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Thoughts on the Loire River Trail

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Thoughts on the Loire River Trail

Old 08-01-18, 07:35 PM
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Afterthoughts on the Loire River Trail

Well, I'm back from France, or more importantly, back from France, and have some semblance of time to have sorted pics and post this! We ended up doing nearly the entirety of the Loire a Velo trail, a bike route that follows the Loire River from Nevers in Burgandy to the Atlantic. We stopped short of the ocean at Nantes, some 30 miles short of the ocean, due to logistics of eating up another full day to get to the oc back to Nantes from the ocean and extreme heat pushing 100F/38C that simply made riding unbearable, but still wound up at 400 miles over 8.5 days.

The trail was easier than many here would likely prefer, but made for a very relaxing trip. It is a very well established route following a riparian, historical, and vinyard atmosphere, well signposted the entire route to the point where no map was even necessary save for daily distance planning purposes. While we stayed in hotels each night, camping was also frequently available, and an option I'd readily consider if I were to ever do this again as a cost saving measure (and due to the fact most campgrounds were easily located to restaurants and bars in quick riding distance of town). The route itself was a mixture of major roads, (~10%), low traffic departmental roads (~40%), bike path (~40%), and dirt forest path/singletrack (~10%, and annoying when the singletrack popped up). There was also gratuitous cobblestone mixed in, the rough dirt and cobble made me glad we chose the bike with the 32mm tires over the bike with the 25mm for the wife.

Traveling, it was obvious that the route is very popular with cyclotourists. I conservatively estimate I ran into a good 100 a day, and I don't think we stayed a single night where others weren't sharing a hotel with us. It did give me an opportunity to see how Europeans view touring, I was surprised at the number that made comments about us using drop bars. Flat bar/trekking is far more common there than drop for touring, probably a 75/25 split, and most of the 25 being either English speaking or lightweight touring on regular road bikes. Pannierwise, just to settle this in my perspective, a good 70% of folks had Ortliebs. Vaude took up maybe 15%, Arkel 5%, and a smorgasboard of others (mostly BTwin though, which I later found was French sporting good giant Decathalon house brand) made up the rest. A few Germans were jealous of the wife's teal colored Ortliebs, which they can't get there yet

Heat kept our days short, 45-55 miles a day. We were fighting 90F/32C temps and bright sunny skies nearly every day, other than in the cool overnight period we got a grand total of about two hours of rain the entire time I was there. I'm a bigger guy, and adapted to the cold, I was going through better than a litre of water every 10mi/16km. I started every morning with 5L of water on the bike, filled up everything every opportunity, and came in dry at the end of the day a couple times. Went through quite a few of the Nuun-style electrolyte tablets too. Nevertheless, it worked well for a 10a-530p schedule, with a long lunch in the middle (no meal is short there).

Complaints, I have few about the trip. The biggest one (besides heat) was the suggested paths. While it is well signposted, they go too far out of their way to keep you off roads in urban areas, often sending you off the road to a nasty cobble path for 200m, just to put you back on the road after an intersection, where it would have been much easier to just stay on the road. Othertimes, they take you off the very nice road and stick you on crap singletrack footpaths. But, once you start to understand when they were doing this, it was easy to avoid (unless traveling with a wife who hates roads). Also, the route on the east side of Angers was brutal, going through an old slate quarry turned municipal park that is full of narrow paths, lots of people, and steep hills with gates at the bottoms requiring dismounting and walking, making it a danger coming down and impossible to get any momentum going up.

Also, some pretty pictures:

IMG_1091
Official start point


IMG_1113
Dedicated bike path


Almost every hotel we stayed at on the trail had dedicated secure bike storage


IMG_1145
LOTS of bike tourists outside of a ice cream stop


IMG_1162
Across the river from Gien


IMG_1169
Well signposted for bikes


IMG_1225
It was only when the route went through the farms that you had even modest elevation gains


IMG_1249
Amboise, one of our rest stops


IMG_1258
One of the many pathside wineries

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Old 08-01-18, 07:35 PM
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Sunflower fields everwhere


IMG_1410
Cycling across the Greenwich Median, from the East to West Hemisphere


IMG_1428
One of the dozens of river crossings


IMG_1456
Self powered ferry crossing


IMG_1438
The aforementioned unamusing singletrack we encountered on two days


IMG_1481
The biggest climb we encountered, 6% for 1km from the river to higher than the picture, even though we had worse grades for short periods of time


Trailside blackberrry picking


Finished in Nantes, with bikes in a compact heading to Normand and Paris for a couple days!
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Old 08-01-18, 09:16 PM
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Thanks for the report, sounds like a fun trip. Amazingly hot/dry weather in Europe. Always mystifying in re Euro tourists & drop bars. I could see budget tourists using their flat-bar commuters but nowadays don't most Euro bike tourists have a separate touring bike?
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Old 08-01-18, 10:23 PM
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Good report. Your experiences on bike routes reflect mine. i.e going to absurd lengths to avoid what someone considers a non-bike friendly section of road. In my case it got to the point where I now avoid taking bike routes, it's just too annoying. Another thing about bike routes that really annoys me are the other cyclists, sometimes there are just too many. Coming across other cyclists once or twice a week is fine, but not every day.😁
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Old 08-02-18, 07:54 AM
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Originally Posted by DropBarFan
Always mystifying in re Euro tourists & drop bars. I could see budget tourists using their flat-bar commuters but nowadays don't most Euro bike tourists have a separate touring bike?
That was my impression, although I could see many of those bikes serving a dual purpose commuting/trekking role. What looked to be factory included dyno lights and racks and fenders were abundant. Especially the Germans and Dutch I came across, flat bar seemed simply default for anything that wasn't sporty and fast riding. The one that did stick out was a German who had a nice flat bar Rohloff Koga, who said he does 6000-8000km of touring on it every summer.

I forgot to mention, we were also in the minority with cycling specific jerseys and shoes, tshirts and tennis shoes (and dress shoes in a few instances ) were far more common. Biking shorts were nearly universal, that was about the only commonality. Helmets were about 50/50 overall, but again the English speakers seemed to favor them more, while the French and especially the Dutch shunned them.
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Old 08-02-18, 08:38 AM
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The Swiss bike routes are similar, in that they follow strange routes sometimes. Someone with a sense of humor may have laid them out. I really enjoyed getting off the roads, but 26x50 tires probably helped. Sounds like you had a great trip. How was the TdF?
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Old 08-02-18, 09:15 AM
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Thanks for the report. Looks like a fun tour overall. But you’ve missed something very important to many non-North American travellers: how was the wine and the food? Any great highlights on that front?
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Old 08-02-18, 10:27 AM
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here are my thoughts on the route having spent about 3 weeks along the Eurovelo 6 route.
I actually enjoyed the mix of surfaces and the overall quietness of the route.
We started on the Atlantic coast and made our way along to Switzerland, about 1000km, with a train skip of a bit, maybe 250km or less, simply because we saw we were tight a bit for time and to allow more visiting time with people at the end of the trip.
The Eurovelo 6 route was pretty well indicated, and I agree that its generally well done and logical in the signage, and amount of signage.
It goes over a neat mix of paved bike paths, dirt bike paths, a bit of singletrack which I enjoyed and found fun, some shared tiny country lanes with cars but very little traffic, and yes it tends to go out of its way to avoid busy sections of roads--but then this was perfect for my wife, and I understand why they do this. Keeping all the bike tourists off the main roads makes everyone happier in general, and Im ok with the view of doing it. Only rarely did we say, ah forget it, and take the main road, especially with very little traffic.

I actually liked how the trail meanders through itsy bitsy sleepy villages, and past someones back yard or whatever.

When we got into switzerland, specifically Basel, the signage kinda went screwy, and the routing did too a bit, but next time I woiuld take a dedicated book with the routes, and or figure out how to put the downloaded gpx file I had onto or into the maps.me app I used once in a while to see where I was.

We camped nearly the whole time, and as was the case more than 25 yrs ago when I first bike travelled in France, the campgrounds are generally well placed, are abundant, are listed in info on line or whatever so easy to plan days, and they are much nicer than 25 yrs ago in that some of them have special areas for bikers hikers with lower prices, a tent or structure with a fridge, gas stove, table chairs etc, and wifi is just about in all of them.

being able to speak french is a huge diff to you folks who don't , so Im aware that our social encounters that made the trip so interesting and fun (as in all my bike trips) is entirely specific to being comfortable with the language and culture.

we met so many neat bike travellers and locals that it was an entirely enjoyable trip, throw in beautiful landscapes, a nice route overall, good food etc, and this completely overshadowed the few aspects of really damn hot riding some days--but hey, better than a ton of rain in my books.
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Old 08-02-18, 10:37 AM
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Thanks for the post! Sounds like just the thing for my wife and me.
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Old 08-02-18, 10:44 AM
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Originally Posted by Aubergine
Thanks for the post! Sounds like just the thing for my wife and me.
look at the website

https://en.eurovelo6-france.com/

a very good resource, and when you look at "the route in detail" , showing each small divided sections, you can click on campgrounds for example, and they pop up on map.
Also, there are often other campgrounds around , some a bit further away from the route, or just small local ones , and also b+b's are marked, but then its easy to google this info , so its logistically easy to plan a trip for accomodations etc.
Again, I realize its easier for us as we speak french and can just ask folks about stuff.
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Old 08-02-18, 11:33 AM
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Originally Posted by djb
look at the website

https://en.eurovelo6-france.com/

a very good resource, and when you look at "the route in detail" , showing each small divided sections, you can click on campgrounds for example, and they pop up on map.
Also, there are often other campgrounds around , some a bit further away from the route, or just small local ones , and also b+b's are marked, but then its easy to google this info , so its logistically easy to plan a trip for accomodations etc.
Again, I realize its easier for us as we speak french and can just ask folks about stuff.
Thanks, djb. I’ve had that bookmarked for a while! Claire and I do speak French (although I am deaf so cannot really converse well.) My main concern is making sure a route is reasonably flat. I like hills but Claire prefers flat rides. This looks very suitable for us.
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Old 08-02-18, 11:33 AM
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It sounds like both you guys (Jeff and David) had a good ride, despite the record breaking temperatures.

Jeff, did you ride from CDG to Paris? Did you see any of the TDF?

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Old 08-02-18, 04:21 PM
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Originally Posted by Mountain Mitch
Thanks for the report. Looks like a fun tour overall. But you’ve missed something very important to many non-North American travellers: how was the wine and the food? Any great highlights on that front?
Eh, I'm not a foodie, didn't care much for the hour and a half to two hour lunch and dinners, but I did get my boudin noir and fried apples, so it checked my box! Lots of wine though, the fifth day we did a short "rest" day of 18 miles, and managed 3 wineries in that time I'm normally a beer guy, but France is pretty bad for that, they got me into some fresh cold Rose on my rest stops! I'd highly recommend this joint if anyone follows the route. Half a km off the actual route, but well worth it, and containing the single best wine I've ever had: https://www.domaine-jousset.fr/les-v...rsioin-longue/

Food is one thing that should be highlighted in any French planning though. Lots of places are closed Mondays, and lunch is only served from 1100-1330 or so. Miss those times, especially on a Monday, and you may be searching for a bakery with some Paris Brest pastries!



Originally Posted by djb
I actually liked how the trail meanders through itsy bitsy sleepy villages, and past someones back yard or whatever.
...
being able to speak french is a huge diff to you folks who don't , so Im aware that our social encounters that made the trip so interesting and fun (as in all my bike trips) is entirely specific to being comfortable with the language and culture.

we met so many neat bike travellers and locals that it was an entirely enjoyable trip, throw in beautiful landscapes, a nice route overall, good food etc, and this completely overshadowed the few aspects of really damn hot riding some days--but hey, better than a ton of rain in my books.
Loved the meandering as well! Language wasn't as big an issue as many would have you believe, I didn't meet a single person rude or dismissive because we didn't speak French. There were a few people we met who spoke no English, but most had at least a basic level. Carissa was able to talk to the Spanish speakers, I was able to converse with the Germans, so it was all good!

Originally Posted by Aubergine
I like hills but Claire prefers flat rides. This looks very suitable for us.
Sounds like me and the wife. I'd suggest skipping Champtoceaux, the town of that scenic climb which is technically a signposted option, as well as the route into Angers on the east side (theres a signposted route to the south, and another way in on the west), but other than a couple short stints coming into and out of farm towns, it was flat.

If you're actually curious on elevations, these are all my Strava tracks:
https://www.strava.com/activities/1706989810
https://www.strava.com/activities/1709331322
https://www.strava.com/activities/1710736073
https://www.strava.com/activities/1710966776
https://www.strava.com/activities/1713431313
https://www.strava.com/activities/1715284237
https://www.strava.com/activities/1717899758
https://www.strava.com/activities/1720705770
https://www.strava.com/activities/1722629425
https://www.strava.com/activities/1724273705

Originally Posted by alan s
How was the TdF?
Originally Posted by Doug64
Jeff, did you ride from CDG to Paris? Did you see any of the TDF?
Nah, we ended up taking a cab van from the airport (we landed at T3, there was really no exit except onto the motorway), and I kept the car we rented for Normandy until we left.

We did see the TdF. Apparently there is a ban on suitcases full of beer on the Champs Elysees itself, so the police directed us towards the Jardins de Tuileries. We ended up outside the exit to the tunnel, across from the Norwegian corner, and with view of a big screen TV. It worked out quite well! Got there about three and a half hours before the riders, really had we been there two hours early we'd have been fine for a front row spot, but we had a bit of a picnic and chatted with the abundance of Welsh fans around us.



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Old 08-02-18, 04:35 PM
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Oh and another thought: had I not left bikes to the last minute, I would have done this for this trip, but I want to try running two bags only on the front. I really do think it would help the balance of the bike.

Also, I really hated not having a kickstand. Yes, I managed without, it was a PITA. Unfortunately, short of a center mount, nothing will fit on this bike. Might have to give a Pletscher double a go.

Finally, Clement USH are definitely my favorite tires (so long as no one tells my competing employer from whom I get substantial discounts ). Performed flawlessly on the wide variety of surfaces, including the first 50 miles when I didn't bother forgot to pump them up out of the box and ran them at about 25PSI for the day....
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Old 08-05-18, 04:26 AM
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Originally Posted by jefnvk
That was my impression, although I could see many of those bikes serving a dual purpose commuting/trekking role. What looked to be factory included dyno lights and racks and fenders were abundant. Especially the Germans and Dutch I came across, flat bar seemed simply default for anything that wasn't sporty and fast riding. The one that did stick out was a German who had a nice flat bar Rohloff Koga, who said he does 6000-8000km of touring on it every summer.

I forgot to mention, we were also in the minority with cycling specific jerseys and shoes, tshirts and tennis shoes (and dress shoes in a few instances ) were far more common. Biking shorts were nearly universal, that was about the only commonality. Helmets were about 50/50 overall, but again the English speakers seemed to favor them more, while the French and especially the Dutch shunned them.
A flat bar is pretty sporty for the Dutch. I'm not a tourer (yet), but for me it would seem asking for needless discomfort if you're changing your posture from what you're used to when you're more hours on a bike than ever before. My back, groin area and muscles aren't used to drop bars, it would make it much harder than a bit of aero drag. Dress shoes can be very comfortable, and a bit of heel can help relax the achilles tendoins. It makes sense to me.
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Old 08-05-18, 06:15 AM
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I rode along the Loire many years ago before Eurovelo, very enjoyable. and I have visited the region many times since The cycling is easy, but the history is great as are the wines, Cinon, Bourgueil, Saumur etc, and the food. There are numerous small roads which are perfect for cycling, so you don't really have to stick to the river tral if you want to visit something away from the route.
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Old 08-05-18, 09:52 AM
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Jeff, I enjoyed the report and the pics. Thanks for sharing.
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Old 08-05-18, 05:43 PM
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Originally Posted by ironwood
I rode along the Loire many years ago before Eurovelo, very enjoyable. and I have visited the region many times since The cycling is easy, but the history is great as are the wines, Cinon, Bourgueil, Saumur etc, and the food. There are numerous small roads which are perfect for cycling, so you don't really have to stick to the river tral if you want to visit something away from the route.
it was funny as I had a few flashbacks to over 25 years ago passing some places that I m sure I rode past back then.
The bike eurovelo route is ideally suited to touirists, but in general, the french are very respectful of cyclists and so if you use common sense and dont act like an ass on the road, riding is pretty nice, trail or no trail.
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Old 08-05-18, 06:07 PM
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Originally Posted by Stadjer
A flat bar is pretty sporty for the Dutch. I'm not a tourer (yet), but for me it would seem asking for needless discomfort if you're changing your posture from what you're used to when you're more hours on a bike than ever before.
Didn't mean to imply flat bar can't be sporty, just the bit of conversation I had with them I got tge impression that the folks with drops were riding exclusively for a sporty aspect!

But yeah, the rest of your comment makes a lot of sense!

Originally Posted by djb
The bike eurovelo route is ideally suited to touirists, but in general, the french are very respectful of cyclists and so if you use common sense and dont act like an ass on the road, riding is pretty nice, trail or no trail.
In nine days, I only had one instance where someone forced a pass they shouldn't have, and one other where the car was oblivious to everything around them (young guy playing Sebastian Loeb on a twisty road). It was very comfortable being on the road, even for my wife who hates it.
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Old 08-06-18, 06:52 AM
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WTH - No mention of chateaus?

Maybe I missed it or misunderstood the route but we are tslking about the famous Loire de Velo?

Then the sections around Blois have many wonderful castles, i remember growing sick of them though Chambord was striking.
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Old 08-06-18, 12:15 PM
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Originally Posted by jefnvk
Didn't mean to imply flat bar can't be sporty, just the bit of conversation I had with them I got tge impression that the folks with drops were riding exclusively for a sporty aspect!
Yes, without luggage, travelling by car and riding to go fast or up mountains I assume. Drop bars have been out fashion for anything other than road cycling for decades, flat bars or butterflies are considerd sporty. There's a very sharp division between road cyclists and all other cyclists in Northern Europe, and it shows in the bars I guess.
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Old 08-06-18, 01:40 PM
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Originally Posted by Stadjer
A flat bar is pretty sporty for the Dutch. I'm not a tourer (yet), but for me it would seem asking for needless discomfort if you're changing your posture from what you're used to when you're more hours on a bike than ever before. My back, groin area and muscles aren't used to drop bars, it would make it much harder than a bit of aero drag. Dress shoes can be very comfortable, and a bit of heel can help relax the achilles tendoins. It makes sense to me.
so you know Stadjer, when you talk about drop bar positions compared to other bar types, a lot of people have the misconception that dropbars means a bar position like on a pure racing bike. In general, a racing bike will have the top level of the bars much lower than the seat level (imagine a line going horizontally from seat top forward, and thus the "drop" distance to bars)
Touring bikes tend to have the bars at the same level as the seat, or thereabouts, whereas a racing bike will have the bars maybe 10cm or more below the seat level.
Ive toured on all kinds of bars and have ridden all bars commuting also, and for me, drop bars are still the most comfortable because of the various hand positions, which translates into improved hand and neck comfort.
BUT my bike is set up properly for me, ie the distance from seat to bars is good, or not too far, and my bars are about level with my seat.

I wouldnt be using them if they were not comfortable, and I can ride for months on a trip and not have body issues due to the bars.
I also find them to be the most efficient for the "position vs comfortable output all day" factor.

but if other bars work for anyone, thats great.
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Old 08-06-18, 07:46 PM
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Originally Posted by raria
Maybe I missed it or misunderstood the route but we are tslking about the famous Loire de Velo?

Then the sections around Blois have many wonderful castles, i remember growing sick of them though Chambord was striking.
I knew you were sick of them, that's why I didn't bring them up

We didn't really stop in any (outside of Versaille or the Louvre), but yeah they are all over if that is your thing!


Chateau de Langeais


Chateau de Usse, the inspiration for Sleeping Beauty's castle


Chateau de Montsoreau, actually the view outside my hotel window that night.


And not that it is a Chateau, but a former abbey turned hotel with more or less an chateau on front we stayed at one night! Our room was under that slanted roof coming off the old church building. We know it as legit, our bikes slept next to piles of those "insert a coin for an electronic prayer candle to turn on" machines in a storage room. Best beer selection of the entire trip at their hotel bar, they only served monastery beers, and breakfast was pretty much exclusively products from the local monasteries, and dang good.

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Old 08-06-18, 07:57 PM
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Originally Posted by mattbur
Jeff, I enjoyed the report and the pics. Thanks for sharing.
I get a lot of good advice and help here, it is only fair I give back what I can! Probably would have never been dumb enough to get into this bike touring thing if it weren't for this forum, and that is saying something considering I have an uncle who does it far more than me. If this can encourage someone else some day, then it was worth it!

Originally Posted by djb
so you know Stadjer, when you talk about drop bar positions compared to other bar types, a lot of people have the misconception that dropbars means a bar position like on a pure racing bike. In general, a racing bike will have the top level of the bars much lower than the seat level (imagine a line going horizontally from seat top forward, and thus the "drop" distance to bars)
Touring bikes tend to have the bars at the same level as the seat, or thereabouts, whereas a racing bike will have the bars maybe 10cm or more below the seat level.
Yeah, but everyone on flat bar tourers have no issue telling you that you are thinking about poorly set up flat bar bikes, and theirs are dead comfortable for long days in the saddle too. When I've got a German guy telling me he does upwards of 5000 miles a summer and tours enough a Rohloff was absolutely worth it, but he can't understand drop bars or those that use them, I'm certainly not going to argue they are anything but a personal choice!
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Old 08-06-18, 08:50 PM
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Jef, no I know, as you say, there is no set rule, that's a given. And what is so neat about different bicycles in all shapes and forms.
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