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Thread: North to South

  1. #1
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    North to South

    Hey, I'm new to this forum but have been reading around for a while now.

    In august next year me and my friends 5 of us are planing on cycling from The North of France to the south. We allow ourselves 2 and a bit weeks. We plan to cycle down doing 70-80 miles a day for a week with the sunday each week rest. We plan on taking it quite easy as it is kind of a holiday as well as a cycling trip.

    We are all fit athletes in terms of running and other sports and we plan on doing alot of spinning prior to the tour.

    I am a relatively unexperienced 'tourer'. So I am keen if anyone who is experienced would like to give me some tips ie stops, camping or hotel, (we have the money saved up), food, routes, bike equipment soo bassicaly just preparation and anything else valid would be much appreciated.
    Last edited by ratted nutter; 10-20-08 at 05:49 AM.

  2. #2
    Bike touring webrarian
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    I rode from Paris to Avignon in May, 2008. It took 26 days and was a fabulous trip. I wrote about my planning and produced a trip journal with pictures and text. This page contains links to both of these, as well as, a map of my route (both proposed and actual) and a few other tidbits of information.

    Three things to note:

    1) August is when France is on vacation. Campsites and places to stay will be packed with French people and the prices will be higher. You will need to factor this into your planning.

    2) You don't say if you will be carrying your gear or not, but either way, there is no way that you can ride 70-80 miles a day while "taking it quite easy." Even at 15 MPH average, which is very hard to achieve if you are carrying gear, it takes 5 hours to do 75 miles. Add in food shopping, eating, picture taking, group dynamics and finding a place to stay and you quickly get that up to 7 hours a day devoted to getting from place to place. It doesn't leave much time or energy for doing anything else. As a final point, I average 10 MPH on a loaded tour.

    3) This page lists 58 links to information about bike touring in France. Not all of them will be of interest to you but many will provide you with lots of idea about your tour.

    Have a great time,

    Ray
    Visit the on-line Bike Touring Archive at www.biketouringtips.com

  3. #3
    Tinkerer since 1980 TheBrick's Avatar
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    Spinning classes will not help you become accustomed to spending all day on a bike. Try a few 100 km - 200 km rides to get a feel for the distance. France is great anyone with any soul will love it.
    Travelling without inertia

    London's single speed and fixed gear forum

    http://www.londonfgss.com/

    Lets make this happen.

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    Thankyou Brick! I agree august will be packed out but that is when we are all free so it will have to be then also good weather!

    We plan on waking up early to get as much in as possible. Is 60-70 more realistic then?

    Also in your journal it shows you staying with many people in accommodation. Did you pre-plan your accommodation or was it a case of find a hotel in the evening.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by ratted nutter View Post
    I agree august will be packed out but that is when we are all free so it will have to be then also good weather!

    We plan on waking up early to get as much in as possible. Is 60-70 more realistic then?

    Also in your journal it shows you staying with many people in accommodation. Did you pre-plan your accommodation or was it a case of find a hotel in the evening.
    Have you checked the average August weather for France? Depending on where you are, there will be anywhere from 5 to 10 average rain days in August. Also, it will be hot, which means thunderstorms and humidity. When I was there, I had two weeks where it rained, or threatened to rain, every day. On one day, the weather was so bad that I only rode 12 miles before deciding the conditions were too nasty to continue.

    Getting up early (what does that mean?) will help but you still have to eat breakfast and gather supplies for the day. In the places I stayed, the boulangeries and local shops usually opened early but it still takes time to get up, shower, get dressed, eat, pack everything back on the bike, do any maintenance for the bike, plan the day's route, collect provisions, and go. It is hard enough doing all this solo. I can only imagine how much longer it would take to herd 5 people together to do all these tasks. It was rare for me to get off before mid-morning. But, I wasn't in as much of a hurry as you will have to be so maybe you can get it together more quickly.

    On the days were I rode more than 50 miles, I found that the later miles got harder, less enjoyable, and tired me out more. It sounds like you've never ridden a loaded touring bike 60 - 70 miles several days in a row. If you haven't, I wouldn't plan on that kind of mileage until you've done it (along with your traveling mates) and decided it is something you like to do. After this trip, I have resolved (yet again) to keep my daily mileage as close to 50 as I can. In my experience, more miles don't equate to more enjoyment.

    You also say that you plan on taking one rest day a week. Have you ever ridden a bike 60 miles 6 days in a row? I have and I can tell you that it takes serious determination to do so, especially if you are in a nice place and the weather is bad. I think a rest day every 4th or 5th day is more reasonable and it is always good to have extra days in the schedule.

    Be sure to ask yourself why you are doing this kind of trip. Is it to get from place A to B? Is it to say that you rode X miles across France? Is it to have a great time riding a bike through a wonderful country? Or, something else. Without knowing your motivation, it is hard to offer too much advice. After all, the Tour de France does 2200 miles in 23 days, but they aren't having much of a vacation experience!

    The fact that you have chosen the busiest holiday time and are unconcerned about its effect on your trip and have blindly asserted that you can ride 70 - 80 miles a day without, it appears, having done it before, suggests to me that your plans contain more fantasy than reality. But, it is good that you are doing a reality check here before blindly committing to a arduous schedule.

    Since I was going it alone, I decided to try and find hosts to stay with. I checked out couchsurfing.com and hospitalityclub.net, both of which have thousands of French hosts, to find people offering hospitality in the cities I would visit. I managed to find many, corresponded with them, got a few offers, and accepted several of them. As you read, it was a wonderful thing to do and I would recommend it to you. I think it would be hard to find places for 5 people as I was often sleeping on a couch or in a spare room. Also, the vast majority of the hosts live in cities (not villages) so you will spend more time in bigger cities if you want to find the most hosts. In fact, on the days where I had to ride more than 60 miles, it was usually to get to a host's house!

    France is a wonderful place to tour on a bike. I want to encourage you to do so. It was a life highlight for me and I'm sure it will be for you. Just be sure that you are properly prepared for it!

    Ray
    Visit the on-line Bike Touring Archive at www.biketouringtips.com

  6. #6
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Both of my experiences with France were in August ... and it didn't seem overly crowded to me. The towns were almost deserted and in fact, I was amazed that we could roll up to a campsite on a Friday or Saturday night and get our pick of the sites. We never had a problem getting accommodations.

    As for weather ...

    2003 was desperately hot in France (people were dying from the heat) until the day I arrived (August 14th), whereupon it become comfortably moderate with chilly nights, and no rain.

    2007 was cold, windy, and rainy pretty much the whole time we were there.

    So you just never know.

    http://www.machka.net/pbp2007/2007_PBP.htm
    http://www.machka.net/pbp/Machka.htm

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