new to touring have qtns re euro trip!

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new to touring have qtns re euro trip!

Postby stevendavid75 » Mon Dec 13, 2010 8:54 am

Hi All,

My partner and I are heading to France in mid June 2011 for around 3.5 weeks and are getting pretty excited about it!

Both of us are relatively new to touring but both pretty comfortable on bike.

Although we fly into (and out) Orly, we plan to prob get out of Paris and France....and this is where I guess we are looking for inspiration and ideas..wondering what people might have done before, might suggest and what might best be "missed"
We plan to camp prob 5/7 p/w.

Also re gear.
At this stage our thinking is 2 people - 2 bikes - 2 sets rear panniers - 1 set front Panniers and a roll bag for for back rack and prob a couple of handlebar bags.

I know there might be different schools of thought here but just seeking thoughts on taking taking 1 or 2 sets of front panniers and also wondering if classic back rollers can be used up front if need be?
Any other tips re gear...

Any advice or links to links or threads would be great!!


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Re: new to touring have qtns re euro trip!

Postby dvandamme » Thu Dec 30, 2010 5:04 pm

hi. this is my first post here but ive been lurking for a while so I'll open with a longish post... :D

Ive done a lot of touring in europe with my partner. to give you an bit of an idea, we've done 7 seperate trips in the space of 3 years on several different biking setups. first off it was second hand MTBs with rear panniers and top-of-rack bag only, then we hired dutch 3 speeds and had the same as previous setup plus a small bar bag each. then used that bag setup on another trip with hired mtbs. and another one on hired mtbs and 1 trailer, no other bags at all. then we bought decent touring bikes and trailers. we've done trips in England, Scotland, Wales, Norway, Sweden, The Netherlands, France, Germany, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria.

we spent probably 80% of the time in our tent, and almost every time we were in a designated campground. you can free camp if you game, and we did in Norway and Scotland but I felt too exposed and invasive to try it in other countries. Scotland and Norway (and a few others) have differing 'rights of access' which mean you can pitch a tent in various places for free and noone will bother you. AFAIK France doesn't have this but I've talked to people that did free(stealth) camp. You've got to be quite sneaky, only setting up after dark and moving early and generally hiding etc, which felt wrong to us. We've spent a night in a police compound in our tent, using the prisoners toilet - but it was a lot safer than dealing with the crazy Romanian dogs that unrelentingly chased us...

We'd happily roll around until we found a cheap hotel - ask for prices and see the room and tell them you've got bikes. Stowed our bikes in a broken lift, stored everything in the unused lower floor pub, trucked everything through a nice hotel to hang it all off a balcony... People are surprisingly accommodating to a pair of tired cyclists. but mostly it was easy camp ground stuff. Lots of places will give you a discount because you're on bikes, as they seem to budget for a car on each site, the campground might even have a separate cycling patch - this is really common in the Netherlands.

Distance budget
on a bike tour in 3 weeks, i would budget covering about 700 km. my experiences and tourers we've met on the way all seemed to be stuck at 10-12km per hour as a trip average. This seems very low if you're a road rider, but this includes having a few breaks and getting off the bikes to look at/do things during the day - buy food, find the camp ground at the end of every day, and get around to washing your riding shorts.... we did do a few 100km days, and I met someone that did a 12 hour 205km day - but he was a powerful guy with a huge unceasing tailwind and zero hills. he was very proud of his day. mostly we did 70km a day - if you want to do anything else other than cycling, you won't be riding every day - we never did any more than 6 days straight and then would have 2 days off the bikes, and you might find that you just can't be bothered today, so you have spend the day in the pub.....

Food related
You'll be able to buy food easily, ever day in france, just watch out for the weekends, you can't carry much though so you'll find yourself in the shops a lot. Unless you just eat rice like one guy we met. but it is france, the food will be fantastic, so you'll need to eat it - id plan on having one entire bag full of food and still expect to get random picnics of jarred stuff you find in the little stores that dot the wayside.

Gear related
I would get a very comprehensive road atlas. I have 3 that include cycle ways - either before you go, or before you get on the bike over there. there's nothing worse than finding your stuck on a freeway because the nice divided road turned into an on-ramp! we got on freeways twice, one we could backtrack a few km, there other time this freeway was the ONLY south going road from the city for about 25km due to a large river... and I got a puncture.. hurrah!

I also have gps with all of Europes roads, I wouldn't ditch the real map though, the gps will never give you enough context on the tiny screens they have but they are damn useful for for showing you the immediate situation, mine also did turn by turn navigation - which was a nice backup if things went badly

get some very good wet weather clothing, it will rain, and there's no way to ruin the day faster than a wet bum, potentially giving you the worst chaffing you'll ever experience. Even very good goretex will still get you wet as your hands and face will be bringing water in after all, so you can get by with rubber/plastic waterproofs. we did 3 trips with very cheap plastic trousers - they pack down to nothing. you dont want to ride in any waterproof legs for long. unless its warm enough that you'll dry fast of course.

mudguards are required aswell IMO, riding all day with your tires flicking road crap at you is not fun - and you'll get hot tar stuck in the most annoying places, and then theres the rain, and grotty oil slicked puddles.

water proof panniers dont exist. Put good plastic bin liners in your panniers. you can get great waterpoof sacks, but its all adding weight and they are not cheap - especially when you need at least 4. I would use a good kayaking roll bag for the top rack bag.

don't expect the camp grounds to have cooking facilities - bbq, hot plates etc. this is an australian invention Im sure. Bring your own cooker and gas - if your free camping you'll have this anyway. keep your matches/lighter in a ziplock little bag.

I wouldn't ride into paris on a bike. ride somewhere close and catch the train - Versailles is easier to get into, has at least one nice campground and isn't a nightmare to navigate on a bike with gear. avoid the subway with your bike, my god that is hard work. Everyone hates you if you have a bike with gear and you're holding up the queues down there.

you'll be in peak cycling touring season, so expect a hell of a lot of company on cycle lanes,

you've said you want panniers, (or you have them) but I love my trailers so here goes. All your stuff goes in one place, you dont have to keep looking through all the bags, or trying to build a system that works - especially if its raining and you can't find the pegs or its freezing over night and you can't find your socks. the bike rides like a normal bike, not a bloated oil tanker. they can be water proof as you can buy a good plastic box designed for bad weather use with strong latches, water seals etc. a trailer and box will weigh a lot more than a bunch of pannieres, but a trailer and 1 huge kayaking waterproof sack will pretty good. Lastly, you can LOCK a plastic box, you will be leaving your bike on their own, and there's always the chance that some scumbag will want your stuff

I think thats about it, its a bit of an essay, hope it helps though. cycling touring is the greatest way to travel,

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Re: new to touring have qtns re euro trip!

Postby glennb » Thu Dec 30, 2010 10:44 pm

Sounds like a lot of gear for a european summer.

I rode a few thousand km in Europe from June to Aug 2010 with just a little backpack strapped to the rear rack.

Rode Frankfurt to Rome, then flew to Nice and rode through Provence and Switzerland, before jumping trains to Saltzburg, Vienna and Prague.

Stayed in campgrounds four nights out of five, but only bothered pitching shelter perhaps a dozen (cloudy) nights. It rained four nights out of the 90 I was there.

Camping gear consisted of a 400gm air mattress, 300gm homemade swag, and 100gm homemade tarp pitched from the bike.

Other than that, sandals, jocks, shorts, t-shirts, cap, beanie, knicks, vest, jacket, ipod touch (with GPS), camera, toiletries, and bike tools/spares.

Would have been under 5kg all up, including the backpack.

I didn't feel lacking in anything, had all the warmth and shelter and comfort I needed.

100gm tarp kept rain off as well as a 2kg tent.

Beanie and fleecy vest plus windproof jacket were ample for evenings after the sun went down. I figured I'd buy a jumper if there was a cold snap, but didn't need to.

Washing clothes every day wasn't fun, but I got efficient at it.

There was ample good cheap food, didn't see any reason to cook. Mostly ate fruit on the spot, but did at times lug a melon or few bananas around for half a day.

p.s. great thing about cycling in Europe is you don't have to wear a helmet.

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Re: new to touring have qtns re euro trip!

Postby dvandamme » Mon Jan 03, 2011 2:58 pm

so you're one of those ultra light tourers!! :D

the only places we toured in summer was in sweden and normay. Both cases we weren't only cycle touring - it was in the midst of a 5 month trip so we had other stuff - hiking gear, more spare clothes etc. thats the main reason for the rental bikes on the first few trips.. we got snowed on several times, and it rained every week, usually several times on every tour except sweden. Mostly we went in Autumn and spring, and england we rode in Feburary, Scotland was in August. Sweden was stunning weather wise, but we got caught out with a snow storm in Norway, camped surrounded by snow and had some glaciers for company on a ride between Oslo and Bergan. the other trips we had constant rain for a week in romania, the worst lightning storm ive ever seen in bulgaria, snow in germany. im jealous you only had 4 rainy nights, wow.

while there's a big difference between ultra light and geared, they are just different ways of doing a similar trip. theres no way I would have gone without a tent with a full bug proof inner - miggies and other small biting insects seems to follow us everywhere - scotland to sweden to hungary to romania.

i like keeping my brains inside my head, so there's no way id share a road with cars, or even drunk pedestrians, without a helmet. cycle paths are different a bit safer though

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Re: new to touring have qtns re euro trip!

Postby glennb » Mon Jan 03, 2011 10:37 pm

Yeah, I guess so. I looked at it as backpacking with a bike. Bike's really handy for getting around cities and seeing the countryside, makes more sense than a car or motorbike for someone who enjoys the outdoors and doesn't mind working up a sweat.

Definitely had a great run of weather, didn't see a speck of rain for the first 60 days, and when the skies opened up in Switzerland in early August it was towards the end of the trip so I just bailed by train to.

I read up about mosquitoes in the areas where I was going to and couldn't find anyone saying they'd be a problem. Turned out well, only encountered mosquitoes in a couple of places and they were easily dealt with by pulling the sleeping sheet over my head.

I think you'd need a motorbike helmet to be of any assistance in a collision, from what I understand the best a bike helmet can do is save you from a sore head if you topple off and bump your head. I think they make a lot of sense for children, but for adults who ride in traffic and at higher speeds you might as well have nothing on your head as a layer of foam.

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Re: new to touring have qtns re euro trip!

Postby onrbikes » Sun Jan 09, 2011 11:29 am

Because there are two of you why not one person carry the full set while the other just carry the rear.
This may even out the speed between male/female rider. We've done this before in India and Asia. We usually do 400km p/w. We're both 50 years old.

Also because it's a short get rid of the cooking gear. The $ saved on accommodation could be spend at local deli's. We'd rather sacrifice a good room for a decent meal anyday. The food there is better than our gourmet delis. Just buy a set of utensils. Maybe take a small thermos and buy hot water for a cuppa.
We rarely use the full set butt this year we we're off for 9 months from Crete to China.

Have you also considered the weight restrictions on the airlines. Usually 20kg per person plus 7kg carry-on. $55p/k excess luggage charges are the norm.
Tent + 2 sleeping bags + 2 matts + bikes in boxes with panniers is usually about 40kg.
Then add a camera, clothing etc.

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Re: new to touring have qtns re euro trip!

Postby stevendavid75 » Thu Jan 13, 2011 3:28 pm

Yep I think we will be splitting loads accordingly, I will run front and rear, partner just run rear.

Anyone got any good tips on getting good maps?

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Re: new to touring have qtns re euro trip!

Postby glennb » Thu Jan 13, 2011 4:34 pm

Sygic and xgps (google maps) works best for me: sygic for voice turn-by-turn, in cities mostly, and offline google terrain maps for route planning.

That's for an iphone platform, I imagine there's equivalent offerings for android.

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Re: new to touring have qtns re euro trip!

Postby TassieRambler » Tue Feb 15, 2011 1:02 pm

Re: map recommendations, check out forum postings on: ... mendations

If you've got any follow up questions, happy to help.

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