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Where in Europe?

Old 08-24-14, 02:27 PM
  #1  
gribley
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Where in Europe?

hi all,

I am contemplating a very long tour, starting in Europe, going eastwards. Europe is the right place for me to start in terms of timing (starting, say, June 1), and culture and language, and ease for the first few months of a tour.

I am interested in almost everywhere in Europe, but I would prioritize: (1) good riding, (2) landscapes including mountains, valleys, and water features, (3) interesting history, (4) cost. For the sake of cost, and the sake of novelty, I would like to spend some time in the south and east/central Europe. If I start June 1, I imagine that I have about 5 months before it gets too cold, depending on where I end up.

The more I draw lines on the map, the less I can come up with a route that even vaguely goes in one direction. I'd like to start off in the far west, Shannon or maybe Gibraltar. I'd like to see some Roman Empire history in Spain and Italy. I'd like to end somewhere geographically sensible where I can catch a flight. Istanbul would make sense for Central/Eastern Europe, and possibly even for riding along to Georgia (although that part sounds rather dull). On the other hand, I am intrigued by the northern countries and would really love to end in St Petersburg, although that has consequences in terms of weather.

A couple examples of the twisty routes I am contemplating:

Shannon to St P via the Mediterranean (!), about 9000 km
https://goo.gl/maps/j0RmV

Shannon to Istabul via Italy, about 8500 km
https://goo.gl/maps/QIfy6

Obviously I am all over the map, quite literally. So I put it to you:
Where are your favorite rides in Europe? What suggestions do you have about places not to miss? Where is the riding particularly good?

All feedback welcome. Thanks!
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Old 08-24-14, 03:12 PM
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Ypur routes aren't displaying for me, for some reason.

Europe is big and extremely diverse. You could agonise for months about your route and still be forced to miss lots of places that are well worth seeing, and riding through.

Were I starting from Shannon I might ride north and east and get the ferry to Stanraer, then ride up the west coast of Scotland and down the east. That would certainly meet your requirements in terms of scenery, water features and great riding. Coming south (spend a day or so in Edinburgh along the way) into northern England, there's a ferry from Newcastle to Amsterdam. From there I'd go south through Belgium (the Netherlands and Belgium are great to ride through, there's an easily-followed network of cycle routes that keep you off-road) into France. Down the Atlantic coast, taking in the Loire Valley on the way (chateaux, wine, great food, excellent campsites) and take in the Pyrenees on the France/Spain border. northern Spain is interesting, maybe ride as far south as Barcelona before turning north again. Across the south of France to the Alps, then into Italy from the north. If roman ruins interest you there is plenty to choose from, and there is great cycling all over the country. From there, maybe Austria and Hungary and then turn south and ride through the Balkans? Terrific scenery, not hugely expensive, takes you into Greece, Bulgaria, Turkey. Don't just stop at Istanbul, a loop down to Ephesus would take you to roman ruins the equal of anything in Italy.

That's just off the top of my head. You could devise a dozen equally interesting routes, including more of the northern European countries.
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Old 08-24-14, 03:45 PM
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I think it's a good idea to look at existing cycle routes. Some areas have few roads suitable for cycling and taking a route that has already been deemed to meet the requirements makes for better travelling. The German bikeline books are very good and cover an extensive network, branching through central Europe and Scandinavia from Germany. Most routes are quiet, although you will meet other cyclists along the Donauradweg and on routes to Santiago de Compostela.

Looking at your demands, I'd say the R1, from Calais to St. Petersburg, might be what you're looking for. I think it would take abt. three months to complete?
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Old 08-24-14, 05:57 PM
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Originally Posted by gribley View Post
If I start June 1, I imagine that I have about 5 months before it gets too cold, depending on where I end up.
Something to keep in mind is accommodation.

When we cycled northward up the west coast of France on the Velodyssey Route at the end of September 2012, we discovered that a lot of campgrounds, hotels, etc. closed at the end of September. It became rather challenging in a couple places to find accommodation that was open.

Also August is a big tourist/travel month. We were doing the Rhine Route in August 2012 and the challenge there was finding a place with space for a small tent ... many of the campgrounds were full. Other less popular parts of Europe would have likely been a better choice for August.

Before you make a firm decision, you might want to check what time of year the campgrounds close in the area you want to travel. Depending where you go, you might be all right, but it is good to have an idea about that in advance.
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Old 08-25-14, 09:34 PM
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Thanks for the route suggestions, chasm. That's a lot like what I was thinking of, although I have trouble nailing down specifics in east/central Europe.


Jonathandavid, I hadn't seen those routes before -- excellent. Maybe even if I don't ride them end to end I can use parts of them, especially the second half of the R1! I'll check those out.


Machka, I hadn't thought about availability. Unfortunately, I expect to be free to start in June, which is pretty much peak time. But I'll look into it -- great point.


Anyone else have suggestions for favorite routes in Europe, especially East or Central?


thanks.
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Old 08-26-14, 07:13 AM
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Why don't you chose to go over Croatia, especially coastal part? Roads are good, costs should be much lower than Italy. Nature and sights beautifull...
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Old 08-26-14, 10:30 AM
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Shannon Ireland's airport has been taken over largely as a Military refueling stop .. between the US & The Mid East War theatre.

I'd suggest Dublin Instead ... Its north of the metro area.. you dont have to go in to the Metro area If you choose otherwise ..


Shiphol AMS NL is the easiest airport in my experience of the major international, [lower ticket priced] airports
to cycle into or out of .. as trip start/end.

The NL National rail station is in the lower level of the airport .. too . so get a ticket to Lisbon or any where else from there..

Last edited by fietsbob; 08-26-14 at 10:43 AM.
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Old 08-26-14, 11:48 AM
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Both of your proposed routes through France seem to avoid some of the best touring areas you'll find anywhere. You touch on a little bit of Brittany which is nice, but after that, you'll be along the unexciting coastal area along the Atlantic, and the crowded Mediterranean coastal area which is best avoided. What are the nice parts of France for touring? IMO, the Dordogne & Lot valleys in the SW, the Loire Valley, Normandy, Alsace, Auvergne, Burgundy, Pyrenees, Alps, and certain inland parts of Provence. Corsica is fantastic, too.

I don't know what your nationality is, but there are now limits on how long many nationalities can stay in the Schengen Zone without getting a visa. The Schengen zone is NOT the same as the European Union.
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Old 08-26-14, 12:14 PM
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Cornwall to Brittany Ferry .. Plymouth to Roscoff , worked for me ('88)
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Old 08-26-14, 01:22 PM
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Originally Posted by gribley View Post
A couple examples of the twisty routes I am contemplating:

Shannon to St P via the Mediterranean (!), about 9000 km
https://goo.gl/maps/j0RmV

Shannon to Istabul via Italy, about 8500 km
https://goo.gl/maps/QIfy6
Just had a chance to look at your routes ...

Are you thinking of following the Velodyssey Route? If so, that's a good choice ... gorgeous beaches, lovely little towns, and you can nip into places like Bordeaux along the way. It's a different perspective on France. We've been to France several times, but did part of the Velodyssey Route on on our most recent trip ... and it was our favourite portion of the trip.
Velodyssey, the Atlantic cycling route ? The Velodyssey

I'd also recommend Chamonix, Mont Blanc, and the nearby portions of Switzerland for something completely different from those lovely beaches along the west coast of France.
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Old 08-26-14, 03:26 PM
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Originally Posted by fietsbob View Post
Shannon Ireland's airport has been taken over largely as a Military refueling stop .. between the US & The Mid East War theatre.I'd suggest Dublin Instead ... Its north of the metro area.. you dont have to go in to the Metro area If you choose otherwise ..


Shiphol AMS NL is the easiest airport in my experience of the major international, [lower ticket priced] airports
to cycle into or out of .. as trip start/end.

The NL National rail station is in the lower level of the airport .. too . so get a ticket to Lisbon or any where else from there..
Rubbish.

U.S. troops did have short (1-2 hour) stop overs there a few years back but even then it was still a normal operational airport.

If he wants to start here in Ireland both Dublin and Shannon are equally good. Lots of cheap flights onward from Dublin also so could fly say to Faro (a route I've flown)in the Algarve Portugal mid-June and get in Southern Europe before it gets too hot.

Interesting that the OP should mention Georgia as 'boring' having recently read an interview with an Irish guy who cycled from Ireland to China who said his favourite country was Georgia for the people and scenery.

I like France, its got history, scenery, lots of quiet roads, good food, plenty of cheap camping........
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Old 08-26-14, 03:41 PM
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1~2 hours per plane with many flights per week . until the whole thing is over ... right after the last drop of oil is gone .
and the Khyber pass is as flat as Kansas.

My friend Patrick going back to visit family in Galway says otherwise,, and so to these folks

Pit Stop Plowshares Action/Trial

I went around there.. Co Kerry & North .. dont have to fly into Shannon, to see the countryside on the west coast

SFO to LHR to Dublin Was cheaper anyhow..

only 2 days pootling on the bike to Killarney from Dublin , max.. distractions aside.

OK if wanting a westernmost place to have your airplane touch down .. yes Shannon is on the western coast .

maybe Boston is where you start/connect from (outside of Military airlifts)

Last edited by fietsbob; 08-26-14 at 04:44 PM.
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Old 08-26-14, 09:50 PM
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I only picked Shannon because it's on the west coast -- I figure, if you're going to bike west to east, you might as well start all the way west.


Caretaker, I didn't mean that Georgia would be boring! -- I'd love to see Georgia/Armenia/Azerbaijan. It's the 1,100 km along the Black Sea to get there that sounds a bit monotonous. I've already spent quite a bit of time in Turkey, so that's rather lower priority than other areas.


Axolotl (great name) -- thanks for the pointers on France. My routes were just ideas, starting from the thought that I'd love to ride Ireland but I don't want to miss Spain. The areas you name sound great. Not sure how to work in Spain, France, and Italy, without swinging all over Europe, so I may need to cut some out. But I have lots of time, so that's not the problem.


I was actually just driving in Normandy last month, and the roads were among the narrowest I've ever seen -- they would have been simply terrifying to bike on, with barely enough room for two cars to pass, and no shoulder at all. I had a similar problem in Scotland, where the shoulders were nonexistent by American standards; and in many places there just weren't "back roads" in the sense of being little used. It was often stressful. I'd like to find good back roads for relatively safe riding, at least better than those I saw in Normandy...


Croatia sounds great, and in fact much of the eastern Adriatic looks pretty good. I'm interested in Albania too. Other suggestions of favorite rides for East/Central Europe?
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Old 08-26-14, 10:04 PM
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On axolotl's point about Schengen -- whoa! I didn't realize how hard it could be to stay more than 90 days in Schengen (I am USA). At the moment, it seems plausible to just spend 90 days, exiting through Croatia, down through the Balkans and Bulgaria to Turkey. But once Bulgaria enters Schengen -- possibly as early as the end of this year -- that route will be closed, and getting to Turkey requires going through Greece or Bulgaria.


An interesting wrinkle. It may be fairly easy to overstay the Schengen visit when *exiting* in the southeast. I'll have to see how this develops. Thanks for the tip!
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Old 08-26-14, 11:38 PM
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Originally Posted by gribley View Post
I was actually just driving in Normandy last month, and the roads were among the narrowest I've ever seen -- they would have been simply terrifying to bike on, with barely enough room for two cars to pass, and no shoulder at all. I had a similar problem in Scotland, where the shoulders were nonexistent by American standards; and in many places there just weren't "back roads" in the sense of being little used. It was often stressful. I'd like to find good back roads for relatively safe riding, at least better than those I saw in Normandy...
Personally, I like those very narrow back roads ... loved the ones we cycled on in Scotland!! Usually the traffic is quite light and a little bit slower paced.

If you follow routes, like the Velodyssey Route or the Rhone Route or several others, they will take you away from the traffic for the most part.


And yes, the Schengen thing is a consideration. The UK is not part of the Schengen agreement ... or at least it wasn't in 2012 ... so we spent some time in the UK at the beginning and end of our journey that year.
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Old 08-27-14, 02:21 AM
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Originally Posted by gribley View Post


I was actually just driving in Normandy last month, and the roads were among the narrowest I've ever seen -- they would have been simply terrifying to bike on, with barely enough room for two cars to pass, and no shoulder at all. I had a similar problem in Scotland, where the shoulders were nonexistent by American standards; and in many places there just weren't "back roads" in the sense of being little used. It was often stressful. I'd like to find good back roads for relatively safe riding, at least better than those I saw in Normandy...

This is Europe you're talking about. "Back roads" are narrow, most of them were laid down before the invention of the internal combustion engine. As for shoulders, forget about it - very often they don't exist.

You'll get used to it. Cycling in most European countries (even the UK) is safer than in the States, sometimes dramatically so. Driver behaviour towards cyclists is often better, too.
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Old 08-27-14, 05:23 AM
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I endorse what's been said above about 'back roads'.

I have hosted Americans cycle touring Ireland and their commonest complaint is about the narrow country roads. Drivers generally are considerate and especially so in France and once you get over the initial feeling of vulnerability you'll realise you're probably safer than cycling at home.
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Old 08-27-14, 06:38 AM
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gribley, I was touring in Normandy with a friend a few months ago. We actively sought out little roads. The narrowest ones were the best ones because they were devoid of traffic. It really wasn't the slightest bit scary. I can imagine that if we had been driving a car, it might have felt different. One of the things that make France so great for touring is that outside of the mountains, there is a superb network of small secondary roads with very little traffic.

We spent a couple of days biking on the Channel Islands. The roads there were much narrower than in Normandy. It was often unpleasant on Guernsey because many of the narrow one-lane roads had lots of traffic. I think that was because other roads were being worked on, so traffic was diverted to the country lanes we happen to have selected.
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