The classic river route… in the world’s capital of cycling. The Rhine Cycle Route in the Netherlands, aka EuroVelo route 15, is 260km of smooth, flat cycling on traffic-free cycleways and quiet roads.
You might expect a long, steady ride surveying the Rhine riverscape from the top of dykes, but the route is much more varied than that. The Rhine delta splits into several streams – the Nederrijn, the Linge, the Waal, the Maas – and the cycleway takes in all of them, its riverside paths connected by tiny roads through low-lying agriculture and the reclaimed polders. Ferries take you from bank to bank, looking for gaps in the near-constant barge traffic.
There are forest paths, too, and even the occasional hill. The route takes in a succession of market towns and old Rhine ports, where lift-bridges carry you over waterways still busy with converted houseboats and pleasure craft. The great trading port of Rotterdam and the fascinating reconstructed city of Arnhem are the two urban highlights, and you’ll see an interesting mix of riverside industry still serviced by coasters and Rhine barges.
Thousands of cycle tourists ride this route every year, increasingly on e-bikes. But even in the most rural areas, you’ll be sharing the roads and paths with Dutch cyclists simply going about their daily business. It’s an uplifting and empowering vision of how cycling ought to be the world over.
If you put the hours in then you could tick this route off in two days, but far better to take your time and enjoy the towns and scenery along the way.
This is the Netherlands, so that means two things: mostly flat, mostly traffic-free. Cycling doesn’t get much easier or more relaxed than this. Your one challenge will be the wind, but there’s not a lot you can do about that!
Anything you like. It’s entirely paved, so a skinny-tyred road bike would be fine. It’s (almost) flat, so a single-speed would work. You’ll see touring bikes, e-bikes, Dutch sit-up-and-beg bikes, kid-carrying bakfiets… pretty much everything. We rode it on a folding bike and encountered no difficulties.
Cafés and bike shops are plentiful, though you’ll often have to detour a short way off-route to find them. Almost all Dutch retailers speak English and accept card payment.
Yes, though not consistently as one route. The Rhine route is EuroVelo 15. You’ll sometimes see this on signs, often as a blue sticker at the bottom of another route sign. But often you’ll just find yourself following the Dutch national routes that follow the same course: LF3 (Hanzeroute), LF4 (Midden-Nederlandroute), LF17, and the Maasfietsroute. In practice these signs almost always make it clear which way to go, though as ever, we’d suggest having the route on your phone or GPS as a backup.
The Rhine delta is a complex mesh of rivers and drains – not just the rivers Rhine, Maas, Waal and Lek, but a thousand little connections and canals. Unlike further upstream, EuroVelo 15 chooses just to follow one possible course through this waterland, but that’s not to say you can’t choose your own variants from the equally intricate Dutch cycle network. In particular, the Maas (Meuse) route offers a southerly alternative from the German border through to Gorinchem.
The route intermingles with the long-distance LF touring routes through the Netherlands, both the older numbered routes and the newer named routes. Between Arnhem and Leersum it shares its course with EuroVelo 2, the Capitals Route.
It’s a well-chosen route all round, but on occasion you may want to cut off an extravagant loop or detour into a town centre. The knooppunten (key numbered points on the cycle network) make it easy to visit nearby places without accidentally venturing onto a motorway.
Cycle tourists from the UK can easily access the end point at Hook of Holland with the twice-daily ferry from Harwich.
Nederlandse Spoorwegen, the Dutch railway operator, carries a limited number of bikes on both local and intercity services. You’ll need to buy a special bike ticket, and travel off-peak. Folding bikes are carried free at all times. There’s no station at Millingen, the start of the route in the Netherlands, but you could travel a little further on to Kleve in Germany and ride from there.