There are 52 canals and waterways in Belgium. That’s more than 1,600 kilometers of navigable water and almost all of it has adjacent bike paths. Indeed, you can ride across Belgium, from the Netherlands to France, almost exclusively along these paths on the banks of canals and rivers.

Flowing past Oudenaarde is the Schelde River (Escaut in French), which is part of the 192-kilometer Schelde/Escaut Waterway. Ride northeast along the river and you’ll reach picturesque Ghent, in many ways as beautiful as Bruges, but with more of a lived-in, working-city atmosphere. To the southeast is Tournai, with Belgium’s own Notre-Dame, and beyond that France and the gorgeous Parc Naturel Régional Scarpe-Escaut.

After riding our fill of cobblestone climbs with PowerTap, our legs were asking for recovery before a long flight home. They let us know with each set of stairs we climbed and every chair we rose from, so the waterways of Belgium and their mercifully flat bike paths were calling us.

We kitted up at the Tour of Flanders Museum in Oudenaarde, just a few hundred meters from the Schelde and its bike paths. Rolling out in the shadow of the city’s 13th century church, Our Lady of Pamele, that helped define what became known as the Schelde Gothic style, typical of churches and government buildings in Flanders, we set the meter to Zone Mellow to enjoy the sights…

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