Merijn Heijne | Mapmeisters

Climbing in the Netherlands – six cycle routes to make your legs burn

Michel Bouman

Climbing in the Netherlands – six cycle routes to make your legs burn

Road Cycling Collection by Merijn Heijne | Mapmeisters

The highest point in the Kingdom of the Netherlands is Mount Scenery, which towers 887 metres (2,910 feet) on the Caribbean island of Saba. Everyone knows that, don't they? Maybe it’s actually better known that the Vaalserberg, a hill in the province of Limburg is the highest point in the (European) Netherlands, standing at 322.4 metres (1,058 feet).

Limburg, on the southeasternmost edge of the country, is the only province in the Netherlands that has real mountains. It’s great to cycle up and over the hills here. Although with gruelling gradients that reach well over 20 percent, it can be surprisingly hard. Yes, we’re thinking of the especially steep hill – Keutenberg! In other regions in the Netherlands, things can get a little tougher. You probably know of a challenging viaduct nearby, a mean bridge, or a sneaky, steep climb up to a dike.

I really enjoy climbing, but in our flat country, that’s not always easy. My friends from other countries laugh about the fact that I can ride more than 100 kilometres (62 miles) without collecting more than 100 metres (328 feet) in altitude difference. They can’t imagine such a thing possibly happening where they live. They’re also surprised that some short climbs in the Netherlands really do have the word ‘mountain’ in their names, such as Amerongse Mountain, Grebbe Mountain, and VAM Mountain. Wouldn’t a hill, hump, or bump be a more accurate description?

Sure, we can’t compare our ‘ascents’ with the world-famous Hors Catégorie routes. We can’t ride uphill for dozens of kilometres to 2000-metre (6,560 feet) peaks. But, nevertheless, there are plenty of routes in the Netherlands which train your calves properly: from beautiful cycle paths through dunes, to transformed rubbish heaps, and paved climbs with magnificent views.

In this Collection, I have compiled six routes across the Netherlands that will make your calves burn. You may encounter some cobblestones and/or gravel, but even these sections are easy to ride on a road bike with 25-millimetre tyres. The start and finish points are easy to reach and close to a train station or car park. On the way, you’ll find plenty of places to stop for food and drink to keep up your energy.

On The Map

Tours & Highlights

    Intermediate
    03:18
    54.0 mi
    16.4 mph
    2,725 ft
    2,725 ft
    Intermediate road ride. Good fitness required. Some portions of the Tour may be unpaved and difficult to ride.

    To get straight to the point, this is one of my favorite cycling places in the Netherlands. You can climb and descend here all day long without hardly repeating yourself. In longer tours you can easily reach more than 1,000 vertical meters. In this Tour I stay below that, but rest assured, the trip is still beautiful and challenging.You start from on top of the Posbank, the most famous point of the Veluwezoom. According to some even the most beautiful summit in the Netherlands. The view on top is great too. In good weather you can look out over the IJssel valley, the Achterhoek and even far into Germany. And when the heather is in bloom and turns purple, it is teeming with photographing day trippers.The Posbank is named after a stone monument (1921), erected in honor of Mr G.A. Pos, former chairman of the ANWB. He was an enthusiastic advocate of cycle paths and clear signage. We are very grateful to Mr Pos for this, I dare say. Partly thanks to him, we enjoy this environment.You start the Tour with a descent on a beautiful, wide road to De Steeg. You can also opt for the cycle path here, but the road is just as convenient. Once down you cycle past beautiful, stately houses and you feel that it slowly starts to rise. You cycle into the forest and the road just keeps going up. This is the climb of Rozenbos. Not very long, but very beautiful. Especially when you cycle through the earthen walls under the high pedestrian bridge.Via the north side of Dieren it is with a detour back to the Posbank via picturesque roads through the woods. It mainly runs up and down here. The forest opens here and there for beautiful views of the heath and surrounding area. You then cycle straight through the Veluwezoom on somewhat narrower cycle paths - usually concrete, sometimes a shell path, but easy to do on a racing bike.Once in Arnhem it also goes up considerably from time to time. That takes strength, to be sure. But what goes up must also go down again. In short, you sometimes go down at a brisk pace. Be careful, especially in the busier areas.From Oosterbeek, connoisseurs probably already know what's to come: the successive climbs of the Holleweg, Boerberg and the famous hairpin bends of the Italian road, a fascinating clinker climb through the forest. The pebbles in both the climb and the slightly uneven descent can be slippery in wet weather. Be careful on the spot.After this detour it is time to set course again towards the Posbank. You are now about 60 kilometers from this Tour. Still more than 40 kilometers to go with plenty of climbs. After Oosterbeek it keeps going up and down continuously. You cycle past Burgers' Zoo back to the real climbing work at Rozendaal, including the Emma Piramide. At least that is what it is popularly called, because officially it is called the Bovenallee here.After a fast, winding descent it goes up again challenging via the Zijpenberg. After another flaming descent it is time for the last ascent of the day, back to the top of the Posbank. If you have some energy left, you can certainly use it here. Forza!

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    Intermediate
    04:12
    55.0 mi
    13.1 mph
    1,825 ft
    1,825 ft
    Intermediate road ride. Good fitness required. Some portions of the Tour may be unpaved and difficult to ride.

    Nijmegen, the renowned student city on the Waal. Famous for the Vierdaagse and Zevenheuvelenloop, major events with tens of thousands of participants. But did you know that you can also enjoy cycling in and around Nijmegen? You are so out of the city and into nature. From vast polders to grueling climbs and a tough trip to Germany.You start this Tour at the sports center of Radboud University. Easy to reach by car or train (Nijmegen-Heyendaal station or a few minutes by bike from Nijmegen-Central). You have not yet left the site or the road is already slightly uphill. To get into it a bit because you have to (may!) Climb quite hard from the start today.You cycle to Beek through the forests of Heilig Landstichting. Via the lightning-fast descent of the Van Randwijckweg you enter the built-up area. And then you quickly turn left onto the Nieuwe Holleweg. If you are here for the first time, chances are that you think that the Holleweg is not that bad. But this is the Nieuwe Holleweg, which turns into the grueling Oude Holleweg. Don't be surprised, switch back on time and keep pedaling up to (and including) the hotel at the top. If you are not out of breath here, it may not be too late to become a cycling pro. Most cyclists, however, have to pause here and recover from the short hell of just now.Even if you don't stop, take a breath, get enough oxygen in your lungs because two more challenging climbs are coming soon. You first descend between the trees and villas of Berg en Dal and Ubbergen. Then it is suddenly sharp to the left, up the vowels of the Ubbergse Holleweg. Again, the motto is: standing still is harder than pedaling. Keep giving to the top. The same applies a few kilometers later for the Beekmansdalseweg. Hold on!You can catch your breath during the descent to the center of Nijmegen. Once out of the city, you cycle peacefully through the beautiful nature of the Ooijpolder. It is flat, but it can be quite windy. You have barely covered 30 kilometers and you have already climbed a lot, got a breath of fresh air and hopefully enjoyed beautiful views?It is time to start climbing again. You do that in Germany because after about 28 kilometers you are already abroad. After the stork village of Zyfflich, you can get back on the pedals at Wyler for the tough climbing combination of Vogelsang and Hohldörn. Once at the top, turn right, you are now back in the Netherlands. However, the climbing continues for a while on the Duivelsberg. And it goes on and on because now it is the turn of the Zevenheuvelenweg again. It goes up and down here, try to take your speed of descent into the short climbs. That saves a lot of energy going uphill.After a lightning-fast descent you cycle back to Germany. You now cycle through the meadows and small villages along the impressive Reichswald. Here you take the Kartenspielerweg, a long and beautifully sloping road through the woods. You will then be back in the Netherlands fairly quickly, where you will be treated to beautiful views of the Maas.You are not finished yet today, there is also enough climbing venom in the tail of this Tour. After the water-rich village of Plasmolen you cycle through the flat fields, but you also quickly go uphill to Grafwegen. You cycle here via a small piece of Limburg right along the border with Germany back to Gelderland.Via the challenging altimeters of Klein Amerika - one of my "guilty pleasures" when it comes to short climbs in the Netherlands - you set course to Groesbeek. There is still some false flat waiting for you. Slowly but surely you cycle through the beautiful cycle path from the forests in the Dekkerswald back to the sports center in Nijmegen.

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  • Intermediate
    04:29
    64.3 mi
    14.4 mph
    950 ft
    950 ft
    Intermediate road ride. Good fitness required. Some portions of the Tour may be unpaved and difficult to ride.

    On to Drenthe, perhaps the cycling province of the Netherlands. In this Tour of more than 100 kilometers, the altitude is not too bad, but you will climb one of the newest "mountains" in the Netherlands: the VAM mountain, or the Col du VAM with a height of no less than 4,800 centimeters above sea level.You start the Tour in Hoogeveen. You leave the city in a northwestern direction to Ruinen and Ruinerwold. It is wonderful to cycle on the quiet roads in Drenthe. Over asphalt, pavers and cycle paths. Straight through forests, then again between the meadows on picturesque country roads along the farms.At Havelte you turn onto the heath, this is the beautiful Holtingerveld. The cycle paths are excellent, but are sometimes on the narrow side. So do not cycle over this with large groups. That is good for yourself and any oncoming traffic. Along the way you will pass burial mounds and hunebeds. You may also get some gravel under the tires, but that is no problem here, not even on the racing bike.After this beautiful nature reserve, you can once again enjoy the roads of Drenthe in the direction of National Park Dwingelderveld. Just north of Ruinen you pass through the hamlet of England, you might see it on the street signs? The De Zaandplatte windmill, proclaimed the most beautiful windmill in Drenthe in 2007, is a suitable place for a short stop here.One of the most beautiful cycle paths in Drenthe, the Commissaris Cramerpad, starts near Kraloo. You are now cycling straight through the Dwingelderveld again. Understandably, it can be busy on weekends, but on quiet days you sometimes have the whole area to yourself. The cycle path also brings you close to the large telescopes, which are located here on the heath, such as the unmissable Dwingeloo Radio Telescope with a diameter of 25 meters. There are also interesting information boards on radio astronomy next to the cycle path.At Beilen you reach the most northerly point of the Tour. Via the kilometer-long and narrow gravel path along the almost straight Linthorst Homankanaal, which is also great for racing bikes, you cycle near the village of Drijber in the direction of the climb of the day: the VAM mountain. In 2020 this was still the challenging backdrop for the National Cycling Championships.This 'col' on a former rubbish tip - VAM stands for Vuil Afvoer Maatschappij - can be climbed in three ways. I have included them all three consecutively in this Tour. You start fairly quietly from the outside with the first climb. After the descent you climb the really steep side. Brace yourself for this second, very steep climb. Shift down in time and get the right light gear uphill.The third and final climb is comparable to the first time uphill, but this time with a real cobblestone strip as the final part. Or flint strip, because that is how cobblestones are called in Drenthe. Once at the top, you deservedly enjoy the view and it is time for the "mandatory" selfie at the Col du Vam sign. After all this climbing violence it is still about 15 kilometers back to Hoogeveen through the woods and on quiet roads.

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    Intermediate
    02:29
    39.9 mi
    16.1 mph
    900 ft
    900 ft
    Intermediate road ride. Good fitness required. Some portions of the Tour may be unpaved and difficult to ride.

    This may be the shortest Tour of this Collection, but that only means that all the climbing fun is packed even closer together. We start this Tour at the parking lot at the Zeeweg in Overveen, near Haarlem. This is also where the visitor center of National Park Zuid-Kennemerland is located.You cycle west to the North Sea, to the beach and dunes of Bloemendaal aan Zee. And whether the summer sun is shining warm or whether there is a fresh autumn wind, this is always a wonderful place to cycle. Since you have only cycled 3.5 kilometers, it may be a bit quick to sit down at one of the beach bars, but hey, start slowly with coffee or tea, why not?You cycle on beautiful, good cycle paths through the beautiful dunes, along the Zandvoort circuit on your right. This road is a good - and if you ask me much nicer - alternative to the sometimes busy boulevard between Bloemendaal and Zandvoort. After this cycle path you will eventually go to Zandvoort, where you cycle along the beach and sea until you enter the dunes again via the Zuiderduinpad.This path takes you along and through the Amsterdamse Waterleidingduinen, a beautiful nature reserve. Definitely go there for a nice walk. You leave North Holland here and cross over to South Holland. On quiet days you can race through the dunes here, but on nice days, especially on weekends, it is very busy. Watch out, take each other into account. After all, an accident has happened in no time and that is always much faster than its recovery takes.At Strandafrit 27 you turn 'inland', away from the sea and beach. You have now cycled 20 kilometers but have already seen a lot, hopefully some deer and other animals? If not, there is a good chance that you will see it here at Langevelderslag, especially on quiet days in the early morning or in the afternoon. Via Ruigenhoek and De Zilk you set course in a northerly direction. The beautiful Waterleidingduinen are now on your left.You cycle through the beautiful fields past Landgoed Vogelenzang and via the beautiful cycle path through Woestduin to Aerdenhout. Here you climb the Kopje van Aerdenhout, a small harbinger of the upcoming famous Kopje van Bloemendaal. Through the forests of Koningshof and Landgoed Elswout you are at Overveen on the Hoge Duin and Daalseweg, this is the way to the climb.Ah, the legendary Kopje! Where former world champion Gerrie Knetemann rode his famous 'eighties' to train. And you will also be cycling an "eight" today. You take the Kopje from all sides and climb it no less than three times in a row. Yes, that will take strength! Because it is up over the Hoge Duin and Daalseweg.
    At the top, bounce the vowels up to the top. Here is the famous letterbox, the landmark of the Kopje. Curious about the story behind this letterbox, then you have to stop here. This is because it is on the letterbox itself. Then you descend, back to the beginning. And then it is, go, up this beautiful road again. At the top you now descend the other way. At the bottom, turn left back up the climb. Squeeze out everything that is left in you. Come on, you can, go, go, go!
    Did you enjoy Het Kopje? If you have any energy left, go for a fourth and final climb. Then choose the steepest side, that's up the Koninginneweg, which you have just descended three times.Well done, it is time to relax and cycle slowly. The radiant dunes are ideal for this, although they can sometimes rise steeply. Behind the Bloemendaal sports fields you cycle along the Bergweg again through the quiet dunes.Via Santpoort and Driehuis you skim along the south side of IJmuiden. Here you take the beautiful bike path of the Drieduinenweg for the last ten kilometers straight through the National Park back to the starting point.

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    Intermediate
    03:42
    61.2 mi
    16.5 mph
    1,625 ft
    1,625 ft
    Intermediate road ride. Good fitness required. Some portions of the Tour may be unpaved and difficult to ride.

    You start this Tour at the foot of the 'Almighty' Amerongse Berg, the famous climb on the Utrechtse Heuvelrug. However, I will keep the ascent of the steep side for you for a while, it will only come at the end.From cycling café De Proloog you leave for Leersum. You cycle along the stately estate Broekhuizen via a number of quiet, leafy roads. Under the trees and along the meadows you arrive at the snow-white castle Sandenburg, where you set course to the first ascent of the day: the Ruiterberg. This gentle climb through the Kaapse Bossen is on good asphalt. Local cyclists often take the Ruiterberg in combination with the Hoogstraat and you do that today too.After a fast descent it is soon back up on a beautiful and straight road through the forest. You seem to be able to see the top of this climb quickly, but make no mistake. It secretly goes further than you think. After the descent - watch out when crossing the road - you cycle on the unpaved Bremweg to the Hel van Leersum, a somewhat hidden and challenging clinker climb past the cemetery. You continue this Tour via the short, but possibly unexpected steep climb to the lookout tower of the Lomboklaan in Leersum.You cycle north to Scherpenzeel on beautiful asphalt and through the woods. Here you take the Jaagpad, a nice cycle path along the water of the Valleikanaal. At De Groep you seem to be cycling straight into the yard of a farm, but this is really the regular cycle path. So just keep pedaling, the road continues. In Veenendaal you are about halfway through the Tour. When you have cycled out of the built-up area here, take the cycle path along the water again.After about eight kilometers you arrive at the foot of the Grebbeberg, a steep climb over a new, unfortunately somewhat narrow cycle path. On top you come to the Military Field of Honor Grebbeberg. This is the final resting place of more than 400 Dutch soldiers who were killed in May 1940 in the battle for the southernmost part of the Grebbe line. After the descent past Ouwehand Zoo it goes up again, over the beautiful winding road of the Lorseleberg.Once past the village of Achterberg you cycle through the dark woods on sloping roads over the Autoweg and Defensieweg. The combination of these two roads under the trees is really a must for cyclists. And it doesn't stop with all the beauty of the Utrechtse Heuvelrug. The Let de Stigterpad is already presenting itself, one of the most beautiful cycle paths in the Netherlands as far as I am concerned. This path winds through the trees, it is really enjoyable here.Back in Veenendaal, you cycle on a narrow but beautiful cycle path along the A12. And then it is finally time for the climb in this area: the Amerongse Berg. The Heuvelse Steeg changes into the Bergweg, the beautiful, steeply ascending asphalt road that runs straight through the woods. This is the northern, steep climb. It is only a few minutes of climbing, but you can go all the way here. Do that too! Because after the descent - until the roundabout at the bottom - you can quickly reminisce about this Tour at De Proloog.

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    Intermediate
    03:16
    59.7 mi
    18.3 mph
    1,125 ft
    1,125 ft
    Ferry
    Intermediate road ride. Good fitness required. Some portions of the Tour may be unpaved and difficult to ride. The Tour includes a crossing by ferry.

    This Tour starts in Nijverdal, to be precise in De Sallandse Heuvelrug National Park. In less than 100 kilometers you cycle over heath, through forests, over gravel and the many quiet roads in this beautiful area.You start off unpaved, on the Paltheweg through the forest. Since the success of the Strade Bianche ("white roads") in Tuscany, many small roads in the Netherlands have been called that. I will leave it in the middle for now whether that is entirely correct, but they are certainly beautiful roads to cycle on. Also on a racing bike, although I would recommend at least 25mm tires. And bring an extra inner tube if you have a breakdown and have a puncture.At Haarle you cycle north in the direction of Luttenberg. The first climb of the day already presents itself here via the Bergweg. Well, climb, it's more false flat, but that's up too, isn't it? After this it is uphill, downhill past the amusement park to Hellendoorn. De Regge flows past this village, here you take the cycle path along the water. You cycle further north through the beautiful fields on quiet roads.You have been away from the water for a while, but soon you are cycling again on a beautiful cycle path along the winding Regge. On to the slowly ascending climb of the Lemelerberg, oh so beautifully situated in the forest. And there is the next lateral moraine again, the Archemerberg.After the descent you turn back to the South at Nieuwebrug. You follow the quiet roads along farms and lands. Some roads cannot even be found on Google Street View, how relaxed is that? You keep cycling in a southerly direction, including past the beautiful Wierdense Veld. Just above Rijssen you cross the water of De Regge again with a cute little self-service ferry.Beyond Rijssen you cycle on the edge of the National Park on beautiful cycle paths through the woods. What a peace, this makes cycling so beautiful! Once in Holten the road really goes uphill. The Molenbelterweg changes into the Holterbergweg just before the top of the climb. There are still some cobblestones at the top. Nothing to worry about, but it will make you bounce.There is now a beautiful descent through the forest, but the toughest part of the Holterberg you still have to choose: the Diepe Hel. A beautiful name contributes so much to a nice reputation, because it does not represent much, but it does go up steeply. If you don't downshift in time, you will undoubtedly be "parked" here and you may have to click out or get out. Of course you want to prevent this! Fly or rake up, it doesn't matter, but keep pedaling until you get to the top.Enjoy the panoramic views of the Sallandse Heuvelrug during the descent, especially when the heather is in a beautiful purple bloom. It goes up and down a bit in these last kilometers. Before you know it, you will be back at the starting point at the bottom of Nijverdal.

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Collection Stats

  • Tours
    6
  • Distance
    334 mi
  • Duration
    21:26 h
  • Elevation
    9,125 ft

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Merijn Heijne | Mapmeisters

Climbing in the Netherlands – six cycle routes to make your legs burn