Organized Cycling Activities
I normally ride alone, but if you prefer company there are hundreds if not thousands of cycling clubs in Belgium. Look and ask around your neighborhood. The Flemish region seems to have at least one in every village. Ask in a pub or bike shop. Often you will see a pub which advertises itself as the meeting point for a cycling club.
Clubs vary in interest and activities, but a common form is a group ride one or two days a week. The group will cruise at about 20 kph, for a ride of something on the order of 50 km.
In Flemish areas, language is not a problem. Most people - and all younger people - speak at least some English.
Every weekend there are numerous organized rides and walks in Belgium. The normal format is not traveling in a group, but rather starting from some point during certain hours (e.g. 07:30 - 11:30 from the town hall). At the starting point you get a map or guide, and then follow the marked route. Some activities include an award for finishing the route. Lengths vary from 20 to 50 or more km. There is a list of organized rides each Saturday in Het Nieuwsblad. The list each week also includes the following week.
There are also annual theme rides, for example the Goedendag (below) that commemorates the Battle of the Golden Spurs in 1302 and the orchard ride in Limburg when the orchards are in blossom. Finding out about theme rides can be difficult - check for lists when you visit tourist offices.
There also marked ATB (mountain bike) routes in many areas.
The The International Cyclists Union/Union Cycliste International (UCI) is the umbrella organization for all kinds of organized international cycling competition, including the Olympics. English and French.
The Koninklijke Belgische Wielrijdersbond/Royale Ligue Velocipedique Belge (Royal Belgian Cyclists Federation) is primarily concerned with organized road and off-road racing. Their calendar shows all of the hundreds of recognized national and club races each year. French and Dutch.
The Tour de France English language web site includes a route map (in Flash) and lots of other information.
The Tour of Flanders is an international one-day competition held on a Sunday in early April. The route changes every year. Anyone can sign up to ride the route the previous day. The web site (in English, French and Dutch) has route maps and other information. You can register to ride on Saturday on the web site.
Being able to ride the route before the riders is a feature of some other races in Belgium. The annual Eddy Merckx (early September) Brussels race is one. The rules always say you have to register to participate, but I can't see how that is controlled.
LOCAL ORGANIZED TOURS
ProVelo is an organization that promotes cycling and offers escorted bike tours in the Brussels area. Bike rental available. During the warmer months ProVelo may also offer free tours in conjunction with commune days. These are often in French, but anyhow most interesting. (Check the Wednesday Agenda section in Le Soir for these special tours.) English, French, Dutch.
Tourist and commuter cycling is promoted in Belgium by GRACQ (Groupe de Recherche et d'Action des Cyclistes Quotidiens) and De Fietsersbond. Both organize bicycle tours and related activities, and have monthly magazines.
EXTENDED CYCLE TOURS
Pure Adventures is offering an interesting self-guided week-long cycling tour of Flanders for moderately experienced cyclists. I would appreciate a report from anyone who uses them.
Cycletours International offers an interesting variety of escorted cyling tours. It started in the Netherlands with barge-bike tours. You live on a barge outfitted as a floating hotel. Each morning you set out on a guided cycle tour, to meet up with the barge in a new location in the afternoon. This has now been expanded to include hotel tours (you cycle from hotel to hotel) and other countries. You can also now purchase self-guided tours - you buy a package of hotel rooms along a route (e.g. Passau to Vienna) and start on the day of your choice. Multilingual web site. (A friend has took one of the barge-bike tours and was so pleased he immediately signed up for a second - which pleased him also.)
CBT Tours offers some very interesting looking long distance cycling and hiking tours, such as Vienna to Prague.
La Suède à Vélo offers escorted tours of Sweden.
Teen Treks is an American operation offering organized cycle tours - basically mobile summer camp - for the 12 - 18 group. They have trips in the US, Canada and Britain.
Alventus Viajes is an Italian operation that organizes REALLY SERIOUS bike tours. Like across the mountains of Morocco, or through Krygyzstan.
Bruski MTB Challenge organizes strenuous rides for those who like to ride offroad.
BIKE RENTAL IN BELGIUM
Please send recommendations for this section.
The Belgian Yellow Pages can be searched in French, Dutch and English. It has an extensive collection of bicycle shops.
Rent-a-Bike in Antwerpen was used by Ian Williams in 2007. They rent and also provide guided tours of Antwerpen.
SELECTED U.S. LINKS
Cape Code Bike Trails is a pretty site that may tempt you to head to the Cape.
last update 2 Oct 2009
Copyright Dan Gamber,
1998 - 2009
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