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05-08-2010, 11:46   #1
Explosive_Cornflake
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Cycling in France

Hi All.
I need a bit of advice if someone can point me in the right direction.
I'm heading off to France next week.
I'll be arriving in Rocsoff on Thursday, and the plan is to spend about 5 days cycling to Bordeaux.
After that it's the train to Clermont Ferrand, and then by train back to Cherbourg for the return ferry.

With the 5 days cycling it should be about 130km per day, which should be ok. Planning cycling 6am to 12am each day so as to avoid the heat.

Does anyone have any advice with regards to a cycle route down along the cost?
Also, any advice on trains?
I've 12 days for this trip, planning to spend a few night with a friend in Clermont Ferrand, so i think my time scale is reasonable.
Any does or don'ts?

Any insight appreciated,
Thanks.
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05-08-2010, 12:00   #2
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hey

It will be a great trip. Myself and another guy did it a few weeks back but travelling further down to the Pyrenees for the tour, however we passed very close by Bordeaux on the way.

Our route was

Roscoff - Pontivy

Pontivy - Redon

Redon - St. Jean Du Monts

St. Jean Du Monts - Rochefort

Rochefort - Libourne (very close to Bordeaux)

Be warned Britanny is very like Ireland in that it is very hilly, but it is beautiful. When we went from Redon to St Jean Du Monts we decided to go down by the coast as we would be close to the beach for a dip! Be warned once you cross the Loire into the Vendee it gets very windy (as the name suggests). The part from St Jean Du Monts to Rochefort was approx 180km but it felt easier as we had the wind at our backs and made good headway.

We did not book any hotels along the way and just chanced our luck and we were fine (until we cycled into a big basque festival 150km south of bordeaux). We stayed in the Etap hotels most of the time and they are perfect, for one night stays, clean, decent beds and decent showers.

We reached around Bordeaux in 5 days of cycling.
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05-08-2010, 12:05   #3
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Cool, good stuff.
Yeah, not planning in booking accomodation ahead. Should have plenty of time when I get into a town to find somewhere.
What kind of spares did you bring? I'm planning on bringing allen keys, pliers, few spare cables, two tyres and a few tubes, pump. Overkill or would you bring more?
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05-08-2010, 12:08   #4
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I cycled the opposite direction last year, though didn't spend much time directly on the coast as I had a lot of time & wanted to explore inland aswell. From Bordeaux, I headed directly west and at the coast headed north, crossing the Gironde estuary by ferry at Le Verdon Sur Mer. It was an extremely boring cycle though out to the coast as it's a largely straight road thru a dull forest.

After that I headed inland towards Poitiers where there's some really nice rolling farmland, perfect for cycle touring. I'd say if you're keeping to the coast, the heat shouldn't be too bad, on good days last year it was very similar in feel to a good day here.

There's a nice canal path along the Brest-Nantes canal that can be handy if you want to stay off the roads (though the minor roads are generally very good in France & French drivers give you loads of room when passing). I've cycled that canal path from Carhaix-Ploeguer to Ploermel, most of it is quite good. From Rohan to Ploermel in particular is a fantastic section with some really nice villages & nice scenery too.
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05-08-2010, 12:12   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Explosive_Cornflake View Post
Cool, good stuff.
Yeah, not planning in booking accomodation ahead. Should have plenty of time when I get into a town to find somewhere.
What kind of spares did you bring? I'm planning on bringing allen keys, pliers, few spare cables, two tyres and a few tubes, pump. Overkill or would you bring more?
For 5 days cycling in France, I wouldn't bother with spare tyres or cables. They do like their cycling over there, so bike shops can be found in most reasonably sized towns. I brought allen keys, a small pliers, one spare tube & a pump.
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05-08-2010, 12:20   #6
honkjelly
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Just did a month and a half in France and regarding the heat i found that i just got used to it. If you stick to your 6am plan then make sure you have bought enough food form the day before to cover breakfast and pre boulangerie nibbles. Don't think supermarkets open till 9.
All regional TER trains take bikes and you don't have to book them. Other non TER trains (including some TGV's) ) take bikes but you have to book them and it costs a tenner. I uses this site to check train times (top of google search so you prob have seen it!) http://www.raileurope.co.uk/sncf.aspx
And pain au Raisins are amazing cycling food.
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05-08-2010, 12:31   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tawfeeredux View Post

There's a nice canal path along the Brest-Nantes canal that can be handy if you want to stay off the roads (though the minor roads are generally very good in France & French drivers give you loads of room when passing). I've cycled that canal path from Carhaix-Ploeguer to Ploermel, most of it is quite good. From Rohan to Ploermel in particular is a fantastic section with some really nice villages & nice scenery too.
I've read a small bit about these cycle routes. Are they easy to find? Is there a map/book anywhere anyone would recommend?
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05-08-2010, 13:35   #8
n-dawg
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Hey if you can carry a light bike bag to... a friend of mine got stung for €155 on a TGV cause he didn't book a bike and it wasn't in a bag! Even a black sack will do (He asked). Just make sure you put your bike in it before you get on the train. Regional trains have nice little hooks that you hang your bike on. There normally in the carriage thats half 1st class, beside the toilets

Do buy a fresh baggete every morning in the local baker... normally ~€1 and are really just perfect to nibble on as you cycle. I go for a Traditional (Slighly darker in colour).

Last edited by n-dawg; 05-08-2010 at 13:38.
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05-08-2010, 13:43   #9
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Hey if you can carry a light bike bag to... a friend of mine got stung for €155 on a TGV cause he didn't book a bike and it wasn't in a bag!
Some TGV's allow bikes (just 2) that are not in bags. You just have to make sure when booking the ticket. Is how I got from Bordeaux to Paris.
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05-08-2010, 14:21   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Explosive_Cornflake View Post
I've read a small bit about these cycle routes. Are they easy to find? Is there a map/book anywhere anyone would recommend?
I had the loan of the Lonely Planet guide to cycling in France (http://www.amazon.co.uk/France-Lonel...1014067&sr=1-2) before I left for France so I was aware of it before I left. Once there, I just located the canal on the map & followed it for a couple of days. There's another canal that goes from the Med to Bordeaux (Canal de Deux Mers, i think it's called) that I came across just by poring over the map one evening in camp & it also has a nice path. If you could pick up that guide, I'd say it'd have more info. I think I got a copy from the library now that I think of it.
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05-08-2010, 14:30   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by n-dawg View Post
Hey if you can carry a light bike bag to... a friend of mine got stung for €155 on a TGV cause he didn't book a bike and it wasn't in a bag! Even a black sack will do (He asked). Just make sure you put your bike in it before you get on the train. Regional trains have nice little hooks that you hang your bike on. There normally in the carriage thats half 1st class, beside the toilets

Do buy a fresh baggete every morning in the local baker... normally ~€1 and are really just perfect to nibble on as you cycle. I go for a Traditional (Slighly darker in colour).
I'll bring a few bin bags with me just in case, thanks for the heads up.
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05-08-2010, 15:42   #12
skidpatches
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Explosive_Cornflake View Post
Cool, good stuff.
Yeah, not planning in booking accomodation ahead. Should have plenty of time when I get into a town to find somewhere.
What kind of spares did you bring? I'm planning on bringing allen keys, pliers, few spare cables, two tyres and a few tubes, pump. Overkill or would you bring more?
France is cycling heaven.

for 5 days I would bring:
- 1 spare tyre (folding)
- no cables - make sure they're ok, or replace them before you go.
- a few tubes
- defo a pump.
- multitool that includes a chainbreaker and a spoke key
- small adjustable spanner
- spare spoke or two in each size
- cassette removal tool (so you can replace drive side spokes in any village workshop or garage).
- small amount of duct tape and a few cable ties

In some areas, if you have a breakdown, just hitch a lift, and kind drivers will bring you and your bike to the nearest big town, sometimes well out of their way.

there are lots of bike shops, but they're usually not open on sundays or bank holidays or out of hours. touristy villages sometimes have a bike hire shop, but they may not do repairs. best to be prepared for most common problems, so you're not waiting a day or two for the bike shop to open.

shops, boulangeries, restaurants may all close for lunch, and sometimes all day sunday, so you can be caught out very hungry if you don't plan in advance.

drinking water is very easy to find... fountaines and taps in most small towns and many villages. I didn't buy a bottle of water in a whole week. Look out for a sign that says "Eau Potable"
http://www.flickr.com/photos/moulton...7624156930574/

Last edited by skidpatches; 05-08-2010 at 16:33.
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05-08-2010, 15:44   #13
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oh, and a good knife
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05-08-2010, 16:31   #14
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Great stuff, Thanks guys. Great advice!
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