The area of Belgian Limburg south of Hasselt – Genk is in many ways a cyclist paradise. On the down side is the lack of decent cycle paths along the main roads. The N80 from Sint-Truiden to Hannuit, which brings you to Gingelom, has no cycle path of any kind once you leave Bevingen just south of Sint-Truiden.
There is an alternative route but that crosses the N80 at a very dangerous point where foolish cyclists like me risk their lives. This alternative cycle route is also not signposted. For these luxuries you must go to the Netherlands.
If you have to cycle along the main roads you have to share the roads with cars, tractors and lorries. Where there are cycle paths they tend to be narrow and right next to the main road. Because of that you will road debris like sharp bits of stone, glass and metal on the path, waiting to puncture your tyres.
Limburg has a network of narrow country roads, which are there to serve the farmers going to their land, but these roads are also wonderful for cyclists. The area is not as flat as Panjab or the west of the Netherlands and not as hilly as the south of Netherlands Limburg or the Belgian Ardennes.
Limburg has some 2000 km of sign-posted routes for touristic purposes. Throughout the province are numbered nodes or junctions which are connected by country roads, reserved cycle routes and even cobblestone and dirt roads. You can buy a booklet and map from the local tourist services. With these you can put together your trip, making your tour as easy or as challenging as you like.
The map shows distances in km between the ‘junctions’ and also the gradients of the hills. The routes do cross main roads and go through villages and towns, but they are safe enough, unless you are an idiot like your ‘man-in-blue’ who believes that walkers and cyclists have the right of way over cars and lorries.
I can easily manage 30 – 40 km for a morning or an afternoon cycle, but I also have been out on longer trips to the east of Sint-Truiden where there are more castles and fortified farms, more hills and more bits of woodland.
I have been cycling regularly throughout this winter. It was mild for most of the last months, but it did rain regularly. In spite of that I got soaked only once. In the short period of cold and snow I found myself in a minor blizzard and I took a tumble when I hit an obstacle hidden by the snow.
It is of course wonderful to go out on a warm sunny day, but I equally like to cycle when it is rainy and windy, or when the roads are covered in snow and ice. Me against the elements, go slow against the wind uphill and fly with wind downhill.
The dark clouds, the sun peeping through between them, the rainbow (no pots of gold, sorry birds using their skills not to be blown off course and you there on your bike feeling part of God’s play. The bad weather, the wind, the rain, snow, hail stones remind you that you are just a tiny speck of dust in the universe. Why do not more people understand that going by tin can is an inferior way to travel ?