I don’t think I have to introduce The Iron Butt Association and their rides. Long-distance riding challenges till your buns are burned, such as 1000 miles in 24 hours or visiting 48 US States in 10 days. When I learned that a similar ride was being organized in the Netherlands for the very first time, I got curious (and my buns got grumpy).
The event is called The Dutch 1000. The goal: to cover a predetermined route of 1000 km throughout the Netherlands within 24 hours, via a number of checkpoints.
Such rides aren’t really designed to take you on the most beautiful or most winding roads. It’s all about the distance and the challenge that comes with it. Can you endure the long hours, the saddle sore, your aching body? So a nice ride through jaw-dropping scenery wasn’t exactly what I was expecting.
The first edition of The Dutch 1000 would take place this year, but apparently there was more to it than the organizers had imagined, so this year they decided to do a “dress rehearsal”: a ride of 500 km instead of 1000, with as little motorway as possible.
The communication around the event was rather chaotic. Besides the website, there’s a Facebook page, event and group. Combined with enthusiastic organizers, we got so many posts that things became a bit cluttered. In the week before The Dutch for example, various tracks were shared, commented on, adapted and shared again. The fact that the organization wasn’t very well orchestrated could be declared: it was a last minute decision to plan a “demi-Dutch” this year.
Anyway, in the end everything worked out well, so on one Saturday morning in September I parked at Dani’s house, one of the organizers. Before leaving for the starting location, you could take your breakfast or a coffee. We were with about twenty participants, including three Belgians. Mainly allroads and touring bikes, I had a BMW K 1600 B. More about that at the bottom of this article.
We received the track a few days in advance. Depending on which GPS you used, the distance and driving time differed slightly. My BMW Navigator VI announced 534 km and 10 hours.
Because riding such a route in a large group isn’t the most brilliant idea, everyone could pull out when they wanted. Alone or in small groups. I joined Xavier (a Belgian on a Pan-European) and Willem (a Dutchman on one of those superb 650 GS’s). Departure time: 8.45 am. But after 100 km I was already riding solo. Our group got split up in a busy village and we lost each other.
Riding solo surely wasn’t something I was sad about. I could ride at my own pace, stop when I felt like stretching my legs or taking a picture. I occasionally joined with other Dutch 1000 riders and groups. But we often got separated again after conflicting GPS instructions. Funny to see.
The first part of the tour went from Ottersum via Nijmegen to the first highlight of the day: National Park Veluwezoom. Beautiful nature. Mainly forests, sand and heath landscapes. Slightly hilly, even a few hairpin bends. Which I hadn’t expected during this ride.
Then the track went northwards, to Lelystad, for the second highlight of the day: the Houtribdijk. A very impressive structure. “Hey guys, why don’t we put a 32 km long dike in the water here?”
Next up: Volendam. A picturesque little town where I would’ve liked to stop, but I still had a lot of kilometers ahead. A little later, after Amsterdam was behind me, another place where I’d wanted to stay a bit longer: Naarden-Vesting, a beautiful, completely walled town. I had never heard of it, but according to Wikipedia it’s one of the best-preserved fortified cities in Europe. From the outside the fortification looks like this:
These were my four personal highlights of the ride. I finished at 8:15 pm. An hour later, all participants were in. Time for a drink and a chat about the first Dutch. Good times.
Riding the complete route took me 11.5 hours, including some short stops. If the pace remains unchanged for the double distance next year, it seems like an impossible challenge to me. The large number of town centers (with 30 and 50 km/h speed limits) significantly lowered the average speed. Fortunately, the organization realized that too. A faster-paced track will be mapped out for the 2019 Dutch 1000. Not that we won’t see any city centers – which would be a shame – but the amount will be more limited than in this edition.
During the day, as a Belgian, I was impressed by the vastness of the Dutch countryside. Something you don’t really notice when you take the highway to Amsterdam for example. But now I often rode from one small distant village to another, with in between meadows and fields as far as the eye can see. In Belgium on the other hand: endless ribbon development.
And yes, the Netherlands is flat. And it has a thing with water. Unbelievable how you encounter it everywhere, in all forms. Ponds, lakes, streams, canals, you name it. Preferably with one of those old bridges crossing it.
Windmills too, of course. But even more wind turbines. And speed bumps, everywhere. During the debriefing, the ride was even teasingly called the Speed Bump 500 instead of the Dutch 500.
Next to a big amount of beautiful scenery, there were boring parts too. But I guess these are difficult to avoid during this kind of rides.
The date for the 2019 edition is already set for the weekend of June 15th. This time for the first time 1000 km. Already marked in my agenda.
The BMW K 1600 B in 10 points
An endurance ride gets a bit more pleasant when you have a comfortable motorcycle. I rode a K 1600 B from BMW. What I thought of it:
1. Smart move?
Not everyone likes the B’s design (with the B of Bagger, which refers to the “bags”). I feel like it’s mainly BMW riders who’re only mildly enthusiast about this move from BMW. During the week that I had the B however, I heard a lot of positive reactions. Especially from non-BMW riders. Smart move from BMW?
The Bagger is made for long journeys. A fact you’ll notice: it has a very high comfort level. The sitting position is good, the seat is not too hard, nor too soft. And with the electrically adjustable windshield in the highest position you have to endure hardly any wind (I’m still under the impression the RT’s screen performs better though).
Nevertheless, a ride like The Dutch is long and exhausting. After a while, your body will start complaining. A protesting back and rear can easily be tackled by just sliding to a different spot on the seat. Legs getting grumpy? If you opt for the optional footboards, you have quite some options to put your feet, which turned out to be very pleasant during The Dutch. After a while I also suffered from sleeping fingers in my right hand. Occasionally switching on the cruise control brought some relief.
On arrival I had 520 km on the counter, but I can’t say I was beat. So I decided to ride home after a chat with the other participants. At 11.30 pm I parked the B at home in the garage. 645 km in one day, of which about 500 on secondary roads. I had arranged a sleeping place in case I was too tired. But I wasn’t.
Dynamic ESA is a standard feature on the B, with which you can set the suspension to Cruise or Road. Personally I found Cruise too soft, except on the motorway. Road was okay for the rather laid-back riding style during this trip, but those who want to ride with a more dynamic spirit can try to adjust the load (solo, duo, with or without luggage) for tighter cornering.
Mappings: Dynamic, Road and Rain. There’s little difference between Dynamic and Road, except that in Dynamic the exhaust pops when you shift down or close the throttle. Sounds cool but doesn’t really fit the image of the bike.
Despite the B being a brand new model, its dashboard hardly differs from the 1200 RT, which looks a bit outdated. While BMW does offers a full-color TFT-display on other models. Too bad they don’t offer it on the K 1600 B.
The B is wide: exactly 1 meter. And the panniers can’t be taken off. Which wasn’t exactly convenient when I entered the busy Brussels city center with the Bagger. The only option was queueing just like everybody else. Lane-splitting on the highway was doable, because usually Belgian drivers leave enough space between the lanes. Still, a lot of caution is required because the panniers are the widest part of the bike. Not exactly the most fun and relaxed experience.
The B doesn’t look sporty, but with 160 hp and 175 Nm it’s nothing less than a cannonball. Especially in combination with the optional quickshifter (which works flawlessly). It’s impressive to experience how smoothly the 1.649 cc six-cylinder runs and how easily and powerfully the power develops. It’s a red light race champion.
When maneuvering slowly, you’ll feel that you’re doing a balancing act with 336 kg under your butt. But still the B steers a lot lighter and more agile than you’d expect.
The same applies at higher speeds. However, the footboards touch the tarmac regularly (although mounted higher than the Harley level), which proves the confidence the bike offers in cornering.
9. Sound system
The sound system is optional and – in my opinion – avoidable. Even at low speeds the volume needs to be very loud to make songs somewhat audible. And even then it doesn’t sound great.
10. In reverse
The reverse gear is also optional and – in my opinion – warmly recommended. Because a mastodon as the B isn’t easy to walk around with. With the reverse gear, you’ll save yourself some tricky situations and cold sweat.
The ponderous appearance of the BMW K 1600 B is misleading: the B doesn’t only stand for Bagger but also for Bombshell. Its accelerations can only be described as explosive. That won’t be the main reason to consider a K 1600 B, but if you come from a Harley, it’ll be quite a change.
Luxurious cruising is what the B is built for. It offers tons of comfort, excellent handling despite the weight, and nice extras such as the reverse gear and the quickshifter. Too bad the display looks dated, and the substandard (but optional and expensive) sound system is a boo-boo too. But beyond that, the B impresses at all levels.
I find I have to balance interesting roads with open highways for big rides. I’m not a fan of just sitting on freeways for these rides. However for IBA distance (1600+km) rides open roads certainly make covering the distance easier.
And I find doing it in a group a lot more challenging.