The Wet, Wet Bicycle Tour Of Holland (Part 1)

Bicycle pump at a cafe “This is unexpected! Totally unexpected!”

The owner of the small cafe in Friesland where we’d taken shelter from the rain paced around our table, tapping his iPhone, shaking his head and muttering.

“There’s no rain in the forecast. I just don’t know where it’s come from. I’m sure it’ll pass soon,” he added, trying to make us feel better.

We nodded and turned back to the steaming mugs of coffee in front of us, trying not to look at the puddles forming underneath our dripping jackets. Rain or no rain, we were determined to draw pleasure from the moment – a brief escape from the latest downpour in what was turning out to be a very wet bike tour.

Earlier, we rode off the ferry that goes across the IJsselmeer – a huge artificial lake in the middle of the Netherlands – with about 50 other very soggy cyclists. On the pier, everyone started putting on rain gear, and we all looked a bit fed up with the weather.

Ferry from Enkhuizen to Stavoren

The rain had been nearly steady for the past 4 days. All the campgrounds were soaked, and most cyclists were too. Later, a friend informed us that 2011 was turning out to be the wettest summer on record in over 100 years – it certainly felt it! The brief sunny moments we’d seen right at the beginning of our trip, seemed like something from last year, not last week.

Riding through a sunlit woods

Still, at some point you have to make a choice. Are you going to ride on, fed up and grumpy, or will you make the best of it? We chose the second option, and tried to adopt some of the bracing attitude that Paul de Vivie showed, when he was bike touring in the 1800s.

After a long day on my bicycle, I feel refreshed, cleansed, purified. I feel that I have established contact with my environment and that I am at peace. On days like that I am permeated with a profound gratitude for my bicycle. Even if I did not enjoy riding, I would still do it for my peace of mind. What a wonderful tonic to be exposed to bright sunshine, drenching rain, choking dust, dripping fog, rigid air, punishing winds!

We covered our heads with wide-brimmed hats to keep the rain out of our eyes. We sang silly songs to distract ourselves from the strong winds and rain, and we happily stopped for a chat when we came across these two Brits on a ferry. They’re riding to Copenhagen on a Dawes tandem, with a heavy homemade trailer!

A Dawes Tandem & Homemade Trailer

In a brief rain-free moment, we paused to snap a picture of our bicycles by the water’s edge.

Santos Bikes by the IJsselmeer

And when the rain started up again, we thought about buying a very Dutch saddle cover, decorated with bright colours and flowers. We didn’t get the saddle cover (a shower cap works just as well), but we did take shelter from one rain storm in a camping shop. We walked out with a new towel to replace the one we’d lost somewhere, and some camping bowls to replace our smelly X Bowls.

Flowery Bike Seat

And then, we jumped back in the saddle again, looking for a bit of sunshine somewhere down the road.



  1. Bekka Scott
    30th July 2011 at 9:53 pm #

    The photo of the colorful seat is FANTASTIC!!! Great composition. 🙂

  2. Gabriel Sierra
    31st July 2011 at 3:24 am #

    Here at the caribbean, it has been raining for almost two weeks nonstop, at least in the metropolitan area where we live, it was flooded. At the east of the island, where we were staying, it rained almost every hour and a half Last Thursay we went to el Yunque Rain Forest decided to use the rain to have fun with the kids; no rain jackets of any kind, like wild kids inthe wet & muddy trails. We had the most fun we’ve had in years!

  3. Frank
    31st July 2011 at 7:03 am #

    Hery come to Queensland winter here but 9-23 slight breeze keep smiling xx

    • Brenda in the Boro UK
      31st July 2011 at 9:21 am #

      Love what you do to keep up your spirits – we do just the same. It would have made no difference if you had come to Yorkshire , it rained here all that time too.

  4. Brian Bigda
    2nd August 2011 at 1:15 pm #

    Fantastic pictures and great way to “make the best of it”.

  5. David Kalter
    3rd August 2011 at 8:54 pm #

    Ah, but the rain makes Dutch coffee taste soooooooooooo good! Over 20 years ago, I cycled south along the west coast of France into Spain. It rained, it poured, day after day! Everything inside the double Ziplocs (yes, sealed!) got soaked. When we got tired of the rain, we trained south to Malaga, where it was bright & sunny. When I think back on that trip, the rainy days are the ones I remember most, because we made it through them!

  6. Paul Firth
    16th August 2011 at 2:36 pm #

    Last year I spent 2 weeks on a circumnavigation of the Netherlands. It coincided with what I believe must have been one of the hottest spells of weather in my living memory. Fourteen days of stupendously hot sun with me constantly scanning ahead looking for a bit of shade every time I wanted to stop for a break. I now sub-consciously associate Holland with being one of the hottest countries in the world, and I’ve cycled in Morocco and Egypt. I would have dearly loved the odd shower or some overcast conditions to cool me down.

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