Europe - 1st Time Trip - CycleBlaze

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Europe - 1st Time Trip

Larry Mitchell

Not sure where to start … starting to investigate a possible European trip. We ride recumbent trikes, no camping planned, flattish would be nice, hopefully known bike paths, don’t care for city riding … start me off. 

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6 months ago
Kathleen JonesTo Larry Mitchell

Do you know Sylvia Halpern of Travels by Trike? She’s traveled on four continents. Read her articles, especially this one about packing your trike for flying: https://travelsbytrike.blogspot.com/2021/10/yes-you-can-with-trike-i-gets-lots-of.html.

Also see “Looking for a flat European Tour” that is the forum entry currently just below yours.

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6 months ago
Steve Miller/GrampiesTo Larry Mitchell

Also check out Kelly Iniguez recent trip through Spain on a recumbent, not sure if a trike or  what. Also, a friend of ours rides his trike regularly along the Loire from Nantes, where he lives, to points east. We have ridden the Loire which is quite flat, often on separate bike paths and quite lovely. You get to ride near all the Chateaux from the time of Louis IV and through a lot of French history. Only a few cities of any size and they are not hard to navigate (except Paris).  The Loire a Velo is a fairly long, very well marked out route and if you feel really ambitious you could connect into the Tour de Bourgogne or the Rhone at the western end.

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6 months ago
Kelly IniguezTo Larry Mitchell

Larry,

My first thoughts go to air travel with trikes. I'm presuming non electric, as flying with E assist is a no go. Do your trikes fold? We flew this summer with American to Spain. Their current policy for bicycles (check for changes!) is 120" (length, width, height - one side only, not girth) and 50 pounds. If you meet those parameters, your boxed trike goes as luggage, no extra fees! 

Once you figure out the more specialized question of shipping a trike, Europe is your oyster! 

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6 months ago
Larry MitchellTo Kelly Iniguez

Kelly,


Thanks for the response. Packing the trikes seems to be the easiest part right now as I’ve packed them quite a bit over the years and can pretty much fit them for most standards out there. Box is now downsized to 30x30x24. 

I just don’t know where to start the process in terms of destination and logistics. We have an excellent contact in Paris, another in Amsterdam, a possible in the UK. We speak English although I could survive using my limited Russian. Prefer flat, no camping, not fond of cities which is why we’ve been in Alaska for the last 40 years. 

How did you select a destination?  If email would be easier … PedalPushin at gmail dot com. 

Thanks … Tucson for the moth of February is coming soon!

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6 months ago
Lyle McLeodTo Larry Mitchell

Larry,

I can appreciate the apprehension and confusion of where to start, but persevere. Touring in Europe becomes addictive; endless bike route options (a blessing and a curse), fascinating geography and cultures packed into a relatively small place, and once you get the hang of it, a very easy place to travel.

But where to start. If you’ve looked at the OSM Cycle overlay in any of the common mapping packages (e.g RWGPS) it’s easy to become overwhelmed. In France, Germany, the Low Countries, Austria, Czechia, northern Italy - the number of dedicated cycling routes (i.e no or almost no motor vehicles) is amazing and the combinations you can put together are almost infinite.

As a start, I would suggest visiting the EuroVelo homepage (https://en.eurovelo.com/). Eurovelo is a pan-European organisation that works to develop long distance cycling routes throughout Europe. At present there are 19 different routes identified and they are all broken down into sections that can be done individually. Visiting this site can give you a great overview of what’s possible and you can plan from there.

For a first time trip (not sure how long you are planning, a few weeks or a few months?) I would recommend France and or Germany / Austria. Cycle touring is very popular in these countries and the associated infrastructure (dedicated cycle routes, cycle friendly hotels, bike shops etc) along popular routes is simply amazing. As well, as an English speaker, you quickly find out what a curse it is to have English as your first language …. It becomes the only one you really need, and therefore little incentive to learn the local language (at least for me). In northern / Western Europe, English is the second language (of often three to five) of most people (your Russian will likely get you a few odd looks, and little or no comprehension!).

Again, not sure on what you’re looking for on a tour, but any of the routes along some of the major rivers would be a great start IMO. Look at the Eurovelo 6 for the Loire, parts of the Rhine and the Danube; Eurovelo 15 for the Rhine, Eurovelo 17 for the Rhone, Eurovelo 19 for the Meuse. All of these can be done as a section of the full route over a week or if you’re ambitious and have the time, several months for the entire Eurovelo 6. Since they are following rivers, they are also generally flat and relatively easy cycling (triking?)

You also mentioned that you have contacts in Paris and Amsterdam and that your trikes pack up into 30x30x24  boxes(76x76x61 cm … start thinking metric!). Either of these cities would be a great place to start and or finish from, and if you kept your trikes packed, getting to almost anywhere in Europe by train to start your riding would be relatively easy (just a lot of luggage to transport). Just factor in a day or so at either end for packing / unpacking and transport. 

Hope this helps as a start, and as always, there are hundreds of great journals here on CB covering all parts of Europe to give you ideas and inspiration.

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6 months ago
Larry MitchellTo Lyle McLeod

Thank you … this is exactly the informational “push” I needed to start this phase of planning. 

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6 months ago
Kelly IniguezTo Larry Mitchell

Larry,

I'm a good correspondent by email, but this is a topic that is of interest to many (I think), so I'll respond here. Did you read the other forum thread about a flat Europe tour? There's lots of good info there.

2023 was our first European tour. We went to Spain/Portugal, because Jacinto is a native Spanish speaker, so we hoped that would eliminate any language barrier. Portugese wasn't as similar as we expected, and English wasn't as often spoken in Portugal, but we muddled through. Language never felt like a deal breaker. There are always translation apps on your phone to help out.

We are looking at returning to Europe for 2024. Lyle is absolutely correct that European bicycle touring is addictive. We especially appreciated the smooth pavement, lack of traffic, and polite traffic. Even in the cities, we felt respected. I read a number of places how Madrid isn't bicycle friendly. I'm from a small, rural town and to date have mostly toured in the western USA (not cities). I felt just fine negotiating Madrid. That was my experience.

We hadn't taken our bikes by air before. We looked at the fewest connections, thinking that would be less opportunity to lose our luggage. Cost was something I watched. I've been told that the further south you go in Europe, the less expensive  for lodging and restaurants. 

This coming summer we are looking at a one way tour, from Frankfurt, to Lisbon. I've been told to pick any small road in France and it will be a delight. I've also been told that school is in session in June, don't worry about making lodging reservations in that month. Also, the coast tends to be busy/expensive because that's where people go for vacations. 

I was VERY overwhelmed during the planning phase. The whole tour was a lot of new things. It worked out SO, SO wonderfully.  It was scary, getting out of the box, but touring in Europe is worth the effort.

If you are similarly overwhelmed, you could go with one of the EuroVelo routes that Lyle suggested. There are also companies that will make a route for you, and reservations. 

How long are you planning to travel? Do you have any particular interests or sights you want to see? When are you planning to go? We had to travel during summer, because of Jacinto's work, but you might consider fall. It is less expensive, the kids are back in school, etc.

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6 months ago
Larry MitchellTo Kelly Iniguez

Thanks for the input … and overwhelmed is an apt description of this first time planning phase. Not sure why heading overseas feels that way as I don’t hesitate for trips in the USA and I have actually traveled to Europe, Africa, and South America without any issues over the years. 

I’m currently centering on a trip from Frankfurt to either Amsterdam or turning west towards Paris. Frankfurt, from Alaska, is one of the cheapest places to fly too.  We have personal contacts in both destinations which would make end of trip issues easier. We have about a month, May,  we can work with so plenty of time for either location. I’ve now figured out how to get our ICE trikes in a box measuring 30x30x20 inches which is well under the limit for bike travel with most airlines. As the camping days are gone, I’m looking at how the process of finding lodging works for those locations. 

As for focused interests or sights, no idea. I’m one of those folks who simply likes to ride. Having lived in Alaska for so long, it would be hard to find a place more beautiful than the Denali Highway paralleling the Alaska range. 

Might have to start a new journal soon to document this whole “first time” experience and continue reading many of the fine journals on this site. 

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6 months ago
Kelly IniguezTo Larry Mitchell

Larry, 

I also sent you an email. Did it make it through?

Yes, to a journal! I'm sure I'm not the only one who spends significant time mining journals for helpful information before touring.

One reason Frankfurt came up as a good starting point is that I read the airport is outside of town and has an easy exit. Another reason is that a flight for us has only one transfer. Less chance to lose our bikes!

I felt different degrees of guilt our entire tour last summer. I am also a 'just likes to ride' kind of person. We did do the tourist thing in Segovia, but mostly, if something isn't right in front of me as I bicycle past, it doesn't exist. I happy to hear I'm not the only 'just rides' person out there!

A good tip is to make all of your bookings through booking.com. There's no language barrier,  and you can see the price in dollars. An important thing to look for is lodging that doesn't charge a cancelation fee. Previously I've always made bookings direct with the motel, as I'd like them to get all of the money, and not pay the middle man. I have to admit that booking.com was extremely convenient, to have everything in one spot. We did make a couple of changes, and they were easy. I've (happily) not had any problems, so don't know how responsive booking.com would be.

I generally put in the reservation notes that we will be arriving by bicycle. This gives the proprietor a chance to object. In the USA, I ask for a ground floor room. In Europe, we had only a couple of ground floor rooms, and were only able to put our bikes in the room a handful of times. But, there was always a secure place for the bikes, and all of our lodging was accommodating in finding a good spot for the bikes. 

Changing money - we only got cash twice. Once we sent ourselves money through the Xoom app, and picked it up at a local store (listed on the app). The next time we used an ATM. Xoom was slightly cheaper. The ATM at the airport in Madrid charged high fees. We did not get cash there! We used cash for small purchases, and almost always used a credit card. Make sure your credit card doesn't charge foreign transaction fees. That's a big one.

Those are the things I can think of right now.

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6 months ago