My last recreational ride

In this post I will show you a recreational ride I took early March 2022. This was my last ride before my open-heart surgery. I didn’t know that at the time I cycled, but five days later I would be in intensive care. When, after the operation, the surgeon found out about this particular cycle tour – 40 kilometres in just over 2 hours – she shook her head and told me, “Considering the state of your aortic valve, much more calcified than we thought, that was absolutely irresponsible”. Fortunately, however, my last recreational ride before surgery did not turn out to be my last ride ever. In fact, this ride was a great morale booster for me.

The first 40 minutes of the ride are alongside this canal, not the most interesting part, but I dedided to cycle that first to have that behind me. If I cycle the tour in reverse this is the last part and that is always boring.

I took this ride on purpose. My own cardiologist had told me it was best to enter surgery in a good condition and cycling would be good to keep my health up. But he didn’t know that my valve was in a much worse state than the tests had shown. It explains that I couldn’t finish the ride without resting, several times in fact, but I think I made the breaks virtually undetectable in the video, apart from the coffee break I had in the cycle café. In the end I guess I was simply lucky that nothing went wrong. My condition did help me in the first weeks after surgery. All things considered I do think it was good I took this ride.

This was completely unexpected and the first time ever I saw a vehicle on this part of the cycle path next to the canal. The van is from a company doing water quality testing, but they did not stop to test any water here. They simply drove back to the nearest road, so I have no idea why they chose to use the cycleway.

A nurse anaesthetist I know personally had advised me to think of something pleasant while the anaesthesia would be administered. Because that positive feeling usually sticks with you until you wake up again. The image at the top of this post was the exact image I had in mind when I lost conscience. These 5 horses in the sand of the dunes of national park Loonse en Drunense Duinen right next to the cycle path, with the blue sky and the two people also enjoying their ride, all coming towards me; I couldn’t think of a better image to fall asleep with! (You can see the scene around the 1:01:20 mark in the video.) My surgeon offered to play music at the same time and since there is only one song on my phone, that was the music that was played out loud in the operating room when I had this thought.

After I left the canal it was a short stretch on quiet rural roads such as this one before I reached the forest.

Thankfully everything went perfectly well. The first words I subconsciously uttered when I woke up again were in English: “I want to sit upright!”. While that amused my partner and the staff it was not possible yet. It clearly demonstrated my impatience, but my official rehabilitation only started this Tuesday (sports in a group under supervision). I am recovering well, so I do expect to be able to take this ride again soon.

Enjoy the ride!

I was certainly not the only one to enjoy the great weather in early March. Many people came to the forest on this Wednesday afternoon.
People of all ages and abilities (note the side-by-side bicycle in the distance) were cycling on the smooth asphalt of the cycle path in the National Park.
This man came in his electric assisted tricycle. You always see many tricycles in the Netherlands.
This fietscafé (cycling café) was a welcome place to stop (again).
I thought I had earned my coffee and a piece of apple pie with whipped cream.
I was surprised on this ride too. This path in the woods had been terrible for years, but since I last used it it had been completely upgraded. This warrants a future blog post!
The ride was filmed on Wednesday 9 March 2022. I started riding when the schools went out (around noon).

I cycled this ride anti-clockwise.

Update 23 May 2022

Jitensha Oni analysed the number and type of people I encountered on this ride.

Tweet by Jitensha Oni.


Below, a picture of me in intensive care.







Five days after the ride, this picture was taken on 14 March, in the Intensive Care Unit of the hospital in Utrecht shortly after my open-heart surgery. Fortunately, I quickly regained consciousness after this picture was taken. I only had to be in intensive care for 5 hours.

14 thoughts on “My last recreational ride

  1. Mark, I commented on a twitter post of yours which you responded to. I had open heart surgery four days before you, my failing mitral valve was replaced with a mechanical one. It’s the second time I’ve had to have surgery , in 2018 I had an operation to close a congenital atrial septal defect which had been misdiagnosed as asthma when I was a child. I also had repairs to my mitral and tricuspid valves.

    As such, I’m all too familiar with heart surgery and the recovery time after. I went on a short bike ride with my daughter at the weekend and it went well. The only problem is that I was on a mountain bike so the riding position is very forward and you put more weight on your arms and chest. My experience is that these take the most time to heal if you’ve had a sternotomy. I’m starting to think that a dutch style bike with a more upright riding position might suit me better. I live in Northampton, UK and there is a reasonable amount of cycling infrastrucure (not up to Dutch standards but better than nothing).

    Good luck with your recovery, it takes time but you’ll soon be back to normal if not better than normal.

  2. Thanks to everyone who wrote something here or as a comment to the YouTube video. Really nice to get so many good wishes! My recovery goes well, but it will take a bit more time.

  3. This post comes at an opportune moment, as I am proposing a shared use path through a local park instead of a large vehicular parkway. Are pedestrians allowed on the bike paths through the National Park?

    1. Yes, pedestrians are always allowed on cycle paths when there are no designated foot paths. That is true for every cycle path, especially in the countryside.

  4. I thought something must have been wrong somewhere, not so many lovely rides on wonderful paths recently… So glad you met your crisis so well and are hopefully on the other side looking forward to trying to ride again, fingers crossed. Very best wishes, Alan Doel

  5. You cannot beat a coffee and apple pie on a Dutch bike ride. That picture prompts so many happy memories.

    I hope your recovery continues speedily and completely.

  6. Diolch am rannu eich stori. Mae ei darllen wedi agor y drws i mi i’ch gwefan ddiddorol. Daliwch ati i feicio ac ysgrifennu.

    Thanks for sharing your story. It has opened the door to your interesting and informative website. In August I cycled up Alpe d’Huez – with stops on many of the corners to ‘enjoy the view’. The following January I started suffering bouts of angina. By March I had been diagnosed with a failing aortic valve and an enlarged heart. I stopped cycling in May; by July short walks were tiring. In August, a year and two weeks after my Alpine climb, I had open-heart surgery and received a new mechanical aortic valve.

    That was 25 years ago to this coming Summer. I have continued to cycle, and enjoyed doing so, since then, – although as I get more lazy I do less! Never made it back to Alpe d’Huez, as I promised myself whilst recovering, but had many other interesting long and challenging rides. It was all, indeed, ‘just a small bump in the road’. Best wishes as you return to cycling the paths.

  7. Thank you for sharing, everyone needs to know the last ride never comes.I did not know 18 months ago that I was dead for 11 minutes, last week I made my first three rides since and I am up to 8 miles.

  8. Mark, I am so glad you are recovering well from your surgery. It’s interesting that you visualized one of your rides as you were going into surgery. I also visualized one of mine when I had surgery. It probably helped.

    I second Ian’s invitation if you come to New York City.

  9. Mark, I am very happy to know that you are well and that the whole open heart “thing” was but a bump on the road of life. I appreciate so much of what you bring to your followers. While I can only speak for myself, your posts bring me back to my happy days living in the Netherlands (Den Haag). The 8 years I lived there were amongst the happiest of my life, as I was with my wife and three young children. Now my youngest are 18, I’ve been back in the US for 13 years and your videos are beautiful reminders of all that the Netherlands has to offer. I look forward to each post you make and am so very glad to know that you will be around for many, many more years to share your love of bicycling, the Netherlands and how the would could be if everywhere was just a little bit more aware of all that the bicycle has to offer. If you ever get to New York City I would be proud and happy to take you for one of my “bike tours” of the City, or of the nearby towns that, I promise you, will surprise you. I wish you good health, long life and as much happiness as you bring to others.

  10. It’s good to hear your surgery went well and you are recovering. I was delighted with the image you chose to keep in mind at the start of your surgical procedure. On the 28th day of my one and only visit to Nederland I started out in Loonse en Drunense Duinen before riding through Tilburg and then to Turnhout. That image of the bike path along the dunes and forest also holds a special place in memory for me. Best wishes for a full and speedy recovery!

  11. This is a beautiful ride and im glad you took it. Likewise glad you will take it again! Impressed at how good you look in intensive care

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.