While in Belgium last month, I visited the Centrum Ronde Van Vlaanderen ( Tour of Flanders Cycling Museum) in Ouenaarde and the Koers Museum in Roeselare.
I had high expectations for the Flanders Museum and assumed I’d see a wide variety of race-winning bikes and the gear used and worn by the men and women who found success at the classic. If I’m honest, however, I was disappointed.
There were few jersey and bikes on display. Most of the exhibits were of the interactive variety. The main attraction seemed to be the very cool Flandria Team car, which was topped with two alleged team bikes. Because the bikes are spec’d with an unlikely mix of Shimano Dura-Ace, Campagnolo, Galli, and other brands’ parts, I have my doubts they are legitimate team bikes. But maybe. It’s possible the museum or a previous owner received the bikes incomplete and cobbled them back together with whatever parts they had on hand. One of the rims is marked “MD”, which could refer to longtime Flandria rider Marc Demeyer.
One other bikes in the museum that interested me was an Eddy Merckx bike he used in 1972. The bike looks pretty accurate, but I wondered about is details, in part due to the fact that the placard said the bike has 52/42 x 12-26/28 gearing while the big chainring on the bike is a 53. Still, other than that, which could have been a typo, the bike has some special features that indicate it may have, in fact, been one of Eddy’s.
There were several other modern race bikes on display, like those used by Alexander Kristoff and Johan Museeuw, but the quantity of bikes and jerseys and such was a disappointed.
Free parking is available behind the museum (I didn’t know this.) and it can be used as a staging point for all three Tour of Flanders bike touring routes, which start on the road in front of the museum. Entrance to the museum is 10 Euros and included a free drink ticket for the café. The gift shop is well stocked with all sorts of cool bike-dork stuff, including books (most in French or Dutch), Magliamo wool jerseys, water bottles, riding gear, etc. I picked up a Flemish flag. For more info go to the Centrum website.
Two days after I visited the Tour of Flanders Museum, I went to the Koers Museum in Roeselare. It’s a lot closer to what I had in mind when I envisioned what a Flemish cycling museum would be like.
There were loads of old racing artifacts including team suitcases, racing numbers boxes, advertisements, marketing collateral, riding gear, trophies and, of course, jerseys and bikes. Most of the displays were well labeled, as well.
In addition to the permanent collections of bikes and racing artifacts up stairs, the first-floor gallery is used for temporary shows. When I was there, the exhibit was a photography show dedicated entirely to the QuickStep Team.
The Koers also has a Knowledge Center which include a library and a documentary center. The library contains more than 2,400 publications in Dutch, French, English and German.
According to the website, “The documentary collection includes more than 180 running metres of cycling magazines and sports newspapers from home and abroad (Onze Kampioenen, Geïllustreerde Sportwereld, Miroir des Sports, Match, Sportwereld, Het Volk,…), more than 2,000 posters, 30 running metres of cycling archives (clubs, cyclists, associations,…), hundreds of competition booklets and much more. The KOERS documentary collection of is one of the largest in Europe thanks to the acquisition of collections from private collectors such as Charles Aerts, Jozef Hamels and Wim Van Eyle (NL).”
It costs 7 Euros for adults to visit the museum, but admittance is free on the first Sunday of the month.
Apologies to those of you who aren’t curious about the details of old race bikes. Most of my photos were shot to simply document what parts were on the bikes. I was less concerned with lighting, mood and framing than I was with simply recording how the bikes were spec’d. Even if I had my doubts about how accurately they were built.