the video via VR-glasses. That way you can really see depth in a 3D effect and yes… the Dutch hills finally come alive!
This week’s 360-video: cycling on some Dutch hills.