The True 'Hell of the North' — Drentse Keien Cobbles

Road Cycling Collection by erwinsikkens_com

Both Flanders in Belgium and the North of France are famous for their cobbled roads and climbs, a firm favourite in the Spring Classics races. Yet those thinking that these cobbles are the only ones to be ridden are in the wrong...

From the last Ice Age, Drenthe in the North of the Netherlands has been covered in 'keien'. Millions of these smaller boulders - and some much bigger - were carried by the ice all the way from Scandinavia thousands of years ago; spread throughout the landscape ever since.

At the beginning of the last century, the poor population of Drenthe started collecting these stones for a small reward, clearing up the land for farmers and building forestry roads out of them in Drenthe's many new forests.

Skip forward a hundred years and these now forgotten cobbled roads (or keienwegen, flittenwegen as the Drents call them) lie hidden in the Drenthe forests. Some have been forgotten so much that nature has once again taken a hold of them.
Now, I've collected these cobble roads of Drenthe for you. You'll find some in perfect state... and some barely recognizable, but no less beautiful.

Go and make a hellish route out of them yourself, or simply ride my 'Hell of the North - Ultimate cobble tour of Drenthe' route here: komoot.nl/tour/163785747. This Tour will take you on a 112 km (70 mile) ride with more than 40 km (25 miles) of cobblestone roads; a hellish ride that only the riders with a masochistic love for riding cobbles will enjoy.

Either way, enjoy your alternative 'Hell of the North'.
"The real Hell of the North is here, because we're higher up on the map then Paris - Roubaix" - Gerrie Knetemann

On The Map

Tours & Highlights

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    Kasseienstrook (keien cobbles) Ieberen

    Road Cycling Highlight (Segment)

    Leberen is a cobbled section (AKA keienstrook) near the Ieberenplas.

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    Keienstrook (keien cobbles) Zwatte

    Road Cycling Highlight (Segment)

    Zwatte is one of the 'keienstroken' near Schoonloo. Just around the corner there's also 'Tweelingen' and 'Egbertsweg'. Enough to go around and make your bike bounce!

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    Kasseienstrook (keien cobbles) Zwatte

    Road Cycling Highlight (Segment)

    The south part of the Zwatte cobble road (keienweg) is only partially true cobbles, as parts of it are starting to disappear into the ground, covered by so much dirt that those parts can only be described as dirt road.

    Most of it is still decent old cobble road though, with a nice escape avenue on the concrete cycling path next to it. An escape you'll need when exiting the forest, where the cobble road turns into a wild farm-dirt-road-thing.

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    Kasseienstrook (keien cobbles) Steenhopenweg

    Road Cycling Highlight (Segment)

    Steenhopenweg is one of the few keienstroken (cobble sections) that is actually still also a road accessible by cars. Not a busy one of course, as it's nothing more then a road through the forest... only made of keien (flinten in Drents).

    The road itself forms a beautiful old lane surrounded by trees and makes for a beautiful ride with incredible views of some heathers and wetlands along the way.

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    Kasseienstrook (keien cobbles) Voorbosweg

    Road Cycling Highlight (Segment)

    In the forest north of Exloo, there are multiple cobbled sections... but none as long as 'Voorbos'.

    At 3.6 kilometres (2.2 miles), it's no walk in the park. It is a ride in the forest however... a bumpy one. Except for the last part (or the first if you enter it from the north), that's a bumpy ride in the fields! Anyway, prepare for a bumpy ride and you're good to go!

    P.s. There's a sharp rim in the middle of the one corner in this section. Go easy on that one and lift up. I didn't and it broke my saddle, yikes!

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    Kasseienstrook (keien cobbles) Bosrand

    Road Cycling Highlight (Segment)

    Bosrand is a small keienstrook (cobble section) at the edge of Exloo town.

    Its name is quite suitable, as it actually forms the edge of the forest and that's basically what the Dutch word of bosrand stands for. Fancy detail in this section is the 90-degree corner in the middle. Hit it fast, but not too fast!

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    Kasseienstrook (keien cobbles) Meerweg

    Road Cycling Highlight (Segment)

    Meerweg is a beautiful example of a Drenthe village cobbled road. It's short, curvy and nowadays unfortunately rare.

    Meerweg survived the modern times up until today and is a nice little road to throw into your cobbled keien-ride.

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    Kasseienstrook (keien cobbles) Dalakkersweg

    Road Cycling Highlight (Segment)

    Dalakkersweg is a cobble section linking up to a bigger one to the west. It has a small curve in it and even a little bit of gradient. Drentse gradient that is, nothing fancy! There's even a 'Hunnebed' next to Dalakkersweg in the small field just behind the corner.

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    Kasseienstrook (keien cobbles) Exloërzandweg

    Road Cycling Highlight (Segment)

    Exloërzandweg is part of a longer cobbled section (keienweg), linking up to Valthe village in the south and a choice of two other cobbled sections in the north, Valtherzandweg and Dalakkersweg. The latter even has a small gradient and corner in it as an extra element of surprise.

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    Kasseienstrook (keien cobbles) Weerdingerzandweg

    Road Cycling Highlight (Segment)

    This keienstrook (cobble section) is called after a dirt road (Weerdingerzandweg) but is everything but that. It's a mean, clean cobble section, just right up the alley of those with a good sadistic love for the Spring Classics!

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    Hammeersweg used to be all cobbles (keien in Drents) but most of them have disappeared over the years. There's two small sections left of the Hammeersweg cobbles now. This one is in between some old farm houses, and the other one is just around the corner at the edge of town.

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    Hammeersweg used to be all cobbles (keien in Drents) but most of them have disappeared over the years. There's two small sections left of the Hammeersweg cobbles now. This one at the edge of town, and the other one just around the corner, in between some old farm houses.

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    Kasseienstrook (keien cobbles) Schaapstreek

    Road Cycling Highlight (Segment)

    Schaapstreek is something else. It's a long cobbled section through the heather and forest of 'Boswachterij Odoorn' ending up or starting in the village with that same name; Odoorn.

    Schaapstreek is a long one and is named after the sheep grazing in the fields here. You won't have much time for admiring the sheep however, rambling over these 'Drentse keien'.

    Only little break in this section is when you hit the little tunnel under the N-road... but this is only for a short while!

    Also note that there's a small 'cobble' exit half way called Manrhowijk, which leads you out of the forest towards Schoonoord.

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    Kasseienstrook (keien cobbles) Wezup

    Road Cycling Highlight (Segment)

    This cobbled section (AKA keienstrook) with the name Wezup is a truly harsh one. Where other cobble sections in the region are sometimes overgrown with mosses and cracks filled up with sand, this one is so clean you feel every bump and stone... making it even worse than the ones that are bad.

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    Kasseienstrook (keien cobbles) Pieterpad

    Road Cycling Highlight (Segment)

    In the forest next to De Kiel run a couple of cobbled sections or keienstroken as they're called locally.

    This is part of a keienstrook called Pieterpad. At the one end ending up at a crossroads where you can ride straight ahead, finishing this cobble straight, or turning left or right turning into either end of the De Kiel cobble section.

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    Kasseienstrook (keien cobbles) Pieterpad

    Road Cycling Highlight (Segment)

    In the forest next to De Kiel run a couple of cobble sections or keienstroken as they're called locally.

    This is part of a keienstrook called Pieterpad. At the one end it finishes at a crossroads where you can ride straight ahead, or turning left or right turning into either end of the De Kiel cobble section.

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    Kasseienstrook (keien cobbles) De Kiel

    Road Cycling Highlight (Segment)

    In the forest next to De Kiel run a couple of cobbled sections or keienstroken as they're called locally.

    This is part of a keienstrook called De Kiel. At the one end ending up in a crossroads where you can ride straight ahead, finishing this cobble straight, or turning left or right turning into either end of the Sleenderzand cobble section.

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    Kasseienstrook (keien cobbles) Tweelingen

    Road Cycling Highlight (Segment)

    Tweelingen is a long cobble section (keienstrook) in the tweelingen heather fields just south of Schoonloo.

    It has this nice curve to it and links up with cobble sections Zwatte and Egbertsweg.

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    Kasseienstrook (keien cobbles) De Kiel

    Road Cycling Highlight (Segment)

    In the forest next to De Kiel run a couple of cobble sections or keienstroken as they're called locally.

    This is part of a keienstrook called De Kiel. At the one end it finishes at a crossroads where you can ride straight ahead, or by turning left or right you can turn onto either end of the Sleenderzand cobble section.

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    Kasseienstrook (keien cobbles) Egbertsweg

    Road Cycling Highlight (Segment)

    This keienstrook (cobble sectio)n is called Egbertsweg. It's part of more cobble sections in this patch of forest south of Schoonloo. You can easily connect it up with cobble sections Zwatte and Tweelingen.

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    Kasseienstrook (keien cobbles) Sodemorseweg

    Road Cycling Highlight (Segment)

    The Sodemorseweg keienweg (cobbled section) is a nice but short set of cobbles. It used to be longer to the east, but now that part beyond the modern road has disappeared all together and is nothing more than mud. This part however is good and rideable, as far as cobbled roads are at all of course!

    Sodemorseweg links up to 'Staatsbos' in the West, and that's where the real fun begins. Staatsbos is a 6 km (3.7 mile) cobble section. If you hit Staatsbos from Sodemorseweg, you're hitting it about a third of the way in. Go north for another 2 km (1.2 miles) of 'keien' and south for another 4 km (2.4 miles) of 'keien'. It's cobble heaven over here!

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    Kasseienstrook (keien cobbles) Staatsbos

    Bike Touring Highlight (Segment)

    Staatsbos is the longest cobbled section of the Netherlands. At some places it's overgrown with mosses, but still a beauty to ride!

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    Keienstrook (keien cobbles) Gees

    Road Cycling Highlight (Segment)

    One of the main lanes from the Tour of Drenthe.
    Tip. Shift a number of teeth heavier and keep tension on the chain!

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    Tip by
    Jelmer
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    Kasseienstrook (keien cobbles) Col du VAM

    Road Cycling Highlight (Segment)

    Stiff cobbled climb on top of the Col du VAM. There are decades-old cobblestone strips, or rather flints, as the cobblestones are called here throughout Drenthe. This stretch of uphill is of course fairly new, but no less fun. Just give it a try, afterwards it is always much more fun than bumping while cycling.

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