Europe - Renting bike in Provence vs bringing bike from US
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10-19-09, 11:52 PM
I'll be spending a couple of weeks in Provence in June, and am looking for advice on biking while there. Will be with my wife who is not an avid cyclist and some other family, some of whom will be interested in doing some riding, but probably not every day. First of all, should I bring my bike or just rent while there? Is it easy to rent a nice road bike for a few days? Is it worth the expense and hassle of traveling with my own bike? Looking forward to the trip, would love to do the Mont Ventoux climb!
10-21-09, 02:51 AM
Witchdoctor.. I'd use Google to locate shops that rent bikes of a higher quality.. Here in adjacent Roussillon, there are plenty of bike rental shops- but, I've never seen a rental shop that carries the quality of bike I'd want for a climb up Mt. Ventoux..
Local rental shops pretty much rent city bikes for the bike around town crowd.. I have known American friends who located decent quality bikes for bike tours, but they located the bikes on the net from organizations that sponsored international , multiple day bike tours..
Should you choose your airline carefully and research their bike policy in advance, some don't screw you over as badly as say does Delta. Or 300 dollars one way..
10-21-09, 10:59 AM
Ignore what I wrote below. Instead do a web search on "Bedoin bike rental".
Generally in Europe it is not easy to rent a nice road bike. European riders who are serious about road-bicycling already have their own road bikes, and bring them along on vacation trips. (European roads in summertime are full of cars and vans with bicycles attached to them.
Less serious riders are generally happy with mountain bikes and city bikes -- so that's what's available for rent in most places.
The best bet in France I know of for renting a good road bike is around Grenoble and Bourg d'Oisans (near Alpe d'Huez, home of the over-hyped road climb).For bicycling vacations, I always bring my own road-bike (Bike Friday specially designed for bringing as airline luggage). Sometimes I like to do some road-bicycling on non-bicycling vacations, so I've rented bikes . . .
I've have good experiences:
* riding rolling farmland in France on a rental city bike (heavy, with well-padded seats, heavy, single range of 7 gears, heavy) -- the first 20 minutes are horrible, but then my body and my mental expectations adjust, and the scenery is so great, and four hours later I've had a great ride.
* doing serious road climbs on a rental mountain bike. Lotsa people climb Mont Ventoux on a mountain bike -- their own, not rental. If you can make it to the top on road bike, you can probably also make it up on a mountain bike -- just not as fast.
What I usually do when I rent in Europe is bring my own pedals and shoes -- and my own pedal wrench.
I also bring my own repair tools. Assume that any repair kit you get with a rental bike has missing or broken tools. When I'm serious, I bring (or purchase) my own Presta valve tube (of size compatible with the city versus mountain bike I'm guessing I'll rent) which I know will be compatible with my little pump.
You could also bring your own seat. But I've done fine with rental seats: sometimes after adjusting the tilt (with the wrenches that I brought myself).
There's also a question of how you're going to get your bike to the start of each ride. Are you bringing you own car rack (I do)? Or are you renting a car big enough to put the bike inside? Do you non-bicycling travel partners know that they are going to be riding in the car together with your bike? Are you sure that the rental car is going to have the car you hoped for available when you arrive?
(Doesn't hurt to bring a waterproof plastic tarp in case you need to store it outside some nights because your travel partners will not permit it inside your hotel room, or perhaps to protect the interior of your rental car).
Or is it agreed that both the bike rental and lodging for several days is going to close enough to Mont Ventoux so you can ride there without a car on whichever day has good enough weather to be worth trying to climb it. (you know what the word "ventoux" means in French?)
Bringing your own bike? (see today's article on NYTimes.com about that topic). I've never brought my own full-size non-folding bike on an airplane. You do need a plan for what to do with the box. I've traveled with friends who brought their own full-size bike in a nice box. Fortunately I had rented a car big enough to fit the box.
My assessment: It would be asking a lot of non-bicycling travel partners to put up with the hassle of the big bike box.
(There are other approaches which do not involve carrying a box around)
10-21-09, 02:31 PM
Glad I just found out for myself that there are some road-bike rental options in Provence.
Some reasons to rent a bike for multiple days in Provence:
* lots of pretty villages and farmland around Mont Ventoux.
(probably some road route ideas on like www.Bikely.com, which you could load into your GPS -- also can be worthwhile to purchase digital Euro road map compatible with your GPS)
* Grand Canyon du Verdon south rim.
One of the Euro road-bike websites rated it off the scale for prettiness, and it's included as one of the worthy routes out of all of France in the Lonely Planet Cycling France guidebook.
Riding the north rim of the biggest canyon in Europe fits with setting up a car shuttle for doing the great one-way (long-ish) Sentier Martel hike down in the gorge. South rim doesn't fit so obviously, but if you're fast + strong you could ride a loop with both (but not the same day you do the hike)
* Route des Cretes along the coast between Cassis + la Ciotat.
Short but spectacular seaside road. Nothing like it in North America. So short it needs to combined with something else in the area. Most obvious is to use it to set up a car-shuttle for the also spectacular one-way hike around Cap Canaille. Or hiking into the Calanques.
* Alps southern high climbs
The problem with the high passes of the southern French Alps is the surrounding peaks lose their snow in the summer, but the roads are much more spectacular when they've still got some snow in view. So riding the southern passes in June (or May) is a special opportunity. Not sure which pass or loop to recommend ... If you value "numerical" achievements then Bonette is the obvious choice, but that's a long ways from Mont Ventoux.
Two nice things about climbing Mont Ventoux:
(a) It's not over-hyped. Unlike Alpe d'Huez it really deserves its great reputation.
(b) If you climb it from the south side from Bedoin, it's harder than Alpe d'Huez, so then you're free from the normal visiting-American obligation to climb Alpe d'Huez.
So glad I have my Bike Friday to bring to France...just a thought.
10-21-09, 02:58 PM
I've boxed up my bikes and sent them across the ocean 4 times.. As to the box, they are cardboard. Just put them in re-cycling.. They are only like 5 bucks. that's if you can't find one for free at the bike shop....
.. Every trip I've had , bikes were free as long as you don't exceed your allowed weight.. Just pack it well. Get a professional opinion as how to pack the bike, if you've never done it before..
. What I don't like about putting your bike on a plane. Not sure they will honor the full cost of your bike should they damage or loose it.. So, I did take my less expensive road bike. That is probably a wise plan..
Once, I did have a problem. The bike was not unloaded in LA.. So it spent a week in Tahiti.. But, it found it's way home a week later.
10-21-09, 04:50 PM
Some people are comfortable sticking their "good road bike" into a cardboard box and handing it over to airline baggage handlers.
Some people are not. Lots of people want to bring their favorite bike to ride the great mountain roads of Europe -- and feel they need to buy (or rent) a hardcase box so that they feel no fear that the fork or frame might get bent. Or unless you're more of bike mechanic than I want to be, even "minor" repairs to components or cables are a significant disruption -- not what you were hoping for your first day after getting off the airplane in a foreign country (? especially when your travel partners are eager to get going on other things than bicycling ?)
Not a problem for me, because my travel bike disassembles to fit into standard-size hardcase airline suitcases. No special charge on any airline. And my best road bike at home is a 20-year-old steel thing.
Also not a problem because I've enjoyed some of the great riding in Europe on rental bikes, and will gladly do so again if my travel road bike is not available.
Once by accident I did one of the hardest climbs in the French Alps on a rented city bike. Sounds strange, but in the Alps of France most of the famous mountain pass roads have been re-designed since the original Tour de France, so they're not so steep any more, just long slogs -- so I tried climbing one I'd never heard of, and got surprised. (If you need to be in a place where the famous climbs are steeper, try Austria -- ? or maybe the Pyrenees, I don't know them)
Mont Ventoux is outside the Alps by my definition: I am not volunteering to try to climb Mt V (from Bedoin) on a "city" bike.
11-25-09, 08:11 AM
I stumbled upon this site... http://www.bikerentalsplus.com/ They seem to be based in Italy, but have outlets in Provence as well. I'm hoping to use them sometime. I can't vouch for them in any way, but it's the only site I've come across so far that will rent what I would be looking for.
12-04-09, 07:27 AM
In 2007 I went to Provence and rented a bicycle from a shop in Bedoin.
Great to hear it worked out so well.
I was in Bédoin a couple of weeks ago -- but oddly I did not get to check out that shop.
Because the village was having some street fair that day, and I was in a hurry to get climbing on the road up Mont Ventoux.
Anyway I had my Bike Friday bicycle (which packs into a normal suitcase), so I didn't need to rent anything.
I got to try the first three out of the four riding ideas I mentioned in another post above, and it was great. Also found some great seaside hiking south in the Calanques. Only wish I'd brought more short-sleeve shirts.
04-12-10, 07:54 AM
A nice website for cycling in provence .Lots of useful links to bike hire shops etc.Did the Cadenet Cycling route and Lavender trail as recommeded by this site and also part of the Luberon cycleway in june 2 years ago.In Haute Provence(Note Provence is vast of covers a large area),you can structure your ride so it is relatively downhill(or up hill) nearly all the way.Villages are usually perched though when you pass by which means a short steep climb en route.The bike rent shop in Forcalquier where I started had both Tourers and Mountain bikes for hire.
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