After months of planning and going through various different routes, I selected a route that included many of the best cities of Europe and also great bike routes along the way. My friend and fellow cyclist Dr. Kunal Sehgal did the tour with me till Paris. Then I continued the tour solo.
Day 1 – Land at Amsterdam & assemble bike at Airport
As always, I flew with my Trek 520 Touring bike and 2 pannier bags to Amsterdam on 28th Sept 2022. On landing, we assembled the bikes at the airport itself and walked out with the bikes into Amsterdam city. That was a great start to the tour.
Day 2. Amsterdam city tour
helps a lot to ensure that the bike is then ready for the grind of the forthcoming tour. So, we decided to spend the whole day, doing an Amsterdam city tour on our bikes and be trip ready.
Amsterdam is an amazing city. As we had anticipated, it is a very cyclist-friendly city. 100% riding only on dedicated bike lanes. Hundreds of riders use the bike lanes for their daily commute and travel across the city.
Luckily for us, It was a lovely cool day and perfect for cycling. We passed through many of the attractions, museums, and other tourist places. Cycling along the canals and nearby roads was a great feeling.
We also walked a lot today. Infact about 22 kms of riding and 12 kms of walking today. An amazing day was spent and we could not have asked for a better way to see Amsterdam and eat at the local cafes and restaurants.
Day 3 – Amsterdam to Hague and Rotterdam
Our tour’s first day from Amsterdam to Hague and Rotterdam was a super experience. We started in a bit of drizzle and cold. But luckily it cleared in about an hour. Today we rode through forest trails, river trails, canal trails, and some amazing locales in the Dutch countryside. A dream for us of course. We passed through some heritage windmills and Dutch villages along the way.
But we also got some nerve-wracking headwinds for a large part of the day’s ride of 100 kms. So pedaling was a big effort. But the cool weather and lovely sunny day made it bearable.
We rode to Hague first. We reached there around 3 pm. After a quick lunch, we rode through the city. Infact we rode through an amazing forest trail in the center of the city. (In pic)
Quite an amazing trail. Then we rode on to Rotterdam. A total distance of about 100 kms today.
100% of the ride was on dedicated bike lanes. Even on the expressway, we had a separate bike lane. So of course, a lot of planning and effort is behind the cyclist-friendly infrastructure in the Netherlands.
Day 4 – Rotterdam to Antwerp
Lovely country roads. Again, outstanding infrastructure for cyclists. 100% dedicated bike lanes. But a lot of headwinds again today as well made the riding a bit challenging.
Soon after starting, we had a ferry ride to cross a river. After wasting over an hour, we realised that ferries didn’t work there on weekends. So anyways lesson learned. Avoid ferries.
Then We improvised and took another route. We crossed into Belgium after about 80 kms. Then on, the road to Antwerp was linked with hundreds of brick-made houses. Probably a city norm. All these brick houses looked so charming actually. Infact we finished the ride only at 7.30 pm today. A total distance of 108 kms.
Day 5 – Antwerp to Brussels
We started by exploring the Antwerp waterfront and an amazing breakfast at a local eatery. Then we started riding towards Brussels, passing many suburbs and towns on a Sunday morning. The dedicated bike lanes continue in Belgium as well. Only About 60 kms ride today,
We reached our hotel in the early afternoon. We spent the rest of the day exploring the city on foot and the local metro. We saw the amazing palace square and other attractions. We got to eat Belgian chocolate laden waffles at the iconic Waffles shop and also a local eatery for dinner.
Day 6 – Brussels to Namur
We decided to ride to Namur via a short detour to Waterloo ground first. We visited the famous battlefield where Napoleon lost the battle. The entire battlefield has been preserved well, showcasing the historic battle of Waterloo. Some nice artwork and depictions were put in the museum area as well.
Then we rode towards Namur. The bike paths were too narrow and patchy on many segments of the highway. But the cars and trucks passed us almost 5 feet away and kept a safe distance when overtaking. That’s a lot of respect for cyclists and also shows the cyclist-friendly culture in the country.
A funny incident. We were riding in the afternoon summer and didn’t come across any restaurant or cafe till 2.30 pm. As we were very hungry, So we ate our emergency supplies of theplas at a rest area on the highway with orange juice bought from a nearby superstore.
We got to do a night tour of the city of Namur with our host Natalie and her lovely family. She took us to see the city of Namur. We saw the lovely, fortified wall circling the river and other attractions. Also, Namur was very cold with night-time temp of about 5 deg C.
Day 7 – Namur to Fourmies
Namur was freezing cold at 7.30 am. Temp of about 3 deg C. So, we wore our full finger gloves and full cold weather attire. The originally planned distance was about 120 kms. So we took a short train ride to charlere and started riding from there. This is to ensure that we finish the day’s ride before sunset and don’t ride in the dark. Also, we want to reach early to ensure that we get time to see the destination well. Today We crossed into France by mid-afternoon. We got a very long bike trail through the fields and villages on the south Belgian border. This was a big part of our day’s ride today.
We crossed into France in the late afternoon. We found it funny that these European countries don’t have borders, check posts or even signs proclaiming that we have entered a new country. We know we have crossed into France only because of Google maps.
France welcomed us with some great descents and then came the inevitable . . . Climbs. Some big ones at that. Well, that is all part of bike touring.
We reached fourmies before 5 pm. A small town of 12000 residents. Our stay was in a most enchanting Castle/chateau within a big property with lovely lawns and gardens. We ended the day with a lovely French dinner at their fine dining restaurant.
Day 8 – Formies to compiegne
A most amazing day today. We got to explore the city of Compiegne with a forest trail in its belly for many hours. Earlier We rode about 30 kms to Aulnoye Aumeries amongst French fields and villages. A mix of climbs and descents and empty trails. Almost all the fields were just lush green grass for cattle. No other crop farming.
Our train ride on the French railway was another revelation. Bikes were allowed free and infact a separate cubicle to keep bikes safely. The guard made sure that we got off properly before setting the train off.
We reached Compiegne city in the afternoon and immediately set out on our bikes to explore the city.
We rode to a couple of grand Chateaus and some incredible tree-lined roads, paths, and forest trails. it was nature’s grandeur at its best. See pics and videos. Also, a spectacular waterfront bike path ride.
All this is in the heart of the city. Probably most travel agents or tourists wouldn’t even have bothered to come to Compiegne. Truly enchanted by this place. An exploratory day and many surprises and delights throughout day.
Day 9 – Compiegne to Paris
We started early from Compiegne. A long waterfront cycling trail led us out of the city. an amazing experience, riding in the morning sun and cold weather of 5 deg C.
But then we joined the main highway to Paris. This was not quite a great experience riding here as the highway is a single lane and vehicles move at high speed. But every car or bus driver would pass us at a very safe distance. So great respect for cyclists.
On reaching Paris in the late afternoon, we took some commemorative photos as Kunal finished his tour here in Paris. Then we quickly changed to go sightseeing and also to Eiffel Tower where we had a night tour booked for us. It was a great evening for us overall. Dinner at a Paris restaurant, walking along the riverbank, and then a 2-hour tour of one of the world’s most visited attractions – the Eiffel Tower. The night views of the city were awesome from the top.
Day 10 – Paris Sightseeing and bike packing
Today was a free day for bike packing and getting clothes washed. In the morning itself, we found a nearby bike store and arranged for a bike box. Then we assembled Kunal’s bike in the hotel lobby for a flight back to Mumbai. Also, I could find a laundromat to wash all my clothes and be ready for the next part of the tour with freshly washed clothes. So, we were ready to go sightseeing in Paris on a Hop-on Bus. The sights of the city were amazing, to say the least. We had time to do a river cruise as well.
Paris is spectacular and magnificent with its hundreds of french architectural buildings throughout the city center. The Arc de Triumph
where the Tour De France riders finish the tour was special. The Louvre, the Eiffel tower and so much more.
Day 11 – Paris to Provins
I was fortunate to ride through the Louvre and take some early morning photos without the crowds. Riding along the lovely Sienne river waterfront in Paris in the early morning was a treat. Again, I must say that Paris also has great cycling infrastructure with dedicated paths, traffic signals, and many lovely trails.
Then the city roads gave way to some nice forest trails and bike paths. Funnily Google maps sent me through fields and forests when nearing provins and I was probably lost for an hour before reaching my destination.
Luckily from the forest trail, I could make a phone call to the hotel and send my location and somehow managed to reach the hotel, which was actually an old castle turned into a Hotel in this small town.
Day 12 : Provins to Basel
I had decided to forego the ride for about 3 days from Paris to Basel. Primary reason being that France has many sections where cyclist is riding on single lane highway with little or no shoulder for bikes. While cars respect cyclists and pass safely. Yet it is quite unnerving. So, I decided to take a train to Basel. However, that turned out to be multiple train stops via Paris and hence it meant that I could reach Strasbourg late in the night.
Day 13 – Basel to Aarau
I took an early morning train from Strasbourg to Basel via a stop at Mulhouse and started riding directly from the station. Today I started riding in Switzerland – the 4th country in my tour so far. It was such a pleasure to ride in Switzerland again after 3 years. With 12000 kms of bike trails, the small country is extremely bike friendly.
My ride from Basel railway station to Aarau was gorgeous. Riding through villages, countryside, and mountain trails. I had a huge hill to climb with an equally fantastic descent of 10 kms to end the ride.
Immediately I was happy about my decision to come to Switzerland earlier as the traffic here is slower and primarily u don’t need to ride on highways at all. And of course, the visuals are postcard perfect all the time.
Day 14 – Altdorf to Andermatt
Today i climbed up to Andermatt – only 36 kms. Yet riding at 5-8 kmph on the tough sections meant I took a total of over 5 hours with my luggage-loaded bike. This was a huge effort. But reaching this lovely village made all the effort worth it.
The Andermatt village was so quaint with lovely Swiss Boutique and Swiss-themed wooden houses & buildings, Stone paved roads and a total of probably 75 or fewer houses.
Immediately I took a decision to stay for an extra day here and attempt to climb the Furka Pass tomorrow. That will be without luggage for a change though as I will ride up to Furka pass and come down back to Andermatt.
Day 15 – Andermatt day trip to Furka pass
Furka Pass, with an elevation of 2,429 meters, is one of the highest mountain passes in Switzerland. Luckily, I didn’t have to climb with my bags. So that was some relief. The temp was about 10 deg with sunshine. So wonderful weather for cycling. About 21 kms climb and then a ride down to Andermatt.
I started for Furka pass at 9.30 AM. I hoped to reach up by 12.30 pm or so. Midway up the climb is the James bond spot where Sean Connery shot a scene for the Gold Finger film. I had a great collection of songs on my handlebar-mounted phone. So, it seemed so beautiful with the stunning scenes around me and listening to music.
After a brief Coffee break, I reached the Furka pass top. By then the temperature at the peak had dropped to 4 deg C at that height. I quickly ate my emergency food of an apple and peanuts chikki at the top and started my descent back immediately – wearing a head cap, hoodie, thick socks, jacket etc. But I had forgotten to carry full-finger gloves. That could have been dangerous. my fingers were numb by the time I reached down to my hotel. But all was fine.
This was a great climb day as Furka pass is one of Switzerland’s most well-known climbs.
Day 16 – Chiassio to Milan
I took a short train ride to Chiassio to start riding on my final day of the Europe tour. I Completed the Europe bike tour today at Milan in front of the Duomo – one of the largest churches in Europe.
Starting from chiassio at the Swiss border, this was a 65 kms ride to the centre of Milan. Milan has a huge garden/ trail/ forest in its centre. It took about an hour to ride through all of it. It is so incredible city planning to have such a huge green space in the heart of the city.
I checked into my hotel. I located a couple of bike stores nearby. I went to the Milano cycles store. When I told them of my cycling route from Amsterdam to Milan, the staff went out of their way to arrange a bike box for me and infact gave me the tools to disassemble the bike and pack it in the box. I was done in about 30 minutes – packed ready to fly back home with the sweetest of memories.
Day 17 – Milan Sightseeing and packing
I spent the day, walking across Milan and seeing the sights of this wonderful city and of course eating local Pizza.
Day 18 – Flight back Home
My flight to Mumbai was early. So had to leave for the airport by 5 AM. I landed at home in the early hours of the next day.
The last 3 weeks have been an astounding journey on the bike through 5 countries and seeing some of the finest European cities at the speed of the bike. a lot of memories, experiences, learnings and more importantly living a traveler’s life, a new city daily.