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  1. #1
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    A couple of questions about touring around Europe as a newbie

    Sup.

    I'm an adventurous soul and this summer I plan to take a nice tour around Europe, starting from Copenhagen and riding south through Germany. I plan to see Amsterdam and from there work my way down south through france. Or maybe through Germany. Havn't decided yet.

    Heres some questions:
    (I'm not fit at all, though I reckon that if I start bicycling now before summer, I'll get more in shape)

    1) Theres around 600km from Copenhagen to Amsterdam. If I traveled in a medium-speed tempo with breaks every 4 hours to eat, how long would you reckon it would take me to reach Amsterdam? Ought to note that Netherland and Denmark (and probably northern Germany too) is flat.

    2) I have no equipment nor a bike, how much would it cost me to get all the equipment needed? (backpack, panniers, water bottle, racks, lock, compass, map, side-money, rain coat, touring-clothes, shoes, helmet)

    3) What would be more luxerious and more beautiful to see, southern Germany or southern France?

    4) When In France or Germany, do they speak English properly? I know that the new generation in Germany all speak English fairly well, but in France its different. Not many speak English. Correct?

    5) Should I try and get to Italy to see the beautiful landscape or would it be better if I stayed in central-europe (Southern Germany, France, Switz) - Italy may have fewer bicycle-friendly routes

    6) Can you camp anywhere in Europe? For example if its getting dark, would it be fine that I just set up my tent in some field or woods, or would it be risky in terms of law enforcement or robbery? Would it be tolerated that I started a little campfire to grill some meat or some canned beans?

    7) As a first time traveler, inexperienced, should I pack lightly with just 1 bag and a couple of other stuff, or get extra bags too to hang on the side of the bicycle but not neccesarily fill up?

    8) Should I use a map or just follow sign/directions? Is there a map of bicycle routes in Europe?

    9) A bike costs a lot. I reckon atleast 300$. Any way I can get something cheaper but still comfortable to ride on (seat is important)? Perhaps recommend a cheap bicycle producer?

    10) Should I bring any electronics with me, or would it be too much of a hassle? (phone, portable gaming device, radio)



    Thanks all
    Last edited by NokoYoko; 03-11-10 at 06:34 AM.

  2. #2
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    You've posed quite a few questions and it is clear you have done very little (if any) research on the subject.

    My advice would be to browse these forums, check out www.crazyguyonabike.com, and come back.

    I've never toured Europe by bike but I will attempt to get you started.

    1) 600KM over fairly flat terrain (your assumption, not mine) would take anywhere from 6-10 days depending on what kind of training you have done prior to the trip. If you're really out of shape - could take longer than 10 days. (You might want it to take longer than 10 days...I would)
    2) VERY rough estimate: 750$ to 2000$
    3) Can't answer.
    4) Plenty of people in France speak english, though you shouldn't assume they do. Learn some basic phrases in the native tongue (hello, good morning, do you speak english) and you will have an easier time. This is good advice for anybody outside their native land.
    5) If you have time and resources - why not?
    6) Don't know - I think it's all about location. Use your best judgement.
    7) Bring only what you NEED. Figure out what you need by doing some overnight trips before you head to europe.
    8) Use maps.
    9) Look at the used bicycle market. A NEW touring specific bicycle is likely to cost a lot more than 300$.
    10) You could bring the kitchen sink - but do you really want to lug it all around europe?

  3. #3
    Senior Member cyclezealot's Avatar
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    In Germany , almost everyone speaks English . In southern France you have to search a little harder, but you'll not have to search all that hard.. Particularly in Provence.. Deciding between France vs Germany. Both are beautiful.(. ie. Germany , head for the Romantic road.. France , the interior of Provence near Aix or Mt Ventoux.. _ Really it's a cultural thing in addition to scenery.. Do a photo tour of both regions through maybe Flicker or Crazy Guy on a Bike.. Then decide which has more appeal to you.. It's mostly up to your interests and not what someone else recommends.
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  4. #4
    Senior Member Cyclebum's Avatar
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    Do your research on here and at Crazyguyonabike. Look for a book or two on bicycling through Europe. Plan on a couple of shakedown mini tours before you leave. Very important for optimizing your gear needs and determining a comfortable travel pace. Cruise www.couchsurfing.com and www.warmshowers.org for potential hosts. The people you meet are likely to be the highlight of your tour.

    As you begin to get more specific ideas for routes and gear, come back for more specific opinions, if you can't find good answers already posted.
    The bicycle is one of the great inventions of mankind. Delights children, challenges young men to feats of daring, and turns old men into boys again.--Me

  5. #5
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    The North Sea Cycle Route goes from very near Copenhagen to very near Amsterdam in a non-direct route. The segments I'm familiar with in Holland are signposted somewhat regularly, but are almost entirely off motorways.

    Your phone may not work on the European networks.
    I'd be very surprised if you could get away with cooking over an open fire in Holland anywhere other than an unpopulated beach or campground.

  6. #6
    Je pose, donc je suis.
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    Quote Originally Posted by NokoYoko View Post
    Sup.
    Sup.

    1) You need a new map. I reckon at least 800km. (Note: Take the ferry from B°jden to Fynshav if you want to save some distance.)
    2) Less than a couple thousand dollars.
    3) Both are better than northern Germany / southern Denmark.
    4) Properly? Like the Queen's English? Or do mean at all? (Half the fun is when they don't.)
    5) Yes.
    6) I wouldn't worry about robbery. You might get kicked off the land. Don't start a fire.
    7) Depends on your credit card limit.
    8) Get a map. Danes seem to enjoy turning bike route signs around. Any 1:200000 map or better should do.
    9) Huge variety here. Do some test rides?
    10) Bring a phone. A radio won't do you much good if you don't speak Danish, German, Dutch or French. (Edit: Unless you mean to use it for listening to crappy Euro music.)

  7. #7
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    Having toured in Europe and Britain, I can say that it is much easier to communicate in English in Denmark, Northern Germany and the Netherlands than it is in certain regions of England and Scotland. I couldn't understand a word in Newcastle or Glasgow. Most young French people have had at least seven years of English in School, but that always doesn't always mean they can speak it.
    As far camping any where, I would advise against it as there is not a lot of vacant land. However there are lots of campgrounds, youth hostels and small hotels. As far as it getting dark, that is not a problem in Northern Europe in May June or July. So if a hostel or campground is full it isn't a problem riding another 30 km to the next one before dark.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ironwood View Post
    Having toured in Europe and Britain, I can say that it is much easier to communicate in English in Denmark, Northern Germany and the Netherlands than it is in certain regions of England and Scotland. I couldn't understand a word in Newcastle or Glasgow. Most young French people have had at least seven years of English in School, but that always doesn't always mean they can speak it.
    As far camping any where, I would advise against it as there is not a lot of vacant land. However there are lots of campgrounds, youth hostels and small hotels. As far as it getting dark, that is not a problem in Northern Europe in May June or July. So if a hostel or campground is full it isn't a problem riding another 30 km to the next one before dark.
    Yeah, even though they speak English in Scotland and Ireland, a lot of times I simply can't understand them. They're speaking with such a heavy accent that lots of words just seem totally different. You're right about the English in northern Europe. We speak excellent English. :-)

    I am thinking about starting my trip in May since I can't wait for July and June. Would the weather be rainy in Europe or summer-ish?

  9. #9
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    Why don't know try a few shorter tours first? It would probably lead to a much more enjoyable longer tour. I agree with others that you need to do some research on touring. As to a few of your questions:

    Don't try this without a map! Depending on the country, you want to stay away from major highways and enjoy less traveled roadways.

    Although a young man (you sound like one) can probably travel up to 150 k/day on flat terrain, that's an extremely full day of riding and doesn't allow for much sightseeing or anything else. Many tourists would figure something like 80-100 k/day as plenty of traveling, and allowing for seeing something along with way. Lots of touring cyclists travel less per day.

    Equipment varies, and you can buy cheap stuff. Even so, I think you'd need a couple thousand US dollars, not including purchase of a bike.

    A nice touring bike could easily cost you US$2000, but you could get a passable hybrid for a few hundred.

    With camping gear, I would try to keep under 25 kilos. For credit card touring (no camping) we try to keep under 12 kilos. Not always successful however!

    Good luck!

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by NokoYoko View Post
    I am thinking about starting my trip in May since I can't wait for July and June. Would the weather be rainy in Europe or summer-ish?
    Hi,

    It's europe, it rains even when it is summer-ish!

    I am biased but France is great. I spent 3 months looking for a house in the south of France and travelled by car with a tent in the boot. I camped in fields, woods and anywhere I thought I could get away with it. I never had a problem (I do have the advantage of speaking French). Hunting 'chasse' season starts around September - if you are out camping, make sure you are somewhat visible and near a track if in a wood or forest. I've seen some of the old French fellas shoot...damn right scary!

    As for the Language, most can utter a few words of English though generally refuse to if the other person doesn't make an effort. A simple 'bonjour', a smile and many hand gestures will get you a long way.

    Sorry I can't contribute much to any of the other questions but I am new here myself and learning.

    Bonne chance et bon courage.

    Daz

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Frida1 View Post
    Why don't know try a few shorter tours first? It would probably lead to a much more enjoyable longer tour. I agree with others that you need to do some research on touring.

    I will do shorter tours, but by shorter I'm talking 30km and not the 1000km I'm planning .

    As for research..It's really not as easy as it sounds, bicycle hiking isn't really active on the internet and googling anything with "bicycle + tours" only give useless sites. Try it. I couldn't find anything proper.

    The-crazy-guy-on-a-bike-site was a decent site, but his interface is horrible, I couldn't navigate properly. His forum is a mess and his articles are clustered together. He seems very experienced, but his site needs some serious re-haul.

    But anyway, bike isn't a problem. I'm really excited though because I plan to purchase some aluminium cooking gear so I can cook over fire (i wont be going to hostels). Maybe in the big cities such as Amsterdam and what not, I'll check out a hostel, but, it seems kind of expensive..even for a hostel.

    Also I'm really considering starting in May rather than June-July. Is this a good idea?

  12. #12
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    Ahem . . . as to research, the internet is wonderful, but there is such a thing as a book, and plenty have been written about bicycle touring in all its aspects.

  13. #13
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    I took the North Sea Cycle Route in the other direction (from Paris to Amsterdam) last year. One thing that surprised me is that it contains just about every hill in all of Holland. The route follows the shore of the North Sea, so you spend a lot of time going up and down sand dunes. It's really pretty and there will be lots of other cyclists out there. It's also one of the places where you'll find plenty of campgrounds.

    If you plan to go that route, consider getting the official map and guide book of the LF1 cycle route. It shows the locations of campgrounds, hostels and cafes along the route. It also shows the route in detail, although the map doesn't show much of anything away from the official route. Even though it's supposed to be well signed, I found that there were quite a few critical junctions that either were not signed at all, or where the sign was after the turn. The map made it possible to find my way back.

    As for language issues, I didn't speak a word of Flemish or Dutch, but everyone in Holland and Belgium was very accommodating. I do speak a little tortured Canadian grade-school French. It was enough to get by in northern France, with a little help from the locals. I think they just appreciated the effort.

  14. #14
    Senior Member mattbicycle's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by NokoYoko View Post
    I will do shorter tours, but by shorter I'm talking 30km and not the 1000km I'm planning .

    As for research..It's really not as easy as it sounds, bicycle hiking isn't really active on the internet and googling anything with "bicycle + tours" only give useless sites. Try it. I couldn't find anything proper.

    The-crazy-guy-on-a-bike-site was a decent site, but his interface is horrible, I couldn't navigate properly. His forum is a mess and his articles are clustered together. He seems very experienced, but his site needs some serious re-haul.

    Also I'm really considering starting in May rather than June-July. Is this a good idea?
    30km isn't a tour in my book. It's a 1.5 hour ride

    I'm not sure what you're typing into Google, but there are loads of sites and sources of information available. There is no excuse for not researching the regions, types of equipment to bring, bicycles and methods of camping you're interested in. The previous threads on this site alone would allow you to plan and have a successful tour. Not to mention the other excellent touring sites on the internet. I think you just haven't done any research at all.

    I am reluctant to give any specific advice as there is so much knowledge available regarding what you've asked.

    I do agree with your comments about the Crazy Guy site. It's full of fantastic information but you're right: the interface is absolutely horrible and I feel lost trying to navigate around. I would visit the site more often if it were easier to use. But when planning a trip, it's well worth the effort; and the site owner provides a valuable service to the touring community with little thanks or compensation for the time/money he consumes in keeping it running.

  15. #15
    Cycled on all continents JohnyW's Avatar
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    Hi,

    1) For a beginner 8 days (if there's no head wind)
    2) depends what you. Side money is very difficult to estimate
    3) What do you mean with Southern France? We don't have a Mediterrian Coast in Germany. Elsa▀ or Black Forest - there isn't a big difference
    4) In Germany more people speak and are opener to speak English
    5) Amsterdam - Lake Contanze - Switzeland - over Sea Alps - Cote Azur
    6) It's not allowed but you can. Campfire are strictly prohibited in summer (In Germany only allowed in public barque places)
    7) depends
    8) map
    9) no
    10) a camera would be a good idea

    Thomas
    My Travelogues: http://thomasontour.de (currently only in German)

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    Quote Originally Posted by mattbicycle View Post
    I am reluctant to give any specific advice as there is so much knowledge available regarding what you've asked.
    Jees, talk about hostility eh

  17. #17
    Formerly Known as Newbie Juha's Avatar
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    I've only ever used crazyguyonabike for finding info on specific countries or areas. For that the interface never stopped me. Neil (cgoab site owner) provides a great service and lots of information there. BTW, he's a frequent member in Bike Forums too.

    You seem to be suggesting stealth camping with open fire in (relatively densely populated) Central Europe.

    Dude.

    Where did you plan to get the firewood? You don't speak much of the languages, how were you going to find out if there's wild fire hazard? "Monsieur, the forest you speak of was already ablaze when I got here?" They have more than enough B&Bs, hostels and campgrounds there to accommodate you comfortably with minimal planning.

    My suggestion for camping: stick to the campgrounds. Bring a stove for cooking (though many campgrounds will have some cooking facilities available). Even if you have to wild camp, you'll be able to cook with the stove. If you do wild camp, leave no trace. And if you're worried about the amount of gear, best way to radically reduce it is to not camp. You'll be able to drop tent, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, stove, cooking utensils and fuel, all with that one decision.

    There are a myriad of details on bike touring in the Internet. If you do your research, you'll learn that you'll need lights in your bike to be street legal in Germany, for example. Many people don't care about that stuff, they play it by the ear and there's nothing wrong with that either. Problem is, you try to eat the cake and keep it too. You don't want to do the research but you do want to get info on details. That's probably why you get answers you don't like.

    --J
    Last edited by Juha; 03-12-10 at 08:03 AM.
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  18. #18
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    Last week I bought a bike for my girlfriend and the guy would not let me take it out of the shop without a bell on it (luckily it was provided as part of the package). If you are riding through France, have a bell - IT'S THE LAW!!!!!

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    Quote Originally Posted by finnyfinfinbar View Post
    Last week I bought a bike for my girlfriend and the guy would not let me take it out of the shop without a bell on it (luckily it was provided as part of the package). If you are riding through France, have a bell - IT'S THE LAW!!!!!
    A bell.


    On a bike.






  20. #20
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    I would strongly advise against camping outside of established campgrounds in Europe, or for that matter, in many parts of North America. There have been horrible and as yet unsolved crimes against campers on private property. I remember there was a gruesome murder of an English couple who were camping "sauvage" in Brittany a few years ago.
    As far as an expensive touring bike goes, it's not necessary. I remember meeting a Dutch cyclist in Denmark who had ridden to the North Cape in Norway on a three speed he had found in the trash.
    Weather in Europe in May? Who Knows? Weather patterns are so variable and unpredictable now you just have to take your chances.

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    Nokoyoko,

    Clearly as with everything else, discretion needs to be applied. The chances of the Gendarmerie pulling you over are very remote, however, there have been occasions. Just wanted to pass on some French insight!

    Personally, I won't have one either. If there ARE any Gendarmerie reading this then I'm only kidding, I'll have two bells to be extra careful....honest - je vous donne ma parole!!

  22. #22
    Senior Member cyclezealot's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by finnyfinfinbar View Post
    Last week I bought a bike for my girlfriend and the guy would not let me take it out of the shop without a bell on it (luckily it was provided as part of the package). If you are riding through France, have a bell - IT'S THE LAW!!!!!
    Finny.. Once a shop in Lille claimed bells were required on bikes, by that city.. I see new bikes going out the door every day at my favorite bike shop. With my association of bike clubs , I see hundreds of bikes every Sunday. Never Have I seen or heard a bill attached to any member's bike. Could it be that bells are required by a city ordinance of your town, as I understand was the case in Lille.. ?
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  23. #23
    Senior Member blaise_f's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ironwood View Post
    As far as an expensive touring bike goes, it's not necessary. I remember meeting a Dutch cyclist in Denmark who had ridden to the North Cape in Norway on a three speed he had found in the trash.
    Indeed. On the same note, Heinz Stucke rode same 3 speed bicycle from 1962 until the late 2000s (doing 100,000s of miles). Thomas Stevens, 10k+ miles in the 1880s on a direct drive ordinary (on dirt, clay and alkali flats). It's all a matter of comfort and determination
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  24. #24
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    Hey cyclezealot,

    Perhaps it could be a city/regional/departmental law. I shall endeavor to find out. However, as you say, there are very few bikes that have them!

    Daz.

  25. #25
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    NokoYoko, with your lack of experience, lack of equipment and lack of language skills, perhaps you would be better off on a packaged tour. Something to consider anyway.

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