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  1. #1
    Senior Member katmu's Avatar
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    New to Touring - Help me plan a tour to Europe for 2014

    I have an extra 2 weeks of vacation that I have to take before the end of next year. I'm interested in doing a bike tour in Europe, at least 7 days on the bike. I'm not really interested in camping as I will be traveling as a solo female and camping alone would make me a little nervous. I currently ride a '85 Trek 620 and would prefer to bring my bike as I'm comfortable with it, and I'm used to doing basic maintenance on it. I'm hoping to average 30 -40 miles per day. I can be fairly open about when I travel. I was thinking of a self-guided or independent tour but might be open to a guided tour.

    So far I've narrowed my list to these countries, and this is where I'm stuck:
    • Netherland / Belgium (I like the architecture, it's flat, good bike infrastructure). Would maybe want to train to Paris from Brussels.
    • Umbria, Italy (more hilly but also more scenic, I've always wanted to visit). Would train to Rome either before or after.
    • Ireland - High on my bucket list, but would also want to visit the towns where my family came from and they are spread out so this might make planning more difficult. Weather not as good.



    Excluding airfare and meals, I would like to keep my budget to around $2500 for the bike tour portion at the most. I would love some feedback. Thanks.

  2. #2
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    September is the best month for Euro bike touring; the weather is usually settled and pleasant, tourist high season is over so you can usually turn up at hotels with no booking, and kids are back in school.
    You can get budget airfares around Europe from Ryanair, Easyjet etc so you could take in 2 destinations.
    Ireland is a goto cycling destination esp if this is "the old country" The SW coast from Cork up to Connemara is probably the best riding (but there is plenty more), staying at Independent Hostels or Bed and Breakfast (B&B). You can do a one way bike hire without having to return.
    Italy has good riding but if you want to do Rome and a few of the classic old towns and cities such as Florence, Verona, San Giovanni, Sienna, Venice, then trains are better. You can rent bikes in most cities.

    The advantages of renting are that you are much more free to move around long distance, vs travelling the whole way by bike. If you do rent, consider taking your own saddle. You can fly with a bike but the logistics of packing the bike take up half a day.

  3. #3
    Je pose, donc je suis.
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    Quote Originally Posted by katmu View Post
    I have an extra 2 weeks of vacation that I have to take before the end of next year. I'm interested in doing a bike tour in Europe, at least 7 days on the bike. I'm not really interested in camping as I will be traveling as a solo female and camping alone would make me a little nervous. I currently ride a '85 Trek 620 and would prefer to bring my bike as I'm comfortable with it, and I'm used to doing basic maintenance on it. I'm hoping to average 30 -40 miles per day. I can be fairly open about when I travel. I was thinking of a self-guided or independent tour but might be open to a guided tour.

    So far I've narrowed my list to these countries, and this is where I'm stuck:
    • Netherland / Belgium (I like the architecture, it's flat, good bike infrastructure). Would maybe want to train to Paris from Brussels.
    • Umbria, Italy (more hilly but also more scenic, I've always wanted to visit). Would train to Rome either before or after.
    • Ireland - High on my bucket list, but would also want to visit the towns where my family came from and they are spread out so this might make planning more difficult. Weather not as good.



    Excluding airfare and meals, I would like to keep my budget to around $2500 for the bike tour portion at the most. I would love some feedback. Thanks.
    Under $2500 in a week is no problem. $50/day for a hostel, twice that for a cheap hotel. Meals vary depending on how extravagant you want. Depending on the time of year, finding lodging without a reservation might be hard (July being the worst, followed by August). As a man, I don't discount your fears, but the risks of anything happening in a crowded campground are very low.

    Taking your bike can vary wildly by airline. Virgin Atlantic rocks (no charge for a bike); British Airways is good (only charge for a bag); Icelandic Air is alright; United and Delta suck (into the hundreds). Check the baggage policies carefully before you finalize (and watch out for code-sharing).

    Your proposed itineraries all sound fabulous and you really can't make a wrong choice among them. I'd say don't put too much stock in "good bike infrastructure" since you'll be able to get by just fine in any of those places. Also, there's nothing like finding your roots in the "old country".

    Happy travels!

  4. #4
    Senior Member katmu's Avatar
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    I think I'm going to focus on Ireland most likely around the 2nd week of September, and I have it narrowed down to either County Donegal or the Antrim Coast for the bike tour. My great-grandfather was from County Monaghan in Ulster, so I would stop there on the way from Belfast to Dublin. The one piece I'm still working on is a visit to Tipperary to see the town where my great-grandmother was from. I may try to fly into Shannon and out of Dublin or vice versa as it looks like I could get to Tipperary from Shannon airport and then maybe train or bus it up north.

    Aer Lingus looks to be better than most of the US airlines in terms of their bike policies if I did decide to take my bike. The bike is included as part of my luggage allowance (on flights from the US). I did check into rental bikes, either with a self-guided tour or independent bike rental where they will deliver to one place and pick up from another. The rates are reasonable, they seem to have a variety of frame sizes (my road bike is a 47 cm) but they all seem to be hybrids so I'm on the fence about the rental still.

  5. #5
    imi
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    New to Touring - Help me plan a tour to Europe for 2014

    The chances of rain in september are much higher in Ireland than in S.France, Spain, Portugal and Italy.

    If i had to pick just one area, it would probably be the Loire Valley in France... definitely not Northern Europe (germany, benelux, n.france) but hey ymmv!
    Last edited by imi; 07-02-13 at 11:58 AM.

  6. #6
    Heretic Caretaker's Avatar
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    I often host Americans cycle touring in Ireland thru Warmshowers and mostly they use the same arrival/departure airport so they can pick up their bike box for the return.

    Dublin is probably the best for this because it's more central and has good bus/train access to other parts. Bus connections are plentiful and cheap with your bike in the luggage compartment lying on its side with rear panniers on to protect the drivetrain.

    For a newbie I'd recommend the cycleway from Westport to Achill Island in Mayo and Northern Ireland also has well developed cycle routes. Get information for NI at cycleni.com
    History is the future

  7. #7
    Senior Member katmu's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Caretaker View Post
    I often host Americans cycle touring in Ireland thru Warmshowers and mostly they use the same arrival/departure airport so they can pick up their bike box for the return.

    Dublin is probably the best for this because it's more central and has good bus/train access to other parts. Bus connections are plentiful and cheap with your bike in the luggage compartment lying on its side with rear panniers on to protect the drivetrain.

    For a newbie I'd recommend the cycleway from Westport to Achill Island in Mayo and Northern Ireland also has well developed cycle routes. Get information for NI at cycleni.com
    Thanks Caretaker. I was actually just thinking about the issue with the bike box as I looked at a map of my route. From here, flights to and from Dublin have the most options. I could also fly in and out of Belfast for a little more, but that would make getting to Tipperary more difficult.

    I found that cycleni.com site last night. It has a lot of great information.

  8. #8
    Travelling hopefully chasm54's Avatar
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    Fly into Belfast. From there you could do Antrim, Donegal and Monaghan without resorting to any mode of transport other than your bike. It is, of course, a long way to Tipperary... but you're going to have that problem whichever airport you use.
    There have been many days when I haven't felt like riding, but there has never been a day when I was sorry I rode.

  9. #9
    Senior Member katmu's Avatar
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    I think I have my route about mapped out, and there are a good range of budget friendly B&Bs and hostels for me to stay in if I decide not to bring any camping gear. Flying into Belfast does seem to be more convenient with 1 exception: there is no left luggage at the Belfast airport (or train station or bus station) at least according to what I've been reading, so that will make bringing my Trek more difficult unless I fly into and out of Dublin instead. Monaghan is about 80 miles from Dublin, so I could maybe stop near Newgrange on the way if I decide to go that route.

    I'm starting to think about gear, since I'm planning to do a short tour in Wisconsin this fall to see how my bike handles loaded, and figure out if I want to make any adjustments to it. I'm trying to decide on panniers, and I've been reading through some of the old threads on the subject and I have it narrowed down to Arkel T42s, Arkel Dolphin 48s (waterproof) or the Ortlieb Backrollers. Both Arkels are about the same price right now (they are having web special on the Dolphins), but both are about $70 more than the Ortliebs. Assuming I'm bringing my '85 Trek 620, what would an experience tourer recommend? It's the smallest frame size, fitting my no-so-large self, if that matters.

    Thanks for all of the great advice so far.
    Last edited by katmu; 07-05-13 at 02:01 PM. Reason: added note about 2nd short tour

  10. #10
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    Hi there,

    My name's Tom and I cycled around the world in 2011. I've got a website with lots of advice that might help you, also a map of my route (including the crossing of Europe from Cheshire to Istanbul). Give me a shout if you need any help planning - contact details on my website www.tombrucecycling.com.

    Cheers,
    Tom

  11. #11
    Junior Member mattdd60's Avatar
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    [QUOTE=Caretaker;15807801]I often host Americans cycle touring in Ireland thru Warmshowers and mostly they use the same arrival/departure airport so they can pick up their bike box for the return.


    Did you have the airport baggage department hold your bike box? Or how would you store your bike box for two weeks?

  12. #12
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    I toured the West Coast of Ireland this past May - quite windy and rainy but beautiful nonetheless. Started in Galway, went down to the SW then back up. Quite enjoyed myself.

    This year, again going solo but this time camping, I am planning a two week tour of Wales (the Celtic Trail + Lon Las Cymru) during the first two weeks of September (though may push it back a week due to Labor Day traveling).

    Ireland is beautiful and I plotted my route based on B&B's - I used Google Maps to find them in the area I was cycling, looked up their reviews on booking.com (i think) and went with what fit my price range and overall location goal.

  13. #13
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    2 weeks isn't that much really... thats basically one of those countries you listed if you actually want to see something.

  14. #14
    coprolite fietsbob's Avatar
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    I spent a week just in a village in Co Kerry , so with only 2 weeks , maybe you can
    book a flight , landing at Shannon And departing from Dublin .
    and you can always use the public transport, if the miles are longer than the days to ride them.

    '97
    Found a Bus* there, with a really large cargo hold in the back whole bike will fit in there with room
    for not only all of your gear, but a lot of backpacks owned by other tourists.

    * Motor in the center under the seats , between the wheels.
    Last edited by fietsbob; 03-04-14 at 04:04 PM.

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