Bike touring in France

Jul 30th, 2014, 09:03 PM
  #1  
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Bike touring in France

Hello. We are heading back to Europe next Fall and part of our trip will be in Southern France where we would like to do a bike tour, self guided, for up to a week. I have searched the forums for information but I can only find old posts, nothing within the past year or so.

We are a couple in our 60s, fit, and would like to do a sightseeing rather than a Tour de France bike trip in the country side. One of the ones I was looking at was along the Canal du Midi which looks great to me. The time of year will be early to mid October.

The company I found online is 'Biking France'. They seem reasonable in price and the days are a maximum riding of 55K per day which is perfect.

I can't find any reviews on them however, even though they have been around for a long time it seems. Has anyone used them, or recommend another company?

We will not consider bringing our own bikes as this is just a small part of a three month trip, but have considered just renting a bike and doing our own thing. Having our luggage sent ahead to the next destination is the most appealing part of these tours however.

So the question is: Has anyone done this in the past couple of years who can recommend a good company? Or done it on your own and found it worked well for you.
We are not set on any one place at all, we are very flexible and will be spending at least two or three weeks in southern France in total overall.

Thanks for any help. I am doing this so far in advance because I need to book our flights soon as we travel on points and need to do so a year ahead.
live42day is offline  
Jul 30th, 2014, 10:02 PM
  #2  
 
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Hi live42day,

Sorry, haven't done this myself --

But many folks here use Eurobike tours. Here is what they offer for the Canal du Midi:

http://www.eurobike.at/en/tour/cycle...du-midi_t_2144

Hope you get lots of ideas!

s
swandav2000 is online now  
Jul 30th, 2014, 10:20 PM
  #3  
 
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Have you considered a do-it-yourself tour? I ask because I walk, I don't bike, but the concept is the same and infinitely easier on a bike to find places to stay. I've walked from chateau to chateau through the Loire and more recently did a several days section of the Burgundy Canal. It's a perfectly simple proposition to plot it out for yourself.

I got a book of maps with descriptions for the canal and recently bought the edition for the Canal du Midi for a proposed walk there: Editions du Breil, Waterways Guide, Canal du Midi. Bought from Amazon UK.

Also, a long out of print book that very good and I found a used copy, from Amazon (US): Cycling Along the Waterways of France, by Tony Roberts. Good inspiration supplemented by up to date information online.

Good maps are the Serie Bleue maps of France by IGN, 1/25,000 scale. Available by mail from online suppliers.
MmePerdu is offline  
Jul 30th, 2014, 10:59 PM
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Well I don't use companies but you may find this link useful and I just recently came back from cycling La Rochelle to Bergerac (both north of the Midi). If all you are doing is getting the tour guide is book you hotels and move your luggage you don't really need a great company, your critical issues will be 1) are the bikes well maintained and 2) are the hotels what you would expect.

A good company we have used over the years is Headwater which has a deal this year at £1300 for a 7 day trip. In the fall you don't really need to book hotels ahead so you could stay in cheaper rooms than they would book you in.

If you were doing this yourself you should be able to hire for say E15 pp/day, room say E80 and a taxi to move luggage over 55km E30 so for two people E1000 assuming you take the bikes back by train.

This site will help and have a look at the books, there is a great guide book for this one with hand written maps etc.

http://www.mybikeguide.co.uk/Midi_Guide.php
bilboburgler is offline  
Jul 31st, 2014, 04:15 AM
  #6  
 
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This thread might be helpful to you: http://www.fodors.com/community/euro...eport-long.cfm

The company mentioned offers a Canal du Midi tour.
indyhiker is offline  
Jul 31st, 2014, 05:12 AM
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I see you are in Vancouver. We are in the same boat, fit, 60s, Canadian.
You might also be happy with the self guided tours in France from this Vancouver company :http://www.randonneetours.com/bydest.../france.htm.If you are in the city, you could visit them directly.Several of our friends have done Trek tours but they are pricey.

We have done several self guided tours in France( we designed ourselves) using internet resources and tips from other bike tourists on http://www.crazyguyonabike.com/searc...ype=allhttp:// and also
www.bikeforums.net/touring.
You can PM me if you want any further information on places we have toured or how we designed the trips.
snowgirls is offline  
Jul 31st, 2014, 07:38 AM
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You can do a "self-guided" tour and pay someone to make reservations and move luggage you probably don't need, or you can leave your larger bag at a hotel you choose for your last night prior because they'll hold the bag, and set off on your own personal "self-guided" tour, complete with no complications if you decide spontaneously to detour off the chosen path.

I've done a great number of walking tours on my own, as I mentioned, 2 in France, most in England. The least satisfactory by far was the one I decided to buy the self-guided option with B&Bs booked by the company and luggage moved every day. Since I choose my walking clothes for ones that can be rinsed out in the evening plus 1 spare, all goes in a day pack, and there was that suitcase waiting for me every afternoon when I arrived, never opened, just a rebuke that I'd wasted money. And the accommodations were, in some cases, not what I'd have chosen myself despite my generally modest budget, shabby but I'm sure profitable for the company. And it's a well-thought-of company.

My point, obviously, is you can do it yourself unless you just really don't want to think about it, and I understand that. But in October accommodations are unlikely to be full and I'd suggest calling the day before if you feel you need to know where you'll be before you get there. I like the planning that goes along with doing it oneself but you may not. It's important to me where I stay and I like the flexibility of not planning too far ahead so I can take advantage of slowing down if I want to, which isn't possible with everything laid out ahead of time and paid for. Or detouring for an attraction I didn't know about in advance. Even deciding to stay an extra night somewhere because you like it and you can. All the unknowables that can make a trip memorable without too much pre-booking.
MmePerdu is offline  
Jul 31st, 2014, 08:24 AM
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You can have a look at this thread and find links to all the major guided and self-guided bike companies in France. There is also lots of information on how to do your own bike touring in France.

https://www.lonelyplanet.com/thorntr...inner#20796466
FrenchMystiqueTours is offline  
Jul 31st, 2014, 06:13 PM
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Thank you everyone for your quick and informative responses. I am not sure why those blogs did not come up when I did a search, but thank you for those.

You have confirmed for me that I can do it on my own, which I do prefer. We are not really tour people and being off season I can see just booking the next night on line depending upon where we are. I like that idea better anyhow because if we decided to spend longer (or shorter) in one place we have that flexibility.
Biloburger and indyhiker, thank you for the links to the trip reports they are perfect.

Really it was the luggage transfer was what appealed. Can you rent saddle bags with your bike rental? I think we may look more towards this and get the Michelin maps as French Mystique says because they have the road grades on them.

Snowgirls, yes we are on the island and although we have ridden bikes on trips have never done a 'bike trip' before. Thank you for the links you provided. I will look at a few of the reports and may get back to you with some questions.

Mme Perdue thanks for your information. I will search for that book. Swandav I will look at the website for some more ideas. I was hoping that no one would come back and say that mid October was too late, which you haven't , so feeling more confident that this plan will work now.

We are leaving Canada the first week of September 2015 and coming back on a transatlantic cruise leaving Barcelona on October 30th so we have two months to play with , but will start in Iceland and Sweden as I am sure those are places we want to go as early in the season as possible. We thought that the south of France would be a good place to be mid October.

Thanks again.
live42day is offline  
Jul 31st, 2014, 11:43 PM
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Really it was the luggage transfer was what appealed. Can you rent saddle bags with your bike rental?

1) Luggage transfer by taxi does work but budgeting for it is tricky (prices vary)
2) You can hire "panniers" but don't use that word (it is a false friend) and in my experience it means more basket on the front of the bike. FMT may know the right word.
3) If not you could buy and give away cheap ones at say E50 and stick plastic bags inside for waterproofing
bilboburgler is offline  
Aug 1st, 2014, 03:02 AM
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Another way you can plan a self guided bike tour is to do "loops" from one location. Ie Stay in one or two different hotels and each day go out in a different direction, returning later in the day to the hotel. This drops the need for carrying your luggage and is actually the way we are going to do our next European trip. Just some options to the traditional bike tour. See http://www.biketours.com/France/provence-family-tour s an example. We usually do combine some train travel with bike touring to reach further away or get across mountain ranges.
snowgirls is offline  
Aug 1st, 2014, 03:26 AM
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<<2) You can hire "panniers" but don't use that word (it is a false friend) and in my experience it means more basket on the front of the bike.>> Bilbo is correct.

If you want saddle bags (as we called them in the U.S.) ask for "sacoches arrière". These will be the saddle bags for the back of the bike. The rack on the back of the bike that holds the "sacoches" is called the "porte-bagage". If you want additional ones for the front forks they would be "sacoches avant". If you want one of the smaller bags for your handlebars that is called a "sacoche guidon".

The Michelin maps are excellent but if you are riding in the south of France where it is hillier I would also get the IGN maps since these show topographic relief. The Michelin maps only show grades of 5% and greater but riding on a 4% grade for a few kilometers is not exactly an easy ascent and you won't see those 4% ascents on the Michelin maps.

The idea mentioned above about using a base and doing loops from there is a good idea. You should also know that on most TER trains in France you can take your bike. The rules vary from département to département but if you are based near a town/city with good rail connections you can take your bike to different places. This saves the hassle of moving your luggage from place to place.
FrenchMystiqueTours is offline  
Aug 1st, 2014, 06:23 AM
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If you want to ride along the Canal du Midi (or anywhere in a line for some distance) and not do circular rides which don't appeal to me, chose a place to leave your bags, as I mentioned above, to which you can return by train to get them after your ride. A week is easily done without all your stuff, I'm sure you know, and it's quite freeing in my experience, to leave it all behind for a time.

There's a difference between going for a ride or walk and returning for the night, and traveling on foot or bike, which seems to elude some while appealing greatly to others, like me. Circular walks (or rides) which clearly some enjoy so much, seem somehow pointless to me. I cannot explain why, they just do. So if you're a travel-by-bike person I'm sure you won't let not having those suitcases full of things you won't need for the week stop you.
MmePerdu is offline  
Aug 1st, 2014, 08:16 AM
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Really it was the luggage transfer was what appealed. Can you rent saddle bags with your bike rental? I think we may look more towards this and get the Michelin maps as French Mystique says because they have the road grades on them.>

I have biked around France for years with panniers - bike saddle bags - and it is imperative to pack light - actually there is a world of difference between riding a bike laden down with bags and one not - the latter infinitely more enjoyable and easier.

I'd try to look for a selfie tour that transports you bag from hotel to hotel - especially if you have never ridden with bags on a bike before.

Michelin maps 1:200000 are yes great as one, two or three arrows pointing up or down a road mean a slight hill, moderate grade or steep grade.

And keep your daily distance goals low too. And prepare for rain or wet weather - always carry good rain gear - try to plot your trip where you will have any winds at your back not in your face - weather often moves west to east somewhat in many places.
PalenQ is online now  
Aug 1st, 2014, 09:22 AM
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Just to give you an idea, I travel for a week or so at a time, on foot with a day pack to carry essentials. One change of clothes and shoes. About 10-11 pounds. Bringing the right things, rather than more things, gives one the freedom to do it easily and as mentioned above, a significantly more enjoyable wander through the countryside. My pack has gotten lighter over the years because I've learned with practice to do it better and because, of necessity, as I've gotten older, I've needed to carry less.

On a bike, 10 pounds will not even be noticeable, I suspect. Just don't bring the things you might like to have, maybe, but just what you know you'll need. Sometimes, even with as little as I bring I don't use everything. I think we've all noticed that phenomenon with suitcases and it also applies seemingly no matter how little we take.

The "right things" are items of clothing that will dry overnight, no matter the weather. Sometimes socks don't dry completely, so into a plastic bag they go in the morning and out again to finish at my destination. My silk underwear always dries overnight, even on rainy nights in England. And more comfortable than synthetic. Waterproof your main pair of shoes so they don't need to be among the things to dry overnight.
MmePerdu is offline  
Aug 1st, 2014, 09:37 AM
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PalenQ is 100% right about different carrying your panniers or not. Its like trying to bike after gaining 20 pounds, which is about the lightest I have ever managed on the three week tours we do. Cyclist strive like crazy to go light when not touring so any added weight( yes MmePerdu, even 10 pounds) is a burden especially if your yourself are not a big person.
snowgirls is offline  
Aug 1st, 2014, 10:18 AM
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I'll take your word for it, snowgirls, although I wonder 2 things, why you don't try harder to get the weight down and how carrying it on a bike could be more difficult than a pack on my back at 69, not particularly difficult. My trips are usually about a week, occasionally more, living out of the pack but I could go indefinitely with the same things.
MmePerdu is offline  
Aug 1st, 2014, 10:23 AM
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Weight is what it is because I also carry all tools, spare tire etc needed for repairs. My trips are three weeks, 900 to 1000 km in distance. I do what I can
snowgirls is offline  
Aug 1st, 2014, 10:32 AM
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And among the reasons why I walk. And flat tires aside, another example where more is not necessarily better.
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