Bike touring in France

Aug 1st, 2014, 11:07 AM
Join Date: Sep 2012
Posts: 268
LOL but this thread is not about us, is it?? Good luck to the OP whatever they do!
snowgirls is offline  
Aug 1st, 2014, 12:45 PM
Join Date: Jan 2007
Posts: 76,521
Well yes things like flat tired or broken spokes - know how to fix those things yourselves - there are bike shops in many larger towns but getting there...

Weight is what broke the wagon my dear old departed Mum used to say and in this case it could break a bicycle - I would only go on mountain bikes or similar with largish tired to support it all.

Again experience counts and maybe the OP is a sharp bike mechanic - if not take some basic classes in minor repair - like brakers, etc.

I have biked literally thousands of miles in Europe and especially in France - all over - and in France there are few flat places outside the Beauce - read those maps carefully if laden with weight to avoid steep climbs - it's not just the weight but you have to have your panniers properly fixed and with equal weight in each side.

I far FAR prefer biking sans baggage - even making pit stops en route you cannot leave your baggage on your bike as it may get stolen. I had this happen to me once - all my panniers and everything in them - it was a blessing in disguise because that was my first long trip on a bike and I was carrying way WAY too much.

I would not dismiss the day trips from a base by loops - no it's not a real bike trip per say but oh so so much more fun - casually stop anywhere, locks your naked bikes, etc.

Best of all would be services that send your bags ahead to the next accommodation.

But biking with luggage if you've never done it may not be the piece of cake it may seem to me - I know it was not for me in my first long bike trip.
PalenQ is offline  
Aug 1st, 2014, 01:21 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: May 2007
Posts: 1,616
You folks are all awesome. Thank you so much for all the information.

I travel very light anyhow, only carry on luggage for three months , but would still just only take the bare essentials on the bike trip and leave the luggage somewhere.

What might be a good idea, from all the above great info, is to start off doing day trips from a few locations and then perhaps doing longer ones in a straight line and sending our small bags ahead if we feel we can't manage.

We currently do a route at home, that has some hills, and do 35 K a day without a problem. I don't intend to do any marathon days, but 60K would be fine. The whole idea of this is to be able to stop and poke around places en route.
There are a few bike trips here on our island that perhaps we should try first with overnight items to see how we manage. Thanks for the tips.

And I have to admit , if the weather gets really rainy and nasty we probably won't be riding much anyhow. We would just do a change of plans, probably opt to take our bike on a train and skip ahead if that happens. That being said, I am from BC and used to some rain of course.

Thanks for the tips on what to call 'saddle bags' in French I wouldn't want to end up with a false friend. Ha ha.
live42day is offline  
Aug 1st, 2014, 01:41 PM
Join Date: Jan 2007
Posts: 76,521
Thanks for the tips on what to call 'saddle bags' in French I wouldn't want to end up with a false friend. Ha ha>

well that in bike lingo is what they call them in America too but perhaps there is a slight difference - saddle bags may droop over the bike rack and panniers - good ones that will stay in place on a ride attach themselves to each side of the wheel - leaving the luggage rack available to strap light stuff on it. You can also buy small pannaiers to go on each side of your front wheel, kind of balancing the load a bit or having quick access to essentials you may need en route.

pannier - the word oddly enough is dervied from the French word for 'bread basket' - 'pan' meaning bread in French.

Modern waterproof bicycle touring panniers, Berlin, 2009
There are many styles of bicycle panniers. Touring panniers are usually sold in pairs, intended to hold enough equipment for self-sustained tours over days or weeks. The most common setup is to use a pair of smaller panniers (10 to 15 liters each) mounted on a low rider and a pair of larger ones on the rear carrier (20 to 30 liters each).
Commuters who bicycle have pannier options designed to hold laptop computers, files and folders, changes of clothes or shoes and lunches. Since the movement against disposable shopping bags emerged, many panniers are made easily detachable from the bike, to allow using them for shopping bags. Some cyclists create makeshift pannier bags out of grocery bags, grocery baskets, garment-bags, convertible backpacks, and various multi-purpose bags as alternatives to purchasing a commercial pannier.[citation needed]
The first panniers designed specifically for bicycles were patented by John B. Wood of Camden, NJ, in 1884.[2] The modern bicycle pannier was invented by Hartley Alley (1919-2001) of Boulder, CO, in 1971.[3] Alley also designed a handlebar bag and other bicycle luggage that he manufactured and sold under the Touring Cyclist brand in the 1970s until his retirement in 1984.

IME the problem with the bags that droop over the rer bike rack is that they can get lopsided unless securely tied. The attachable panniers that go on each side of the wheel(s) re vastly better IME.

And it sounds like you are getting experience with luggage and can pack light so you will have no surprises and can manage well - just takes some experience.

Also practice changing flat tires if you do not know how.
PalenQ is offline  
Aug 1st, 2014, 02:09 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: May 2007
Posts: 1,616
I think I will sign up for a 'bike repair' class at our local bike shop. Good advice.
live42day is offline  
Aug 2nd, 2014, 04:28 AM
Join Date: Jan 2007
Posts: 76,521
Yes and get a spoke wrench to tighten those spokes that may come loose and learn how to true a wheel - very simple things that can come in very handy IME.
PalenQ is offline  
Aug 2nd, 2014, 12:27 PM
Join Date: Jul 2004
Posts: 3,454
On a bike, 10 pounds will not even be noticeable, I suspect.

Believe me, the moment you start going uphill, you'll resent every ounce!

You could always buy panniers, like those Ortlieb makes, and stick them in your suitcase. Then when you do your tour, you pack your touring kit in the bike bags and leave the suitcase to pick up later. For a few days' credit card touring, you'll just need a few changes of underwear, smart clothes for after the biking is done and touring clothes that are quick drying and that you can wash every evening.

I've never ever trued a wheel while biking, and I've biked a lot, long distance. But do start riding now, while you're home, and visit a good bike shop, to get clued up to what is a sensible touring bike. Then, when you are ready to rent, you'll also know what kind of bike you don't want. For instance, one thing to look out for is good tyres. Schwalbe marathon or marathon plus are excellent touring tyres. Expect punctures if they're not on your rental bike.
menachem is online now  
Aug 2nd, 2014, 01:29 PM
Join Date: Jan 2007
Posts: 76,521
Normally you would never need to true a wheel but if you are carrying heavy loads and go over a bump it would put the wheel out of true - or spinning in a perfect circle - to see if your wheels are trued simply turn the bike upside down and they should spin like tops - not wavering either way - may never go out of true but IME of leading thousands of folks thru France on bikes it happens quite a lot - an seriously untrued wheel can start rubbing against the brake pad or rim.
PalenQ is offline  
Aug 2nd, 2014, 02:57 PM
Join Date: Jul 2004
Posts: 3,454
I ride a sensible german touring bike, so I've never had to do this: it has touring wheels, which are more robust. Yes makes excellent sense, because it may well be that anything the OP rents wasn't meant for loaded touring to begin with.

I've googled a couple of bike rental places. E bikes as well, which might make good sense

this for instance looks excellent:,,53,14.html

and for really loaded touring,,51,15.html

and the bags to match, of the ortlieb type,57,36.html

They're based in Avignon

french language outfits, google: location velo and the region where you want to rent.
menachem is online now  
Aug 2nd, 2014, 03:03 PM
Join Date: Jul 2004
Posts: 3,454
and this tour seems quite nice:

e-bikes, which takes all the pain out of cycling, especially going up hill.
menachem is online now  
Aug 2nd, 2014, 05:29 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: May 2007
Posts: 1,616
I called our local bike shop and we will do a clinic in the Fall on bike repairs and maintenance which is a good thing to know in any case.

Thank you for those links to bike rentals. It is a great way to see how much everything will cost and what is available to rent. I don't think I would consider an electric bike. It would be (in my mind) cheating some how...ha ha. I do spin classes twice a week as well as my own riding so I will just be sure to pick a course that is doable.
The last link does not work BTW, menachem.
live42day is offline  
Aug 3rd, 2014, 01:16 AM
Join Date: Jul 2004
Posts: 3,454
yes i see: their site is broken, a plug in, by the look of it.

anyway. I wouldn't ditch e-bikes as an option. depending on where you ride, there's quite a lot of climbing involved, not with the lightest bike and with luggage. I'm sorry to say that going from 30 km training rides to 60 km with climbing can be a shock to the system. An e-bike cushions that shock. If it gets you places in a better mood, why not?
menachem is online now  
Aug 3rd, 2014, 02:51 AM
Join Date: Apr 2004
Posts: 200
I don't ride, but I have hosted plenty of bikers at my B&B.

The ones who are doing it entirely on their own are usually very experienced, serious, used to doing their own inevitable repairs, and usually just have their bike clothes and something very simple and light to wear to dinner, if they choose to go out. They rinse their fast-drying clothes and leave them hanging in their guest room to dry. Many bring their own bikes with them to France, and in the afternoon after they're done riding, or the morning before they depart, they're often down in the courtyard tinkering on their bikes, cleaning the chains, making little adjustments to this and that. They've done a lot of research and have a very clear vision of what they're doing, where they're going, what time they're leaving, and exactly which route they're taking.

The "self-guided" bikers seem more relaxed and are able to go out to a nice restaurant. They don't worry about limiting their clothes to just one set and a spare. Their bags are delivered here during the day, then picked up and delivered elsewhere on the day they leave. They tell me about the occasional breakdown, broken chain, bike accident, and how amazing it was to just call their touring company, who always seems to be able to come find them and fix them up right away, even sometimes bringing a replacement bike if necessary. They are generally a little more sociable and interested in the food & wine of the region, socializing, sightseeing, etc., whereas the "do-it-yourself" bikers are really very much into the bikes, the ride, the views from the road. Sometimes they stay several days and make loops from our base, or sometimes one stays behind and takes a "day off" to lounge by the pool and read, or just go for a walk.

ALL my biking guests eat a lot of food, I can vouch for that! LOL!

I know I'm generalizing, and I'm sure there are lots of exceptions to what I've just said. And I'm not telling you anything you don't already know.

But you need to decide which of these profiles do you align yourself with?
La_Tour_de_Cause is offline  
Aug 3rd, 2014, 04:57 AM
Join Date: Oct 2013
Posts: 925
If you do decide to do a loaded touring ride, I would suggest doing a practice run closer to home. It will help you figure out what gear you will want/need. Also keep in mind that there's a difference between riding a couple times a week and riding 60k with a loaded bike for several days in a row. Make sure you're appropriately conditioned for the tour you ultimately plan. Also, I'd suggest bringing your saddle from home and using it on the tour. The last thing you want is a bike with a saddle that proves uncomfortable.
indyhiker is online now  
Aug 3rd, 2014, 06:20 AM
Join Date: Apr 2010
Posts: 2,552
The problem with e-bikes is that the batteries are charged usually for a maximum of 40km. However, that's 40km on flat terrain and once you start going uphill you eat up the battery much faster. The e-bikes are generally heavy bikes so if your battery loses its charge it won't be a lot of fun to ride. If considering an e-bike I would ask for a back-up battery and inquire about how long the battery will hold its charge.
FrenchMystiqueTours is offline  
Aug 3rd, 2014, 07:20 AM
Join Date: Jan 2012
Posts: 8,613
"But you need to decide which of these profiles do you align yourself with?"

La Tour, you admit to generalizing and follow it with this untrue statement. Of course they need not "decide". People all, no matter what the activity, fall along a continuum. Yes, there are clumps on the graph to each side but there are also innumerable variations of inclinations. I know this as a walker and have no reason to believe cyclists are much different.

The OP sounds like a very sensible person who knows what they want, including what they might want to learn to make their unsupported way through the countryside. And I also have confidence that the "load" will be similar to a daypack rather than the loads of backpackers. Even if they find themselves too heavy, a stop at a post office to mail extras home is perfectly easy, should the stuff be worth the postage (surface mail is relatively cheap).
MmePerdu is online now  
Aug 3rd, 2014, 07:46 AM
Join Date: Jan 2007
Posts: 76,521
I wouls suggest if doing wholly a bike tour to bring your own bike - with panniers already to go - fully loaded - ride right out of the airport.

Airlines have jacked up costs to transport bikes but still it would be cheaper perhaps then renting and buying panniers, etc once there and most importantly you will have a bike fit for your - in more ways than 1 - and will be sued to it.

bikes have to be boxed or in plastic bags and wheels, handlebars, etc taken off - it may cost a bit now but to me is priceless. You'll probably have a much better bike than you end up renting.
PalenQ is offline  
Aug 3rd, 2014, 08:04 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: May 2007
Posts: 1,616
Bringing our own bikes and gear is not an option I am afraid. As mentioned above this is just a small part of a three month trip, and we are used to just taking a small suitcase with us. I don't want to even bring our helmets and panniers. We will just rent everything while there as this is not the entire focus of the trip, but a nice part of it.

La Tour, I liked your description of the two different groups. We definitely fall in to the second category.

I was beginning to doubt myself on this endeavour, but then came across this article

This is the kind of thing we are looking for. Just an easyish ride each day. I am convinced now, I think, that we will just shell out the cash for the tour company to provide all and transport our luggage.

I did check some reviews of the 'canal du midi' tour and there are certainly mixed opinions of the route and how bike friendly it really is. I will continue to check routes/tours offered, but the one above looks like what I had envisioned really, riding in the countryside past castles.
live42day is offline  
Aug 3rd, 2014, 08:07 AM
Join Date: Jul 2006
Posts: 16,515
The muscle you want to develop is the one you sit upon. Nothing hurts like a saddle on the second day of a tour.

I always plan our bike tours to run close to a train line so that, come what may, I can a rest and still cover the distance, catch a plain etc.

Panniers, that clock in (loaded) above 10 kg the pair are to be ejected. They are no problem on the first hill, but on the 10th, boy do you want them off your bike.
bilboburgler is online now  
Aug 3rd, 2014, 08:35 AM
Join Date: Apr 2008
Posts: 32,129
I like La Tour's description as well. I just returned from a 60k ride with the first group. Very intense.

If I were going to France to ride. I would hire FMT. He gives so much great advice here. If they would just flatten those Alps a bit.
colduphere is offline  

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are On

Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy -


All times are GMT -8. The time now is 09:09 AM.