Advertisement
We've partnered up with Nixers.com to offer a space where you can talk directly to Peter from Nixers.com and get an exclusive Boards.ie discount code for a free job listing. If you are recruiting or know anyone else who is please check out the forum here.
If you have a new account but can't post, please email Niamh on [email protected] for help to verify your email address. Thanks :)

Bike Touring France

  • 14-06-2021 12:11pm
    #1
    Registered Users Posts: 1,444 ✭✭✭ Trekker09


    Thinking of heading over to France on August for a couple of weeks. No plans of geographic area or routes yet. I was thinking of camping with a 1 person tent.

    Any tips or info gratefully received!!!!


«1

Comments

  • Registered Users Posts: 7,656 ✭✭✭ Fann Linn


    Trekker09 wrote: »
    Thinking of heading over to France on August for a couple of weeks. No plans of geographic area or routes yet. I was thinking of camping with a 1 person tent.

    Any tips or info gratefully received!!!!

    Heading over myself in Sept with the bike and car.
    Brittany Ferries to northern Spain then into the Pyrenees for Luz du Saveur for two weeks. At foot of Col du Tourmalet, d'Aubisque and a few others.


  • Registered Users Posts: 159 ✭✭ mh_cork


    Trekker09 wrote: »
    Thinking of heading over to France on August for a couple of weeks. No plans of geographic area or routes yet. I was thinking of camping with a 1 person tent.

    Any tips or info gratefully received!!!!

    There are established cycle touring routes called Euro Velo. The benefit of these would include low-traffic roads, regular facilities and shops / hotels that are used to dealing with cyclists.
    https://en.eurovelo.com/
    For a first timer, EuroVelo 6, from Nantes to Basel would be a good suggestion

    If your looking to be a bit more adventurous, I can recommend the following book that has maps and descriptions of a route from North West to South East.
    https://www.amazon.co.uk/France-Velo-Ultimate-Journey-Mediterranean/dp/0957157347/

    Or if you are looking to just do a short trip, this is another excellent book with very detailed maps:
    https://www.amazon.co.uk/Cycling-Northern-France-Cycle-Routes/dp/1901464288/

    You may want to avoid the holiday season in France, I think its Aug. Basically everyone in the cities heads for the country. Harder to get places to stay, roads busier, etc


  • Registered Users Posts: 390 ✭✭ ARX


    I've done a good bit of cycling in France. A few thoughts:

    - It can get hot enough to burn you through your jersey. Cover your back, shoulders and every bit of exposed skin with factor 50. If you need to stop, look for a shady spot to stop. It gets REALLY HOT in France.
    - You will need lots of water. I was getting through a litre every 10 km at times.
    - Shops are closed much of the time. Don't pass a bakery without stocking up. Running out of food or water in rural France on a Sunday is a real concern.
    - France is superb for camping. With a 1-person tent I don't think you'll ever be turned away from a campsite. At municipal campsites someone may or may not turn up in the evening to collect the €5 or some such small sum.
    - Learn at least enough French to check in at a campsite ("Vous avez besoin d'électricité?") or to knock on somebody's door and ask them to fill your bottles.
    - At a campsite, figure out where the sun will rise in the morning (a compass is useful) and try to get a spot that will be in the shade in the morning. Packing up in blazing sun is no fun.
    - If you don't speak French, pick up enough phrases to get by. People will be very helpful if it's clear that you're doing your best.
    - Forget whatever people have told you about what the French are like and make up your own mind.
    - An alcohol-burning stove like the Trangia is a good choice for France as methylated spirits is available in every supermarket
    - Make sure you are equipped to deal with mechanical failures (puncture, sidewall blowout, broken chain, broken spoke being the most likely)


  • Moderators, Politics Moderators, Sports Moderators Posts: 23,972 Mod ✭✭✭✭ Chips Lovell


    Lots of good advice there already. I've done a good bit of touring in France and would second the advice regarding August. It's peak holiday time in France and, even with a bike and small tent, you may find a lot of campsites booked out, particularly in the popular spots.

    Bring a power adapter for campsites. Got stung by this the first year I went (in addition to making lots of other mistakes). Handy to have for charging your phone, Garmin, etc.

    It can get incredibly hot. I've found it breaking 40 at times. When the weather was like that, we tended to get going early in the morning and try get the bulk of our distance done before lunch.

    Re. lunch, rural France isn't like here. Don't expect to pick up a bite to eat at any time of the day. Few restaurants will be open after 2 and you rarely the likes of convenience stores. You have to row in with the French way of doing things.


  • Registered Users Posts: 5,415 ✭✭✭ fat bloke


    Le Genesis ?? :)

    Give us a run down on your equipment. I'd be interested to see what superleggera solo, tented bike touring looks like


  • Advertisement
  • Registered Users Posts: 1,957 ✭✭✭ Seaswimmer


    Great advice above.

    Never under estimate the French "penchant" for opening and closing at odd times. Especially in rural France. We were there in 2018 and ended up having to call into a house for water at one stage
    As pointed out above stock up whenever you can. We used to buy our lunch early in the day whenever we passed a supermarket and carried it for 2 or 3 hours just to be safe. France can also be expensive to eat out and especially for beer if you drink draught. You should be fine in the tourist areas and along the west coast but inland be prepared..


  • Registered Users Posts: 390 ✭✭ ARX


    Seaswimmer wrote: »
    Great advice above.
    You should be fine in the tourist areas and along the west coast but inland be prepared..
    Exactly, la France profonde is very different to the tourist areas. You will see a lot of derelict buildings - in some parts of northern France it feels like they never really recovered from WW1. I guess the hypermarkets have sucked the life out of much of rural France - the nearest shop might a hypermarket 30 km away.


  • Registered Users Posts: 2,181 ✭✭✭ dave_o_brien


    Also just to add to the temperature observations: if you are camping in central France/ not near the coast, it can be really hot during the day and quite cold at night. Make sure your camping gear is appropriate.


  • Registered Users Posts: 5,415 ✭✭✭ fat bloke


    If it's a 2 week trip and you're ferrying there and back, there's an obvious limit to how far deep an incursion you can make into the middle of the country. Where would you be targeting? Roscoff or Le harve? Roscoff gets you straight into rural Brittany off the boat.


  • Registered Users Posts: 1,957 ✭✭✭ Seaswimmer


    Trekker09 wrote: »
    Thinking of heading over to France on August for a couple of weeks. No plans of geographic area or routes yet. I was thinking of camping with a 1 person tent.

    Any tips or info gratefully received!!!!

    When we did it in 2018, we flew to Beauvais and flew home from Biarritz. And cycled down pretty much heading south west, hitting the coast at Archachon. We stayed in cheap hotels as opposed to camping. Good thing about Biarritz is that they sell cardboard bike boxes in the airport. Would you think of flying one way and ferry the other way. You would cover a lot more ground. I am not sure how you intend travelling to France?


  • Advertisement
  • Registered Users Posts: 390 ✭✭ ARX


    fat bloke wrote: »
    If it's a 2 week trip and you're ferrying there and back, there's an obvious limit to how far deep an incursion you can make into the middle of the country. Where would you be targeting? Roscoff or Le harve? Roscoff gets you straight into rural Brittany off the boat.
    IMHO rural Brittany is pretty dull. If you could land at Cherbourg you have a lovely spin down the Cotentin peninsula into Normandy which I think is much nicer. You have the Bayeux tapestry and the D-Day beaches, then you could head east (skirting north of Paris) to the WW1 battlefields around Verdun - fascinating area.


  • Registered Users Posts: 781 ✭✭✭ lochdara


    This chap is doing a fundraiser at the moment from Dublin to Spain on bike. He got a few bike upgrades in france, apart from that a very basic setup. His facebook page is https://www.facebook.com/alisdair.anderson
    Strava https://www.strava.com/athletes/84274637

    ______________________________________________________

    Currently fundraising for Irish Motor Neurone Disease Association

    In Memory of my fab Wife www.sinsin.ie



  • Registered Users Posts: 135 ✭✭ David6330


    Some very helpful info here.

    I'll be heading to France too at the end of July. It will be my first time going bike touring there.


  • Registered Users Posts: 24,656 ✭✭✭✭ Wishbone Ash


    And for anyone staying in a hotel - the breakfast is usually crap. A croissant and glass of orange juice doesn't really set a lad up for crossing several Alpine passes.


  • Registered Users Posts: 3,861 ✭✭✭ KevRossi


    Brittany is excellent for cycling, there's a huge amount of canals and narrow gauge railways that have greenways on them. They keep investing heavily in them, so keep an eye out for any updates.

    There's an interactive map here: https://www.francevelotourisme.com/itineraire

    Good book on them here but it's from 2016: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Brittanys-Green-Ways-Railway-Towpaths/dp/0956869998/ref=pd_sbs_1/261-0233786-4387404?pd_rd_w=R2Ble&pf_rd_p=a3a7088f-4aec-4dbd-97cc-9a059581fe7b&pf_rd_r=A2NFNA1TY5GXD7AA089Y&pd_rd_r=5e13e356-0a3b-4a8b-aa68-83a76db85878&pd_rd_wg=gd0Q6&pd_rd_i=0956869998&psc=1

    Greenways tend to be a lot more sheltered from the sun than open roads, so might be something to aim for. As above, it gets very crowded in August. In August, avoid the south at all costs as it does get very hot and it can ruin the holiday. For cooler climates in those months I'd stick to Normandy and Brittany. Go to the south from September.

    Consider purchasing an Interrail ticket, or consider taking a train on one day. You can move around a lot more freely, especially if the weather turns in one part of the country. A lot of TGV's do not take bikes, some do have space. Forget the Eurostar with a bike if you're going that way, just take the train to Dover/Calais, the ferry and the train on the other side. You can train/ferry Dublin to anywhere in France (or return) in one day.


  • Registered Users Posts: 390 ✭✭ ARX


    And for anyone staying in a hotel - the breakfast is usually crap. A croissant and glass of orange juice doesn't really set a lad up for crossing several Alpine passes.
    So to sum up: you'll die of either heatstroke, dehydration or starvation. Have a great trip!


  • Registered Users Posts: 1,100 ✭✭✭ Mefistofelino


    At peak holiday time in any of the touristy areas, be wary of caravanners. I've had several near misses in France over the years with drivers unaware of the width or length of the caravan, or just not giving a sh!te. Fridays / Saturdays are usually the worst as they are the changeout days for most campsites.

    For some reason, Dutch drivers seem to be the worst for this, which is doubly disappointing.


  • Registered Users Posts: 1,444 ✭✭✭ Trekker09


    Cheers folks! It was a brainstorming moment I had with myself and only mentioned it to the wife by text today! She replied "Go for it, it'll be great, you need it"

    I'm seriously thinking of using one of my road bikes and travelling relatively light. 1 man tent for the nights I camp, tools and spares for breakdowns, my well worn copy of Down & Out In Paris & London. Clothes will be t-shirts, sweat shirts, shorts and a decent pair of lightish jeans that roll up plus one of my Goretex jackets. I'm well used to the heat as I have done a lot of work in Asia, Malaysia, Oz and not too long ago spent 3 years in Papua New Guinea where it was 35-40 degrees most days!

    I'm more than likely going to get the ferry to Roscoff and head down to Nantes. The other option is to cycle down to Bordeaux and get the train back up. The plan is really to have no plan as I can extend the holiday if required as I have nearly 50 days AL accrued!


  • Registered Users Posts: 390 ✭✭ ARX


    Trekker09 wrote: »
    Cheers folks! It was a brainstorming moment I had with myself and only mentioned it to the wife by text today! She replied "Go for it, it'll be great, you need it"

    I'm seriously thinking of using one of my road bikes and travelling relatively light. 1 man tent for the nights I camp, tools and spares for breakdowns, my well worn copy of Down & Out In Paris & London. Clothes will be t-shirts, sweat shirts, shorts and a decent pair of lightish jeans that roll up plus one of my Goretex jackets. I'm well used to the heat as I have done a lot of work in Asia, Malaysia, Oz and not too long ago spent 3 years in Papua New Guinea where it was 35-40 degrees most days!

    I'm more than likely going to get the ferry to Roscoff and head down to Nantes. The other option is to cycle down to Bordeaux and get the train back up. The plan is really to have no plan as I can extend the holiday if required as I have nearly 50 days AL accrued!
    Don't underestimate the amount of stuff you'll need for comfortable solo camping. Go through the day in your head from the moment you wake up till the moment you go to sleep and figure out what you'll need to deal with whatever is likely to happen. Start laying stuff out so you can figure out how much luggage you'll need. For example, you wake up in your tent. So you need a tent, a sleeping bag and a mattress, maybe a pillow. You're hungry; you need food. Are you going to have a bowl of porridge? You need a stove, fuel and a spoon (if not for breakfast then for dinner). It rained during the night: where are you going to sit at breakfast? After breakfast you need the jacks: toilet roll. You've had your breakfast, washed up, applied chamois creme & sunscreen, stood on your sunglasses (you have spare sunglasses), planned your route for the next couple of hours on your map (map holder on handlebars). Off you go: a spoke on your rear drive side breaks: FiberFix spoke. Your hands are now dirty: Rema Tip Top Clean-Up 25 ml.

    At the end of the day you'll need to pitch your tent. It's dark: you want a head torch. What will you use to hammer the tent pegs into the ground? You'll want dinner, soap, a towel, flip-flops for the shower, maybe a razor, toothbrush, toothpaste, a way to wash your gear and so forth. How will you keep your phone charged? I could go on, but you get the idea. Will you be able to get everything you need onto a road bike?

    Good planning can take away a lot of the stress of dealing with problems on the road (and there will always be problems). If you're equipped to deal with anything bar a medical problem or a mechanical failure like a failed freehub, you will have a nice relaxing time.


  • Registered Users Posts: 24,656 ✭✭✭✭ Wishbone Ash


    ARX wrote: »
    .... So you need a tent, a sleeping bag and a mattress, maybe a pillow. You're hungry; you need food. Are you going to have a bowl of porridge? You need a stove, fuel and a spoon (if not for breakfast then for dinner). It rained during the night: where are you going to sit at breakfast? After breakfast you need the jacks: toilet roll. You've had your breakfast, washed up, applied chamois creme & sunscreen, stood on your sunglasses (you have spare sunglasses), planned your route for the next couple of hours on your map (map holder on handlebars). Off you go: a spoke on your rear drive side breaks: FiberFix spoke. Your hands are now dirty: Rema Tip Top Clean-Up 25 ml.

    At the end of the day you'll need to pitch your tent. It's dark: you want a head torch. What will you use to hammer the tent pegs into the ground? You'll want dinner, soap, a towel, flip-flops for the shower, maybe a razor, toothbrush, toothpaste, a way to wash your gear and so forth. How will you keep your phone charged? .....
    The above is why I'd have absolutely zero interest in ever doing a cycling with camping trip. Life's way to short.

    (....and that's without mentioning the weather. Imagine it being cold, wet and windy for days on end. No thanks.)


  • Advertisement
  • Registered Users Posts: 7,717 ✭✭✭ Tigerandahalf


    The camping sounds like hard work plus all the weight you are lugging around. If the rain doesn't get you are dealing with the heat in a tent. Packing and unpacking each day plus drying out gear would be a chore for me. You wouldn't want to be a comfort creature.

    Staying in hostels or the like gives you a bit of comfort, a shower plus you get to meet a few people which is no harm if you are going solo.

    Any time I read these threads the mind wanders off.

    I bought a book a few years back - France en Velo. He took a route from the Channel to the Med. It is another one of those nice cycling/travel books with details on areas, food and culture etc.
    https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/0957157347/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_apa_glt_fabc_QXP5F14MEK4SK58X5080

    Edit: Sorry didn't realise this was already linked earlier.


  • Registered Users Posts: 66 ✭✭ cyfac


    Preparing for a cycle tour and overcoming challenges on the road are two of the best things about cycle touring the best is the cycling of course the rythem is totally different to both road and mtb and thats what makes it so special when i started touring after years of being a slave to my powermeter i reconnected automatically with why i loved cycling in the 1st place.


  • Registered Users Posts: 16 rootsman


    Well worth a watch and a stunning route with plenty of advice.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8PbR4AmEB6Y


  • Registered Users Posts: 390 ✭✭ ARX


    The camping sounds like hard work plus all the weight you are lugging around. If the rain doesn't get you are dealing with the heat in a tent. Packing and unpacking each day plus drying out gear would be a chore for me. You wouldn't want to be a comfort creature.

    Staying in hostels or the like gives you a bit of comfort, a shower plus you get to meet a few people which is no harm if you are going solo.

    I won't lie, packing up in the morning is a big pain, particularly if it's hot or raining. It's the one part of camping I really don't enjoy. On the other hand, I really do enjoy arriving at a campsite in the evening and setting up my tent, having dinner outside my tent and falling asleep to the sound of a river or of the wind in the trees (and I can sleep for 11 hours in a tent, one one occasion with trains passing every half hour a few metres away).

    It's a great way to meet people as well - on several occasions I've ended up eating or drinking with people on campsites. Few people arrive at campsites by bike so when you arrive looking like a travelling circus then of course people are going to talk to you.

    Hotels are grand but you won't get talking to anyone there. But yes, if it's dusk and bucketing rain I'm going to get a hotel if I can.

    The other thing about having a tent is that it saves you worrying about where you're going to sleep. If you have to stick to hotels, then you generally have to pick a destination for the end of the day and make sure you get there before dark (or before the reception closes at 6 pm). That means you can't stop for too long or make detours because you have a target to meet. That's not much of a holiday for me. If you have a tent you can just wander around and at dusk if you can't find a hotel, you can often find a campsite (in France at least) and if you can't find a campsite, you can often find a bit of grass behind an electricity substation, in a park or in the grounds of a church - you might get moved on in the morning but so what? You'll have had a night's sleep.

    So even if you plan to stick to hotels, it's not a bad idea to have a tent just in case. A one person tent, a light down sleeping bag and a mattress won't come to more than about 3-4 kg. My touring bike fully loaded and carrying food and water nudges 50 kg so the extra weight isn't significant.

    And of course if you're on a tight budget, staying in hotels gets very expensive!


  • Registered Users Posts: 1,444 ✭✭✭ Trekker09


    Thanks for all of the good advice. I was just about to pull the trigger on a full touring rig when my wife rang and said "Why don't you hike the Camino?" To be fair, I've been on about doing that for years, but the magnetic draw of a new Kona and full Ortlieb rig was strong. I actually applied pressure on my index finger as it hovered over the 'Confirm Order' button. Alas, I resisted and actually weighed up the pros and cons and have now am doing the Camino Portuguese, from Porto to Finisterre this August.

    The Kona etc are still sitting in the basket but I think I'll wait and get more advice. I've just remembered that I'm eligible for the BTW scheme.


  • Registered Users Posts: 24,656 ✭✭✭✭ Wishbone Ash


    Trekker09 wrote: »
    ... when my wife rang and said "Why don't you hike the Camino?" To be fair, I've been on about doing that for years...
    That's something myself and Mrs WA have been talking about doing for a few years also.


  • Registered Users Posts: 1,444 ✭✭✭ Trekker09


    That's something myself and Mrs WA have been talking about doing for a few years also.

    My Mrs wouldn't dream of doing something that doesn't entail room service :D In fairness she deserves it as she works really hard. I'm really lucky in that she is 100% supportive and encouraging.


  • Registered Users Posts: 390 ✭✭ ARX


    Trekker09 wrote: »
    Thanks for all of the good advice. I was just about to pull the trigger on a full touring rig when my wife rang and said "Why don't you hike the Camino?" To be fair, I've been on about doing that for years, but the magnetic draw of a new Kona and full Ortlieb rig was strong. I actually applied pressure on my index finger as it hovered over the 'Confirm Order' button. Alas, I resisted and actually weighed up the pros and cons and have now am doing the Camino Portuguese, from Porto to Finisterre this August.

    The Kona etc are still sitting in the basket but I think I'll wait and get more advice. I've just remembered that I'm eligible for the BTW scheme.
    You mean ... walk?:confused::pac:


  • Registered Users Posts: 1,444 ✭✭✭ Trekker09


    ARX wrote: »
    You mean ... walk?:confused::pac:

    Yup!

    I know it's near blasphemy, but I used to do loads of hiking. (Trekker09 is from the 1st Irish Trailtrekker 100km in 2009, and not because I'm a Star Trek fan)!

    Bike touring is definitely on the agenda for next year.


  • Advertisement
  • Registered Users Posts: 1,100 ✭✭✭ Mefistofelino


    Tim Moore, who has written some excellent books about cycling the routes of the TdF, the Giro, the Vuelta and Iron Curtain route from Finland to Bulgaria, has a book about hiking the Camino with a donkey.
    Spanish Steps


Advertisement