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Nice to Bruges

gsk82gsk82 Posts: 2,873
edited October 2019 in Tour & expedition
I'm considering taking some time out from work next summer and doing a bit of touring in France. I like the idea of flying to Nice, then riding up through eastern France to Bruges, from where i can get the ferry home to Hull. It looks like 50 to 60 miles per day over 3 wks will do the job, with a couple of rest days in nice areas. I don't want it to become a major challenge, other than the repeated days riding.

I think I'll carry a tent and mix up camping and b&bs.

Has anyone done anyting similar? Can anyone recommend areas to avoid or to try and see. Any general tips about touring in France would be appreciated.

Thanks
Gary
"Unfortunately these days a lot of people don’t understand the real quality of a bike" Ernesto Colnago

Posts

  • mercia_manmercia_man Posts: 1,388
    I’ve cycle toured in France with camping gear, solo and with my wife, once or twice a year since 1988 and have crossed the whole country three times. I’ve cycled in pretty well every region of the country over the years. Your three-week trip, covering 50 to 60 miles a day, is the sort of time scale and mileage I’ve done solo a couple of times, although my trips have started or ended in the south west of France.

    For navigation, I use maps. I buy a Michelin 1: 200,000 tourist and motoring atlas and tear out the relevant pages, choosing routes that take me along the minor white and yellow D roads. Often, I have cycled for several hours without seeing a car. Campsites are numerous and good value, especially the municipal ones. I tend to work out a route and then write down in a little notebook and mark on my maps suitable campsites on the way. I find this system most practical for me although a phone is useful back-up (and great for locating exactly where you are). For campsite listings, I use Le Guide Officiel Camping and Caravanning (in French) which lists every site in the country. Available from https://www.vicariousbooks.co.uk/

    Nice to Bruges would be a brilliant trip. You would be hard pushed to ride 50 or 60 miles a day through the Alps on the first section, but your daily mileage would rise as you move into more rolling country. The Alps are a wonderful cycle touring destination as long as you stay clear of the big and busy valley roads. After that, you enter the Jura which is another lovely and mountainous area. Then you have a choice, I guess, between the eastern route through Burgundy and Champagne or the western route through Alsace, Luxembourg and the Belgian Ardennes. I’d favour the eastern route for a three-week trip as the more rolling terrain would enable your average to get up to that 50 or 60 mile figure after all those mountains early on. Burgundy and Champagne are good cycling areas in their own right with lots of attractive villages and relatively easier riding.

    My general pattern is to get on the road by 10am and to buy in the morning all the bread, wine etc I will need to avoid the necessity of trying to find an open shop when I’m tired at the end of the day. Sundays, Mondays and bank holidays can be problematical for buying provisions so I always carry enough for an emergency evening meal. I try to be installed at my campsite by 4pm so I can wash and hopefully dry out my shorts before it gets dark. Strapping them to the top of a pannier, pad-side up, will dry them the following day.

    If you are doing your own cooking, be aware you cannot easily buy British-style screw-on gas cylinders in France. Camping Gaz do a lightweight and cheap stove to fit their widely available CV cylinders which you can find at DIY shops and supermarkets. I have a lightweight Primus Duo stove which fits both UK-style cylinders and Camping Gaz CV. I favour a Thermarest or Exped inflatable mat for sleeping, and use a Themarest chair kit to turn the mat into a comfortable chair as I read and drink my wine in the evening.

    Perhaps the biggest challenge of riding five or six hours a day for three weeks is avoiding problems with your contact points on the bike. I’ve found that slight adjustments of cleat position can help if you develop hot spots on your feet, while padded mitts help stave off hand nerve pressure. A saddle that suits you is vitally important. Nothing for me has come close to a Brooks B17 for avoiding backside pain during day after day tours. I also find Assos chamois cream useful, particularly if it’s hot. Germolene is great for soothing any sore bits and to reduce the risk of a little pimple turning into a saddle sore. Keeping yourself and your shorts really clean is also important.

    I know other cycle tourists have different views and tips, but I’ve found all this has worked well for me over the years. Although I have to admit I have now switched to a camper van since entering my 60s.
  • gsk82gsk82 Posts: 2,873
    Thanks for taking the time to give such a thorough reply Mercia Man
    "Unfortunately these days a lot of people don’t understand the real quality of a bike" Ernesto Colnago
  • orraloonorraloon Posts: 8,083
    Take a look at francevelotourisme.com, their maps give some useful info on campsites, bnb etc, though focus on specific nominated cycleways. Which btw in Burgundy and in the Doubs valley / Besancon I've found those routes to be brilliant, a lot of traffic free and excellent surfaces.

    In Belgium fietsroute.org has a useful planner, and their numbered node system is great.
  • gsk82gsk82 Posts: 2,873
    I've just booked my flight to Nice for early June. I'll decide when to come home while I'm there, depending on how's it's going.

    Thanks for the suggestions so far 👍
    "Unfortunately these days a lot of people don’t understand the real quality of a bike" Ernesto Colnago
  • davep1davep1 Posts: 789
    Please write it up on your return, I love reading about these kind of trips!
  • gsk82gsk82 Posts: 2,873
    Hi Dave.

    I obviously had to cancel the original trip. But i have just booked a one way flight for early September. I haven't decided what to do with it yet. I may do a 2 week tour of Provence, or still ride to Annecy as planned but return to Nice. I may even do the ride to Bruges.

    I suspect I'll leave the Bruges ride until 2021.
    "Unfortunately these days a lot of people don’t understand the real quality of a bike" Ernesto Colnago
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