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  1. #1
    Behind EVERYone!!! baj32161's Avatar
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    Bike touring companies?

    Hiya gang!

    Has anyone ever booked a cycling vacation with one of the many bike touring companies out there like Trek Travel..VBT Bike Tours or the like? I am thinking of booking a trip to Holland or France with my sweetie next year or 2007.

    Any help will be, as always, greatly appreciated.

    Cheers,

    brian
    A good teacher protects his pupils from his own influence.

    ― Bruce Lee

  2. #2
    Formerly Known as Newbie Juha's Avatar
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    Moving this from Road Cycling to Touring.

    --Juha, a Forum Mod
    To err is human. To moo is bovine.

    Who is this General Failure anyway, and why is he reading my drive?


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    posted a similar question recently and recieved many good replies. holland
    here is my post link and enclosed some likes i found on the internet. we have found the bike and barge tours to look interesting.
    http://www.holland.com/us/
    http://www.eurobike.com/whats_includ...c29b567aca5030
    http://www.bikebarge.com/
    http://www.bikeandthelike.com/holland.html
    http://www.eurocycle.at/englisch/des...ndbikeboat.php

    hope these help.
    karen

  4. #4
    Papa Wheelie Sigurdd50's Avatar
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    I've done the wisconsin tour with these fine folks
    http://www.bikenorthwoods.com/
    I"ve heard their France/Italy tours are great too
    small groups and extremely friendly accomodating leaders

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    I was in France watching the tour this year and saw quite a few companies looking after groups of cyclists watching the tour, some of the groups looked a bit big for my liking, but a god wel of touring around without the stresses of getting lost I supppose. There is a New Zealand company doing cycle tours to France and New Zealand. They are called kiwis@letour. Their website is www.letour.co.nz. They keep groups to a maximum of 12. Always supporting fellow kiwis!

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    Quote Originally Posted by baj32161
    Has anyone ever booked a cycling vacation with one of the many bike touring companies out there like Trek Travel..VBT Bike Tours or the like? I am thinking of booking a trip to Holland or France with my sweetie next year or 2007.
    I've done 2 tours with VBT: Canadian Rockies and Tuscany. VBT is a lot cheaper than Trek or Backroads, especially if you want the package deal that includes international air fare and hotel rooms before and after the trip. VBT does a good job for the money. The guides are local residents who really know their stuff, but are also high on customer service. Accomodations are not as nice as the high end Trek or Backroads tours, but maybe a little nicer than the budget tours from Trek or Backroads.

    The number of meals you get depends on the particular tour. In Canada, VBT provided all our lunches since there really wasn't any place to buy lunch. In Italy, we bought our own lunches at local cafes on most days. About half the dinners are included; on other nights we stopped in bigger towns where we had a choice of places.

    My main complaint about VBT is that they keep making their tours easier and easier. The Canada trip I did with them crossed over the continental divide twice as we looped through both Alberta and British Columbia. The current tour with the same name took out all the long climbs (and also a lot of the big mountain scenery). I think the VBT Tuscany tour is the only one they have left with climbs every day (around 3000 vertical feet per day). If you like climbs and views, you need to read the tour descriptions very carefully.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by johnny99
    I've done 2 tours with VBT: Canadian Rockies and Tuscany. VBT is a lot cheaper than Trek or Backroads, especially if you want the package deal that includes international air fare and hotel rooms before and after the trip. VBT does a good job for the money. The guides are local residents who really know their stuff, but are also high on customer service. Accomodations are not as nice as the high end Trek or Backroads tours, but maybe a little nicer than the budget tours from Trek or Backroads.

    The number of meals you get depends on the particular tour. In Canada, VBT provided all our lunches since there really wasn't any place to buy lunch. In Italy, we bought our own lunches at local cafes on most days. About half the dinners are included; on other nights we stopped in bigger towns where we had a choice of places.

    My main complaint about VBT is that they keep making their tours easier and easier. The Canada trip I did with them crossed over the continental divide twice as we looped through both Alberta and British Columbia. The current tour with the same name took out all the long climbs (and also a lot of the big mountain scenery). I think the VBT Tuscany tour is the only one they have left with climbs every day (around 3000 vertical feet per day). If you like climbs and views, you need to read the tour descriptions very carefully.
    I spent a summer leading tours in Austria for VBT a few years back, I wasn't too impressed. None of the guides who led that tour were Austrians or even native German speakers ( I speak German because I grew up there), none of the guides I worked with knew a whole lot about Austria, and none of the guides I worked with were competent bicycle mechanics or even interested in being on bicycles. From talking to the guests it was pretty apparent that the sales staff in Vermont was telling the guests whatever they thought the guests wanted to hear in order to sell them a tour. One woman was told that there was no need to actually ride a bicycle in order to get ready for the tour, just working out on a stationary bike was enough. She had so much trouble staying upright on her bike that she kept making wrong turns and getting lost, and she ended up crashing her bike and face planting into a bike path. Luckily she wasn't seriously injured, just scrapes and bruises. Another woman injured her knee before the start of the tour and was told "Don't worry, lots of the wives spend the whole tour riding in the luggage van and they have just as much fun as the people who actually ride bicycles". The trip leaders/guides were polite to the guests in an ass-kissing sort of way, but I heard a lot of snide comments about Americans from the guides when the guests and/or management weren't around. Being an American I wasn't too thrilled by this.

    The best part about that job was bicycling around France in between tours (VBT's European office is in Beaune, France). I cycled through the Pyrenees, part of the Alps, Alsace and Burgundy, which was really cool. I also went to Paris and saw Jim Morrison's grave, the Louvre, and some other really cool museums. I improved my high school French a lot, because the French people are really friendly and helpful but they tend not to speak anything but French.

  9. #9
    Senior Member Allycat24's Avatar
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    My husband and I just completed a VBT trip to Tuscany in Oct and it was a great trip! We had 2 Italian guides who were knowledgeable about Italy and Tuscany and of course, we had a detailed review of the ride each day. Accommodations were in very nice Agritourist hotels and one 5 star resort. All hotels were nice but we especially enjoyed the agritourist hotels because they were on working vineyards or olive farms. This trip was rated easy/moderate, with mileage varied around 22-45 miles, with shorter/longer options available. After doing a lot of research, I thought VBT provided the best price for this trip. I was also impressed with VBTs planning and organizing. We got top service in Italy, from the greeter at the airport, bus drivers, and hotel staff. Plus, our two guides, Marco and Claudio, were terrific! We definitely plan to do another bike trip with VBT, probably the challenging ride through Tuscany.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Allycat24
    My husband and I just completed a VBT trip to Tuscany in Oct and it was a great trip! We had 2 Italian guides who were knowledgeable about Italy and Tuscany and of course, we had a detailed review of the ride each day. Accommodations were in very nice Agritourist hotels and one 5 star resort. All hotels were nice but we especially enjoyed the agritourist hotels because they were on working vineyards or olive farms. This trip was rated easy/moderate, with mileage varied around 22-45 miles, with shorter/longer options available. After doing a lot of research, I thought VBT provided the best price for this trip. I was also impressed with VBTs planning and organizing. We got top service in Italy, from the greeter at the airport, bus drivers, and hotel staff. Plus, our two guides, Marco and Claudio, were terrific! We definitely plan to do another bike trip with VBT, probably the challenging ride through Tuscany.
    Glad you had fun. I will say that the Italian tour leaders that I met while working with VBT seemed like a much more pleasant and capable bunch than the French, Spanish, Dutch and American tour leaders that I worked with on the Austrian tour. Very soon after I started with VBT I got the impression that manabgement took a lot less interest in the Austrian tour than in the Italian and French tours.

  11. #11
    Senior Member ajay677's Avatar
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    Backroads offer first class tours. They tend to be pricey though. My sister guided for them for 5 years in Western Canada and Europe. Accomodations and food are first rate. You won't be disappointed with them.

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    Try Sport Adventura in the Pyrenees. We're open from Spring to late Autumn leading round the great cols that are found on the route of the Tour. With all the assistance you need from the moment your plane lands.
    Paul
    www.Sport-Adventura.com

    Pyrenean Cycling Holidays

  13. #13
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    Did a honeymoon(don't let that honeymoon fool you, we were in our 40's) in Italy with Andy Hampten's company, Cinghiale. It was awesome! 9 days. Andy is a gracious, humble and very knowledgable host. It was not racing but, not lightweight eithere. Relativly small group, 17 riders. There were three guides (including Andy) each day. He lives in the area part time (or used to) and knows the towns and people very intimately. He still gets stopped in the street for his Giro win in '88. It's all very laid back. We were never for want of anything. I'd easily recommend it and we plan on going again for our 5th anniversary.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by khan
    Did a honeymoon(don't let that honeymoon fool you, we were in our 40's) in Italy with Andy Hampten's company, Cinghiale. It was awesome! 9 days. Andy is a gracious, humble and very knowledgable host. It was not racing but, not lightweight eithere. Relativly small group, 17 riders. There were three guides (including Andy) each day. He lives in the area part time (or used to) and knows the towns and people very intimately. He still gets stopped in the street for his Giro win in '88. It's all very laid back. We were never for want of anything. I'd easily recommend it and we plan on going again for our 5th anniversary.
    I've noticed that smaller operations seem to attract a clientele that is more interested in cycling and less interested in being pampered and fussed over by the guide. The bigger companies (VBT, Backroads) seem to pitch their product to a wider range of clientele, and attract people with varying levels of interest in cycling.

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    Markf,
    That's what I noticed. We're both avid cyclists and when I looked at a lot of the larger touring companies, they talked about 25-35 mile days and the rest of the time eating, site seeing, etc. Well, the Hampsten tour, for instance, we did 40-70 miles days and there was still plenty of time to eat and drink while most of the site-seeing occured on route. We had big hills rolling hills and not so hilly days. I think the bigger companies attract people who are more tourists than cyclists and the smaller companies are just the other way around with the understanding that people who ride 50-60 miles are a different kind of tourist. We didn't come there to see the "tourist sites," we came to see the countryside and the people who inhabit it.

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by khan
    Markf,
    That's what I noticed. We're both avid cyclists and when I looked at a lot of the larger touring companies, they talked about 25-35 mile days and the rest of the time eating, site seeing, etc. Well, the Hampsten tour, for instance, we did 40-70 miles days and there was still plenty of time to eat and drink while most of the site-seeing occured on route. We had big hills rolling hills and not so hilly days. I think the bigger companies attract people who are more tourists than cyclists and the smaller companies are just the other way around with the understanding that people who ride 50-60 miles are a different kind of tourist. We didn't come there to see the "tourist sites," we came to see the countryside and the people who inhabit it.
    I think that when a bicycle tour company starts offering rides in the luggage van on a regular basis to anyone who just doesn't want to ride that day's full distance, that company has started to lose touch with what bicycle touring is all about. I also think this is the point where a bicycle touring company starts to attract people who are more tourists than cyclists.

  17. #17
    bici accumulatori pinerider's Avatar
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    Steve bauer also runs tours in France and Italy, definitely with emphasis on cycling, info is at www.stevebauer.com
    ...!

  18. #18
    Behind EVERYone!!! baj32161's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by markf
    I think that when a bicycle tour company starts offering rides in the luggage van on a regular basis to anyone who just doesn't want to ride that day's full distance, that company has started to lose touch with what bicycle touring is all about. I also think this is the point where a bicycle touring company starts to attract people who are more tourists than cyclists.
    I hear you but....that may be a perfect situation for some people, especially couples. My girlfriend does not ride but loves the fact that I do and would love to travel with me on a cycling trip but would not want to do ALOT of cycling herself. On trips from companies such as these we could have the best of both worlds, so to speak. I can enjoy my riding and she can sightsee and we both get to share our time together when the cycling day is over. I would have no problem with a trip like this.

    Cheers,

    Brian
    A good teacher protects his pupils from his own influence.

    ― Bruce Lee

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    For a small company in the Pyrenees try Paul & Armelle at Sport Adventura. Great service, loved by many of their clients.

    When riding in the big mountains of the Tour you're grateful of the option to ride in the van, but that way they make sure that everyone in the group gets to ride as far and as high as they want.

    www.Sport-adventura.com

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by baj32161
    I hear you but....that may be a perfect situation for some people, especially couples. My girlfriend does not ride but loves the fact that I do and would love to travel with me on a cycling trip but would not want to do ALOT of cycling herself. On trips from companies such as these we could have the best of both worlds, so to speak. I can enjoy my riding and she can sightsee and we both get to share our time together when the cycling day is over. I would have no problem with a trip like this.

    Cheers,

    Brian
    In theory you're right, it should be the best of both worlds. My own observation, though, was that the people who enjoyed the tours the most were the ones who rode the full distance and never got in the luggage van. The people who did not ride the full distance each day (usually non-cycling spouses or partners) felt rather left out, as if they were missing part of the fun. A number of people in your situation simply came on the trip without their spouse/significant other, while the non-cycling partner presumably found another way to spend the week. Presumably these couples got together at the end of the tour and found something to do together.

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