I have a gap year now, and want to go cycling through France for at least a month.
I've been cycling for years, but never been on any long journeys.
I'm 18, and a relatively strong cyclist, but don't plan on too much effort, (ie, about 30-40 miles a day, taking 1-2 month to reach Southern France).
I only have a Rockhopper bike -2010- (mtb), and a limited budget. (Prefer to modify bike than buy a new one) and need your advice on a LOAD of questions, so thanks in advance if you bother reading and answering even just 1 or 2 of them.
1) BIKE? Firstly is the bike alright, personally I think I could make it, with the mtb, its not a lightweight touring bike, but it is quite light and I only plan on cycling 30-40 miles a day.
2) PANNIERS? It's a hardtail, so I'm sure I can get some panniers to fit on the back, and then I'll stack a little tent above them, so, What panniers to get? Recommendations (Good value for money) and preferably waterproof.
3) TYRES? It's a mountain bike, but I recently put on these "Panaracer Mach SS" which are semi-slick, so have a bit of both. size 26x1.95. Would these be alright for cycling all the way, or should I get different ones?
4) TENT? I own a 2 person tent, but the bag is ripped, and really I need a new one, so recommendations on a 1 person tent that is easy to put up and packs down small and light?
4b) where do you leave the bike when in the tent at night, Just chain it to something close by?
5) HANDLEBARS? I just have normal stock mtb handlebars on, could/should I get some dropped handlebars fitted, and how would I go about doing this?
6) SADDLE? The saddle that came with the bike is ridiculously uncomfortable, recommendations?
7) BIKE TOOLS? pump, puncture repair kit, spare innertubes (I always pop them when blowing them up), oil. Missed anything essential?
8) SKILLS, I know how to change the innertube and mend a puncture, and thats about it, anything else I really need to learn?
9) DYNAMO Is it worth getting a dynamo bike charger for my phone, or just getting a hand crank one?
10) Hitchhiking with bike? Should I just stick to cycling?
11) Safety tips for France alone?
12) My aim is to reach South France (Monaco, Montpeiller..) just anywhere along the South coast, so when I get there, is there a train or anything that I can get to bring me back up North? and can anyone one link me to it.
13) WHEN TO GO? This is my really big decision, I cant decide between going mid-September, or going April. I think it'll take me about 2 months, and I don't want to have to pack winter coats etc.
14) CLOTHES? I need to get all new biking clothes, currently I cycle in the city and don't own cycling shorts and jerseys etc. But looking through leisure lakes, these things cost loads (£60+ per item.) All I really own are my cycling shoes with clips.
15) ROUTE? I was planning to basically aim for somewhere S France, possibly a train station to bring me back, and improvise the rest, just travelling South, and seeing what I come across.
16) Getting to Dover from Oldham, Manchester? None of the trains I've seen will let me on with a bike, and I really imagine the cycling starting in France. Any suggestions?
Any other useful tips?
I may well add more questions, and I have searched for this stuff and read a lot of the touring forum already, so thanks for your advice in advance.
PS. I'll be taking a bit of cash, and mostly withdrawing from my card as I go. To reduce chance of loss of too much.
For now I have decided to wait until March or April to go, and buy and add things to my bike until then. As well as go on a few week long cycles in to test thing out. Cannot wait until Spring and it's not even winter yet!