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Old 04-21-06, 10:44 PM   #1
TCary
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France Question...Alps or Pyranees in December?

Bonjour!

I am going to be in France from early September until sometime in December (I'm not sure how long at this point).

Anyway, I'm just looking for some suggestions.

Ideally...well, my classes end on December 8th, and I'd like to ride from Paris (or as far as the Metro will take me) to Geneva from 12/8 until a day or two before Christmas (or less, if necessary). Is this crazy? Will I look like Jack Nicholson at the end of the Shining?

Basically, I'm looking for advice from some peeps who have toured either the Alps or the Pyranees, as those are my two choices right now. I basically have from December 8th through December 23rd (approximately) to do a nice one-way tour, taking the train back to Paris to catch a flight back to the States. Is it crazy to attempt the Alps at this time of year, or would I be okay as long as I wasn't camping at the apex of a mountain each night? The Pyranees would be my second choice, I'm thinking a Paris to San Sebastian trip. Any suggestions?
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Old 04-22-06, 04:32 AM   #2
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In your situation, I would leave my bike in America, and then go to a flea market your first weekend in Paris and buy an inexpensive, used bike. Or get one via French ebay.

My second tip would be to stay nearer the coast on your December trip. The weather gets worse the further inland you go. I would take a trip from Paris to Calais, hop on the boat to England, and then ride around England for a while. The weather will be much milder in England than anywhere else, especially the Alps or Pyranees.
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Old 04-22-06, 07:35 AM   #3
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Well since you asked--your idea sounds crazy to me. It's likely to be very cold and very snowy. I'm not trying to be dramatic, but unless you really know what your doing, you could die in all sorts of very interesting ways.
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Old 04-22-06, 09:29 AM   #4
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I agree, not a brilliant idea to try and cross the Alps or Pyrenees in December. I would suggest, however, that you bring your own bike so you can enjoy it while you're in France during the autumn. Going to San Sebastian would certainly be less crazy than the Alps. If you do that, a couple of suggestions: 1) take the RER out of Paris as far as you can, not the Metro. The RER goes much further out of the city, and is much more bicycle-friendly. 2) do NOT attempt to bike from the Spanish border into San Sebastian on the main road. It is exceedingly dangerous. I know because I foolishly biked those 18 kms 2 years ago, and was scared sh-tless. You have 2 alternatives: you can take a local commuter train (bikes are allowed, at least at non-peak hours) from Irun into San Sebastian for just 1 euro, or you can take the probably beautiful but very mountainous minor road which climbs over the coastal mountains from the border into San Sebastian.

Remember, you won't have a lot of daylight in France in December. Weather-wise, you might want to consider southern Italy or southern Spain.
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Old 04-22-06, 09:40 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by axolotl
I agree, not a brilliant idea to try and cross the Alps or Pyrenees in December. I would suggest, however, that you bring your own bike so you can enjoy it while you're in France during the autumn. Going to San Sebastian would certainly be less crazy than the Alps. If you do that, a couple of suggestions: 1) take the RER out of Paris as far as you can, not the Metro. The RER goes much further out of the city, and is much more bicycle-friendly. 2) do NOT attempt to bike from the Spanish border into San Sebastian on the main road. It is exceedingly dangerous. I know because I foolishly biked those 18 kms 2 years ago, and was scared sh-tless. You have 2 alternatives: you can take a local commuter train (bikes are allowed, at least at non-peak hours) from Irun into San Sebastian for just 1 euro, or you can take the probably beautiful but very mountainous minor road which climbs over the coastal mountains from the border into San Sebastian.

Remember, you won't have a lot of daylight in France in December. Weather-wise, you might want to consider southern Italy or southern Spain.
I agree wholeheartedly, writing as someone who has slid bass-ackwards down a slope in the German Alps in an M-60 A3 tank in the 1970's! Ice, snow and lot's of cold weather! Not undoable, but a bit tech'd! I will say, though, that if you pull it off, you'll probably never have to buy your own beer again after you start telling the stories!
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Old 04-22-06, 05:31 PM   #6
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Not to put a dampner on your idea but do you realise that there will be feet of snow and unless you have very good winter gear you'll probly freeze to death, my folks live near the alps and they can get a foot of snow over night nothing surprising to them and minus 10c and more. If you like that sort of challenge then go for it, I've read of guys riding in Siberea in winter and I'm sure it's never that cold in France.With the right gear and you can ride anywhere in the world no matter how hot or cold.
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Old 04-22-06, 05:42 PM   #7
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Perhaps you could go early and do your ride before your classes begin? Otherwise, better bone up on icebiking and consider an MTB.
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Old 04-22-06, 05:45 PM   #8
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Up here in Canada, we ride all winter long ... ice, snow, bitterly cold temps ... so what you want to do is possible .... but you HAVE TO know what you're doing and be prepared for it, or you risk being extremely uncomfortable, incurring injuries (i.e. frostbite, broken bones from slipping on the ice), or even dying (from hypothermia).

If you are seriously thinking about doing this, I'd recommend checking out the Icebike page: http://www.icebike.com/

BTW - what part of the world are you from?
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Old 04-24-06, 02:48 PM   #9
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Don't do it

As I come from the Jura mountain range on the swiss-french border, I can tell you that your plan is not a good idea. At the beginning of december you can get 30 cms of snow overnight in these mountains. The passes are not really high (1200-1400 meters) but with snow on the road and much traffic, this is going to be really uncomfortable, especially if you're not used to winter biking specifics...
And in the Alps, pretty much all the passes are closed from december to may. (Galibier, Iseran, Bonnette...)


Your tour plan can be done until about mid-november. The plains around Paris are really boring on a bike, you'd better take the TGV to Dijon where you can go around Burgundy a bit and then head east to the Jura department, and then to the swiss-french border.

If you really want to tour in december, take a TGV to Nice and do the Côte d'Azur where the weather should be somewhat warmer (but snow can fall there also). Otherwise, fly to Spain and rent a bike there...

If you want more detail do not hesitate to ask.

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Old 04-24-06, 05:55 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Machka
Up here in Canada, we ride all winter long ... ice, snow, bitterly cold temps ... so what you want to do is possible .... but you HAVE TO know what you're doing and be prepared for it, or you risk being extremely uncomfortable, incurring injuries (i.e. frostbite, broken bones from slipping on the ice), or even dying (from hypothermia).

If you are seriously thinking about doing this, I'd recommend checking out the Icebike page: http://www.icebike.com/

BTW - what part of the world are you from?
I don't think he's referring to commuting. He wants to ride in the Alps. Anyone that's ridden the Alps knows that in the wintertime, that's a bad, bad idea.

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Old 04-25-06, 07:33 PM   #11
TCary
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Thanks, folks. I figured it would be more trouble than it's worth. Although I'm from San Francisco, I grew up in mid-Michigan and have done some backpacking in wintery conditions before. I had heard Europe's climate was milder than that, but I figured in the mountains there would still be plenty of snow. Oh well, I guess I'll have to tackle the Alps another time.

Maybe I'll consider the England or Italy ideas (I've been looking for an excuse to go back to Italy anyway). Thanks again!
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Old 04-25-06, 08:16 PM   #12
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You can always go skiing instead.

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