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Old 03-23-03, 10:56 AM   #1
shaharidan
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European touring companies, any thoughts

Hi my name is Mike and I'm new to the forums, and even though ive been riding my whole life i'm new to organized bicycling as well. some friends and i are planing to take a one week bicycle tour in europe in the late summer. since it will be our first trip we'd like to go with a tour company so we have atleast some support. where we go will probably be determined by which comapny we pick and what they are offering at the time we'd like to go.
we are looking at 2 compamies right now
http://www.vangoghtours.com/bike_tours_europe_d.html
and
http://www.bluemarble.org/
leaning more towards blue marble, they seem to offer good support, but allow a lot of freedom also.
anyone have any experience with either of these, or maybe recommend a company you've dealt with?
thanks in advance for the advice
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Old 03-26-03, 08:37 AM   #2
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I personally haven't dealt with any companies, BUT consider this- when I went on my tour of Italy for 6 and a half weeks, I was totally unprepared, took everything but the kitchen sink, did 0 training, and didn't even break in my new bike before I left. HOWEVER, I had a great time and no problems. I am going to do it again, but this next time, I will have a better idea of what I should do.

Do you need a tour company? Probably not. Between you and your friends, I'm sure you guys could figure out what you needed to bring. I would suggest picking a country and doing plenty of research on it before you leave. Get a guidebook like Lonely Planet or Rick Steves or Rough Guides to take with you. If you have any questions about touring in the meantime, feel free to post them here where people can answer your questions. You and your friends may want to consider taking a day trip on your bikes someplace close to home with an overnight stay (camping someplace, so bring a tent or stay at the local youth hostel). Since you're not leaving until late summer, you should have plenty of time to get ready for this- you can take several day trips and build up your confidence. When taking your day trips, take all the equipment you planned on bringing so you can get used to carrying larger loads.

I think tour companies are ok, but I do think you lose some of the freedom of making decisions that work for you. I personally would not work with a tour operator- I like making all the decisions for myself and not being given a timetable or told where I should go or shouldn't go. Some people like having everything done for them, I do not.

Where are you thinking of going this summer?

Koffee
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Old 03-26-03, 10:23 AM   #3
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Although I've been working on a touring company idea for the past couple of years (unsupported touring in Europe),I think do as KB says and just go for it.

Book places on the internet, by fax and email. Set yourself say 45 miles a day, so if the weathers bad you can get to your next stop in the morning, but if good you can detour in the afternoon.

I've done a few tours in Europe (I can still mention Europe here can't I ), so pm me if you want any further advice.
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Old 03-26-03, 01:24 PM   #4
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Oh I am not sure about setting off on a one-week cycle-tour in a foreign country with a bunch of un-experienced friends and expect it to go well. Both chewa and Koffee have given good advice and if you were a couple or just two friends, I would say go for it without the organized tour. But as a group of un-organized, in-experienced friends this could be a recipe for disaster. You have to assess the amount of travel experience everyone has and their needs. Some people are difficult to travel with at the best of times and if you add physical activity, strange environment and inclement whether this can lead to disaster. Considering this is your first trip, and you want it to be a memorable one, I would go with a tour to gain experience and to avoid potential conflict. Your next trip could be self-supported and you could be the tour leader! For a week tour I would let a professional handle all the arrangements and the headaches and simply go with the flow.

If I were to do a one-week assisted tour I would recommend the region of the Loire Valley.
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Old 03-26-03, 01:31 PM   #5
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Hi guys thanks for the responses .
theres a few reasons why we wanted to go with the touring company. first we are limited in time to about 7 or 10 days. it's difficult for some of us to get more than that off of work. so since it will be short we wanted to make sure everyday was interesting and figured a tour company would be better than trying to plan it ourselves.
next some of the people who are thinking about going may not be in the greatest of shape so having bags transported and some of the other support may make the difference in whether they go or not.
the geting together for day and weekend trips is a great idea, except i live in philadelphia, one of the other guys is in sweden, one is in MI, and a couple of others are out towards the west coast. makes getin together a bit tough.
if i was doing it alone, or with just a couple of other folks i'd love to do it myself. but we may end up with a pretty diverse group so i think for this trip an organized tour is the best bet.
Koffee I'm really enjoying you trip journal, i just joined the boards saturday, and ive been reading a bit everyday, it's inspiring
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Old 03-26-03, 01:33 PM   #6
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Gordon hit it on the head, you must type faster than me because your response wasnt there when i started mine

so any thoughts on a good company to go with?
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Old 03-26-03, 02:58 PM   #7
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Iíve never used a tour operator so unfortunately I canít recommend one. Another reason for a tour operator is the booking of accommodations, this is very important if there is a group of people involved and if you are going in August. I think that the Loire would be a good choice considering the different locations you and your friends are coming from and Paris would make a great place to start for those of you who have a few days extra to get over the jetlag. August is a bad time to go to Europe as it is the high season and all the sights will be crawling with tourists. September is a better as the kids are back in school and family vacations will be over.

I just Googled Cycling tour Loire and it came up with 3790 sites so this is a promising lead.
Good luck
PS If you do go to France, have a look at Lonely Planetís new cycling guide to France and France by Bike by Karen and Terry Whitehill. There should be a plethora of books on the Loire if you chose to go there.
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Old 03-28-03, 05:48 PM   #8
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I am thinking about returning to Europe this spring so I have been looking for some info. So Mike here is a good site to help you and your friends make the plan.
Gordon p

http://www.bikeaccess.net/touring_db.cfm
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Old 03-31-03, 07:57 AM   #9
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Thanks Gordon thats a great link!!
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Old 04-02-03, 10:44 AM   #10
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Hey Mike have a look at www.TREKTRAVEL.COM OR 1 866 GO4 TREK Trek offers trips with everything included including the bike, this may be the easy solution.
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