For Australian Cyclists travelling and touring OS
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Okay, this is a genesis of an idea floating around my head at the moment but has somehow captured my imagination. My road bike and I have been acquainted for around three months and are getting along rather fine and are enjoying one anothers company exceedingly (thanks to some great coaches who stopped me falling off and actually taught/teaching me to ride properly).
The idea that has captured my imagination is cycling in France. So far so good - why not...but in my various travels (typically solo) I've always cultivated a very strong avoidance of tours as I like to set my own agenda, and am also stubborn and a tad opinionated (e.g. why pay inflated prices blah blah blah when I can do it myself...). Needless to say some of this stubbornness is reasonable but some leads me to my dilemma, which a tour would of course solve.
I don't mind cycling around on my own - as a solo female - but all of a sudden it occurred to me what happens if I get into some mechanical mishap - even changing a tyre is a mishap...my one and only attempt was a struggle. Yep - playing the female card on this. No idea when I'd go but not for sometime, so I could always learn but I'm not particularly mechanically minded. So I guess the point of all this, am I crazy to even consider doing it on my own? Part of me says it would be a brilliant challenge etc but then the sensible and cautious me wonders about safety and mechanics. I'd really like to avoid a tour, my other thoughts are I may be able to talk a German dwelling friend into going or try and hook up with a like minded soul.
Any thoughts or experiences would be appreciated as I work out the logistics and whether I'm being a little adventurous or a just enormously naive!
Tirra, you're talking about France, not some backwater that's never seen a bicycle. Take the time to learn the basics of bike repair. Fixing a flat, adjusting brakes and derailleurs etc. I'm sure you'll find plenty of other cycle tourists in France to help you on the road, not to mention plenty of bike shops to help.
Go visit Crazy Guy On A Bike. You'll find heaps of stories there from people who've cycled around Europe.
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One of the best things about bicycle commuting is that it can mitigate the displeasure of having to go to work. - BikeSnobNYC
Cycling is sometimes like bobbing for apples in a bucket full of dicks. - SydGuy
Where do you live?
If in Melbourne, get yourself along to The Bike Shed at CERES in Brunswick and learn up on some basic skills. Other cities and regions may have something similar, or just start hanging around your LBS asking questions.
Riding bikes in traffic - what seems dangerous is usually safe; what seems safe is often more dangerous.
You will fit in perfectly in France .
Just go...the world is full of solo female cyclists. Check out a great list by solo female world cyclist, Loretta Henderson called Women on Wheels. http://www.skalatitude.com/p/wow-women-on-wheels.html
Celebrating women of any age with novice to expert cycling experience. They cycle in China, Africa, India, Japan, Pakistan, Iran and anywhere they can find an open road. So many great women that date back to Annie Londonderry in 1895. Great adventures..Dervla Murphy and Anne Mustoe. Read about Susan Minnich, who just finished touring in France. Kate Leeming's book Out There and Back and Great Australian Cycle Expedition (GRACE), a 25 000-kilometre journey. Read their stories, blogs and tweets. They answer all the questions about gear, routes, planning, costs and share tips. They all started with a first trip. Don't count on "playing the female card." You dont want to be stuck somewhere waiting for your bike to be fixed! Learn basic bicycle repair, you can do it. If you want more experience join a Cycling Holidays group In France or meet up with fellow cyclists through the online message boards. Crazy..Lonely.. they cover these topics as well. Join in the fun!
These are other great resources.
Traveling two is another great cycling resource for planning a trip. http://travellingtwo.com/
Crazing guy on bike is a place that people post for help http://www.crazyguyonabike.com/
Lonely Planet postings about solo cycling http://www.lonelyplanet.com/thorntree/t ... ID=2070858
I cycled in France quite a few years ago and stayed in youth hostels. Nowhere is too remote compared to Australia and a bit of basic repair knowledge should be enough to get by on.
There's a lot more to riding in France than the mountains, but if you are interested in the big climbs and don't mind returning to the same place every night, there are lots of small English-speaking companies in France that have a base in the Alps or the Pyrenees. Many of them will do organised tours, but some will have an alternative of bed and board only, and let you do whatever you want during the day.
The benefit of the out-and-back style instead of riding A to B to C to D for an unsupported rider is that you don't have to carry all your stuff with you, as you come back to your starting point every night. That is a big plus when you are riding in the mountains! But for that to give you a good experience you need the base to be in a valley with lots of variety of climbs all around. Locations like St Jean du Maurienne in the Alps and the Luchon valley in the Pyrenees spring to mind.
I can highly recommend Chris and Helen at Pyractif in the Pyrenees for this sort of thing. Restored French farmhouse, single rooms available, full bike workshop, home cooking, friendly and safe for a solo female rider (in my male opinion ). If the worst comes to the worst they will even come and rescue you if things go badly wrong:
forget an organised tour. You'll have a much better time if you go on your own or with a friend.
by all means learn what you can before you leave home. You've changed a tyre once, you can do it again. So what if you don't like it. I don't either but that just means i make more effort to avoid punctures. buy a little tyre pressure gauge so that you have good tyre pressure. You can avoid a lot of punctures this way.
I have changed brake pads and pretty hopeless with bike mechanics but that hasn't stopped me from touring a total of 10 months in india and 4 months in outback oz. I even had a very crap bike for my first india tour. broke a few spokes, had no idea how to change, didn't have the tool to do it either but persisted with the bike mechanics and found one smart enough to the job.
the attitude to have in mind - that helped me a lot - is that you will deal with whatever happens even that means you have to finish your trip on public transport. this attitude frees you from anxiety and lets you get on with it. It doesn't have the effect of undermining your tour but strengthening it.
that said if you do any sort of hands on mechanical workshop, do it. Anohter good website where you can get heaps of touring info from many experienced touring cyclists is thorntree.lonelyplanet.com On your bike is the branch of the forum you want. I'm planning a trip to france in 2013.
Here's a couple of things i've learned that may help you save a bit of money
Paid camping is best at municiple camping grounds. they seem reasonable. However, my plan is to do as much stealth camping as possible cause i rather enjoy it. there's warm showers where you can get accommodation with local french people. this has its pros and cons but it might be up your alley. Its like couchsurfing but for cyclists.
For a good meal at a reasonable price try the plat du jour restaurants. where you can get a 2 or 3 course meal for a fixed price which is reasonable.
For paris, you can stay at the munciple camping ground and they have a helpful website.
As usual trying to learn a bit of french before you go will enrich your tour significantly.
Link up to ohter touring websites eg ones in the uk where a lot of people tour in france. on the thorntree i began a post recently about this where there is a link. See if you can find it.
Definitely do this tour though. Once you've done one cycling tour, you will become a cycling tour and won't look back. Its a great way to travel.
I did a solo tour in France over a couple of weeks in 2009, starting and ending at Toulouse. I carried all my own stuff but stayed in a hotel each night (Yes I know - way too soft). I did 80-110 km per day casually out along the Tarn, through the Causse and Aveyron then back through the Espinouse and Southern Pyrenees. It was totally brilliant. If you'd like the route details, I can email them to you. You could do a search for campsites close to my stopping points.
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