About the challenge
This circular cycle challenge takes us through the quiet roads of Belgium, a very cycle-friendly nation. From the flat roads of Flanders in the north, to the rolling hills of Wallonia in southern Belgium, we pass through historic cities and traditional villages. Highlights include the beautiful city of Bruges and historic Ypres and Mons, known for their significance in WW1. This is a physical challenge with plenty of distractions to offer!
Day 1: Dover – Dunkirk – Bruges
Cycle approx 55 miles
We meet early at Dover and take our morning ferry to Dunkirk. We start cycling and it’s not long before we cross the border from France into Belgium at Hondschoote. We ride along the flat roads of West Flanders, passing dairy farms and polders, low-lying areas protected by dikes and drainage canals. There are a few small hills as we approach Bruges, but most of the terrain is very flat. Famed for its canal networks, Bruges, or ‘the Venice of the North,’ has some beautiful medieval buildings; the historic centre is a World Heritage Site. An evening wander is a very pleasant way to end our first day! Night hotel. (Lunch on ferry not included)
Day 2: Bruges – Mechelen
Cycle approx 67 miles
After a good breakfast we set off! Heading predominantly southeast, we leave the lovely sights of Bruges behind us and cycle through green farmland and small towns with striking churches and town halls. Cycling roughly parallel to the Bruges-Ghent canal, it’s not long before we come to the ancient city of Ghent, which we cross with care, marvelling at the impressive medieval buildings as we pass. On quiet roads again, we ride through an area dotted with old ruins, mills and many waterways; much of this region forms a drainage basin. Our terrain today is again predominantly flat, but there are a few short climbs before reaching the historic town of Mechelen. Night hotel.
Day 3: Mechelen – Mons
Cycle approx 65 miles
We ride south today, again on predominantly flat roads though as usual there are some gentle inclines as we follow our route to southern Belgium. Passing the busy outskirts of Brussels, we continue south, passing close to the battlefields of Waterloo. Now heading southwest, we ride through agricultural land and small villages towards Mons, an ancient city best known for its role in WW1 – the first battle of the British Army took place here in August 1914. Night hotel.
Day 4: Mons – Ypres
Cycle approx 70 miles
Southern Belgium is slightly hillier than the lowlands of Flanders, and we encounter a few rolling roads this morning, as we pass northwest through farmland and woodland, again dotted with small villages and towns. Our route takes us roughly parallel to the French border, passing very close to it as we ride back into Flanders in the afternoon. Our destination tonight is Ypres, surrounded by WW1 battle-sites. It will be possible to attend the evening memorial ceremony at the Menin Gate. Night hotel.
Day 5: Ypres – Dover
Cycle approx 30 miles
Our last day’s ride takes us west on flat roads again and, after over 250 miles on Belgian roads, we cross into northern France and head to Dunkirk. We take the ferry back to Dover, say our farewells and head home, elated at our achievement. (Lunch on ferry not included, dinner not included)
Discover Adventure reserves the right to change the route or itinerary for safety reasons should local conditions dictate.
All accommodation is included, as well as transport (by ferry) and all meals except as specified in the itinerary. It also includes full trip support of experienced Discover Adventure leaders, drivers and mechanics.
It does not include personal travel insurance, meal as specified, drinks, extra food, personal items or entry to any optional tourist sites you may wish to visit. Remember to allow extra for drinks, snacks, souvenirs and other personal expenses. Please note that costs may fluctuate and we have no control over any changes. We strongly recommend you carry a credit card in case of personal emergency.
Accommodation is in 2-3* hotels, picked for their proximity to our route. The hotels are comfortable with en suite facilities; standards may vary between the hotels.
All food is included except one meal as specified. Lunches are generous buffet-style with plenty of energy food to keep you going! Dinners are generally eaten in hotels or nearby restaurants.
Being vegetarian or having other dietary requirements is not usually a problem provided you let us know well in advance. Please do not expect as much variety as you would have access to at home. If you know there are plenty of foods you cannot eat you may wish to bring extra snacks from home so you can top up your energy supply. Please feel free to ask us for advice. Any meals not included are listed in the itinerary and are generally when we are in towns or cities where you are free to explore and find something to suit your budget.
Discover Adventure Crew
Your trip will be led by experienced Discover Adventure leaders. Our leaders are selected for their experience in harsh wilderness environments, knowledge of travel in remote areas, friendliness and approachability, sense of humour and ability to safely and effectively deal with any situation that arises. They are also trained in expedition first-aid. You are in very safe hands with a Discover Adventure leader.
All our leaders are from the UK or other English-speaking countries. Most work for us on an ad-hoc basis and have ‘real’ jobs in-between trips! We never send our leaders to the same destination for months on end – we want them to be as enthusiastic about your trip as you are. The number of crew and support vehicles looking after you will depend on the final size of your group, but the team will be looking after every aspect of your trip whether that’s transporting your luggage, ensuring your route is well-marked, making you lunch and sorting out any mechanical problems. At Discover Adventure we pride ourselves on our high leader: cyclist ratio and believe it leads to greater trip enjoyment as well as excellent trip safety.
Support vehicles are with the group all of the time. All luggage and spares will be carried in them. Space is limited and hard-sided luggage is not suitable, so it is essential that your kit is packed in a soft sailing bag, rucksack or expedition kitbag. Ask us about our specially-designed low-cost kitbags if you don’t have one already. You should also bring a small daypack or large waist-pack to carry items needed during the day as you will not have access to your main luggage until the evening. Your bikes will be collected in advance from London to be driven to Brussels in time. They will be well-packed and protected during transit in our vehicles, but if you have a particularly expensive or delicate frame, you may prefer to bring extra lagging to protect it more, or a soft bike bag. Hard case bike bags are not suitable as we do not have space to store them.
Your safety, and that of the rest of the group, is our highest priority. Our trips are designed and planned with safety in mind. Your crew will be equipped with radios and emergency mobile phones, first-aid kits and other safety apparatus where necessary. They always have access to our 24-hour emergency back-up in the UK. Our leaders are responsible for safety on the trip, and will make any changes to the itinerary they deem necessary should local conditions dictate. Pre-trip administration – such as compulsory medical questionnaires and travel insurance – is all done with your safety in mind.
Preparing for the challenge
The cycling is mainly flat, with some short climbs and gentle undulations. Distances are fairly long, with full days of riding averaging 65-70 miles over 60 miles each day; you should make sure you are fit enough to manage these distances. We ride mainly on small country roads. Traffic is light on most of the roads but when we pass through busy areas we may go through as a group. Belgian drivers are generally far more considerate to cyclists than here in the UK. We are always happy to talk through the trip in more detail with you if you are worried about your fitness at any stage.
We strongly recommend that you ride a road/racing bike (rather than a mountain bike) for this trip due to the long distances involved on well-surfaced roads. However Discover Adventure can provide hybrid or mountain bikes at an extra cost if you wish.
There will be a range of spares in the vehicle along with a full tool kit. However it is impossible for us to carry spares for every eventuality so it is vital that when bringing your own bike it is in good order before departure.
It is imperative that you supply your own helmet and wear it at all times while cycling, with the straps done up.
Clothing & Equipment
We could be exposed to bad weather at any time so be prepared for all weathers and temperatures and remember that weather conditions can change quickly. We provide you with a detailed packing kit-list on registration, as well as details on useful discounts you are entitled to as a Discover Adventure customer. We are always available if you need advice.
Belgium’s climate is very similar to that of southern England. Temperatures can vary widely and rain is always a possibility. Rural areas are very open so there is little shelter from wind in flatter areas.
Our challenges attract people of all levels of experience and fitness, all ages and backgrounds. We expect all participants to train hard in advance to achieve this challenge, but we respect everyone’s limits. We design our challenges so that everyone can go at their own pace: this is not a race. For logistical and safety reasons we sometimes need to re-group, so the front-runners will find themselves waiting for the slower ones. Please relax, and remember that this is a team effort that enables people to achieve their personal goals and earn sponsorship.
Passport & Visa
A valid ten-year passport is essential; it must be valid for your entire stay in France and Belgium. There is no visa requirement for UK citizens. Other nationalities should check entry requirements.
We insist that you have had a Tetanus injection in the last ten years, and highly recommend protection against Polio. You should always check with a GP or travel clinic for up-to-date travel health advice as it does change.
Worldwide Sustainable Tourism
Long before ‘Responsible Tourism’ became a recognised phrase, we designed and ran our trips to ensure they made minimum impact on the environment and a positive impact on the local communities we pass through.
Discover Adventure Projects
We are supporting a tree-planting project in Peru and a children’s home in Tanzania on a long-term basis. If you would like to ‘give something back’ please consider donating £5 to our projects when you sign up.
We encourage all our customers to offset emissions connected with their trip. You can offset at any time in the lead-up to departure by visiting Climate Care via our website and making a donation to a worthwhile project supported by them. Alternatively, if you wish to take more practical action in the UK you can volunteer for a day with TCV and work on an environmental project local to you. Work may include construction footpaths, dry stone walling, creating wildlife habitats or planting trees in your community. Volunteer today at www.tcv.org or call 01302 388883