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Help two wannabe-tourers gets started on a short Euro tour

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Help two wannabe-tourers gets started on a short Euro tour

Old 08-13-13, 07:04 PM
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hey girl
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Help two wannabe-tourers gets started on a short Euro tour

Well, one Wannabe Tourer and one Needs-a-Little-More-Convincing:

My husband and I are urban, car-free, bike for transportationists. I had the itch to do more than commute to work/ Target, and a few weeks ago we did our first overnight bike camping trip. I think the mister could take it or leave it, but now I just want to go BIGGER. We have a trip planned to Tuscany in the Fall of 2014 and were already planning to tack on another trip the week before or the week after, so I saw an opportunity.

I would really like to talk him into making that extra trip a short bike tour. Ideally, it would be 3-5 days with biking 25-35 miles per day. Although we are fit, we are not touring fit, and I'd rather arrive at a destination refreshed enough to enjoy it before crashing for the night.

The actual country is not critical. I'd prefer NOT Holland, though, as we are already going there this year and we'd like to see some new stuff. A point-to-point route would be nice but is not important. Two top ideas would be a short tour of Italy to end in Tuscany, or France, Alsace or Provence in particular.

Being brand spanking new to this makes me lean toward a guided tour, where our inexperience would be the least damaging. However, I'd love to hear your opinions/ experiences with specific tour companies or guided tours in general. The flip side of the guided tour is that we aren't made of money, and I can't find trips for less than $5000 per person. Our budget would be closer to the $1500-2000 range per person, if that included hotel stays and bike rental (tangent: better to rent over there or bring our commuter bikes over?). While I am open to camping, I just don't think I can talk husbo into it.

To summarize:

How does a complete noobie start planning a short bike tour in Europe? I'm sorry for long winded and non-specific, it's just that I truly, truly don't know where to get started. Any and all advice and suggestions would be greatly appreciated!
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Old 08-13-13, 08:29 PM
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Thing I found Though you may not want to tour NL Shiphol AMS airport is the best laid out one Ive used ..

You can book Rail Connections from there ,, the Station is in the lower level of the airport building..
take the train to Strasbourg , perhaps ?



Another potential Fly into Shannon Airport on the west coast of Ireland .. There is an independent owned hostel association .

and more of those than The IYHA ones , as well as the B&Bs ,, might be able to bus between towns then rent bikes
to check out the surrounding countryside ..

I brought my own Bike , so I dont have actual rental service feedback
but it seems local use is more likely than a long term rental for the whole time.


My planning often extended to buying a paper OS map and dropping by the Town information Centre
in towns, when I got there ..

Last edited by fietsbob; 08-13-13 at 08:39 PM.
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Old 08-14-13, 02:29 AM
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This is a newly opened cycling route ... the whole route goes from Plymouth, UK, across the channel and down the west coast of France to Spain.
http://www.velodyssey.com/

Rowan and I joined the route near Bordeaux (train to Bordeaux, beautiful paved trail out to the coast), and cycled up to La Rochelle. We enjoyed it ... lots of little towns, huge beaches ...

The story begins on Thursday 13 September ... http://www.machka.net/RTW_2012/RTW_Europe_Main_2012.htm
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Old 08-14-13, 05:34 AM
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Iron Donkey offers some nice looking, self-guided (you ride, they transport your luggage, but there is no daily support), B&B tours of Ireland.

25-35 miles is not much. Even if you average 10 mph, which is slow without carrying a full load of camping gear, you are talking a max of 3.5 hrs. of pedaling time. Most of the supported tours of that nature that I have seen cater to the casual rider who wants to sip wine and eat cheese. They are very expensive.

Another option is to go to a "cycling camp" where you stay in one place and do day rides. This spring I spent some time at the Italian Cycling Center in Borso del Grappa, Italy. Borso is in the Veneto region. Some very nice riding in that area:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/davez20...7633982080965/

You can easily take a train trip to Venice for the day from nearby Basano del Grappa.

Cost was about $140/day/person, which included room, three meals and all the wine you could drink at lunch and dinner. Bike rental is extra. There is another camp right near by, but I cannot remember the name right now.
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Old 08-14-13, 05:42 AM
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Originally Posted by hey girl View Post
How does a complete noobie start planning a short bike tour in Europe?
You dive in. And take a credit card.

Yes, it sounds flippant, but really, it's Europe and you can't go wrong with any method you choose (with the one caveat that finding accommodations in July can be harder, but I've never been turned away from a campground).

That said, I rented a bike from these guys once: http://www.bluemarble.org/Introtrip.html. They have a wide range of trips from packaged to self-guided.

Given your list, the Alsacian Wine Road would be a great destination.

Taking your bikes might be a pain for a 5 day tour; you could likely find a hotel that would rent you bikes (for ca. 25-day).
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Old 08-14-13, 06:11 AM
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Originally Posted by indyfabz View Post
Iron Donkey offers some nice looking, self-guided (you ride, they transport your luggage, but there is no daily support), B&B tours of Ireland.

25-35 miles is not much. Even if you average 10 mph, which is slow without carrying a full load of camping gear, you are talking a max of 3.5 hrs. of pedaling time. Most of the supported tours of that nature that I have seen cater to the casual rider who wants to sip wine and eat cheese. They are very expensive.

Another option is to go to a "cycling camp" where you stay in one place and do day rides. This spring I spent some time at the Italian Cycling Center in Borso del Grappa, Italy. Borso is in the Veneto region. Some very nice riding in that area:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/davez20...7633982080965/

You can easily take a train trip to Venice for the day from nearby Basano del Grappa.

Cost was about $140/day/person, which included room, three meals and all the wine you could drink at lunch and dinner. Bike rental is extra. There is another camp right near by, but I cannot remember the name right now.
This looks fantastic, indyfabz! I will look closer for my own trip planning...

I think this would be a perfect solution for you, OP. Another region in Italy to see, the price is good if still up to date, and not too far of a train trip from Tuscany. Day trips are really a nice way to do it, you don't need to carry too much with you (if anything) or look for place to sleep.

And since you'll be in Netherlands this year, why not rent a bike for a day or two and do some exploring?
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Old 08-14-13, 06:51 AM
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I started touring over ten years ago with a company in Brittany (France)run by a British couple. They have been in business since 1989 so are very experienced.

Over the years they have developed the range of holidays they offer from camping to hotel to gite based cycle tours. Their season runs from May to September but also offer the gite option out of season at reduced rates.

I found them very satisfactory and extremely good value. No problem recommending them.

Their website is chock full of advice and information on cycle touring and France.

http://www.bretonbikes.com/

Last edited by Caretaker; 08-14-13 at 06:54 AM.
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Old 08-14-13, 12:07 PM
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fietsbob, machka, indyfabz, pedaleur, lucille, and caretaker: Thank you, everyone! These are some really great suggestions and I am getting SO EXCITED to start planning this trip!
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Old 08-14-13, 01:14 PM
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Just remembered that I have a friend who goes to a place in/near Ravenna, Italy (Rimini perhaps), which is on the Adriatic coast. I will see if I can get some info. on it.

In general, it's not that hard to plan a trip in Europe. Back in 2000 I spent 7 weeks touring southern Spain. I got a detailed Michelin map of the region and a copy of The Rough Guide to Andalucia. I figured out where I wanted go to go and connected the dots using as many of the smallest roads I could while still passing through enough towns with services. Worked out great. Many small and mid-size towns in many European countires have places to eat and sleep. I highly recommend the Rough Guide travel book series. They are meticulously researched and have a lot of details, both commercial and historical, for even out of the way places. And they don't sugar coat things. For example, if a hotel sucks, they will tell you it sucks.

BTW...In the area where I was in the spring there is a great bike route up the Brenta river. Heading north, it starts north of Basano in Campese. You travel up river startring on the Via Contanini. The road changes names as you parallel the west bank of the river and pass through little towns. It eventually takes you to a bike trail. Some parts are true trail and other parts are on quiet little roads. You can take that all the way to Trento, some 75+ miles away. If you don't mind climbing, you can cut off the trail much earlier and go up the 14 or so sweeping switchbacks to Enego and then on to Foze, Galio and Asiago, of cheese fame. There is also a long, signed loop route that passes through Borso, goes up the Brenta and then climbs up to a bike-friendly lake district. We did part of it during a day ride to Tesino. It was was gorgeous. Probably take 2-3 days to do all of it at your mileage. I can see the brown sign for it outside the Municipal Building using Google Sreet View but cannot make out the full name. It's huge cycling country. One Sunday we saw hundeds people riding during a short 40 mile ride.
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Old 08-14-13, 02:08 PM
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Here is the loop route I mentioned:

http://www.italiaoutdoors.com/bike-v...pa-grappa-ring

Not as long as I remembered. The one real climb we did was a bit after Cismon. The road is blocked off to cars and looks abandoned, but it's rideable by bike. The climb is not that hard. It takes you up to the lake I mentioned where there are restaurants and such that cater to cyclists. The section between Arsie and Fonzaso is also very nice. We turned left at Fonzaso.
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Old 08-14-13, 08:00 PM
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just in case you don't already know about:

http://www.crazyguyonabike.com/index.html?

it's a good place to learn about the experiences of others!
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Old 08-15-13, 04:21 AM
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I have done quite a few 2-week bike tours in different European countries, some camping, some by accommodation. If you go after the high season, then you don't need to plan anything except the first night accommodation. I turn up in any city, town or even village and have found accommodation in Sept with no difficulties.
One of my fav countries for bike touring is Slovenia, it has a whole variety of different terrains from flatland to Alpine, vineyards to meadows, all packed into a very compact size with a climate similar to N Italy. I used tourist farms for most accommodation and there is a very good bike infratsructure inc bike hire.
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Old 08-16-13, 09:59 PM
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If you're going to Tuscany anyway, that would be a great place to do a week long bicycle tour. There are some great cycling roads between Bologna (OK, it's not Tuscany) and Florence, and the countryside south of Florence is full of excellent cycling roads. The Lonely Planet Cycling Guide to Italy would be a great starting point to plan some tours, and the Touring Club Italiano road maps are great for putting together cycle tours. Get the TCI maps from http://www.trektools.com/default.asp. Rough Guides publishes excellent travel guides, although they are not cycle specific.

Bringing your own bicycle over to Europe seems to get harder and more expensive every year, so you might want to just rent or buy something over there the first time around, unless you're really picky about the bike you ride. Ditto camping- Baggage allowances aren't as generous as they used to be, and camping in Europe isn't nearly the wilderness experience that it is in the US. If your husband isn't crazy about camping to start with (what's WRONG with that man?) then it might be better to rely on inns, hostels and agriturismos (working farms that offer lodging, sometimes very elegant) for your first European tour.
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Old 08-17-13, 10:28 AM
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Re: Help two wannabe-tourers gets started on a short Euro tour

We just finished a bike tour of Germany this year and I have two recommendations:

1. Mosel bike route: easy path, next to river, historic towns, beautiful scenery, great white wines, very nice small town people and "zimmer frei" (free rooms i.e. bed and breakfasts) in some family's home for around 50-60 euros a night.

2. The German wineroute (Deutsche weinstrasse) in the Rhineland Pfalz region (north-south bike route about 70 miles from Bad durkheim to Wissembourg, France), rolling hills, vineyards, castles, wine festivals on weekends, zimmer frei for overnight accomodations. At Wissembourg, you can turn around and go south to north on the Ruben and Kraut route (turnip and cabbage route) through farms: flatter, easier riding and beautiful country and very nice people.

These two routes were perfect as out first touring in Europe. Hope this helps. Feel free to ask for more info.

-Maulik
Winston Salem, NC
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Old 08-20-13, 09:50 AM
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Guys, there is so much great information in this thread and I am getting more excited by the minute! I think I found a tour that sounds like it meets our needs, a short 3 day tour of Alsace with Cyclomundo. Thank you everyone for your thoughtful responses!
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