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  1. #1
    biologist andrew.waye's Avatar
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    Need your opinions: Paris Int'l Airport to Rouen, and can I do it in a day?

    My dilemma:
    I am going to Rouen, France, for a conference. Flight lands at Charles de Gaulle Int'l.

    Q1: Can I really go to France (for free) in July and NOT bring my touring bike (a French-built Peugeot no less) and take a small vacation? I figure this one is a no-brainer.

    Now seriously...
    I've heard great things about the Michelin and IGN maps for touring in France. But I'm in Canada so I did a Google maps "get directions" search using Charles de Gaulle airport and Rouen as departure and destination, respectively, using "walking" as my mode of transport. None of the roads along the way are A class (all D or smaller) and a total distance of 132km.

    Q2: How much faith could I put in a route like this (anyone from France or who has spent time there familiar with the area)?

    I arrive at 7am and I don't sleep well when traveling, but I'm young and in decent cycling shape. My conference begins the next morning, so I have to do this in one day. I've done two centuries (last summer) at a brisk pace, so over 12 hours I figure I can get from point A to point B (132km) on a loaded bike (tent, sleeping bag, minimal tools, minimal clothes). Now that the weather is nice I'm going to be riding as many miles as possible on both my touring (weekend camping trips) and TT bike.

    Q3: Is doing this in one day realistic? How much of a risk am I taking?

    I can't NOT make it in one day (my boss would kill me), but it's only 130km so even if I get stuck (catastrophic bicycle failure), I'm sure I could leave my bike somewhere and get a ride somehow (I'm Canadian, so 130km is like a drive to the supermarket) and pick up the bike after the conference.

    Since I am new at touring (picked up my touring bike this winter) I'd REALLY appreciate any and all feedback from you seasoned vets. Especially from those who are familiar with biking in France.

    I can't wait for the 10 days I've taken off to ride around in the French country-side (Normandy&Britanny)!!

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    pay attention to what road you take when leaving de gaulle. me and my buddy ended up on a no bikes freeway and the fuzz were on us within 5 minutes. about 10 of them hopped out of a van with guns and batons out and threw us and our bikes and gear in and took off all in the span of minutes. yelling ensued and they eventually left us off somewhere.

  3. #3
    biologist andrew.waye's Avatar
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    ....so what you're saying is that hopping on the autoroute is a fast and assured way of getting outside of the bustle? j/k. there's a site i've found with (what seems to be) very good instructions on how to get out of the airport by bike. http://www.mayq.com/Cycling_out_of_p..._de_Gaulle.htm

  4. #4
    sniffin' glue zoltani's Avatar
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    Not sure about that exact route, and the onoly riding I've done in around paris is in the city center. However, if you want to use mapping tools online try http://www.viamichelin.com/tpl/hme/MaHomePage.htm
    You can select "by bike" to get bike directions, though I would still want to verify the route somehow. Streetview on google is an excellent tool.
    Those who are easily shocked should be shocked more often.

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    Quote Originally Posted by andrew.waye View Post
    Q3: Is doing this in one day realistic? How much of a risk am I taking?

    I can't NOT make it in one day (my boss would kill me), but it's only 130km so even if I get stuck (catastrophic bicycle failure), I'm sure I could leave my bike somewhere and get a ride somehow (I'm Canadian, so 130km is like a drive to the supermarket) and pick up the bike after the conference.
    I think your plan is foolhardy for a variety of reasons. You can't be certain when your flight will arrive. You'll be arriving after a night flight during which, by your own admission, you'll sleep little. Checked baggage delivery is generally very slow at CDG. You'll need to put your bike together. You're new to touring. You've got no idea what the weather conditions will be like. 132km on a fully-loaded bike after little-to-no sleep is a helluva lot for a 1st day on a 1st tour. You say you "can't not make it". Then leave a day earlier. Or read about taking the RER (suburban train system) with your bike from CDG into Paris then transfer to an RER line going to the western edge of greater Paris. Research taking a train from Paris all or part of the way to Rouen. BTW, I've biked from CDG into Paris (I don't recommend it) as well as taken the RER. I've also biked to Rouen. I was coming from south of Paris and I spent nights in Chartres and Mantes-la-Jolie before Rouen. It was a nice route with worthwhile things to see.

  6. #6
    Senior Member cyclezealot's Avatar
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    Based on my Normandy tours... .. I'd predict two days..
    Pray for the Dead and Fight like Hell for the Living






    ^ Since January 1, 2012

  7. #7
    biologist andrew.waye's Avatar
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    "I think your plan is foolhardy for a variety of reasons. You can't be certain when your flight will arrive. You'll be arriving after a night flight during which, by your own admission, you'll sleep little. Checked baggage delivery is generally very slow at CDG. You'll need to put your bike together. You're new to touring. You've got no idea what the weather conditions will be like. 132km on a fully-loaded bike after little-to-no sleep is a helluva lot for a 1st day on a 1st tour."

    This is the type of input I'm looking for! Do people mostly agree with the above?

  8. #8
    rhm
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    Quote Originally Posted by andrew.waye View Post
    "I think your plan is foolhardy for a variety of reasons. You can't be certain when your flight will arrive. You'll be arriving after a night flight during which, by your own admission, you'll sleep little. Checked baggage delivery is generally very slow at CDG. You'll need to put your bike together. You're new to touring. You've got no idea what the weather conditions will be like. 132km on a fully-loaded bike after little-to-no sleep is a helluva lot for a 1st day on a 1st tour."

    This is the type of input I'm looking for! Do people mostly agree with the above?
    I do agree, though I wouldn't put it quite so strongly. I'd suggest you research the options, though. Let's just assume your flight comes in a little late and by the time you have your bike put together you're already four hours behind your "best case scenario" schedule. What do you do now? If you can hop on the train and get part of the way to destination, you may be in the clear. It comes down to the if. Your bike may be so badly damaged you can't ride it at all; again, if you can get your bike and yourself on the train and get to your destination that way, you're in the clear.

    I'd plan to leave the airport on a train of some kind, or even a taxi. If the bike is in a box, maybe have a taxi take you and your bike away from the airport to a place where you can put it together at your leisure and start on your way from there. Maybe a place near a bike shop so if something has gone wrong, you can get it fixed right away.

    All in all, I like your plan; I just think you have to know your options before you get there!.

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    Arrive at 7 AM, is that when the plane lands? How about getting your luggage, clearing customs, unpacking/assembling/prepping your bike? I've ridden my bike out of a couple of airports after an overnight flight, it's a great way to do things but there are pitfalls. Sleep deprivation and a foreign environment can get you very lost, very quickly.

    I'd take a train to Rouen and go for a bike ride after you get checked into the hotel.

  10. #10
    sniffin' glue zoltani's Avatar
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    Yeah, it's true about the unpredictability of flying in general, so maybe you shouldn't count on it. My bike did not arrive at all when I came over, and it tooks a few days for it to be delivered to where I was staying since I was not in Paris.

    I guess I could agree with it being a bit foolish after a long flight, though not unimaginable. Not sure if you want to put your body through that before you have to represent your company at a conference. It would be different if it were another scenario.
    Those who are easily shocked should be shocked more often.

  11. #11
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    Andrew,

    I have the detailed Michelin map in front of me looking at your route options. The red road makes a bee line for Rouen, but the little back roads would make for a lot of circuitous travel with many map stops. I must agree with Axoloti, you'd be pushing the limit after a night on the plane and arriving somewhat jet lagged.

    I've cycled in and out of Charles de Gaulle several times. Your link detailing the route through the air freight zone at the south end of the airport has worked well for me in the past. Hopefully that still works with the increased security of recent years. If so, once you exit the airport turn right on the "D" route to village of Roissy-en-France and on to Rouen. Left on the "D" route takes you to Tremblay-les-Gonesse and the Canal de L'Ourcq into Paris.

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    Quote Originally Posted by rhm View Post
    I do agree, though I wouldn't put it quite so strongly.
    You're right, I shouldn't have put it so strongly. "Ill-advised" would have been a better word choice.

    Andrew, I commend you for saying you wanted "any and all feedback" and clearly truly meant that.

    Normandy is a nice region for cycling--and often surprisingly hilly. Places to consider visiting on your bike include Claude Monet's garden & house between Rouen & Paris near Vernon, Chartres, the coast from Cherbourg down to Mont St. Michel. If you go into Brittany, try and visit the beautiful medieval town of Dinan (not to be confused with the nearby town of Dinard).
    Last edited by axolotl; 03-09-10 at 12:31 PM.

  13. #13
    biologist andrew.waye's Avatar
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    I'll have to look carefully into the trains.

    If the weather is lousy, if I'm too tired, if the bike is busted, or the plane is late, I'll see if I can do that. If everything goes smoothly (flight on time, easy immigration, bike is ready to go, weather is awesome), then I can make the decision to bike. Basically, my backup plan should be riding, and the primary plan taking the sure way (train).

    A

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    Andrew,

    For what it's worth, all of my flights to Paris have been on Air Canada from Montreal/Mirabelle direct to CDG. They have all gone smoothly. Bike bag was on hand at each check in counter. Bike was presented for pick up in a timely manner, undamaged at each terminal. I re-installed pedals, turned bars turned back around, loaded panniers and off I went. Not to say this happens on all flights!

  15. #15
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    I rode from Roissy to Bernay (about 20 miles southwest of Rouen) in two days. Day 1 was Roissy to Vernon (Journal Entry here). Day 2 was Vernon to Bernay (Journal Entry here).

    Here is the route I rode (it is for the full 26 day ride but it will give you an idea).

    If you stay in the Seine Valley, then you will make much better time then if you straighten out the route and go across the river valleys. Between Paris and Rouen, the Seine meanders widely and IIRC it can be hard to find roads that stay in the valley. On my second day, I had to climb up and over several river valleys and it was time consuming and very tiring.

    You seem to see the train and bike as mutually exclusive. I would suggest getting a good idea of the train schedule and stations along your route and having options for riding some of the way and taking the train the rest.

    Have a great time,

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

  16. #16
    biologist andrew.waye's Avatar
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    Thanks raybo, great advice.

    BobG, can you let me know a little about the bags they provide? Are they a more durable plastic? Do they have bubble-wrap or something in them? Could I bring cardboard and bubble wrap of my own to help provide a little more protection? I'm glad to hear you've always had a good experience with AirCanada though. I'm flying AirCanada Ottawa-->Montreal-->Paris. I talked with someone on the phone last night, they said they'd have bags there, but I might try to tarp up the bike myself before arrival (it might be a little sturdier?? Is it worth the while?).

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    Quote Originally Posted by andrew.waye View Post
    BobG, can you let me know a little about the bags they provide?
    Andrew- They are just heavy duty plastic, not intended to provide protection. They just keep grease off of other luggage. Any wrapping you provide in addition would help but to get any any insurance coverage it sounds like it needs to be in a box or hard shell. Unlike UPS or FEDEX airlines usually have limited coverage no matter how you pack it.

    http://www.aircanada.com/en/travelin...uip.html#-bike
    http://www.aircanada.com/en/travelin...liability.html

    The beauty of the bag or BIG box (VIA Rail Canada, Amtrak, some airlines) is that the bike is ready to roll upon arrival with little assembly.
    Last edited by BobG; 03-09-10 at 12:40 PM.

  18. #18
    rhm
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    In 1979 I flew to Munich with my Raleigh Grand Prix. To be taken on the plane you had to take off the pedals and turn the handlebar 90 degrees; no bag or padding was required. In Munich I reassembled the bike and rode off. Within a couple miles I shifted the derailleur into the spokes and could ride no farther. I assume the derailleur had got a little bent in transit. At any rate it wasn't serious damage, and a bike shop had it straightened out in a few days. This is the risk of not having the bike really well packed; I don't think it's a bad risk, or an unreasonable one, but there it is.

  19. #19
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    I once took a flight from Boston to Orly and after assembling my bike I set out for Chartres, things went well until I could no longer stay awake and had to camp in the early afternoon. Take the train. There is an SNCF website with the schedules

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    I wouldn't do that. Not enough slack time in the schedule. Also, some of the suburbs to the North of Paris are a bit rough and worth avoiding. (Although to be fair some are beautiful and worth visiting)

    What I would do, though, is take the train to Rouen and then spend the afternoon riding around. It's a good way to expunge the jetlag. Maybe even book a couple of days holiday after the conference to do some more touring.

  21. #21
    Senior Member cyclezealot's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ironwood View Post
    I once took a flight from Boston to Orly and after assembling my bike I set out for Chartres, things went well until I could no longer stay awake and had to camp in the early afternoon. Take the train. There is an SNCF website with the schedules
    Trains leave from within the terminal at DeGaulle. I'd save your riding until you are more relaxed.. One advantage you can do is buy your train ticket in the US before you leave.. Trains leave from DeGaulle going in every which direction almost every hour.. Sometimes the lines at the train station inside DeGaulle are so long, you'll miss a train or two.. Only a few TGV trains require tickets be on a reserved basis.. Unless, you sleep easily on trans continental flights, I think Ironwood's suggestion would be wise.. Google SNCF's website. They offer their train schedules in English should you need it..
    Pray for the Dead and Fight like Hell for the Living






    ^ Since January 1, 2012

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    I don't think you can get a train direct from CDG to Rouen. Yes, I know plenty of TGVs leave from the airport, but Rouen is relatively close to Paris and west of the city and I believe you'll still have to go to the Gare St. Lazare. I'm not sure that there even is TGV service to Rouen. In any event, it's only about an hour, or hour and a half train ride, depending on the train.

    Since you live in Ottawa I'm guessing you can speak French. I'd suggest you look at the SNCF website.

    http://www.voyages-sncf.com

    They try and steer North Americans to the RailEurope website which typically will charge you a higher price. Given the frequency of the trains and the uncertainty about your departure time, it would be risky to buy a ticket ahead of time. You can get great deals on SNCF train tickets if you buy them in advance, but they're typically non-refundable like most plane tickets. Given the short distance and relatively cheap price (20.50 euros) it's probably not worth trying to save 10 euros. However, I have bought and printed out my own tickets on the French website. There is a symbol, at least on the French language pages, of a bicycle which indicates trains you can take a bike on. I think you have to click on "details" to see it. It appears that the trains which leave Paris at 20 minutes after the hour (e.g. 8:20am, 10:20am) allow bikes, plus some others.

    To get to the Gare St. Lazare, I'd suggest you take the RER to the Gare du Nord then bike a fairly short distance to the Gare St. Lazare which is not on an RER line. You can take a bike on the RER (I've done it) from 9:00am to 4:30pm and after 7pm, and all day on weekends. Go to www.ratp.com to get information on the RER & Paris Metro. It's got bike info (on the French pages, at least) but it's not easy to find.

  23. #23
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    I think it's possible, but out of your league - for the moment. You haven't done enough touring, you don't know France well enough, etc.

    Fwiw, I did something slightly similar, last weekend. Had a work conference 90km away from home. I ended up riding 70km the night before, camping, then riding 20km on the morning. That was more than enough for me, what with all the uncertainties about navigation, possible breakdowns, camping etc. And I was minimally encumbered. Just bear in mind, that if for some reason you end up late, you look very selfish, risk-prone etc. (My bosses are very keen cyclists, and even still I was terrified of arriving late.) Arrive on time, and you look like a hero. Arrive on time, but wrecked because you didn't get enough sleep, and you still look like a selfish git. That's a lot of risk for...what exactly?

    So, if you can, go a couple of days earlier. If you can't, take the train to within 60km or so, and get maximum scenery for your kilometre.
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    Quote Originally Posted by andrew.waye View Post
    This is the type of input I'm looking for! Do people mostly agree with the above?
    I also agree. I had a 14 hour layover in London last time I flew to Europe, and planned to spend the day walking around the city. I petered out after 4 hours, just due to too little sleep. Trying to do a ride that could stretch much longer than that would be not fun. Not having the option to pull over and sleep would be much worse.

    Bring your bike, take the train to Rouen, then enjoy once you're over the jet lag.

  25. #25
    biologist andrew.waye's Avatar
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    Good feedback, everyone.

    I think the best course of action is to disassemble and pack the bike with the plastic bag Air Canada provides, take the RER to St Lazare, and then train from there to Rouen. I'll leave my bike in the bag the whole time so that I don't have to buy a bike bag (I have a feeling that lugging this thing around on a subway and then to the train station might be pure hell though... anyone have any experience dragging around a disassembled bike?)

    I'll save the touring for after the conference.

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