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Touring France

Old 08-04-06, 11:21 AM
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supcom
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Touring France

I'm in the early stages of planning a cycling vacation in France. Having never been there, let alone cycled there, I am starting from ground zero. I'm looking for recommendations for good sources of information. I got a copy of the Lonely Planet "Cycling France" book. It looks pretty good with lots of cycling specific information. What about other books or websites? Any recommendations?
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Old 08-04-06, 11:23 AM
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How long of a vacation? And to what parts of France?
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Old 08-04-06, 12:53 PM
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Be sure to get a good strong shot of testosterone first!

(Jus kiddin.)
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Old 08-04-06, 02:45 PM
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i haven't toured france (yet, i hope), but i used the lonely planet cycling books for NZ and OZ and I would say they are OK as a starting place, but don't count on them to really plan the tour. they make it seem like you have to stay on a "route" and take motorized transportation between tours. sorry to not have any positive info to add...

i'm jealous!!!! have a great time.
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Old 08-04-06, 08:34 PM
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I used the Lonely Planet..Cycling France 2 years ago when I went

It was definitive enough for me, seriously you aren't going to find any two people, especially here to agree on which part is best or better. The whole country is a joy to ride in, the people you meet both riders and locals are friendly informative and really glad to see you, I rode out to Chartres, and then to Normandy from Paris then down to the Loire and back up to Strasbourg, when I got lost farmers would stop to help me, if they offer you some cider take it, great stuff, In the US military cemtery in Normandy an old Frenchman talked with me for hours about the morning of the invasion and how the GI's gave everything they had to help the French, Near Le Mans in a country inn the owner asked me to stand with him as he offered a toast to me, America, and its generousity in helping the French in 2 world wars.
On one hill I was having a problem and one driver grasiously held up traffic behind him so I could make it to the top.after I had, he passed and waved, and so did all the others drivers

Your first visit???Enjoy its a ride you will never forget
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Old 08-05-06, 07:50 AM
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Please give us more information. In addition to length of time you will have, what type of terrain would you prefer? What time of year? What types of attractions most interest you? I've biked pretty much all over France and have my own favorite regions, but it would help if you would tell us more first.
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Old 08-05-06, 10:35 AM
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As a number of people said, specifics would be nice. Many of the fun places to cycle in France can be unbelievably hot in mid summer, much more pleasant in spring.

I used the Lonely Planet guide during the summer of 2001, when I was working for a cycle tour company and touring around France on my own when I wasn't leading overweight American tourists and their non-cycling spouses around Austria. The guide has some excellent routes in it, but don't feel too compelled to follow the route in the guide to the letter. I found the yellow regional Michelin maps (I think they're a 1:100 000 scale) sold in every supermarket in France to be excellent for planning bicycle tours, other people like the IGN maps. Look for the green lines indicating scenic routes, and stick to the roads marked in white (very minor roads) wherever possible.

I more or less followed the Lonely Planet routes through the Pyrenees, the Alps (the route was called "High Cols of the French Alps", I think), and the Alsace area, along with a few other areas. The Pyrenees were excellent, very remote, very scenic, very friendly people. The terrain was extremely rugged and the roads were very narrow and steep by US standards, so be prepared. I think I went a week without hearing a word of English being spoken between Pau and St. Jean Pied-a-Porte.

The French trains (SNCF) carry bicycles on many short haul, slow trains, but the rules for getting bicycles on the TGV (high speed long distance) are a little trickier. Check the SNCF website for rules about bicycles on trains before you go, combining trains and bicycles is a great way to see France (or most of Europe, for that matter). Every American should ride a TGV train, just to see how a railroad should be run.
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Old 08-05-06, 02:16 PM
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jealousssss
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Old 08-05-06, 06:07 PM
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I used the Lonely Planet guide for four tours in France, found it very helpful
(just got back from doing the High Cols of Alps described in the book, which I modified
and extended further) and have done the coast-to-coast Pyrenees (opposite direction of the book)

One site I found helpful was

www.bikeaccess.net

gives lots of info/tips on logistics of taking bikes on planes and trains.
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Old 08-06-06, 09:54 AM
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At this point, I would expect to spend about a week in France. Since my wife is not a very strong cyclist, we will need to avoid the mountains. From reading the Lonely Planet guide, cycling through one of the wine regions might be a good area.
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Old 08-06-06, 06:55 PM
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Originally Posted by supcom
At this point, I would expect to spend about a week in France. Since my wife is not a very strong cyclist, we will need to avoid the mountains. From reading the Lonely Planet guide, cycling through one of the wine regions might be a good area.
For just a week, your best bet might be the Loire valley. It's flat to very gentle hills, there's a very wide network of excellent rural roads with little traffic, there's a lot to see, and it's easy to reach from Paris by train. The Bordeaux & Burgundy wine regions are not that flat. They're not exceedingly difficult, but I suspect your wife would do better with the Loire terrain. The western part of the Loire has quite a few vineyards, if vineyards are important to you.

Alternatively, you could combine parts of the Bordeaux region with the adjacent Dordogne valley. While there are plenty of hills surrounding the Dordogne, the valley has good roads that are virtually flat. (to get to some of the more interesting sights, however, you would have to leave the valley) Personally, I prefer the scenery of this region to the Loire, but I don't think the Loire disappoints at all, and the Loire does have the gentlest terrain and greatest network of quiet little roads in all of France.
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Old 08-07-06, 07:57 AM
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I just did a week in the Loire with my family. We had never been to France before and were just getting maps organized when I found, on the internet, a place called the Anjou Bike Center, which is really just a guy named Claude Blanchard, who will rent you bikes and panniers and lay out routes and even arrange farmhouses and b+bs to stay in. We had an absolutely wonderful time. It was gorgeous through the Loire, the food was amazing, we spent time with local food producers and saw plenty of bikers. The routes were on small roads through vineyards, very little car traffic, and our teenager, who is not much of a rider, found the terrain just challenging enough to be interesting and not so challenging as to be discouraging. We liked having a final destination each night. If this is something you are interested in, I'd want to give you some actual advice before you did it.
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Old 08-07-06, 08:12 AM
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Our cycling tours of France, we sort of put together ourselves. How to organize it, depends upon your expectations. Are you totally dependent upon your bikes. Are you going to rent a car some of the time, and connect favorite locations together via a rented car. Thats' how we did our trips. We went with several people and the non cyclists did sag.
Books we used were Lonely Planet and "Cycling in France" published by Ulysses Books. Cycling in France gave us some great cycling routes. We took our own bikes and used a Hollywood Rack to haul bikes around in order to connect the various more distant segments of our tour together. If you have no car, could put the loose ends together via the train.
I have found no comprehensive book that ties together a tour of the whole country in one single route.
I'd suggest looking into the web site "Federation Francaise de Cycletourisme." or FFCT. There can be found lots of information about cycle touring.
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