Market Garden by bike

--- Cycling the Market Garden route ---

"Hell's Highway is probably the most site-packed historical war remembrance route accessible to cyclists of all levels."

Cycling Operation Market Garden

The aim of this website is to provide information, tips, and route suggestions to cyclists with a keen interest for this particular historical event all the way to seasoned battlefield historians that own a bicycle. A 'best route' is based on personal preference for certain points of interest and the stamina of the rider to be able and willing to go over 150 km in the saddle.

Please be reminded: This website is not an official history site, neither is it part of a commercial tour operator nor does it intend to represent a professional battlefield guide operation.

The shortest route from A to B is a straight line

It is commonly known that the shortest route from A to B is a straight line. If it were possible to go from Leopoldsburg (or Bourg-Léopold as it was once known) to Arnhem, it would be exactly 105 km (65 miles).

Many historical resources claim the Lommel to Arnhem corridor (via Valkenswaard, Eindhoven, Son, Veghel, Uden, Zeeland, Grave, and Nijmegen) as being 103 km (64 miles). According to Google, and based on the current road infrastructure, it is 121 km (75 miles) by motorised vehicle. On bicycle roadways, it is slightly shorter at 114 km (70 miles). And this makes Hell's Highway probably the most site-packed one-day historical war remembrance route in which bicycles where last used by both sides as a military form of transport.

If you live in Holland, it is easy to just get on your bike and cycle Market Garden. But if you live overseas -mainly from a country whose armed forces were involved at Market Garden- it might well be the case that your trip is a once in a lifetime experience and requires good planning.

The information and tips offered on this website might be of great interest, as there is no other real source specifically on this topic.

Historical sites & routes

A simple check on TracesOf War will make it clear that the WWII events -and corresponding historical sites- are numerous between Lommel and Arnhem. To date, Market Garden was the largest ever military operation in the Netherlands. A search on this very resourceful website results in 1.780 hits in English and over 2.600 hits in Dutch!

Even when following the most direct route, the memorial sites and points of interest directly along the chosen path, are too many to visit and take in on one day. All these sites tell engaging, heroic, and sometimes sad stories. But combined, the bring the Market Garden campaign to life.

Kangaroo armoured vehicle Mill
Joe's Bridge bicycle Market Garden

So... is there a best route?

The Garden (land) operation did not advance in a straight line. Local conditions, resistance, and failing bridges, ensured XXX Corps also had to find alternative routes parallel to 'highway 69'. And this was, to a certain extent also the case with the drop zones of the Market part of the operation. Some missed their target by quite some distance! But that did not stop history from being made where their feet touched the ground. It is therefore, that the routes collected on this site do not run in a straight line either.

It is the many stories that make the sites along the routes come to live. Thanks to the good folks at the LRE Foundation, the Liberation Route Europe site has published many war time audio stories that ensure the happenings of those times are felt.

For that matter, it is also impossible -and not necessary- to add every single Market Garden site to the points of interest of a one day ride.

None of the routes on this site are 103 and/or 114 km in length. The shortest fully cued route starts at 180 km (HH 180), and so you should expect to be in the saddle for 10 to 12 hours when cycling at a leisurely pace. It is also an option to break a route into a 2, 3, or 4 days.

If interested in the services of professional battlefield guides, visit the Battlefield guides & sources page on this website.

CC BY-SA 4.0 | OperationMarketGardenAlliedPlan.jpg | 04/09/2015

Terrain

The terrain is mostly flat and at many times open. 'Flat' is good. It makes for easy pedalling. However, there are some short steep climbs in the area before Nijmegen (Berg en Dal) and after Nijmegen, i.e. Mook. In most cases you will encounter these at around 130-150 km for the HH 180 route, and 140-170 km for the HH 195 route. The HH 210 and HH 220 are a longer ride, but do not have such verticals as they take a more easterly/westerly route. Not to worry, these are not the Alps and so any mid-level cyclist should have no problem.

Operation Market Garden bicycle
Kanon van Zandoerle, Veldhoven.
In September 1944 during the Allied operation Market Garden
the gun was captured from the enemy.
bicycle Operation Market Garden
Crossing west of Eindhoven near a pre-war flying strip behind the farm 'De Heikrekel' that served Montgomery well during operation Market Garden.

Wind... Friend or foe?

Holland is known for its many windmills, and therefore you can be assured of wind. Open terrain in Holland means wind. Due to Holland's sea climate, a South-westerly is the most prevailing wind direction in most months of the year. Especially in winter and autumn months. In the autumn and winter months, the wind blows from the southwest about 30% of days. In spring, the north and north-east wind directions are almost as frequent as the south-west wind directions.

The winds are -generally- in your favour! The map shows that winter and autumn provide the best wind directions at the best speeds to ride Hell's Highway. However, from personal experience this is no guarantee!

Wind directions in the Netherlands. Seasonal + strength.

Train & bike

The Netherlands has a very good train infrastructure. It is allowed to bring your bicycle on the train, but there are some things you should know:

  • Bicycles are not allowed in the train during peak hours Monday to Friday before 6.30 hours and between 09.00 - 16.00 hours and between 18.30 - 06.30 hours.

  • You need to buy a ticket at the station for the train in combination with a ticket for yourself.

  • For more information, see: https://www.ns.nl/producten/en/onbeperkt-reizen/p/fietskaart-dal

Operation Market Garden bicycle

Tips

Make sure your bike is in good working order. Each little village you come through will have 1 or 2 bike shops, so easy to top off on air pressure or buy some spare inner tubes. However, repairs will most probably not be made on the spot as bike shops are busy with the local clientele.

As for food and water, same applies: all towns will have a supermarket or a 'cafetaria' where you can replenish on fuel. Furthermore:

  1. The general Audax tips for long distance riding apply:

    • Make sure your bike is in working order. Some mechanicals can be avoided by regular maintenance. Bring spare tubes, and the needed tools to repair flats.

    • Ensure you eat and drink regularly to avoid bonking. Being low on nutrition and not well hydrated will cause you not the enjoy the last part of the ride coming into Arnhem.

    • Bring lights. Delays along the way will occur (rain, head wind, a long lunch, or staying at a site for too long)... it may come in handy. Especially if you ride on September 17th, you will encounter parades, reenactment camps, and more that will have your attention.

    • Ensure you have a good working GPS bike computer. Maybe carry an extra battery pack.

    • Uphold the traffic laws.

  1. Most of the sections are on bike lanes and low traffic roads. The busier sections of the route (not many) have bike lanes. Use them! Many parts, especially right at the start in Leopoldsburg, are through thick wooded area. Make sure you dress warmer in the early hours as the woods can be humid at that time of the day.

  2. Bring your earphones to listen to the many short audio files along the way! Ensure you have Internet connection.

  3. Do stop for lunch.

    • For the HH 180 and HH 195, Zeeland is a good option. In both cases at 100.5 km into the route. It is noted on the cue sheet.

    • If feeling strong on the HH 195, push on to Cuijk at 123 km for lunch on the Maasboulevard.

    • For HH 210, you can opt for Veghel (@ 113 km into the ride), or if you are still feeling good, push on to Grave at 147 km.