Ride Report: Hoge Kempen National Park

Participants: Inge, Gail, Tom, Igor, Patrick, and myself David

Distance: +/- 40k

Weather and trail conditions: Mild sunny weather. Compacted sand and loam singletrack with practically no mud.

As so often happens, the day did not turn out according to the original plan. When we arrived at the agreed meeting point at the sports complex in the town of Neeroeteren we were surprised to see that the parking was completely full of cars with bike racks and mountain bikers all over the place. At first I thought that somebody must have hacked my email account and figured out I was leading a ride and it went viral, but the reality is that there was coincidently an organized MTB ride starting from the same exact place.

Undeterred, I thought we would just continue with the original plan to follow the GPS track I had downloaded from the O2 Bikers magazine website, the assumption being that once we got far enough from the parking we would be on our own and not be constantly buzzed by the testosterone racer boys that typically frequent these kind of organized rides. Unfortunately, the organizers must have been aware of the O2 Bikers loop, because the organized ride followed exactly the same paths, but in the opposite direction!

After a few kms of swimming upstream against all the riders who were coming at us on the narrow singletracks, we decided to abandon the idea of doing our own “disorganized” ride. Instead, we would join the organized ride and go with the rider flow. If you can’t beat them, join them!

It was a good decision, because most of the riders had already started riding earlier and we did not suffer too many annoying close passes so we could enjoy the trails in relative peace and solitude. The organizers had put together a really nice loop that had plenty of singletrack and various short but steep climbs and descents. Unfortunately, towards the end we missed some signs and ended up missing the last 6 kms of the 40k loop, which actually corresponded to the section of trail that we had done in the “wrong” direction earlier that morning, so the final riding distance ended up being close to 40k anyway. It was a really fun ride, and when I looked at the GPS recorded track on my computer in the evening I saw that the ride was in a completely different area than the one of the O2 Bikers GPS track (except for the first kms that were in common with the organized ride), so it was a good way to discover new trails!

After finishing the ride we decided to just have a beer and a bite to eat at the sports complex café, which had a decent selection of beers, including Paix Dieu abbey beer which is served in a very interestingly shaped glass: www.paixdieubeer.be

I still want to go back another time to do the O2 Bikers loop, as the area looks very mud-resistant and the trails are really fun with lots of twisty singletrack, so expect a proposal from me sometime in the future.