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  1. #1
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    what's the best city for a Euro-noob to use as start/end for a 10-14 day bike tour?

    I just found out I need to go to Glasgow, Scotland, and it looks like on my trip back to Boston I can pick pretty much any major European city stop over (definitely Paris, Rome, Madrid, Brussels, Stockholm).

    I thought it would be cool to fly in somewhere, buy a used roadbike (maybe off the local ebay in advance), and do some sort of big circuit for 10-14 days (or more, very flexible), ending back where I started (or start at Glasgow and bike/travel to any major city). I can handle 70-80 miles/day riding max (less is fine), with a rest day now and then.

    I'll be alone, planning on traveling as cheaply as possible, and I'm looking for scenic routes, maybe some historic/highbrow stuff (art museums, cathedrals, ruins), don't care so much about raging nightlife.

    I speak tourist-passable Spanish and French, but I find I can understand some Italian (especially when they're angry).

    Even vague suggestions appreciated. I'll be departing Glasgow on 9/3. So far Paris, Madrid, or Rome seem plausible, but that's based on very little research. I figure I'll try to make up mind which place to go ASAP, then learn as much as I can about it before then.

  2. #2
    Je pose, donc je suis.
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    That's a tall order. But then again, it's hard to go wrong.

    Stockholm is a great city, but riding in September will be cool (though not 'cold'). On the other hand, that's probably about when the leaves start to turn, which could be majestic. Stockholm to Oslo (G�ta Canal, up the coast via Frederikstad) and maybe to Bergen would be fun. Viking history plus bronze age carvings plus wooden churches (I'm doing a similar Bergen -> G�teborg trip next week, though with lots of train.)

    From Amsterdam or Brussels you can head south as far as you can and then come back. I just did the opposite (Lausanne to Duisburg in 12 days here: http://o-slashy.blogspot.com/ ; see the July posts -- lots to see that fits your criteria there). Train connections in that part of the world are good (though a little slow if you can't catch an IC train), so riding out/ train back or vice versa is doable.

    The Rhine or the Loire if you want flat. The weather in Madrid will obviously be the nicest, if that's a concern. Never ridden Tuscany, but it's also an obvious choice for autumn fun. The high passes in the Alps will all be open, if a little colder. The Pyrenees would be the best bet for climbing.

    Others have a lot more experience in Europe than I do, but it's really hard to go wrong. I find northern Germany and Denmark get boring after a while (flat and monotonous, without the history of more southern areas). Likewise with parts of France (the actual riding along the Loire is hit-and-miss, but the ch�teaux make up for it).

    Good luck!

  3. #3
    Heretic Caretaker's Avatar
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    Firstly, I'm presuming 9/3 refers to 3rd Sept. rather than the European reading which would be 9th March.

    I'd go for Paris. Great cultural capital and easy to get in and out of. Madrid also great for Art galleries etc but not so easy to get in and out of.
    History is the future

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    Seems like Germany is generally bike-friendly in terms of having lots of marked bike paths + bike routes + bike maps. I agree that that lots of northern Germany is a bit too gentle for me to want to spends lots of days riding there. Even more so the Netherlands.

    Munich: I've found a lot of pretty farmland terrain with an agreeable degree of hilliness in Bavaria / Bayern, especially the southern part toward the Alps, so I would consider as a city Munich (which I've ridden in and out of, seemed not too difficult, following a bike map we'd bought).
    Certainly some of the "river tours" around Germany (e.g. Donau/Danube, Rhein) are set up to be friendly to a first-timer bike tour with easy accommodation + easy navigation -- and there are English-language bike guidebooks. (I think the Donau passes not too far north of Munich.) I've seen reports from English-speaking visitors who had a wonderful time that way -- but for me seems like too much too gentle.

    There are other routes with more variety of hills in range of Munich, marked with signs on the road with maps + guidebooks (in German) -- like one east-west across southern-most Germany, between the Bodensee (lake Constance) and the Koenigsee (in Berchtesgaden park).
    Paris: I've found some nice single-day rides in and around Paris. But not so clear that best multi-day touring routes in France connect well to riding into Paris -- (but you could take the train there after some other touring).

    Rome: The region + roads around Rome don't seem so well set up for bicycle touring -- Doesn't come to mind as a first-timers area. Though I did think it was interesting to ride in and out of the city one day, I wouldn't rate the city itself as highly bike-friendly.

    Switzerland is generally well set up for first-time bicycling + touring of all sorts on a variety of terrain connecting to like Lausanne or Zurich, but not likely to be the least expensive.

    Ken
    Last edited by Ken Roberts; 08-11-10 at 05:39 PM. Reason: fix a couple words

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by Caretaker View Post
    Firstly, I'm presuming 9/3 refers to 3rd Sept. rather than the European reading which would be 9th March.
    yep Sept. 3.


    At the moment I'm leaning toward either Paris or taking a train to Tuscany from Rome, although I'm going to look into Stockholm -- thanks for the suggestions. Someone recommended the Lonely Planet guide for cycling italy, so I'm going to get that tomorrow, and apparently LP makes a similar book for cycling in France so I'm getting that too to compare them (although the amazon reviews suggest its too out of date to be useful and it's smarter just to get a Michelin map). Any other advice on a guide to read up on where to go and cheap places to stay in those two places would be great. Thanks again for the ideas.

  6. #6
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    Update: At the moment I'm leaning toward northern Italy (Verona or thereabouts), but it turns out I know someone in the south of France near Nimes (Sanilhac-Sagris, here). (I'm told I can get there from Paris in a few hours via train, so I can still fly in and out of Paris no problem.) That would make life a bit easier since I could ship some stuff there in advance. Is the the cycling in the south of France any good? It would be pointless to go there for the sake of convenience and find it's not all that great.

  7. #7
    Heretic Caretaker's Avatar
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    "Is the cycling in the south of France any good?"

    Is the Pope a Catholic?

    South of France = Cycling Heaven
    History is the future

  8. #8
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    ok! I am now definitely flying into Venice Sept. 3 and taking the train to a to-be-determined city between Venice and Milan (Brescia, Verona, Vicenza, Padova, Treviso, something like that). I will then start madly biking around for two weeks before I get on a train the night of Sept. 17 for my flight out of Paris on Sept. 18th.

    My next goal is to work out an itinerary and find a bike to buy in a location I can bike out of. Any ideas on specific routes in the north of Italy between Venice and Milan would be excellent, as well as tips on good places to stay (with a focus on cheap -- I'd be happy to sleep in a barn.).

    Now it's a question of balancing planning the itinerary with finding a bike nearby. If I can't find a bike in a good location, and I can't transport a bike on the train, I'll can ship my own as a last resort. Ideally I'll get some decent used Italian bike (something like an 8- or 9-speed Colnago or whatever) that I can either keep or sell on US ebay at a loss that is less than the ~$400 cost of shipping my own bike round trip.

    Thanks for all the suggestions of places to go, I'm sure I'll get to many of the others in the next few years.

  9. #9
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    I finally posted some info about the trip I took here: http://www.bikeforums.net/showthread...1#post12890759

  10. #10
    Conquer Cancer rider Boudicca's Avatar
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    I just rode from Vienna to Prague and it was absolutely awesome. Clearly marked bike routes, well paved roads with almost no traffic, lots of cheap hotels. You use a lot of sign language though. I speak English, French, German and Russian. None of them were much use in parts of thee Czech republic.

    There are very clear good maps available in that part of the world.
    Zero gallons to the mile

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Caretaker View Post
    South of France = Cycling Heaven
    I'd second that, some beautiful country down that way.

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