Touring - Amsterdam to Barcelona for newbie college grads this summer!
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05-20-11, 11:34 PM
I'm graduating from Tufts University in 2 days, and on June 13 I'm leaving for about 6 weeks to bike from Amsterdam to Barcelona. We have plane tickets and Trek 520s, but pretty much nothing else.
We have a blog of our training thus far: http://ambar2011.blogspot.com/
Anyone have relevant mapping advice? We have a tent and plan on camping but still don't quite know the specifics of the route of our trip yet. It would be great if anyone who had experience traveling through the Netherlands, Belgium, France, and crossing the eastern side of the Pyrenees to Spain felt like pointing us to some good books/ felt like teaching us some stuff!
thanks for checkin out our blog/ your advice in advance :D
05-21-11, 02:54 AM
Several trips.. Upon landing at Shiphol, I ride from the Airport to Zandvoort ,
on the coast . It's not far.
took a night's sleep, at a campground there, then go find a decent Booksellers..
they have maps there.. you could just follow the coast down to Rotterdam,
they certainly have a book shop..
Falk Publishes a Map of the Bike routes thruout NL.
you can figure it out, just hit another book shop when you run off the edge
of the last map.
I Bring a compass ..
05-21-11, 03:36 AM
I live in the north of France (between Amiens and Paris) and a couple of years ago I cycled from my house to Barcelona - so I guess that your route through France could be very close to mine. I stayed in campgrounds too, so I may be able to help you there.
First thing I'd say is keep well away from Paris. You may be tempted to have a small break there but the suburbs of Paris are a nightmare on a bike, although the city of Paris itself is very bike-friendly these days. If you really want to go to Paris, go through the suburbs by train.
My route was: Mantes la Joly, Orléans, Châteauroux, Limoges, Cahors, Montauban, Toulouse, Carcassonne, Narbonne, Perpignan, Figueres, Girona, Barcelona.
Mantes la Jolie to Orléans had some very nice parts in it (especially through the Yvelines). Châteauroux to Cahors was really nice but very tough. The road climbs and descends a lot, and some of the climbs are steep and long. I had a lot of wind from Toulouse. There's a bike path following the Canal du Midi from Toulouse to Avignonet-Lauragais. I needed to use this path to shelter from the wind. Around Narbonne the wind was so strong I had to stay put for a couple of days - to give you an idea how strong it was, it actually ripped the glasses off my face and threw them like a kite into a field somewhere! Luckily I had a spare pair! The Aude part of France is notorious for winds like this and if you go through there in the summer it's very possible you'll have to confront them. As for the Spanish part, nothing particular really. I'd cycled in Spain before and knew roughly what to expect. I love cycling in Spain! The roads are generally good, with a hard shoulder that is well surfaced and cyclable, and the drivers (whilst they go very fast) are usually very considerate to cyclists. I stayed in Gerona overnight - nice town. However, the coastal route into Barcelona is horrible - lots of busy roads and ugly concrete buildings.
I didn't take many photos, unfortunately! I might be able to help you further in your France planning - I've lived and cycled here now for 13 years! France is great on a bike and there are loads of very good campsites. Also, if you pass this way and want some free accommodation, I'm on warm showers http://www.warmshowers.org/ (http://www.warmshowers.org/) where I post as JimP. I'll be in Greece in the middle of July, though.
05-21-11, 07:32 AM
The previous post says a lot of what I was going to say. Most French towns and villages have Municipal campsites so you can reckon on rolling up and finding somewhere to camp, just about any where.
The Canal du Midi is great; Pretty level and sheltered from the wind and sun.
It's a long haul over the Pyrenees, but why not take in Andorra while your down that way.
05-21-11, 07:49 AM
The Canal du Midi is fantastic indeed. Good atmosphere as cyclists, runners, skaters, ramblers, dog walkers...rub shoulders. It passes through some nice towns, it keeps you away from traffic and sheltered from the scorching sun and wind, there are even fountains! But!! It becomes un-cyclable on a touring bike as soon as you cross into the Aude region! The path becomes very rough and at times difficult to find. That's why, unless you're on a mountain bike, I think it's tarmac from Avignonet-Lauragais.
How long did it take you to get from your house to Barcelona? I will be on a route that will be coming through Barcelona, and I have to be in Paris on a given date for a doctor's appointment. I'm just trying to figure out how much time to allow myself to get there.
05-22-11, 01:05 AM
On a fully laden bike it took me 10 days - 12 with the forced rest stop near Narbonne. You'd have to factor in the wind in the south west of France because what I experienced was not freak weather conditions for the area but apparently very normal. There are several winds that regularly as clockwork blast through the area between Toulouse, Narbonne and Perpignan. Also, as I said above, the Limousin/Dourdogne part of France is hilly - not mountainous by any means - but very hilly.
you're welcome to stay at our place just outside Brussels/Belgium, plenty of room!
wiiiim at gmail dot com
Do you remember your averages daily distance (aproxinate)?
A lot of people reckon on about 100 km/day.
Depending on wind and terrain 80-120 km is what I do. On longer tours I figure in more rest days which lower the total average.
Crossing the Pyrenees at the med coast ain't so bad :)
05-23-11, 01:16 AM
I cycled on average 140-150 kms per day. But it totally depends on the cyclist. Some people prefer a more leisurely pace, to stop off frequently, visit museums etc. Also, the weather conditions, terrain, etc have a big part to play.
Crossing the Pyrennes can be a biggy - it depends on where you cross. If you do as I did and cross at Perthus then, as imi says, it's not at all hard - especially after passing through the Limousin!
I am right now on sick leave because of back problems (not cycling-related, my doctor assures me!). I've been playing around with the idea of doing a website for a while now, but have always chickened out because I was worried I didn't have anything interesting to put in it. But I have found lots of useful stuff in other people's sites/blogs, so I'm starting one. I'll get to work on it today and post a link. It won't be much, but it could be useful.
By the way, after going to Barcelona I took a ferry Mallorca. I would definitely recommend this! It's a cycling paradise - honestly! My images of the place before going was loads and loads of high-rise holiday villas and drunk British tourists - but it turned out to be a great cycling destination!
As Jim says above, the crossing at Le Perthus - La Jonquera is fairly gentle. The coast route Port Bou - Cerbere is S-bendy and steeper - but not a long climb.
Choice depends mostly on whether you're coast hugging or taking a directer inland route to Barcelona.
Another way to get down from Amsterdam to Barcelona would be to follow the rivers Rhein, (Mosel) and Rhone to the Mediterranean...
05-25-11, 06:44 AM
For the Netherlands and Flanders, a general map is more or less sufficient if you go for 'cycling with numbers'. A pretty easy system. Pick up the river Amstel in Amsterdam, go south and after 20 km you will meet your first cycle node.
For the rest of Belgium and the very northern part of France, check my signature for some tracks along formar railways and canal towpaths along rivers.
05-25-11, 07:26 AM
I have just finished putting my route on the site I'm creating with Google. For the moment there's not much on it at all! it's just a skeleton, but I have put my route day by day on it with some information like total altitude gain, etc. However, there are no comments, no photos....Later on I'll include those things - plus I might add something about the camping sites I stayed at. There is, however, a section about cycling in France, which I've got quite a long way with and which may be useful. The route I chose was in many ways a bad route. I had one objective at the time: get to Barcelona as fast as possible. It meant I didn't always choose attractive roads. I regret that now. I wouldn't, for example, go to Barcelona along the coast from Girona- even if the alternative is quite hilly. Girona was very nice, but the road out of it towards Barcelona is a bit scary being a highway (!) and the sprawl of Barcelona extends out a very long way.
I would also severly change the Vatan to La Souterraine part - it could have been lovely, but as I wanted the most direct route possible it was pretty unpleasant. Finally, I would have chosen a much wider route past Paris. On another tour, I went round by doing Beauvais, Gisors, Mantes-la-Jolly - this was quite pleasant. In fact, if you went past Paris on the West side, you could even go as far as Rouen. The road is fairly hilly, but Rouen is a beautiful town.
PS - looks like I didn't do the daily average I thought. It took me 11 days rather than 10, and there were a couple of days where I actually didn't do that much cycling - I'd forgotten about that!
I don't know if the site is worth anything in its present form, but here's the link anyway:
check this for a possible route from Amsterdam to Belgium:
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