Hand Luggage Cycling Getaways: Flanders, Belgium - Total Women's Cycling

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Hand Luggage Cycling Getaways: Flanders, Belgium

You don't need to pack your wardrobe and the kitchen sink for a cycling adventure

Words by Hannah Reynolds on Twitter and Instagram

Belgium attracts dedicated cycling fans and aspiring racers in their droves but it is unlike any other cycling mecca or cycling holiday destination.

Here you will not find majestic mountains, warm weather or pristine tarmac. Riders are not here to sharpen up their tan lines. If anything, what draws riders to Belgium is a kind of perversity; they come for the rough cobbles, the dire weather and a tradition of cycling that puts suffering, grit and determination on a pedestal. You come here to put your wheels in the gutter and hang onto the bitter end. If Belgium is the spiritual home of cycling it follows a more puritanical version of the faith than France or any other cycling country.

Come here to ride the most famous cobbled climbs, visit cycling museums dedicated to the history of the Classics and of course enjoy a Belgian beer or three.

How to get there

Less than an hour from London there are frequent daily flights from EasyJet, BA and Lufthansa.

For a slower, although arguably more relaxing journey, arrive by Eurostar. You can book a ticket to ‘any Belgian station’ from London which will include onward travel in Belgium as part of your journey price. A hire car makes sense to explore this region if you are only here for a few days and want to visit all the most famous landmarks.

Bike Hire

There are many bike hire options across Flanders, a good choice is to hire from The Tour of Flanders Museum in Oudenaarde who offer a  ride like a pro package including  Specialized Roubaix bikes, GPS, helmets and even shoes in pedals so you can really travel light. They have a great café and showers to get cleaned up before spending an hour or so exploring the museum.

Accommodation

Homestays and Bed and Breakfasts give you the opportunity to meet fanatical cyclists who will be able to share their stories and routes with you adding an extra layer of interest to your trip. For a full list check out cyclinginflanders.cc Alternatively there are several decent hotels such as the Leopold Hotel in Oudenaarde or rent an Aparthotel in Ghent which gives you a little more space and freedom than a simple hotel room.

Where to ride

If you are staying in East Flanders then the obvious choice is to ride some or all of the Tour of Flanders route. You can download GPS files of three permanently marked taster routes. These aren’t the true, full Tour of Flanders routes but take you to the significant climbs such as the infamous Kapelmuur or the Bosberg and allow you to experience the route in manageable chunks.

Café stop

The Centrum Ronde Van Vlaanderen is a good place to start or finish a ride as it also gives you a chance to look around their vast displays of memorabilia from the Tour of Flanders, including the commemorative cobble stones given to the winner each year.

Post-Ride hang out

A good spot for post-ride beers is D’Oude Hoeve, in Kluisbergen, near to Oudenaarde. You can get showered and fed here as well as kicking back with a beer or a coffee. In Oudenaarde itself try Café Koppenberg for its cycling décor and photo exhibition. If you are staying in Ghent there is a handy site that will show you were the best bike related bars and breweries are, plus help you plot a cycling route to visit them all!

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