Ride Report: Namur – Dinant – Namur
Participants: Rainer, Katja, Rich, Inge, and David
Navigation: GPS track published by the Belgian O2 Bikers magazine. No official signs.
Distance: 44 + 45 km over two days with overnight stay in Dinant. 1800 height meters of climbing in total.
Weather and Trail Conditions: Beautiful sunny weather with 15/16 deg highs, dry trails with the occasional small patch of “permamud”.
As planned, on Saturday Sept 29 our hardy band of adventurers met at the Citadelle of Namur to ride offroad to Dinant by following the Meuse river valley. The return to Namur from Dinant would happen via the opposite side of the Meuse valley the next day. The idea was to stay at a B&B in Dinant taking everything we need for the overnight stay and following a bikepacking philosophy of bringing the minimum luggage possible, either in bikepacking bags that strap on to the bike and/or carried on the back in a rucksack.
However, Rich decided that the B&B was for softies and decided to bring full-on camping gear strapped to his bike, which is the truer hardcore definition of bikepacking. Luckily we had managed to dissuade him earlier on to not do the trip on a gravel bike. He did thank us later.
Day 1 Highlights and Incidents:
· The starting point of the ride, the Citadelle of Namur, is perched high above the city with amazing views. The ride started with a very nice wooded twisty offroad descent down towards the city and the river Meuse. However, before we got going on that descent Rainer tried to bunny hop over a curb and landed funny where his backpack swung to the side and caused him to lose balance and crash hard. Ouch.
· Next, we had to bike along cycle paths next to the river for a while before hitting the next offroad section. We were impressed to see a person in a wetsuit swimming down the river at a pretty good rate of speed. Water didn’t look too warm, but some people are brave/crazy.
· There were plenty of stiff climbs and descents explained by the fact that the trails weaved in and out of the valley and onto higher plateaus. One of the descents we did that first morning was super long and rocky and qualifies to me as one of the best descents I have ever encountered in the Ardennes. I couldn’t wipe the grin off my face at the bottom, and duly punched in the location as a waypoint into my GPS for future reference.
· We had planned to stop in the village of Crupet for lunch as it is a known touristic town that is described as one of the most beautiful villages of the Ardennes, and beautiful it was. The first café/restaurant we encountered was closed, but luckily there was another one a bit further down the street so we did manage to have a pleasant refuelling break on the terrace.
· Entering the village of Crupet was reasonably easy. Getting out was a whole other story as we had to go up on a steep trail consisting of stone slabs with loose rocks and gravel lying on top. Since it was difficult to keep momentum on that kind of surface, it was only a matter of time before we were all pushing our bikes, but hey, that’s part of the adventure!
· After 6h20m of elapsed time we finally saw Dinant in the distance as we descended through some open fields and joined a tarmac road which brought us down to the busy waterfront of the city. At that point Rich set off to ride a further 5km to a camping he had researched on the internet. We set off towards our waterfront B&B, but not before stopping for celebratory drink(s) at a sunny terrace on the water’s edge. After checking into the B&B and changing into our “civilian” clothes, we met up again with Rich to go for dinner together at a cozy restaurant where Rainer made up for his time away from Belgium by stuffing himself with fries, accompanied with a “side order” of mussels. I guess you could call it frites-moules instead of moules-frites.
· The temperature forecast for Saturday night in Dinant was predicting lows of 3 degrees, so we were understandably concerned that Rich was so nonchalant about going back to his camping for the night. We had visions of having to go fetch him in the morning to chip the ice off of his tent and see if he was still alive, but he was adamant that he was going to camp that night. Respect.
Day 2 Highlights and Incidents:
· We slept very well in our waterfront B&B and next morning the view from the windows was spectacular with a thick layer of mist floating on top of the river Meuse which gave a very dramatic look. We started to wonder if Rich had made it through the night, even considering he had brought a flask of whisky to increase his chances of survival, but at 10am as agreed he was in front of the B&B ready to roll. We stayed at the B&B “L’Inattendu sur la croisette” and it was very clean and comfortable with extremely friendly staff that allowed us to store our dirty bikes indoors. Highly recommended.
· Leaving Dinant also proved to be a challenge as the GPS track led us up some concrete stairs into the forest. The dirt trail that continued onwards after the stairs was really steep and we did not have a proper warm up in advance, so some pushing and cursing was in order. After some time the trail flattened a bit and just as we got to believe that the worse was behind us we saw another group of mountain bikers waiting to queue as each of them pushed their bikes up an inhumanly steep trail that seemed impossible for anyone to ride. It is then that I saw the arrows for a marked VTT trail pointing up and couldn’t imagine who thought that this was a good idea.
· After making it up to the plateau above Dinant we enjoyed some scenic trails in rolling countryside. One particular trail started off idyllically with a beautifully manicured tunnel of overhanging trees and shrubs but after 100 metres it spit us out in front of an exposed hillside climb which made us wince just looking at the pain that was to come. As feared, this climb was very tough with a very evil kick-up at the end.
· One unpleasant experience came a few moments later when we were descending on an asphalt farm road and approaching a left bend in the road. Rainer, Katja, and Rich had already disappeared around that bend moments earlier when all of a sudden one of those huge mega-tractors came tearing around the bend heading directly towards Inge and myself at high speed and with no apparent intention to slow down. Needless to say we had no choice but to take evasive panic action and swerve into the field next to the road. The sad thing is that seconds earlier on the other side of the bend Rainer had motioned to the tractor driver to slow down, which he didn’t feel the need to do, apparently.
· Right after the tractor incident we turned on to a wide descending trail flanked by concrete electricity pylons. It all started looking terribly familiar to me. This trail was in fact part of Steve’s Anhee loop, but we were riding it in the opposite direction descending into the village of Annevoie. The funny thing is that one of the memorable descents on Steve’s Anhee loop is that one long descent that zig zags down from a restaurant perched on the edge of a high cliff overlooking the town of Godinne. This time however, that descent was to become a climb, and boy was that a long long climb! We ended up having lunch at the restaurant at the top and enjoyed amazing views over Godinne and the Meuse valley while we refuelled on pasta.
· After the lunch stop we rode some amazing rocky technical trails, some of which were barely rideable when loaded down with bikepacking seatpacks that prevent the possibility of sliding your bum back over the rear wheel to avoid going over the bars.
· The section after the town of Profondeville was quite disappointing as we had to stay on tarmac roads for kilometre after kilometre. I would like to go back there one day and explore to see if there is a way to avoid those long stretches of tarmac.
· After finding dirt again we just had a couple of kilometres to go before we all of a sudden arrived back to the parking of the Citadelle after 6h40m of elapsed time. First priority at that moment was to load our bikes in the cars followed by a quick “hydration” stop at the panoramic café high up overlooking the city of Namur.
All in all, a fantastic weekend in the company of fantastic people! If there is interest we can repeat this ride next year. 🙂