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France logistics/bicycle help please

Old 04-05-07, 07:02 PM
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NineHotel
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France logistics/bicycle help please

Hello -

I am trying to plan a tour in France/Germany this June for two adults and one (strong) 11 year old. We have suitable bicycles but the logistics of bringing 3 bikes, 3 bike boxes, stowing 3 boxes, and getting away from the airport just don't seem workable. I have a friend in France from which I can borrow one suitable bicycle, but need 2 more. Medium and small adult size. I can bring racks, tools, etc. and work on used bikes to make them suitable for our tour. I am a good bike mechanic and have toured some in FR and Germany myself.

The plan is to fly into CDG then drive to visit friends north of Paris and pick up one bike. I still need two more bikes. We will ride during the day, carry a very sparse load of gear, and stay in hotels in remote towns scattered about the countryside.

Can anyone suggest ways of dealing with the logistics of 3 bike boxes if we choose to bring our own?

Can anyone suggest a bicycle rental place where we can get multi-speed suitable bicycles, either buy or rent, for reasonable prices? Thank you, Leo.
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Old 04-05-07, 10:35 PM
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The easy way out would be to rent a van (Renault Master or similar), haul all three boxed bikes to your friends place, and store them there (is this an option?). The Renault Master is a 9 seat van (driver +8), which I believe is the largest vehicle you can drive in Europe without a commercial driver's license. Googling "car rental Paris" or "van rental Paris" should give you a bunch of rental companies, most of them have pretty good descriptions of the vehicles on their website.

I was able to take a boxed bicycle on the RER (commuter train) out of CDG with no trouble. The TGV trains are a little tougher, they usually require that bicycles be in boxes of a certain size limit. I took a bicycle in a box that was bigger than the limit on a bunch of TGV trains, no problems except for one conductor who yelled at me and gave up when he figured out that I couldn't/wouldn't understand him. Check the SNCF website for full details on current bicycle rules if you go this route.

On my last two trips to Europe, I flew with an unboxed bike, loaded up the bike when I got off the plane, and rode out of the airport. I've done this at London Heathrow, London Gatwick and Florence Peretola. Check the maps very carefully before you try this, especially with an 11 year old.
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Old 04-06-07, 04:44 AM
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When you say bike boxes, do you mean big pieces of cardboard that you tape around your bike before loading onto the airplane, or do you mean an expensice suitcase designed to carry disassembled bicycles?

If the former, then just throw them away when you land. If the latter, then enquire if the airport itself has a type of storage area.

Or, fly in and out of Frankfurt, Germany, you can leave the boxes here, and you can borrow a bike or two from me (I have 7, including a tandem), and have all of your problems sorted out in one fell swoop.
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Old 04-06-07, 08:31 AM
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Thanks Mark - please tell me more about traveling via air with an unboxed bike. I checked van rentals first - $2000 for 10 days for one that would hold all 3. Kinda defeats the purpose of a bike vacation to spend that kind of coin. Will also look at a van taxi service. I can stow the boxes at a friend's house that I am visiting when we first get there.

Airport storage sounds like a good idea, but need specifics as to if and how this works. Thanks all, Leo.
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Old 04-06-07, 08:18 PM
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Originally Posted by NineHotel
Thanks Mark - please tell me more about traveling via air with an unboxed bike. I checked van rentals first - $2000 for 10 days for one that would hold all 3. Kinda defeats the purpose of a bike vacation to spend that kind of coin. Will also look at a van taxi service. I can stow the boxes at a friend's house that I am visiting when we first get there.

Airport storage sounds like a good idea, but need specifics as to if and how this works. Thanks all, Leo.
I guess I should have checked prices before I suggested the van rental, right?

I've travelled on British Airways (May '04) and Lufthansa (May '06) with an unboxed bike, just pulled off the pedals and turned the handlebars sideways. Both airlines took the bike for free, both treated the bike well. Check the website for whichever airline you're using and find out exactly what the rules are, get to the airport early so the baggage handlers aren't rushed, and try to keep the connecting flights to a minimum. I've been researching next year's trip and BA now requires a plastic bag and Lufthansa now charges for a bike, so things are getting tougher.

I think travelling with an unboxed bike works best if you're going to bicycle in and out of the airport, hauling an unboxed bike into and out of taxis/rental vehicles/ trains could be a drag. Like I said, I just put on the panniers at the destination airport and started riding. The van shuttle that I took to and from DIA charged people for an extra seat if they brought bicycles or other oversized luggage, luckily I rode for free. The RER trains out of CdG took a boxed bicycle no problem when I was there, you might want to check their rules about complete bicycles. If you can take a fully assembled bicycle on an RER train that might be a good way to get through Paris and partway to your friend's house without dealing with bad traffic.
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Old 04-07-07, 05:51 AM
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Originally Posted by NineHotel
Thanks Mark - please tell me more about traveling via air with an unboxed bike. I checked van rentals first - $2000 for 10 days for one that would hold all 3. Kinda defeats the purpose of a bike vacation to spend that kind of coin. Will also look at a van taxi service. I can stow the boxes at a friend's house that I am visiting when we first get there.

Airport storage sounds like a good idea, but need specifics as to if and how this works. Thanks all, Leo.
How far is your friend from the airport?


If close:

You can rent the van for the day and return it.

Take a taxi (maybe folks that know CDG could tell you if there are ones large enough)

Take a bus or a train (probably what you are trying to avoid).


Stay the first and last night at a hotel near the airport that has a shuttle. Get them to agree to store your boxes for free during the stay.
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Old 04-09-07, 01:56 PM
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Hi there! I spent seven weeks last summer touring western France on my own and was having similar problems with logistics. I ended up having my LBS pack up my bike and I sent it to my hotel in France so I didn't have to deal with getting it out of Paris and 200 miles south where my tour began. It cost me a couple hundred bucks, but it ended up being worth every penny to avoid the headache of the logistics, and the hotel disposed of all the packing material for me. On the trip back to the 'States, I had a bike shop in Saintes pack it in a used box for me (cost me about 10 bucks), duct-taped an old skateboard I bought at a jumble sale for one euro on the bottom and wheeled it through town to the train station. Local trains were very accommodating regarding the transport of boxed and unboxed bikes, so I took the TER down to Bordeaux to catch the one TGV to CDG that allows bicycles. It was incredibly hassle-free and Air France did not charge me a cent to bring the bike aboard the plane. It arrived unscathed in the U.S and only got roughed up by the idiots at the Cincy airport who turned the box upside down and shook it around.

You might consider taking one bike with you on the plane, sending one bike a couple weeks ahead of time, and using the one that's already there. I'm envious of your trip-- I'm sure you'll have a wonderful time!

ETA: The main purveyors of bikes in France seem to be Decathlon and Bouticycle (there is a third retailer as well and the name totally escapes me right now-- their logo is green, though, I remember that much). Decathlon almost certainly doesn't do rentals, but Bouticycles are independently owned from what I gather, and I did see some that offered rental bikes, but I believe those were more for immediate use around town for a day or two. It's difficult to find bike rental online because the French are not represented online nearly as much as North American entities. I was amazed at the number of bike shops I encountered in places that appeared to have nothing due to my searches online. Also, places that sell small engine vehicles like scooters and motorbikes also often sell bicycles, so that's another place to check for rentals and/or packing materials.

Last edited by velomedieval; 04-09-07 at 02:12 PM.
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Old 04-09-07, 01:58 PM
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RER trains from CDG into Paris take bikes unboxed
metro durin rush hours dicier, I took mine and got looks that were not nice, but having said that as I was trying to get up the escalator, I started slipping and 2 older ladies grabbed the bike wheels and held.as we reached the top them steady till we reached the top,they both said next time use the lift,which wasn't working that day

Cabs cost about 50Euros to center Paris from CDG and NOT all are large enuf for bikes
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Old 04-09-07, 02:04 PM
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Some airlines have had them waiting for you when you arrive at the airport. Be sure they know what you want and check to see they keep their promise. B/A promised me a bike box, I was to purchase. It turned out to be a big plastic bag. Bike boxes are 5 bucks. No loss. Some buses at certain airports have spaces for bikes. About getting bikes about on trains. Use the 'TER' trains. (The slow trains.) No bike box needed.
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Old 04-18-07, 01:51 AM
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if you bring your bikes you might just take the tgv from paris to wherever you want to start your route. easier than getting into paris (i remember a VERY long line to buy train tickets into the city from CDG) and then finding your way out again or renting a car. also, and this ended up working but it wasn't perfect: i bought a canvas carry bag from performance for something like 40 bucks, removed the plastic strip at the bottom and packed my bike into it for train travel. it was more or less within the tgv specificed limits, but those didn't seem to matter much anyway as i generally just left it in the entrance/luggage area of the train car. i remember seeing pictures of nice luggage racks on websites and reading that the bike box or whatever had to be within that size. never actually saw those racks. nobody ever said anything to me or asked me to move the bike. i just kept my eye on it.
the performance bag rolled up to about the size of a sleeping bag and i just tied it to my rear rack. it was heavy and annoying but i did end up using it for a few train connections including finally leaving paris for cdg at the end of the trip and for putting it on the plane. but i'd find some extra padding if your going to do that...
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Old 04-18-07, 02:36 AM
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Originally Posted by NineHotel
Can anyone suggest a bicycle rental place where we can get multi-speed suitable bicycles, either buy or rent, for reasonable prices? Thank you, Leo.
www.bluemarble.org set me up nicely (six days in the Loire in March).
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Old 06-11-08, 10:26 AM
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Just got back

Well we did our trip and had a great time. A few tidbits here and more detail later.

Bikes - a borrowed '86 Schwinn Traveler for me and two low end VVTs (MTBs) for the other two. I spent about 6 hours working on the Schwinn but got it in usable shape. Put racks, pedals, and seats on all 3 bikes of our own.

Luggage - REI racks on the rear, Nashbar pannier bags. Two sets of the larger bags, one set of the commuter bags. The large bags were $20 each set and $14 for the commuters. No problems at all, worked flawlessly, 100% satisfied for the task at hand. Had the commuters in the mix in case we ran into heal clearance problems. Turns out we had none, even with my size 14 feet and the too small for me Traveler.

Route - We rode from Bony FR to Cambrai, caught a train from there to Rouen, rode the river west for a day, bused it to La Havre, bus across the river to Han Fleur (I'll fix spelling later), then rode that coast (D513 and D514) all the way down to the US Cemetery on Omaha beach. Trained it back from Beaux to Peronne then biked from there to our friend's house in Bony.

We got the train and bus system pretty well figured out.

We could have used better bikes and will for the next tour, wherever it is (eastern Europe is high on the list at this time).

The Bike Fridays are getting a strong lookover right now.

The winds blow from the south along the coast; better to reverse the route we did and start lower in Brittany out on the peninsula I'd say.

Took bed rolls but had room for a tent - next time will tent camp some.

Pics and more details to follow. Thanks all for the hints! Leo.
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Old 06-11-08, 05:23 PM
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Obviously you don't have time to get folding bikes, but for future trips, you might consider it. That's what I did recently, and it worked out great. Got off the plane, picked up my suitcase (with bike in it), took the Air France bus into Paris (12euros). Later, took the bike-in-suitcase on the Metro and TGV with no problems.

If you can't get folding bikes, I'd ship the bikes beforehand. Or take becnal up on his offer.

Keep in mind that full-sized bikes (boxed) will cost between $100 and $200 extra airline costs on each leg of the trip. Shipping will also cost alot, but will be alot easier to deal with.
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