RIDING NORTH – from Amsterdam to Hoorn

A car-free road, a sunny day and a tailwind!

A car-free road, a sunny day and a tailwind!


A cool but fine autumn day. Indian summer in Nederland. Surely it can’t last much longer. Must make the most of it. Drop everything. Get out on the bike.

There’s a stiff southerly blowing, adding a wind chill factor to the 10 degree temperature. I decide to ride with it for once, heading north out of Amsterdam, without any particular destination in mind. It doesn’t matter. This is classic North Holland countryside; fields cut by drainage canals, flocks of geese and families of swans, sheep and cows grazing…and a few one-off surprises.

The cycle way along the North Holland Canal is easy riding. Okay, it’s not a cycle way, it’s a road. Cars pass me on average once every few minutes, but they’re usually driving slowly and can see me a long way ahead. If I stick to my line they won’t push me off it into the water.

It takes me about an hour to reach Purmerend.

The Impressive arch at Purmerend is apparently mostly for show. Even the pedestrians take the flat bridge to cross the North Holland Canal. It does look good though.

The impressive arch at Purmerend is apparently mostly for show. Even the pedestrians take the flat bridge. Maybe the steps are for jogging groups. It looks good though – one of Purmerend’s architectural wonders.

Purmerend is a sort of satellite town of Amsterdam. New housing has attracted families and commuters squeezed out of the property market in the big smoke. As such it’s a no-nonsense, unpretentious sort of place. It does however have a very attractive Stadhuis (Town Hall).

The Stadhuis, Purmerend.

The Stadhuis, Purmerend.


This is the first time I’ve ridden the road north from Purmerend since Mevrouw T and I discovered it last year. I immediately wonder why I’ve left it so long. It’s a lovely 10km section along a dyke with a canal and villages to the right, fields to the left.

The only traffic is humming on the distant motorway.

...and yes, there's a windmill.

…and yes, there’s an old windmill, to go with a few modern ones.

I’ve come to love the Dutch landscape, particularly the flat, orderly polder. The church towers of Hobrede and Oosthuizen slip past.

I've come to love the Dutch landscape with not much in it.

Move on people, nothing to see here.

...it can hardly get greener than this.

It doesn’t get any greener than this.

At Beets I cut across the railway line and ride a kilometre or two out to Schardam, on the rim of the Ijsselmeer, formerly the Zuiderzee, now a lake cut off from the sea by the dyke to the north.

More of those geese in one of the many little nature reserves.

A gaggle of geese in one of the many little nature reserves.

Around the bend and I can see the larger town of Hoorn, now about nine kilometres away.

Hoorn is one of the most beautiful towns in the Netherlands, particularly notable for its market square. As one of the bases of the Dutch East India Company, the town prospered in the golden age of the seventeenth century, as evidenced by the grand old buildings surrounding the market.

The Waegh (the weigh house) Hoorn. Now a decent place for koffie and lunch.

The Waegh (the weigh house) Hoorn. Now a decent place for koffie and lunch.


The wind seems to be turning as I pedal on beside the Ijsselmeer. Or is it just me? A look at the map shows me that I’m now heading back south-west, into that southerly buster.

Something’s going on at Schellinkhout, something to do with wind. The geese seem to be enjoying it, and so do the kite surfers. There are dozens of them out there. What’s the collective noun for a gathering of kite surfers?

I don't know the real name for this sport.

I had to google to find the real name for this sport – kite surfing.

Geese, cows and whatever that parachute surfing sport is called.

Worth another attempt at a kite surfing shot. The spot must be known of its wind. Nice for them, not so good for a cyclist.

I have 45 kilometres on my GPS wristwatch, and the rest of my body knows it has done those kilometres too. Another 45 going back will give me 90, and I can add another ten by taking the scenic route.

Then there’s the five or six kilometres I’ll ride through Amsterdam to get home…

Perched on the dyke, lungs bursting, legs pumping, fighting the Dutch headwind all the way, knowing the body is benefitting and practising the bragging speech. This is the challenge true cyclists love…nah.

I ride to the nearest station and put the bike on the first train home.

16 Comments

Filed under Cycle touring, Cycling, Holland

16 responses to “RIDING NORTH – from Amsterdam to Hoorn

  1. andreengels

    Regarding the arch at Purmerend: I think it’s for the case where the flat bridge is open because a ship (or ships) has to go through.

  2. Nothing like riding down wind on a beautiful day. The photos are great, makes me want to be there.

  3. I enjoyed the ride, the views were awesome. Thanks for taking us along 🙂

  4. Weather good in UK too but I wouldn’t risk my life on a bike on our roads!

  5. I also loved traveling along with you on your ride, Richard – an excellent idea to drop everything and take your bike out for a spin!

  6. Ha!……I was nearly very, very impressed……until I read the last sentence…..but now I’m only just ‘impressed’! Good one, Richard.

  7. I was very impressed with the photography. Your composition in the first photo complies with all the rules and looks good as well.

  8. Angela Highstead

    Hello Richard, I send your blogs to Dutch friends in the Glasshouse mtns and Sydney (I’m a Perthite). I had a lovely response from the Sydney sider. I don’t know how else to send it on except to copy it into the comments. As a writer and ‘journo’ you probably love a story and a little story it is. Ang the technophobe.

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