The Netherlands is not a dream destination for motorcyclists. Too flat, too straight, too busy. But those who leave the beaten path can also make wonderful trips in our country.
The Limburg hillcountry is playing golf for me. After a run across the highway my hand can get off the gas. Asphalt has been swapped for a dirt track along fields and forest. At an abandoned crossroads stands an iron field cross: Honor the creator. I send my vintage Moto Guzzi to the farm in the distance and then dive into the depths. Downstairs, the hamlet of Terstraten awaits.
It’s quiet and peaceful. I switch back a gear and let the two-cylinder slowly roll through the place with its old farms. Fruit trees, half-timbered, a rippling stream. This is South Limburg at its best. It’s also a surprise because I don’t follow a pre-selected route, as many motorcyclists do. I left my navigation system at home and intended to drive purely on feeling. Chasing the curiosity.
Without a fixed itinerary, I do stick to one assignment: to avoid the Marlland route as much as possible. It is beautiful, but so popular that you often have to share the road with hundreds of cyclists, cyclists, convertibles, buses and other motorcyclists, lots of other motorcyclists.
If everyone drives the same route, I’m not surprised that local residents start complaining about noise. Whether it’s motorbikes on a country road or rolling suitcases in the amsterdam city centre, as soon as there are too many, it gets annoying. Looking for quiet alternatives. Wijnandsrade, Swier and Brommelen, there is hardly anyone to see. Outside the buildings, in the middle of the farmland, I throw up my speed and cut the bends a bit sharper without anyone being bothered.
In Ransdaal I still get to the Marlland route unnoticed. In the courtyard of a monumental square farm, Tiny Habets has been serving coffee and pie to its guests for 40 years. The Marlland route? He’s coming right over here at the door! We completely refurbished the farm and started catering. Which pie do you want? The one with gooseberries is delicious though.
After the coffee break I walk back to my motorcycle which excels in simplicity. It is not a tour that takes you to southern Europe and the highest Alpine passes. Although this is possible, the comfort of, for example, a window and long ferries is lacking. But this is really motorcycling. On the bald Moto Guzzi V7 III Stone S you can feel the wind, the road, the suspension and the speed.
Descending to the south there is more relief in the landscape. The roads are getting more exciting. I regularly drive on a lane of boulders that is barely a car wide, with a high earthen wall on both sides. On these kind of hollow roads, you hope there won’t be an oncoming car. Sometimes such a route ends on a prohibition sign for motorised traffic – agricultural vehicles excepted – but more often the tunnel opens of greenery and a beautiful panorama unfolds.
After a steep climb from Eys I reach a five jump between the meadows. Which way is the best option? On good luck I cross obliquely for a descent that ends in Nijswiller. Stop and think. So far I have driven without navigation and map. But to take a detour to the beautifully located File, google maps needs the help. Let me see. Tap mechelen and then go in to the east. Okay.
The terrain above Mechelen and the Little Trench is surprisingly nice. The narrow roads go up, descend, stay at altitude and always treat me to a new vista. The densely populated Elzetter forest is followed by a climb and ends in Vijlen on the doorstep of A Gen Kirk, one of the cosiest cafés in South Limburg.
Unfortunately, I can’t drink craft specialty beer, but a look at the interior is enough for a cheerful spirit. It is full of statues of saints, bibles and other church books and there is a variety of religious paintings. I am now used to the Limburg devotion. Whether you’re religious or not, it’s certainly entertaining. Like that inscription on one of the numerous field crosses I have already encountered:
Change your life
I’ll give you heaven
In the absence of an alternative I follow a small piece of Marlland route. Beautiful and beautiful, with views and fine curves. Just below the village of Epen, a small road leads me back into uncharted territory. Lovely, a touch of adventure. Riding along the flanks of the hills I am no longer one of many, but a lone motorcyclist looking for beauty.
Suddenly there is the Castle of Beusdael. It announces the Belgian Feeding Region, once the grim backdrop of the language struggle between Walloons and Flemings. The hotheads have since disappeared from the political scene and that is doing the region good. The great advantage of this tumultuous time is that nothing much has ever happened. If the Flemings wanted to change something, the Walloons didn’t want to. And turned around.
I decide to look up and follow the narrow waters of the Feed. Among others to St. Peter’s Voeren, Sint-Martens-Voeren and ‘s Gravenvoeren. The meadows are small, with tender grass and grazing cows. The hills covered with mixed forest. In the villages there are simple houses with the occasional church as a bastion of the faith. In the Feed Region, it’s the little things that surprise. A lush forelvijver, an ancient chapel, a gallows mountain. Or take the historic Swaen tension to a protected square on the Kinkenberg. It is suspected that this inn was part of Europe’s first international postal route from the 15th century, set up by a certain Mr Taxis.
The 1024-kilometre route connected the Innsbruck of Maximilian of Austria with the Mechelen of his daughter Margaretha. The ride was divided into stages with at the beginning and end always an occasion where horse and rider were changed. As soon as the courier approached this inn, he blew his horn so that his successor could get ready to leave. In this way, important letters and documents were delivered at a record pace.
The Moto Guzzi V7 climbs to the top of the Kinkenberg and follows a gravel path back to the Netherlands. Old border posts stand as silent monuments in the field. With the wind in my face and the dust clouds on my heels, it passes farms, chapels and orchards with high fruit. I descend, climb up and follow a winding road over a ridge towards the setting sun. All alone.
Top 5 routes
Adventurous driving on dirt paths and asphalt roads. The architecture, landscape and language feel flemish rather than Dutch. It makes sense, because Bruges and Ghent are closer to a large part of the region than Vlissingen and Middelburg.
2. North Groningen
Drive through vast and empty land. A bit of the Big Sky Country feel of America. Those straight roads? Just sharpen each exit. It almost looks like a hairpin bend.
Slightly sloping terrain with villages and farms from a bygone era. Hand the gas and enjoy the small-scale lands. With the other 10 000 popular places, such as Ootmarsum, there’s plenty of room for everyone.
Driving over dikes without affecting local residents. In many places, a bit inland, there are old dikes that are no longer needed to keep out the sea. They’re still swinging just as well.
5. Head of North Holland
Ideal for a mill trip without crowds. Most cyclists and motorcyclists make such a lap through the Green Heart, but here, above Amsterdam, there are just as many and there is often much more space.