Photo © NodeMapp / Sven Nijs

What are cycling nodes?

Avatar Sven Nijs Sven Nijs
26 September 2023
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Discover the simple but ingenious cycling node system. Take your cycling adventures to the next level!

You come across traditional, looped cycling routes everywhere. There are dozens of apps and websites where you will find a wide range of pre-designed cycle loops. These routes are often designed by tourism organisations and with the help of clear signage in the landscape, you can easily follow the routes. The downside? They offer little flexibility. You are tied to a set distance and route. This is fine for those who are comfortable with a preconceived plan, but for the more adventurous cyclists there is an alternative: cycling nodes. These give you the freedom to choose your own route and distance, while ensuring you explore the region’s most beautiful cycling routes.

Cycle from node to node

A cycling node is a specific point within a network of cycling routes. The idea behind the cycling node system is simple but ingenious: each node has a number. By cycling from one node to the next, one can map out a customised cycle route. At junctions of cycle routes or at important junctions, you will find a sign with the number of that cycling node. From that node, arrows point the way to surrounding cycling nodes.

The big advantage of this system is that you can create your own route. You choose which nodes to follow and in what order, giving you complete control over the length and environment of your cycling trip. Moreover, the cycling node system guarantees that you always ride on bicycle-friendly roads and paths. Cycling node networks are usually created by tourism organisations. They connect a region’s most beautiful cycling routes into one coherent network. The image below shows examples of cycling nodes in Flanders (1 and 2, the blue signs are used in Limburg), the Netherlands (3) and Wallonia (4). There are cycling nodes that are signposted but also digital, virtual cycling nodes. We tell more about these a little further on in the article.

Cycling nodes on the site where you follow numbers

Where to find cycling nodes?

Cycling nodes are a Belgian invention. Back in 1995, the Belgian province of Limburg installed the very first cycling node. Hugo Bollen (former mining engineer) saw in the mines how miners used a node system to find their way in the underground passages. He had the idea to apply this above-ground as well, to guide people along the most beautiful places.

Not surprisingly, Belgium was the first country to offer a fully-fledged cycling node network. Cycling nodes made people cycle much more. Even in unknown areas, they could quickly and easily map out the most beautiful routes. It was also a hit economically: the local catering industry got a huge boost from increased cycle tourism.

Belgium’s neighbouring countries copied this concept, as a result of which you now also find cycling nodes in the Netherlands, Germany (partly) and northern France. At the moment, all these countries together have no less than 150,000 km of cycling node networks. You can consult the entire cycling network in our cycling route planner.

By 2023, both Belgium and the Netherlands will be completely covered with cycling nodes. The first cycling node networks are also popping up in Germany and France.

How to map out a route along cycling nodes?

In the past, you always had to buy a paper map that included all cycling nodes of a region. Those paper maps still exist. On the websites of the tourist organisations that manage the cycling networks, you can often buy these maps.

Anno 2023, of course, there are digital alternatives. We at NodeMapp (the Belgian company behind NodeMapp.com and the NodeMapp Bike app) were one of the first online platforms where cyclists could digitally plan routes along cycling nodes in Belgium. By 2023, NodeMapp has expanded its activities to offer all cycling nodes in Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany and France.

Via our handy online cycling route planner or app, you can compile the most beautiful cycling routes along cycling nodes in just a few clicks. You select the cycling nodes along which you want to cycle and we calculate the routes between them.

With our cycle route planner, you can easily connect nodes to create the ideal cycling route

Virtual cycling nodes

The process of building and then maintaining a cycle node network is time-intensive and expensive. Usually, Provincial Tourism Organisations manage the funding and implementation of setting up and maintaining cycling nodes. That means you won’t find cycling nodes in all regions. New regions regularly start setting up cycling nodes but this is a long-term process.

To continue providing cyclists with a user-friendly route system, even in areas where there are no direct plans for signposted cycling nodes, virtual cycling node networks are regularly developed. There are no posts and signs in these areas, but you can follow the routes by using our app. Just like a signposted network, a virtual cycling node network links the most beautiful cycling routes in an area into one network that allows you to put together the most beautiful cycling routes without much effort.

Instead of signposts on the terrain, our app guides you along the right path. Or you can also simply turn your mapped route into a GPX track to follow the route with your favourite GPS device or app.

Local tourism organisations often develop these virtual cycling node networks. But we at NodeMapp also regularly develop new virtual cycling node networks in areas where there are no signposted cycling nodes (yet). In our cycle route planner on our website and app, you distinguish a virtual network by its colour. Green routes and nodes are signposted, while purple indicates a route or node that is virtual and not signposted:

The NodeMapp Bike app shows you the way on virtual (purple) cycling node networks

Suggested routes

Most cyclists like to plan their own routes along cycling nodes. But we also show suggested routes for those who need insiration: these are classic loop themed routes that are fully (or partly) grafted onto the cycle node network. Cycling routes that used to have their own signposting are now often fully integrated into the cycle node network. You can recognise the starting points of these suggested routes by the icon below in our cycle route planner. Clicking on the icon will display the suggested route(s) you can follow from this cycling node.

A suggested route starting from cycling node 5


More and more regions are considering introducing cycling nodes as the benefits become increasingly clear. NodeMapp will continue its efforts to make cycling nodes available to cyclists in the most user-friendly way via our website and app. The development of virtual cycling node networks continues. In the coming months and years, our map will continue to expand.

NodeMapp remains a leading partner for tourism organisations looking to develop and market new cycling node networks. With our years of experience in the world of cycling nodes, we have developed digital tools that are optimally tuned to provide cyclists with (virtual) cycling node networks in a user-friendly way.