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European Cycling Vacation - who's done it?(15 posts)

European Cycling Vacation - who's done it?gmc
May 4, 2003 5:20 AM
Looking to spend a vacation next spring / summer riding in Europe. Not sure if my buddy and I want to strike out on our own or go with one of the organized "tours". If we go the organized route we'd me much more interested in something like Hampsten's Cinghiale oufit or Vele Echappe than a loaded-down type tour. Very interested in la bella vita in addition to riding.

Thinking mostly of Italy or France but would very much consider Spain or any board recommendations as well.

We're both road riders putting in 100-200 mile weeks, depending on how much work and the rest of life interferes.

My questions:
- What other companies are out there? (I also know of Velo Classic Tours)
- Can anyone recommend any of them, or discuss pros/cons?
- Has anyone done one of these in conjunction with seeing pro races?
- Going it on our own: resources out there to help decide where to go, itinerary planning, etc?

Thanks for the help!
Haven't done one, but...Jakle
May 4, 2003 6:51 AM
My wife and I just got back from Switz, Austria and Germany. I can tell you that next year we will be biking there. There are a few things I observed that might be useful info for you. Switzerland, for instance, has 9 bike only highways that cover most of the country. These roads are for bike only, no cars. Germany has a very cool route that goes through picture perfect towns. try this address(www.romantischestrasse.de). All three countries are incredibly bike friendly. There is a hotel chain throughout Europe that will forward your luggage to the next hotel for you. The trains are bike friendly as well.

After travelling there for the second time in as many years, I realise that paying the kind of money that organized tour companies get is pretty crazy. Trek travel wants over 2k for about a week in Europe. Erickson wants over 2500.00 per person for two weeks. That is totally off base. I believe that if you can't bike Europe in style for 150.00 per day for two, you are paying too much. That would be 100.00 for the Hotel and 50.00 for food. You can get a really nice place for 100.00 in the Spring. On that note, I would try and go in the Spring. The tourists are at a low. Even the usually over crowded places were very quiet, and rates are low.

Let me know if you want the hotel info and I'll try and find it.

Good luck,

More infoJakle
May 4, 2003 7:25 AM
It appears as if I gave mis-inforamtion. The 9 bikeways in Switzerland aren't necessarily "no car" roads, but they are designed to be bike friendly. Check this wesite out for more info.
http://switzerland.isyours.com/e/guide/basics/bikes.html
Have you checked out the Trento Bike Pages?Trent in WA
May 4, 2003 8:53 AM
If not, you should; they're at http://www-math.science.unitn.it/Bike/ and feature a lot of information on touring in Europe, travelogues, and other attractions. You might want to look especially at Jobst Brandt's various accounts of touring in the Alps. He spends about a month every summer riding up various Alpine passes by way of goat paths on his road bike, only taking what he can stuff in his Carradice saddlebag. If you're planning on staying in B & B's and inns while traveling, I think that's definitely the way to go. Why pay a lot of money to a tour organization company to take care of the sort of minor logistical hassles that you could sort out with a list of phone numbers and a phone card along the route, losing a lot in the way of flexibility in the process?

France and Italy, from what we've heard, are tremendous places to go for bike holidays. Spain would be as well. Depending on the time of year you go, though, Spain might be oppressively hot. You might also think about Belgium and Luxembourg as well. Basically, if you stay away from places that have been land-mined in the last twenty years, you can't go wrong. Have a great trip, and post some photos when you get back!

Trent
Some more infos from Europephatlizard
May 4, 2003 9:47 AM
Hi,

I live in Germany and traveled France, Italy, Germany and Spain by bike

One of my favorite websites for inspirations is:

http://www.crazyguyonabike.com/index.html?page_id=2348
Some pretty good Euro-Trips in there - also useful links!

I checked what US bike-holiday companies charge for a European vacation and I have to say they are out of their mind! You can fly to Europe right now for as little as 400 US$ and if you use Youth Hostels (which have a very high standard in Europe) you pay 40$ per day for food and bed ... !
The thing to do right now in Europe is to do a ride over the alps! A real experience!
Traveling in France without speaking french is a pain - I do speak french and it is still a pain because the French have a tendency to not like foreigners too much ... ! I am half french I am allowed to say that ... ;)

If you would like to travel with a group and some support you might want to consider joining a supported trip with a German company. Germans in general speak at least a little English and it might be a good way to really get to know some Euros!

http://www.cyclemiles.com/
"Miles" offers a few great trips - the website is in German but you should be able to find a few pictures and get an idea of what is on offer.
If you write these companies in English I am sure they will help you!

http://www.happybike.it/English/Default_Ing.htm
Nice area in Italy!

http://www.italybikehotels.com/
Hotels in Italy that has special arrangements for cyclists!

If you have some additonal questions send me an email!
2004 my hometown hosts a stage of the Tour de France - you guys can always camp in my backyard ... ;)
As far as I know there will be at least 20 people from all over the world anyway that remember my address for that weekend ... so what the heck!

Greetings from Old Europe

Christian
Old Europe - ha!gmc
May 4, 2003 2:54 PM
Christian,

Old Europe - I love it, and try to get there as often as possible! Don't put too much stock in what Rumsfeld says - he's outspoken, even for an American!

I'd absolutely consider doing it on my own - but it comes down to that I could afford one of those companies, and would pay for the brainless convenience that they offer. My usual trips to Europe are lightweight and low-budget, and I try to live as close to the local population as I can. I speak Italian (sorta) and my buddy speaks French. This time, I thought I'd at least investigate doing it a little different.

Thanks to you and to all - great info. Keep it coming!

GMC
re: European Cycling Vacation - who's done it?willem72
May 4, 2003 3:30 PM
Brother Thomas and I did a one month trip in England, France, Switzerland and Germany in July 2000. We were on road-touring bikes (Thorn and Raleigh) and camped for something like 24 nites. We flew from London to Lyon, took a ferry from Thonon to Vevey and train from Brienze to Schaffhausen, another ferry across Lake Constance to Freidrichshaven, and finished up in Munich after a train trip from F'haven to Ulm. 2,400kms cycling all up. We saw the Tour at Courcheval (Pantani's last victory) and Vevey. 2000 was the wettest summer in Europe in about 40 years. The itinery was not ideal - we wanted to see the British Moto GP and the Tour and catch up with friends in Germany.

The riding was, especially in France and Switzerland, brilliant. France is very friendly and bike-aware, the food is superb, the roads smooth and scenic etc. I would go back to France at the drop of a hat.

All up our bikes and gear weighed about 22kgs each - not lite and hard work on some of the climbs, but you get very used to the extra load and different handling.

Next time I would like more money and more time - so I spend more time in the nicest places, and stay in hotels etc which would make taking the road bike a real option. Some of the big climbs would come alive on a light racing bike - mind you the descents on the tourer were pretty amazing.

I wouldn't worry too much about the language - I have some German but it's not as good as any German's English, and the French, once they knew we were Australian, were very outgoing and interested.

We didn't do enough research about the areas in which we travelled - the websites mentioned by other posters are all good. There's a Lonely Planet guide on cycling in France which looks pretty useful.

Go independent, save money, have more fun, travel lite, enjoy.
re: I work for Veloechappe--My friend for Hampsten!!!teoteoteo
May 4, 2003 4:45 PM
GMC Just a note to say hat's off for considering a trip with your friend. I work for Veloechappe and my friend works with Hampsten. He raves about how nice Tuscany is and how incredible the food is. I trust his word as he's well traveled having covered the European UCI Road and Mountain events for a few mags/websites.

As for Veloechappe I have to say that we offer the same. I am trip guide for the Tour de France trips so my experience is more in France. What we bring you for the price is top notch accomodations, food, and service. From transporting you bags to building your bikes you're pampered. We cost more than others because we try to deliver the best. The TdF trips are unique in the fact that following the Tour requires a little more dilligence in terms of following a time schedule--keep that in mind.

As for other companies I can say that I have been impressed by the organization of Velosport. They seem to have their stuff together but also seem a little more rigid--maybe I am wrong but they always seem to smile less. I don't know maybe I was just getting the wrong vibe.

Trek Travel is just getting started--I work for a Trek Dealer and interviewed with them. My gig with Veloechappe was more suited to my tastes so I stayed put. The achilles heel I saw with them was that they aim for a 10-to-1 guest to staff ration. Most luxury companies are 5-to-1 or better. I work pretty damn hard at Echappe and could not picture doubling my workload.

I could go on but may bore you. Just do your reasearch and trust you instinct on how companies treat you. Long ago I mailed a few companies for a personal trip and some were very responsive and personal others took a week to respond.

One thing I will say is that one trip with a good company and you'll come away with the knowledge necessary to make many more adventures on your own. We shorten the learning curve and point out the things you may miss otherwise.
I Did Ireland Solo A Couple Of Years Ago....Gregory Taylor
May 4, 2003 4:53 PM
...and it was GREAT. No language problems, nice quiet roads, beautiful countryside, and famous Irish hospitality. I'd go back in a heartbeat.

This is an easy solo trip -- Ireland has a great system of B&B's that are run through the national tourist board. You can either make a reservation the day before, or just knock on doors when you reach your stopping point for the day. The Board Failte, the Irish Tourist Board, will send you a listing of B&B's. Most have e-mail. I made a reservation for my first and last night using e-mail, and then wandered up the western coast. Didn't get stuck once.

As for routes, I relied on a Michelin Map and stuck to the green "scenic" roads. I also bought a few cycling "guidebooks", but the Michelin map worked the best.
Ireland is a great place for bicyle touring.Lon Norder
May 5, 2003 9:58 AM
We did a self-supported tour in western Ireland several summers ago. From Shannon, we did a loop to the north though the Burren, Galway, and the Connemara, and then a loop to the south through the Dingle Peninsula, Ring of Kerry, and Cork. We stayed in B and B's, drank in pubs, etc. Good riding and good times.
Similar Route --Gregory Taylor
May 5, 2003 11:41 AM
From Shannon, I crossed the Burren into Doolin/Cliffs of Moher, rounded up through Galway and Clifden, and up the coast to Westport and Achill Island, where my Grandfather was born. It rained every day, Aer Lingus lost my bike (I did get it back...), and I still had a great time. THAT should tell you just how awesome Ireland is...
Here's my route...Lon Norder
May 5, 2003 12:08 PM
Shannon (airport), Lahinch, Galway, Clifden, Westport, Galway, Kilrush, Dingle, Kilorglin, Waterville, Killarney, Bantry, Cork, Tipperary, Shannon

We lucked out on the weather - only two rainy days.
and they will take your bike on the train's mail car too....ukiahb
May 6, 2003 8:14 AM
Did a similar tour myself, and just inquired about B+B's at a pub at the end of the day while enjoying a well-earned beer, always found a good B+B no problem. Got hit by heavy rain a few days, but we just took a train to the next town, and a ticket for the bike was about half of a regular ticket.
Did Prague Czech Republic -Dutch Coast, bit of the UKNigeyy
May 5, 2003 7:49 AM
Just bought a plane ticket to Prague, then a return ticket from UK London Heathrow. Depending on how cheaply you want to do it and if you have any fear of just going in the generally correct direction for you (we had no plans on how to get from Prague to Holland by the way, we just went in the approx. direction) you can just wing it.

We took tents with us and free camped often. Have to admit we did take the trains due to time constraints now and again (ended up doing about 600 leisurely miles in a couple of weeks).

Sounds like you want to try to catch some racing, so I'd guess you should try a "proper" company who'll have more info. Good luck whatever you decide -by the way, the western Czech Republic is beautiful to tour through.
Did Prague Czech Republic -Dutch Coast, bit of the UKgmc
May 5, 2003 9:25 AM
Thanks, we thought about that area actually. Might still do it but perhaps not this trip.