A practical example of how to use the wonderful Flemish cycling network in Flanders: an 85-km round trip to Tienen and Hoegaarden.
With the weather forecast looking good for Saturday, and bad for Sunday, I set off on Saturday morning for a day trip on my bike to Tienen, the so-called Sugar City.
Regular readers will know that I love the cycling (and walking) network in Flanders: numbered junctions that you can cycle (or walk) from one to another. But I haven’t fully explained how to use it in practice when cycling.
First you go to the Fietsnet website. Here you enter your starting point (e.g. your town or village), and you will see all the numbered junctions in your neighbourhood. You simply click on the junction you want to start from, and those you want to travel through. For example, on the route below, I start at junction 38, and go to junctions 74, 75, 73, 33 and finish at junction 93.
The distances between each junction are shown on the right of your map, as well as the total distance of your route, which in this case is 13.6 km.
You can add and delete junctions, so that you end up with the route you want to complete. This is the one I prepared for my ride today to Tienen and back:
Now you might be wondering how you are going to remember all those junctions. Well, if you have a cycling GPS, you can export all the data to it, and just follow the directions. However, for those of you who, like me, still rely on maps and other bits of paper, Fietsnet makes it easy. At the bottom of the list of distances, click on “Print on wegbeschrijving” and then “Print knooppuntenstrook” and you will end up with a nice list of all the junctions you are passing through:
You then tape this onto your crossbar or handlebar:
This means you don’t have to keep getting out a map, but can just glance down to see which is the next junction.
A helpful tip: carry a pencil in your pocket and as you pass by a junction, cross it off the list. I find this helpful as it avoids me forgetting which junction I’ve just passed and which one I am looking out for.
So I set off, firstly passing through Leuven:
Make sure you don’t exceed the speed limit while cycling around the Leuven Ring or you could end up here:
The path then leaves Leuven behind and heads past the Park Abbey:
And then into the open fields:
Around Bierbeek there are a number of panels explaining various aspects of local agriculture: witloof (chicory), sugar beet, horses, the beef industry:
My lunch stop was at the Marollenkapel just outside Hoegaarden, which dates back to 1832:
Back on the bike, the next port of call was the town of Hoegaarden:
And finally the Sugar City itself, Tienen:
It’s called Sugar City because it’s the centre of the Flemish sugar beet industry. If you have time and want to learn more about the sugar industry, then a trip to the Sugar Museum in Tienen is worth it. You can read about it in a previous blog post of mine, here.
I have to say, in and around Hoegaarden and Tienen, the signposting of the cycling junctions was not too good. Signposts were missing or located in strange places, necessitating a few back-tracks to avoid getting lost.
As you would expect, the fields around here are dominated by hectare upon hectare of sugar beet:
Overall I really enjoyed my 85 km cycle ride. The route took me through some lovely countryside, and there was a good selection of different types of cycle path, on-road and off-road:
If you follow my route, do let me know how you get on. Of if there is anything about the Fietsnet site which you don’t understand (it’s only in Dutch), then drop me a line.