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Prologue - The Netherlands 2016

By Ren Withnell


Why oh why oh why would I want to go to The Netherlands? The bestest everest place I have ever ridden a motorcycle so far has to be The Scottish Highlands with its quiet roads, amazing corners and bends, stunning scenery and endless space. The most beautiful place I have visited so far, only just pipping Scotland's beauty, is The Alps. You'll notice that these 2 places have one thing in common, mountains. The name for The Netherlands comes from the word "nether" or low so Netherlands translates to Lowlands. The Netherlands is famous for distinctly lacking in mountains. In fact a little research suggests it hardly even manages a hill, according to Wikipedia the highest point is in Vaalserberg at a staggering 322.7 meters above sea level.

A Dutch dyke, about the highest prominence on the landscape.This...this is about as close to a hill as it gets in The Netherlands. A typical Dutch dyke.

Also according to Wiki The Netherlands is the most populous country in Europe (most people per square mile/kilometre etc) so it seems unlikely to provide a wild and remote experience far from the madding crowds. While I understand it's actually nonsense I like to pretend I'm a wild explorer of long lost or undiscovered lands, that's not going to happen in The Netherlands is it. 

If you Google images of Dutch scenery you will be presented with various mixes of 4 things - windmills, narrow houses, vast fields of flowers and canals. I am not particularly a big fan of windmills, houses or tulips, however having watched endless tv programs about the industrial revolution I can at least appreciate a canal. 

So there's no compelling reason for me to go to The Netherlands is there. Well...there is one thing. On my previous sojourns I have met several Dutch folk and one thing struck me about them all, how friendly and warm they are. Older ladies sharing their tea with me in Germany, the carpenter with massive strong yet gentle hands in The Alps, the chatty campervan man in France and the old cyclist in Belgium. They all seem to be at ease with themselves, their egos and the world around them. I would like to meet the people in their own country. I want to answer the question, are the Dutch friendly?

Note - I shall try not to call the country by the name "Holland". Being a pedant I shall use "The Netherlands". For an excellent, clear and informative explanation please see http://www.cgpgrey.com/blog/the-difference-between-holland-the-netherlands

The Box

There's nothing worse than arriving at a campsite in the cold wet rain, spending an hour pitching the tent and setting everything up then having to get back on the soggy bike, ride into a town you don't know, find a shop that's open and try to buy something to eat. I just want to make a piping hot brew and stuff my face. As such I like to have something to eat with me. Tins and cartons can be squished in amongst clothes and tent pegs but bread or tasty cakes need to remain uncompressed. I've tried bags on the back seat but these require bungees and bungees squish bread. I need a box.

I spent an age fishing through ebay for suitable containers, nothing was quite right. I spent aeons surfing for boxes but they're all too big, too small, to wide or too thin, too heavy or too flimsy and so on. I...I need to make my own. I can do it. I can. I know I can. I think. I am not a craftsman so sure enough my box turns out to be another one of Ren's hack jobs without a straight edge or square corner in sight. However - as a functional box it works. With the addition of an old bungee it appears to be acceptably secure too. 

The wooden box that sits perfectly on the back seat of Ren's 125 motorcycleOne day, just one day I will create something more than just "functional"

The Bikes

Sharon has a brand new Z250SL and I have my new CB500X. These are the obvious machines to take, surely? Well...yes...and no. Sharon's only owned the 250 a handful of weeks and not even put 1,000 miles on the clock yet. She's not built up the confidence that only comes with sheer experience and practice. With almost 21,000 miles on her Keeway RKS125 she does feel much more at home on that bike. If Sharon's taking her 125 it seems pointless me taking my 500cc behemoth and expecting her to thrash her engine into oblivion.

My poor old CBF125 is getting on now and that does cause me concern. At some point even with the best will in the world the motor or some other necessary component must expire and with each extra mile that time must surely be getting closer. We both have European recovery, it's not something either of us wish to use though. 

My overriding reason for taking the CBF125 to The Netherlands is to prove to myself and anyone else willing to listen that it can be done and done well. I know that C90s and many other small capacity motorcycles have crossed continents and circumnavigated the globe yet I, myself, Ren, wishes to do at least one proper trip on my own 125 to another country. I suspect this may be the last trip for this particular 125 as at 53,000 miles it is getting tired. 

Any fool can ride a large capacity motorcycle around The Netherlands. It takes a special kind of fool to ride a 125 around The Netherlands.

Our 2 125cc bikes, all loaded up with camping gear and the like and ready to go
As ready as we're ever going to be. Lets ride!

The Plan

We have a ferry booked from Harwich to The Hook Of Holland on Friday 10 June, a return ferry on Friday 24 June and a Travelodge booked near Ipswich on the 24th as the ferry returns late and we'll probably not want to find a campsite and make camp at an ungodly hour. Other than that there are no real plans. In the weeks leading up to our trip both bikes are thoroughly serviced, new chains and sprockets are fitted, new brake pads and shoes, new tyres and everything is double checked. I, we are as prepared as we know how to be yet I am still left doubting. A rusty 53,000 mile Honda 125 and a 21,000 mile 125 Chinese motorcycle, probably 1,000 to 1,500 miles, 16 nights away, a dubious box, too much luggage, one rider who's never ridden on the wrong side of the road, another rider who still can't get his head around riding on the wrong side of the road and all this in a country we know very little about. What can possibly go wrong?

The Stena Hollandica, the ship that sails from Harwich to The Hook Of HollandThat's our ship that is. Come on sweetie, best get our passports out.

Prologue - The Netherlands 2016 Why are we going Dutch? What's that peculiar box on Ren's bike? Why are we taking our 125cc motorcycles? Is there even a plan? Find out more...
Disaster The first day of our trip is not the start we would hope for. Yet with some luck and the desire to improve his mindset Ren manages to keep a calm and positive outlook.
Crashing Out To The Netherlands This is Sharon's take on the first day of The Netherland's trip. Oh the best laid plans of mice and women.
No News Is Good News It's an ordinary day of ordinary travelling for our dynamic duo. Sometimes a lack of excitement can be a good thing doncha know.
Helter Skelter Sharon covers the second day of the trip to The Netherlands. She moves from discomfort and bruises through nervous and fear to luxury and comfort. All in one day!
Hades - I Mean Amsterdam Ah The Netherlands, fields of flowers, windmills, tranquil canals and leisurely cyclists. Or is this what the tourist office would have you believe?
Crying In The Rain And Laughing Gonkeys Sharon's first time motorcycling on foreign tarmac is a baptism of fire. What on earth is a laughing gonkey anyhow?
We Are Tourist So what is Ren's take on the popular city of Amsterdam? Will he survive the bicycles? Is he a wild traveller or just a tourist?
The Lost Experience Once again Ren's expectations get the better of him. Once again Ren gets completely lost. Once again the rain is coming down. Is there any hope at all? Actually it's not all bad.
Smiles In The Rain The friendly Dutch folk mean that a rain filled day can still be a worthwhile day.
Bicycling De Hoge Veluwe Will today be a tortuous day stuck in the tent waiting for the rain to stop? For the sake of Ren's mental health let's hope there's some good weather.
Urk? Is That The Sun? A break in the weather brings a positive feel to the day along with pleasant places, friendly faces and new acquaintances.
A Big Dyke With Edam What is the Afsluitdijk for? Why would you name a town after a cheese? All these questions will not be answered by reading this.
Edam, Marken, Tourists and Symmetry Ren and Sharon visit a town named after a cheese. Why would you name a town after a cheese? Weird folks these Dutch.
Curious Distelloo Sunshine, philosophy and an alternative kind of campsite.
Drowning In Zierikzee Philosophy, friendly people, terrible rain and salvation all in one day! Not bad really for pair of wastrels on 125s.
Exploring Zeeland We're chilling out and exploring Zeeland 2-up on a 125. Is this the Dutch Riviera?
A Short Hop To Oostkapelle How do you get lost in 15 miles on a route you already know? How do you upset a German camper? How do you do all this and remain content in yourself? It's called getting old.
Dodgy Dutch Drivers Their last full day in The Netherlands sums up the whole Dutch experience. "The nicest bad drivers you'll ever meet".
Going Home-ish It's time to leave The Netherlands and return to good 'ole Blighty. There's some shocking news that might change things for the future though.
So, What About The Netherlands? After 2 weeks of riding around The Netherlands on 125s what does Ren think of the country now?

Reader's Comments

Wayne said :-
Two 125s one of them Chinese , A plywood back box on a trip to Holland ( sorry Netherlands - see I read it )
And the greatest quote ever " it takes a special fool "
Love it
I've read many a globe busting motorcycle book Ren but absolutely love your Blog
Keep it coming
I'm off to the Pyrenees next Saturday with my Son on rather bigger bikes and a friend of my sons commented he couldn't wait to pass his test and get a big bike and start traveling ( he rides a Honda 125 )
Needles to say I've pointed him your Blogs direction for a bit of inspiration
More please !
02/07/2016 06:02:56 UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
Thanks Wayne!

Yes tell the young chap that any motorcycle is a touring motorcycle. If he's a youth then he'll do Facebook so tell him to look up Ed March. He's funny and is travelling The Americas on a very very worn out C90 Cub. Many folks use bicycles with much success so there is no excuse.

Please do tell me of your experience in The Pyrenees as it is a place I'm considering. Quite the opposite to The Netherlands I'm sure. You can get me on here or via ren@bikesandtravels.com

02/07/2016 06:54:36 UTC
Borsuk said :-
The Pyrenees.
Beautiful place, driven from France to Southern Spain a few times and the first time I passed through was in winter. The peaks were heavy with snow and the sun was splitting the heavens. Stopped for half an hour to soak in the splendor before carrying on home. The second time was around 2 am, again winter, 60 knot winds and heavy sleet, was fine on the North side of the tunnel Didn't do any soaking, just carried on driving at around 10 mph till I was below the snow line and visibility improved then slept for a couple of hours.

I want to go back some time in the spring. See if the snow is as good as down south where I live.
07/04/2017 11:43:36 UTC

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