My friend and I are cycling 2000 miles around western Europe this summer- starting in the North of France, heading to, and then across Switzerland, briefly into Northern Italy, cutting across Austria, North to Germany, then through BeNeLux and back to France, then returning home to the UK.
We're looking for 'must-see' things in Each of these countries/regions that we should try to take in, during the trip.
At the moment we're drawing up a list of everything we would like to see, and will then assess which are possible.
Any advice, ideas and tips will be massively appreciated!
Austria and Germany have some very good cycling pathways, stick to them. Guides to these cycling paths are sometimes available in English. At the very least you'll be able to get special maps for these paths.
Have you got a route in mind already? Which passes will you use to cross the Alps? Will you take tents or stay at hostels and B&B's? Where do you intend to cross from Austria into Germany? At Passau? Will you take the train for parts of the tour?
I would love to talk to you some more, since I know a bit about touring by bike.
Venice should be a must if you touch Northern Italy.
You can also check out the English-language forum on http://www.rad-forum.de/ for advice.
Some useful information on the Belgian and Dutch part of your tour :
Cycling routes for Belgium :
or have a look at these 33 routes, all along rivers and canals, towpaths and old railway tracks :
Cycling routes for the Netherlands :
http://www.fietsplatform.nl/routes/routes.asp and click the map
An alternative is cycling a part of the North Sea Cycle Route :
Concerning accomodation : Try 'Vrienden op de Fiets'.
Belgium and the Netherlands are covered with a widespread network of families who are eager to help cyclists touring both countries. The 24th edition of their yearly publication contains over 3500 host families.
Thanks for the replies.
T_Maia- We've cut the route short a bit now, so we won't be touching Italy or Austria. This way we can take our time more and spend some time walking in Switzerland etc. We don't know what passes we're taking yet. It's all quite vague at the moment. All I've got is a route penciled in on my map!!!
We will be taking tents, but sleeping at hostels every so often to treat ourselves! :P Also, I'm thinking of catching the train from Paris to Geneva, as there doesn't seem much to see in the area of France we planned to cycle through, which gives us an extra week. We've never cycle toured before, so I figured it would be best to take things easy this time round!
Fietslogie- Thanks for those links. I'll have a look through them now!
We've never cycle toured before, so I figured it would be best to take things easy this time round!
If you have never cycle-toured before, how do you know it will be the thing to do for you? Considering the scope of what you are planning (a quite large part of Europe) this cycle-tour is not for beginners at all.
Especially crossing the Alps on a bicycle is really tough, it requires quite a lot of stamina and fitness. There are a few passes in the Alps that are suitable to beginners, but only if it is an organised tour and all your luggage is transported for you.
Beginners with full luggage (tent, sleeping bag, etc) usually cover around 30-50 kms per day on flat ground. That is roughly 20 to 30 miles. For 2000 miles on a bicycle you would therefore theoretically need about 70 days, cycling everyday and not stopping at all. Go uphill and you daily distance fast drops to 10 miles or less. I would say that if you really intend to cover 2000 miles on your bicycle you'll realistically need at least 4 months.
The more I look at your post the more I think you would be better off using an Interrail pass instead of a bicycle. You should also keep in mind that when you bother to drag a tent around you better damn use it as much as possible.
For me the main advantage of travelling with a tent and a bicycle is that I can pitch the tent somewhere in the field and sleep for free. This and cycling (free transport) takes care of 2 the major expenses when travelling, thus reducing costs significantly. The cost of food is roughly the same, whether you stay at home or not. If this is not part of your equation (you do intend to stay in hostels and take the train after all) you might be more comfortable if you forgot about your inital plan, stayed in hostels all the time and took the train and the bus almost everywhere.
I say this because heaving a fully-loaded bicycle onto a train is a major hassle. There are quite a number of trains that you cannot take with a bicycle in tow. If you do not cycle the bike becomes a very cumbersome piece of extra luggage, hindering your travels instead of being an advantage. The IMO only way to do mixed travel (cycling combined with flying, taking the train and the bus, hiking and staying at hostels as well as camping sites) is with a folding bike. Dahon offers some touring models, check them out.