I feel so excited about getting closer to Tour de France. I arrived yesterday in Brussels, headed to rtbf.be to watch live the 14th stage and started counting the days until I’ll be in Paris for the final stage. Meanwhile, my last day of the journey. Only 45 kilometers on the saddle.
I was supposed to cover yesterday the distance from Brugge to Brussels (around 100 km). I was quite exhausted from the day before yesterday’s ride and left quite late Brugge. It was around 12.30 AM when I started my ride. My plan was to get to Gent, get something to eat, have a beer and continue my journey to Brussels.
I was amazed once again to see how good are the bicycle lanes in Belgium. I could simply ride along the canal that connects Brugge to Gent without having to get for one second in the traffic. I felt confident, even took off my helmet because I no longer needed it.
The only unpleasant moments occured when the cycle paths were a bit too hardcore for my slim tires. I realized the technical mistake I made when deciding to go on a cycle tour with my race bicycle. Once you opt for the segregated bicycle routes and quit the main roads, you suffer then the consequences.
Just because the cycle paths were not suitable for my race bicycle, I had to take some detours now and then and endend up riding on some nice countryside roads going through corn fields. Despite my efforts to ride on suitable roads for my tires, I got my third puncture since I started my journey.
It was 5 o’clock when I arrived in Gent. I knew by then that I will get once again on the train for a segment of my journey. I rode to the center of the city, stopped for a burger and a bier (Jupiler, of course) and then rode to the train station. I paid 5 euros for the bicycle, but at least I arrived in less than one hour in Brussels. A bit dissapointed, but happy that I dindn’t have to struggle finding the right way to get in the big city.
I will be in Brussels for one month, so I will definitely have the time to visit the region. On the train to Brussels I met a lady who has also been for a ride yesterday. She’s been in fact riding her light Omafiets for a couple of days in the region with her three other female friends. She showed me how she’s using a very efficient system to help her while cycle touring. I’ve been reading about it and have also seen some different numbers on the cycle signs during my journey in Belgium. It is called Knooppunter and can be accessed at Knooppunter.com (Dutch only, unfortunatelly).
The knooppunter (which translates for an interchange) is best explained by Peter Cox, a British sociologist who studied the cycle tourism in Belgium.
Building on a pioneering initiative of Limburg province, Toerisme Vlaanderen has adopted a system of “knooppunten” or “nodal points” throughout the Flemish region in order to create a region-wide network of possibilities for cycle tourism. The concept is to identify all potential low-traffic or cycle-friendly routes, including busier routes with segregated paths, and to mark each intersection where these meet by a numbered point, in order to form an entire gridded network. At each intersection a waymarker is set in the ground, identifying the number of the node and indicating directions toward adjacent nodes with their appropriate numbers. In order to use this network, riders need to prepare a list of numbers corresponding to the desired route and then simply follow these on the ground. (Peter Cox, Strategies Promoting Cycle Tourism in Belgium: Practices and Implications, 2012)
Here’s the paper the lady I met in the train has printed for one of her journeys.
And here’s how you can connect on the web the points to get from one point to another.
Just to make the final calculations. I rode around 255 kilometers in three days. Visited three countries (UK, France, Belgium) and had three punctures. I caught some tan and also have a back pain. But it was awesome and I would do it again and again anytime!
Enjoy the rest of my pictures from yesterday’s ride.