The Spring Classics are a major part of the pro cycling calendar and many cyclists time their Belgium cycling tours to coincide with taking part in one of the sportives or watching a pro race or two.

But over the years we’ve spoken with many cycling businesses in Belgium who are bemused by this trend. They tell us that it’s often a better idea to go cycling in Belgium outside the Classics.

Why?

Read on and Ken Roubedou from Bergs & Cobbles Cycling Travel will explain…

All photos credited to or via Visit Flanders in this article are used under licence and with their kind permission. We have cropped the photos for use in our article.

What are the Spring Classics?

From the end of February until mid April each year, the Belgian Spring Classics are in full swing. Cycling is a national sport for Belgium, so (nearly) the whole country turns out to spectate, a lot of beer is drunk at these races and there’s a carnival-like atmosphere.

The Classics start in Ghent with Omloop and end with the Queen of the Classics, Paris Roubaix. In between there are plenty of other professional races like Dwars door Vlaanderen, Gent Wevelgem and of course the Tour of Flanders. More information here. 

The great thing about these Belgium cycle races is the passion you witness from riders and spectators alike. For cyclists that like riding sportives, the combination of a sportive ride the day prior to the race and watching a pro race the next day is attractive; so you ride on the same roads as the pros and definitely experience a lot of the same atmosphere.

Benefits to cycling Belgium (especially when it’s not the Classics?!)

The Classics are great, the crowds are amazing – but if a Belgium bike tour in early spring does not suit you, that does not mean you can never enjoy the Tour of Flanders.

Here are some reasons for planning a cycling holiday in Belgium outside the Classics – and how to enjoy biking in Belgium at any time of year.

Reason 1: Experience Belgium’s cycle routes

Outside of the Classics, Belgium’s roads and cycling routes are considerably quieter.

Ride the famous bergs

Belgium is at the very heart of Classics cycling. The routes of Roubaix, Flanders, Amstel and Liège Bastogne Liège are all within 90 minutes from Ghent. You can enjoy the famous climbs and roads like the Old Kwaremont, Koppenberg and Paterberg and ride on the same roads like the pros anytime of the year.

If you have two or more days of cycling ahead then why not combine the famous Flanders climbs and also ride the famous Kemmelberg, known from the Ghent Wevelgem classic, and combine it with some World War I history?

If you try organising this kind of bike tour of Belgium when the Classics are on it’s pretty difficult due to the sheer numbers of visitors around as well as closed roads. Outside of Classics season it’s a totally different story.

Easy riding

For those looking for something more leisurely, five EuroVelo routes go through Belgium. Two of the most well-known are the Pilgrims route (EuroVelo 3) and the Via Romea Francigena route (EuroVelo 5).

Shorter long distance routes inside of Flanders have also been developed like the nine icon routes stretching over the entire country in different stages: Belgium’s cycling through water and cycling through trees are examples.

Outside Classics season, it’s very possible for us to incorporate some of this style of riding into your itinerary if that’s what you would like.

Reason 2: Avoid the crowds

Another advantage of avoiding Belgium during the Classics, are bike hire and accommodation availability.

Bike hire

Top quality bike hire is quite difficult to find in Belgium throughout the year; it is almost impossible to find a decent rental bike ahead of the sportive Tour of Flanders.

All that changes throughout spring and the summer where we can find you top level Specialized rental bikes for you to tackle all the climbs and cobbles.

Accommodation

Belgium is not a big country and accommodation is limited. Hotels get booked out by the pro teams and it’s often difficult to have a room in the area around the dates of the Classics, especially if you decide to visit on short notice.

Rather than competing with all the tour companies that bring cyclists in just for the Classics, get the full range of cycling accommodation options by planning your Belgium cycling tour to fall outside the Classics season.

For example if you want to stay close to the famous Koppenberg, you can hire a cosy B&B at the foot of the Koppenberg or stay in a hotel in Oudenaarde close to the famous cycling museum and all the action.

Cyclists on a Belgium cycling tour

Belgian cycling café (credit: Visit Flanders)

Reason 3: Get the best weather

Yes, we are Flandrien cyclists, we ride in all weather!

But when you tackle these roads in late spring or summer you will be able to ride short sleeves. And that does have a certain appeal if you’re on holiday…!

Summer weather also allows long days in the saddle, with plenty of opportunities to enjoy your favourite beer after the ride on one of the many terraces in the small towns or cities.

Ghent in the sunshine is spectacular.

Reason 4: See the real Belgium

If you want to combine your cycling tour in Belgium with some culture, visit outside Classics season.

We get great feedback from our clients who combine their cycling holiday in Belgium with a cultural city break like the mediaeval towns of Ghent and Bruges. They can enjoy the best hotels in these towns and feel the Belgian vibe on a sunny summer’s day.

If music is more your thing, you could always combine your cycling trip with the world renowned Tomorrowland or Rock Wercheter festivals in July. There are also famous city festivals such as the Ghent festivities in mid July which has 10 days filled with music, theatre and good food.

Or if you want to get to know Belgium’s beer better, then how about a Belgium bike beer tour?

Reason 5: Visit for a different cycling festival

Such is the strength and depth of Belgium’s passion for cycling, the Classics are not the only major cycling festival in Belgium.

For those that love vintage bikes, it’s worth knowing about the Vintage Tour of Flanders on the weekend of 9th June 2023. There will be rides, flea markets dedicated to vintage cycling gear and clothing.

Spot of 6 day cycling anyone?! For those open to Belgium cycling holidays at the end of the season, in November you can combine your cycling with a few nights attending the Ghent Six Day track cycling event. This is one of the last remaining indoor track races in Europe and it’s really something special.  Watch some great cycling combined with tons of atmosphere.

Conclusion: When should you go cycling in Belgium?

A cycling holiday in Belgium is always a good idea. But in my opinion, the best time of year to visit are the long days of May, June and July. At this time of year, temperatures are perfect for riding and you can easily combine your cycling trip with your summer holiday in Europe.

After all, London, Paris and Amsterdam are all well connected to Brussels and Ghent in less than 2 hours!

 

A big thank you to Ken from Bergs & Cobbles Cycling Travel for this inspiration and sharing the reasons cycling in Belgium is so much more than just a trip to the Classics!

 

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Ken Roubedou

My name is Ken Roubedou, founder of Bergs & Cobbles Cycling Travel. I was born and raised in Ghent, Belgium, which is still home today.

I have worked for over 25 years in the tourism industry. Before setting up Bergs & Cobbles Cycling Travel, I spent ten years organising cycling holidays in Southern Europe.

Now it’s time to show everybody the hidden cycling gems of Belgium and Flanders!

Last Reviewed: 07 December 2022

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2 Responses to “5 reasons to cycle Belgium (especially when it’s NOT the Classics)”

    • Hi Steph, thanks so much for your kind feedback. Enjoy your trip to Belgium! Best wishes, Clare

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