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Fresh air guaranteed – five rides along the Netherlands’ dikes

Edwin Michielsen

Fresh air guaranteed – five rides along the Netherlands’ dikes

Road Cycling Collection by Merijn Heijne | OMSTREKEN

5

Tours

18:31 h

312 mi

2,025 ft

To start things off in a fun and educational way, did you know that our world-famous Afsluitdijk is not actually a real dike at all, but a dam? According to Rijkswaterstaat, a dike separates water from land and a dam separates water from water.

Two more interesting facts about dikes: the oldest dikes in the Netherlands probably date back to the 11th century and every province has at least one type of dike. This is because there are seawater-retaining, river-water-retaining, and inner-water-retaining dikes. Dams, dikes, whatever you want to call them – they are great!

Cycling along a dike, you are guaranteed wide views and lots of wind. You may end up struggling against the weather or free riding at full-speed with a tailwind all the way. Usually, you’ll experience both as you explore the various meandering dikes in our country.

Rijkswaterstaat defines a dike as follows: '... an elevation which is constructed to protect the land behind it against high water and waves'. As the Netherlands largely lies below sea level, there are dikes everywhere. What a stroke of luck for us cyclists! It means that you are guaranteed fresh air throughout the country. I went looking for five of the best routes along dikes in the Netherlands.

In Nijmegen, close to the German border, I skip the beautiful and hilly hinterland, this time sending you along the River Waal. From Nijmegen, you cycle eastwards towards the Millinger Tea Garden. Be sure to stop there for a while, but check the opening hours in advance. From the Millingerwaard, you cross the Waal on a ferry. Across the river, you ride about 30 km (18.6 miles) to the bridge at Ewijk before finishing back in Nijmegen.

In Zeeland, I leave from Terneuzen which lies to the east along the water. You then ride back to the coast, just past Nieuwvliet, via the quiet inland of Zeeland and a few pretty cobblestone streets. A cycle path along the river takes you back to Terneuzen via Breskens.

In Utrecht province, there is no escaping the Lek and the Amsterdam-Rhine Canal. You set off from Culemborg. At Wijk bij Duurstede, you take a ferry to cross the water before traversing the Lek again a little later via the bridge at Vianen after the Verdronken Bos (beautiful name, right?).
In the north, you go on a beautiful Tour from Leeuwarden through Friesland and Groningen. It’s not an Elfstedentocht (‘Eleven cities tour’), although you do sometimes join the famous skating route. At the Wadden Sea, you ride along the coast in the direction of National Park Lauwersmeer. Finally, you cycle through Dokkum and back to Leeuwarden.

From Enkhuizen, you ride straight through North Holland over the West Frisian Circular Dyke (Omringdijk) which is a nice day out, maybe two if you want to take it easy. The Omringdijk, some 125 km (77 miles) long, was formed over the centuries by connecting several short dikes. This is quite handy for us cyclists.

On The Map

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Tours & Highlights

  • Map data © OpenStreetMap contributors
    Difficult
    02:37
    42.8 mi
    16.3 mph
    475 ft
    475 ft
    Ferry
    Expert road ride. Good fitness required. Some portions of the Tour may require you to push your bike. The Tour includes a crossing by ferry.

    Whether you come to Nijmegen by car and park at Kelfkensbos (parking garage), arrive by train or can start immediately by bicycle, you will quickly cycle out of the center of this student city on the Waal. Within a few minutes you have already exchanged the hustle and bustle of the city for the tranquility of nature in the Gelderse Poort. Over the Ooijse Bandijk you cycle along the Oude Waal, a true paradise for birds and bird watchers.

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  • Intermediate
    04:05
    63.4 mi
    15.5 mph
    350 ft
    350 ft
    Intermediate road ride. Good fitness required. Some portions of the Tour may be unpaved and difficult to ride.

    The 1953 flood disaster showed how important dikes are to our country. A lot has happened and improved since then to keep a constant eye on the water levels and hopefully provide timely warnings.This Tour departs from Terneuzen (Zeeuws-Vlaanderen). This city is best reached by car from the north through the Westerscheldetunnel or from the south via Belgium. Terneuzen …

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  • Intermediate
    02:24
    43.8 mi
    18.2 mph
    375 ft
    375 ft
    Ferry
    Intermediate road ride. Good fitness required. Mostly well-paved surfaces and easy to ride. The Tour includes a crossing by ferry.

    "Shall we do a Round of Lek?" This is a fairly normal question for cyclists in the vicinity of Utrecht (city and province). However, it has nothing to do with the desire to replace an inner tube, but everything with the wind through your helmet and beautiful views over the water.This Tour takes you along the Lek and also …

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  • Intermediate
    04:29
    77.1 mi
    17.2 mph
    375 ft
    375 ft
    Intermediate road ride. Good fitness required. Mostly well-paved surfaces and easy to ride.

    Dykes, windmills, skating routes, National Parks, it is all in this Tour of 124 kilometers through Friesland and Groningen. The start is in Leeuwarden, at the Elfstedenhal. From there you cycle in a northwestern direction to the Leeuwarderbos. After the forest you cycle along the Dokkumer Ee (in Frisian: Dokkumer Ie), the towing canal between Leeuwarden and you guessed it: Dokkum.

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  • Intermediate
    04:56
    85.0 mi
    17.2 mph
    450 ft
    450 ft
    Intermediate road ride. Good fitness required. Some portions of the Tour may be unpaved and difficult to ride.

    The West Frisian Omringdijk - the name alone seems to be specifically conceived for cyclists - is a 126-kilometer-long dike, created by the coupling of several short dikes. The West Friesland region has a long tradition of building dikes to keep areas dry or wet. In the beginning, as early as the tenth century, it concerned short and low dikes.

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Collection Stats

  • Tours
    5
  • Distance
    312 mi
  • Duration
    18:31 h
  • Elevation
    2,025 ft

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Fresh air guaranteed – five rides along the Netherlands’ dikes