Places to visit western Belgium on bike?

Discussion in 'Belgium' started by swid, Feb 27, 2020.

  1. swid

    swid Meyvn (1,070) Jun 5, 2004 Missouri
    Society Trader

    While I probably won’t get around to a full trip report for another week or so, I do want to offer a hearty thanks to everyone who offered suggestions in this thread. We rode about 115 miles (185 km) over three days and had reasonably good weather luck (although riding into a headwind all day on one of the days wasn’t fun).

    The only real regret is that we didn’t spread the ride over a longer time period, but there’s always next time. :slight_smile:
     
  2. swid

    swid Meyvn (1,070) Jun 5, 2004 Missouri
    Society Trader

    Back in the States and time for the trip report:

    Day 0:

    Picked up bikes from Pro Velo in Brussels. Their rental rates were very reasonable, the bikes were in great shape and very well-maintained, and served us well on our trip - would definitely use again for bike rentals. The only caveat was that we rented city bikes instead of road bikes, so they were on the heavy side.

    After that, we hopped on a train to Bruges and spent the evening drinking at Cafe Rose Red and then stayed overnight in the Hotel Cordoeanier rooms directly upstairs.

    Day 1:

    Rode about 90 km / 55 miles total for the day. Left the hotel around 8:30 and started riding SW out of Brussels - this day, we had near-perfect riding conditions - sunny, afternoon high around 21 C / 70 F, and a gentle tailwind nearly the entire day.

    In retrospect, we should have had breakfast before leaving, but since we didn't we ended up stopping for a late breakfast at Brus in Gistel. We rode on, passing a windmill outside of Koekelare and stopped for photos of the IJzer Tower in Diksmuide. Riding along a back road, we came across Bij de Witten and stopped for a beer. We left after a little bit, as we were trying to get to 't Molenhof for lunch before they closed. Unfortunately...we should have lingered a bit longer, as Google Maps' information was incorrect and they weren't open at all.

    Since we were only about 20 minutes away at this point, we rode on to In De Vrede for the obligatory Westvleteren visit. We were ready to sit inside (and out of the sun) by this point in the day - and it was nearly empty inside, we were able to sit for a bit and have some small bites with with our round of Westies. On to our overnight stop at the Guesthouse Brouwershuis at St. Bernardus outside of Watou - this was a great recommendation for a place to stay, and the fridge full of beer was a welcome sight. At this point, since were only a short distance from the French border, we rode (barely) into France - we brought a beer with us for the obligatory Untappd border tick - and had a nice dinner at Terminus on the Belgian side of the border. Rode back to St. Bernardus as it was getting dark, had some more beer from the fridge, and called it a night.

    Day 2:


    Rode about 75 km / 45 miles total for the day. This day started out great; we had a filling breakfast at the Brouwershuis and set out around 10:30. Unfortunately...we had a strong headwind from the ENE the entire day, which made the ride not as enjoyable as it was the previous day. Weather still warm and sunny.

    We rode east around Poperinge, Ypres, passing numerous WWI cemeteries (I tried to keep count of the exact number I saw, but stopped counting after 8 or so). While our initial goal was a late lunch in Kortrijk, we eventually gave up and stopped for "lunch" at a SPAR Express in Geluveld. Riding into the wind,we made our way through Menen and started riding along the Leie to Kortrijk, where we stopped for mid-afternoon beers at Gainsbar. The beer, music, and vibe was pretty great, and I wish we had stopped for the day in Kortrijk, but our Airbnb was further away on the Flanders/Wallonia border at Kluisbergen, so we rode on.

    From this point on, we were largely on an excellent set of bike paths (where, in many case, bikes had priority over cars at intersections); at other times, Google Maps' suggested route was nothing more than a paved footpath running between fields and houses.

    Our final challenge was something that (before the trip) we jokingly called "Belgian Everest", as it was the only actual hill of any size we'd encounter, and our Airbnb was towards the top. Unfortunately...by the time we approached it, the jokes melted away and none of the four of us had any energy left to bike up the final few hundred meters there, and we walked the bikes up. After getting settled, we walked a short distance to Kluizbar (which was on the Wallonian side of the street) and had a good meal. The beer they make there...was just OK. Exhausted and full, we walked down the hill a bit and called it a day.

    Day 3:

    Rode about 16 km / 10 miles total for the day; headwind out of the NE once again. Cool morning start around 8 from the Airbnb. Rode along the Scheldt to Oudenaarde's railway station and returned to Brussels.

    ---

    The first day of the ride was one of the most pleasant overall days I've experienced; all things considered, we got about as lucky as we could have been for the weather. I'd love to explore the back roads of Belgium again someday...preferably on a lighter bike. :slight_smile: