Cycling in Flanders
Although cycling in Flanders is popular, it's also much dismissed by cyclists to explore the off the beaten tracks in this part of Belgium. Sure, Flanders is not a big area but there's a lot to see. Think only of the history and you will find yourself easy spending a week or two cycling around.
Being a Dutchman, Belgium was never far away. I have cycled many times into Belgium either to Antwerp or into the Walloons.
Cycling to Flanders
Cycling from Holland to Antwerp can be done in many ways. For example from Vlissingen in Zeeland it's a nice ride. Another good way to enter Belgium from the Netherlands is from Breda which is not far from the Belgian border.
Take the road to Zundert and follow it all the way through little towns to Antwerp. Very good bike ride.
If you come from France, there are several options. You can take the road from Lille to Roubaix and Kortrijk to Gent, which is a good day on the bike. Coming from a little more east, there are proper roads through Charleroi and Mons.
But in reality you can take almost any small road as it always ends up somewhere, no need to be afraid to get lost.
What to see?
The mostly flatlands of Flanders have a lot to offer to cyclists. Don't be alarmed with the flatlands, you will get your hills, plenty of them. So, what are the attractions of Flanders?
Here are the cities which, I think are a must visit: Antwerp, Gent, Bruges, Mechellen, Leuven and Tongeren in the east of Flanders near the Netherlands.
There are many more smaller towns worth exploring. And with a piece of history as Faders has, you will never be bored. If it is food, fine arts, architecture or beer, you will find it.
For beer you might want to sort out the monasteries, Hoegaarden is one of the more famous beers in the country and it's a good stop on the way to Liege in Walloons. In reality almost every village in Belgium has it's own beer. Just try to local cafe for a taste.
Flanders has a long history in bicycle racing. There are many (semi) classic rides every year. The most important is the Ronde van Vlaanderen (Tour of Flanders) which is one of the highlights of the bicycle racing season.
The tour always include a couple of hills which are for every cyclist a challenge (Kluisberg, Oude Kwaremont, Koppenberg, Berendries, De Muur and Bosberg to name a few. None of these hills are high but all are steep, up to 25% (koppenberg).
All great professional cyclists wanted to win this race. Winners include Eddy Merckx, Rik Van Steenbergen, Jan Raas, Roger De Vlaeminck, Johan Museeuw and Tom Boonen.
If you decide to cycle some of these hills, expect to find many cyclist doing the same.
Other classics in Flanders include: Gent–Wevelgem, Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, E3 Prijs Vlaanderen, Grote Scheldeprijs, the Brabantse Pijl and Paris-Brussels.
The bicycle races might explain the popularity of cycling in Belgium. In almost every town you will find bicycle shops. Many of them have the ordinary repairs available. Should you look for more advanced materials, there are many options.
In Aalst, 30 km from Brussels and another 17 from Gent you will find one of the largest bicycle shops in the country": Van Eyk Sports.
There are 3 branches.
If Van Eyk Sports can't help you, you probably won't be able to get your problem solved anywhere else in Belgium. Aalst is about 30 km west of Brussels on the way to Gent.
There's a very good old shop in Gent, called Plum. The address Nederkouter 141, B-9000 in Gent.
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Cycling in Wallonia
My favorite area to cycle in Belgium. The Ardennes are a wonderful area and there is more than nature. Some old castles, small medieval city centers and a lot of great people.
Cycling for days in the cold rain in June, it's what people call the West European Summer.