Read about Katie’s adventures biking through some famous parts of Belgium.
The past 4 weeks my boyfriend, Andrew and I have been fortunate enough to travel throughout Italy, France, Belgium and the Netherlands. We left without a structured plan allowing us to choose our next destination each morning, or decide if we wanted to stay and continue to explore a city we enjoyed. It was an experience of a lifetime where I was able to enjoy the best croissants in Paris, the local cheeses of Belgium and the wines of Tuscany. With a trip of this length both in time and distance, it would have been extremely difficult to travel with our bikes, not to mention the hassle of airlines, fees, and reassembly. Luckily, we were making our way to a hotbed of cycling and we knew that getting in some miles was a guarantee.
Three weeks into the trip when my cycling legs felt atrophied, I was determined to get on a bike. Bound and determined to ride, we researched different options in Belgium. We happened upon the perfect mix of charm, bikes, and a place to stay. The Chainstay is located in the small town of Oudenaarde just south of Gent, Belgium. They focus on hosting cyclocross fanatics, spandex super heroes, and junior riding teams across the world. Oudenaarde is perfect proximity to some of the best riding in Belgium. Luckily for us the tour of Flanders finishes just up the road so we were perfectly positioned to enjoy a mixture of rolling country roads and cobblestones. It’s sure to excite anyone looking for some great riding.
After having secured an excellent dinner we sat down in the common area and met some fun loving Brits who we quickly befriended. I loved nothing more than hearing about their cycling adventures all told with the thickest of British accents. We closed the evening noting our plan for the following morning was to acquire bikes and we said that we’d finalize plans over breakfast. Making our way downstairs we found our group had grown from four to six and they had taken care of planning a perfect route showing us all that Belgium could offer in one ride. Now all we had to do was get our bikes from the shop in the city center and get on our way. The ride leader decided that we would make one of Belgiums famous Burgs the midpoint of our ride. We were going to ride a portion of the old Tour of Flanders course and enjoy the Muur van Geraardsbergen aka ‘De Muur” before breaking for a quick brunch and riding back.
My boyfriend and I are originally from the Midwest and are therefore accustomed to riding through the farms and hills that are so plentiful to that region. Riding in Belgium gave us a small taste of home. The views were spectacular with rolling hills and dark green grass. It was a pleasure to find that a good portion of our ride was on dedicated bike lanes which made us feel safer since we were riding without helmets in true European fashion. Having enjoyed a great meal mid ride we turned home and caught some of Flanders famous rain before heading home for hot showers and more food. One thing that was a bit of a shock to us as major advocates for helmets was seeing very few people wearing helmets. I don’t think I passed a single commuter in Amsterdam, Brussels, or Paris, with a helmet on. Our new friends even laughed at us as we said we felt naked without a helmet.
This experience was one of my favorite from the trip. If you find yourself abroad with the opportunity to ride, you can be assured that it will be an experience you won’t soon forget.