Off Road to Paris from The Netherlands

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by Frank Lammers, Sep 13, 2020.

  1. Frank Lammers

    Frank Lammers Adventurer

    Joined:
    Jun 1, 2018
    Oddometer:
    48
    Location:
    Arnhem, Netherlands
    Hi everyone. While I'm in quarantine in Tbilisi, Georgia waiting to be released for my hiking holiday in the Caucasus mountains I'd like to share a trip with you I did in early June.

    With borders slowly opening again in Europe and the need to get out of the small patch of land that is the Netherlands I decided not to go for a domestic holiday, but last minute I changed my plans. Picked a random city in Europe that was within ~2 week travelling distance and decided to head there the unconventional way. For most people then, not for us folk of course :)

    In total it took me 11 days to reach Paris. Spent 2 days there to roam around and then head back home via the highway in 6 hours!

    I'll cut up the report in 2 parts: Belgium & France. The route is partially the TET and partially random trails I found with the only requirement being; the compass needs to point South.
    In Belgium you're not allowed to ride just anywhere. In France.....at least it felt like you could ride anywhere you'd like. Not sure!

    But first, tires:

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    Ready to go. Took a 40 liter duffel with all my camping gear, a change of clothes and some food.

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    What, in hindsight, the route more or less looked like:

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    #1
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  2. simondippenhall

    simondippenhall Simondippenhall

    Joined:
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    Location:
    Hampshire, England
    Following with interest
    #2
  3. ilten

    ilten Adventurer

    Joined:
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    Oddometer:
    14
    That sounds really interesting!!!
    #3
  4. Frank Lammers

    Frank Lammers Adventurer

    Joined:
    Jun 1, 2018
    Oddometer:
    48
    Location:
    Arnhem, Netherlands
    Belgium

    The Northern part of Belgium is quite densely populated and flat, so chapeau for the TET linesman to still find some gravel and forest bits. Avoiding all towns completely. Didn't see a single person the first 3 hours.

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    Nothing too complicated. It's very relaxed to ride here, just you and your machine. Since you're crossing all the rural areas and campings were still closed due to Covid I ended up asking farmers if I was allowed to camp on a far corner of their land. No problem! Often offered a shower and the bathroom as well.

    What most evenings would look like... Ha, no just kidding! Might have read 3 pages from the book I brought. Most of the trip it was just dead weight needed to be dragged along.

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    Even though Belgium is quite a small country, it still has a language border splitting the country in Flanders (Dutch speaking) and Wallonian (French speaking). Both just as friendly and both just as amazing to ride through.

    The stretches are short, but vary greatly. As soon as you dip below Brussels a little bit of elevation gets added as well

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    Still fits:

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    Still f....

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    The Lion of Flanders at Waterloo (as in the Battle of..)

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    On my way to the Flemish Ardennes

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    Didn't get it quite right all the time

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    But the views in Flander's Fields are worth the occasional whoopsie daisy.

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    By the end of the day I try to keep my eyes open for a farm that seems suitable for a semi wild camp. In Belgium a lot of farm are secluded from the main road with a big entry like this.

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    Behind is usually a square where the farmer and his family live and have a small shop space where they sell some produce. But it's far away from the gigantic specialized farms you see in the USA. This typical farm had: 10 cows, 6 pigs, a few chickens running loose, made some bread and sold some other fruit and veggies they'd manage to grow.

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    And made for a great camp site

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    After 3 days it was time to head to the the border of France. You could entertain yourselves for weeks riding in Belgium, especially considering I skipped the Ardennes. But hey, Paris was the goal!

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    As a cycling enthusiast I had a quick ride over the famous cobblestones of the Tour of Flanders. Within professional cycling considered a 'classic'. Probably only a cycling fan will get the coolness of this and maybe even recognize the stretches from the race :D

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    To give you an idea. It usually looks like this then

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    I crossed the border close to Roubaix in France.

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    #4
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  5. Frank Lammers

    Frank Lammers Adventurer

    Joined:
    Jun 1, 2018
    Oddometer:
    48
    Location:
    Arnhem, Netherlands
    France

    For some reason I didn't expect the landscapes to differ that much between Belgium and France. But France is a whole different kind of riding. Not that much more or less difficult, but it's far more stretched out. Large agricultural landscapes with less people, perfect for a little bit more throttle.

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    After 7 days of riding, everything going really well, confidence sky high. I had my first and only serious 'chute' (French for crash). A lot of the tracks are between farming fields. Used by tractors or other heavy agricultural machinery. Especially after spring when it has rained a lot, this creates 2 deep ruts. Add to that a landscape that is off camber for a big part, this will quite often leave one rut deeper than the other.

    That being said I was riding in one of the deeper ruts, around 50 / 60 km/h (40mp/h) and spotted in the corner of my eye the left side being a way smoother option to ride. So in a total brain fart I borrowed a technique I'd use in mountainbiking. Just lift up your front wheel with your arms only and make a small bunny hop with the rest of the bike. How could I know this wouldn't work with a 250kg bike?! Needless to say as I was already leaning left, the bike didn't play along and went straight. Making it slide out underneath me. As I wasn't anticipating any of this (:D) I wasn't trying to slow down. So as my bike slid out underneath me further towards Paris, I struck the French soil like an asteroid.

    It took my quite a while before I had some wind back in me. Of course checking the bike first, before I'd check myself. Being only bruised on the left side it was quite an OK outcome. Could have been worse.

    The biggest problem on the bike was the shifter getting bend. Couldn't get my foot underneath it anymore.

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    So with some sideways shifting I limped to a parking spot and was able to fix it! So let's get on with it!

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    Who want to have missed out on views like this!

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    Mostly plowing through forests and fields Paris was coming closer...

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    I really enjoy a simple life on the road, living as much as possible out of what the local supermarket has to offer. In case of France that means baguette!

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    As a last guard North West of Paris lays the Parc naturel régional du Vexin français. The final hurdle before being able to meet the Seine river, my sign to head Eastwards from there on.

    It's hard to capture incline on camera, but you'll have to believe me these hills were steep, long and full of rocks and roots.

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    Sometimes you'd lose momentum and even though I didn't carry the kitchen sink with me, the rear wheel kept spinning and the smell of burning rubber would force you to rethink what you're doing.

    Most of the times clearing out some rocks, removing the luggage would do. Just once I had to lay my bike on the side (carefully!) and literally drag it 1 meter to the right to get it on the right stretch of uphill, say my prayers and 'send it'.

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    Only to bump into the next obstacle 100m after

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    Just did some re-modelling of the forest on the right side to make room for Her Royal Highness

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    Natural habitat. And yes, sometimes I really wish I had a lighter bike, but at the same times the amount of horsepower got me out of quite some problems already. But I wpn't argue that a lighter bike can sometimes make for a whole different kind of trip :)

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    Back on pavement again and close to the Seine river

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    The sign to go East towards Paris

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    And after 11 days of awesome riding, camping and 2 pair of underwear and 2 shirts. Je suis arrivée!
    It was quite surreal to be in such a city during the Covid situation. Travelling through rural Belgium and France, meeting an odd person every now and then, exchanging mutual looks of 'what on earth are you doing here?' before waving and greeting.

    In Paris you'd expect it to be crowded, but to have this picture taken I couldn't find anyone near the Eiffel Tower for a good 15 minutes...

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    Treated myself to a small hotel and a different kind of 2 wheeled transport

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    Not looking for any specific highlight for 2 days, but just cruising through an empty-ish metropole, incredibily rich in culture and history. It was a very enjoyable reward! Enjoying life at the bistro and the banks of the Seine with a few wines and crêpes.

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    BMW HQ :D

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    Enjoying a last evening in quiet Paris' golden hour.



    And then after 13 days, it was time to go home again. With my lunch packed I was back home after 6 hours on the highway, the toughest stretch to drive of all!

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    Au revoir and enjoy your rides guys!
    #5
  6. StinkyCheese

    StinkyCheese Long timer Super Supporter

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    Location:
    Las Cruces, NM
    Really nice RR. Loved the pics!
    #6
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  7. Lone Stranger

    Lone Stranger Been here awhile Supporter

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    May 16, 2010
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    Great writeup!!! Unbelievable that some of those trails actually went any where!!!
    #7
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  8. davide

    davide Been here awhile

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    Location:
    Elizabeth, Colorado
    Super cool ride and great RR!
    #8
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  9. NSFW

    NSFW basecamp4adv Super Supporter

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    Location:
    Burbank CA
    great job in getting a good ride in this current situation. nice landscapes and pictures of Paris.
    #9
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  10. jays100

    jays100 Been here awhile

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    Location:
    CT
    Loved it! This is timely, my wife and I are planning to live abroad (from the USA) and Belgium is gorgeous! It just became one of our candidate locations.
    #10
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  11. jimroid

    jimroid Long timer

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    Location:
    Pisgah Forest,N.C./USA
    Spectacular! Thanks for the great write up and pictures!!
    #11
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  12. Aces 6

    Aces 6 Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, Over

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    Location:
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    Great photos! Makes me want to ship my bike!
    #12
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  13. squadraquota

    squadraquota mostly harmless

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    Oct 23, 2007
    Oddometer:
    684
    Location:
    Lowlands
    Hi Frank, nice report.

    what about the sign in this photo? Doesn’t look official to me, seems too small. Did you ignore it? Reported it to the Belgian linesman?

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    #13
  14. ilten

    ilten Adventurer

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    Aug 12, 2010
    Oddometer:
    14
    There is a simple rule: If the bike on the sign doesn't look exactly like your bike, you can ignore it. :imaposer
    #14
  15. Frank Lammers

    Frank Lammers Adventurer

    Joined:
    Jun 1, 2018
    Oddometer:
    48
    Location:
    Arnhem, Netherlands
    I'm not sure if it was 100% official. The Belgium TET symbolically ends here though, quite fitting!
    I think if we want the TET in crowded countries like Belgium and the Netherlands stay intact, it doesn't hurt to also respect the little signs ;)
    #15
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  16. Bommes

    Bommes Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Sep 2, 2013
    Oddometer:
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    Location:
    The Netherlands
    Good report with superb pictures.
    Put the Belgium TET on my to do list, thanks. :D
    #16
  17. Rinty

    Rinty Been here awhile

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    Calgary, Alberta
    Thanks for posting. Goed gedaan!
    #17