Author Topic: Advice on a Bicycle for Trip to France  (Read 2186 times)

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Offline ellameno99

Advice on a Bicycle for Trip to France
« on: April 07, 2014, 09:47:20 pm »
Hi all,

This summer, a friend and I are biking through France. As the summer approaches, we have to start planning our trip, and choosing a bike is the first step. Last summer I did the Pacific Coast with a teen organization. The bike I road (which I rented form the organization) was a hybrid. Throughout the trip gears were screwing up, spokes were breaking -- it wasn't a good bike for the trip. I want to make sure I pick a suitable bike this time.

I'm a high school student, and have been very interested in biking for the past few years. I own a Cannondale SL5 mountain bike with big beefy tires, and mountain bike in local parks. My dad, who also bikes in his free time, purchased a variation of the Pocket Rocket Pro by Bike Friday back in 2006. He intended to use it for cycling when he traveled, but never did. He and I both (who are the same size) use the Bike Friday for casual road rides. It works very well apart from the occasional bend in the frame and weird look you get from other riders  :o

My inclination, when we first decided on this trip, was to take the Bike Friday: it folds into a suitcase (no box, no fee!), the suitcase can turns into a trailer, it has a rack, it fits me. However, after talking to a family friend who has biked all over with the Bike Friday, I wasn't so sure. Our friend seemed to say that although the Bike Friday has its perks, the trailer tends to be heavier than saddle bags and noticeably harder to ride with. I wondered if any of you have experience riding with the trailer or just a Bike Friday and could voice your impressions.

If I weren't to take the Bike Friday, it would mean purchasing a new bike. My dad always talks about getting a "real bike", however he is referring to a road bike, and I'd be shopping for a touring bike. We only have so much money and so much room in our shed, so for me to buy a pure touring bike for my trip would be a stretch. More practically, the touring bike I purchased could also double as something my dad and I could take out on rides for fun/exercise.

I'd appreciate any feedback on my situation! Should I stick with the Bike Friday? Should I investigate a new bike?

Thanks,
Max

Offline RussSeaton

Re: Advice on a Bicycle for Trip to France
« Reply #1 on: April 08, 2014, 02:48:28 pm »
No experience with Bike Friday.  Any of the common touring bikes sold in the US will work fine.  Surly Long Haul Trucker, REI Novara Randonnee, Trek 520, and a few others are the common choices.  All work fine.  All work as road bicycles when not carrying bags.  So you can buy these for a tour and then use them to ride the roads around home.  They all work fine on all roads.  Loaded or unloaded.

Offline ellameno99

Re: Advice on a Bicycle for Trip to France
« Reply #2 on: April 08, 2014, 06:51:30 pm »
Russ,

Thanks for the response! Are any of the touring models you are familiar with sportier than others and would give a better unloaded road experience?

Offline Pat Lamb

Re: Advice on a Bicycle for Trip to France
« Reply #3 on: April 08, 2014, 07:27:55 pm »
If you're going to be flying from the U.S. to France, well, that's the kind of travel Bike Fridays were invented for.  With one of the full-size bikes Russ mentioned, you might need to budget $400 for the bike's plane ticket, on top of yours.  You'll also have to learn how to disassemble, pack, and reassemble the bike.

Bike Friday does make some touring models that you can load up with racks and panniers.  One of those might be an option, although you need to figure out what to do with the suitcase the bike flies in.

You might be able to find a Trucker Deluxe frame in your size.  That'll pack into a suitcase, saving $300 over a full size bike, but you have to build it up (or have it built up) with parts you buy.  Depending on your size, you may have to disassemble it even further than the full-size option to pack it.

If it were me, I'd take the BF you have and put up with the trailer.  You're going to find that any bike carrying luggage seems slow compared to an unloaded bike.  Better the devil you know, IMHO.

Offline RussSeaton

Re: Advice on a Bicycle for Trip to France
« Reply #4 on: April 08, 2014, 11:00:34 pm »
Are any of the touring models you are familiar with sportier than others and would give a better unloaded road experience?

Cannot comment on Bike Friday.  As Pat Lamb mentioned, there is a cost to flying with a bike.  I thought it was around $100 each way, not $400.  But check with the airlines.

As for which touring bike to get, if possible try to find one with STI brake/shift levers.  These are much nicer for around town unloaded riding than barend shifters.  I've had both types of shifters on touring bikes.  The STI levers are more fun to use.  Barend shifters can also wear out and stop functioning, so they are not impervious.  I think the bikes I mentioned all come from the factory with barend shifters.  You would probably need to work with the shop you buy from to change to STI levers.  It would add cost.  If you can buy online and do the mechanic work yourself, it would lower the cost quite a bit.  I've had touring bikes with 7 speed barend shifters and 10 speed STI.  The STI are more fun to ride.  I think all of the touring bikes I mentioned are similar.  Trek 520, Surly Long Haul Trucker, REI Novara Randonnee, BikesDirect.com touring bike all come with barend shifters.  All are steel frames/forks.  All are 9 speed cassette.  I think you could flip a coin with any of those.

Offline DaveB

Re: Advice on a Bicycle for Trip to France
« Reply #5 on: April 09, 2014, 08:37:54 am »
You might be able to find a Trucker Deluxe frame in your size.  That'll pack into a suitcase, saving $300 over a full size bike, but you have to build it up (or have it built up) with parts you buy.  Depending on your size, you may have to disassemble it even further than the full-size option to pack it.

If it were me, I'd take the BF you have and put up with the trailer.  You're going to find that any bike carrying luggage seems slow compared to an unloaded bike.  Better the devil you know, IMHO.
I've owned and traveled with a bike with S&S couplers and they are not for the mechanically feint of ability.  Disassembly, packing and reassembly are fairly time consuming and detailed.  Also, the travel case is not even a trailer so you have to store it somewhere while you tour. 

So unless you ship the bike in a disposable cardboard box (and find a replacement for the return trip) you are going to have to store some type of shipping container somewhere or tow it along like the Bike Friday's.   

Given that, if you are flying into and out of the same airport, you could arrange to store the shipping box at the hotel you use the first and last night or rent a locker at the Airport for the tour period. 

As to which Touring model bike is the "sportiest", they are pretty much all the same and none of them are "racing" bikes.  However, by removing the racks and fenders, fitting thinner high pressure tires, and perhaps, a tighter geared cassette any of them will make a satisfactory road bike. 

Offline Pat Lamb

Re: Advice on a Bicycle for Trip to France
« Reply #6 on: April 09, 2014, 09:42:12 am »
As Pat Lamb mentioned, there is a cost to flying with a bike.  I thought it was around $100 each way, not $400.  But check with the airlines.

I've seen $400 round trip quoted for Delta, but on checking, it looks like it's "only" $150 each direction; so $300 round trip.  (This is "good" news??)

Offline mathieu

Re: Advice on a Bicycle for Trip to France
« Reply #7 on: April 11, 2014, 06:43:22 am »

If I weren't to take the Bike Friday, it would mean purchasing a new bike. My dad always talks about getting a "real bike", however he is referring to a road bike, and I'd be shopping for a touring bike. We only have so much money and so much room in our shed, so for me to buy a pure touring bike for my trip would be a stretch. More practically, the touring bike I purchased could also double as something my dad and I could take out on rides for fun/exercise.

I'd appreciate any feedback on my situation! Should I stick with the Bike Friday? Should I investigate a new bike?



I would seriously consider to make the Cannondale fit for travel. It doesn't involve a great deal, because I saw in the specs that the suspension fork has a lockout, which is important in climbs because it is hard to suppress rocking movements in climbing and each compression of the fork  eats a lot of your power.
The main points for adapting the MTB are tires and ways for carrying your gear.

You should replace the knobby tires with tires that have a smooth surface and possibly smaller width. Schwalbe Big Apple 50 mm is an excellent choice. In laboratory tests they easily beat most 28 mm tires in low rolling resistance. Don't let yourself fool into buying 'unpuncturable' tires like Schwalbe Marathon Plus.  They are heavy going. Punctures, if any, are a small price for a nimble ride.

Regarding carrying gear you mentioned a saddle bag. You could add a frame bag. However, the volume of saddle bag and frame bag combined is small compared to the usual rear panniers, so you have to be a minimalist in selecting your gear. If you cannot reduce the volume sufficiently, you need at least a rear rack. Your frame probably has screw eyelets on the saddle tube for mounting a rack. Try if an Old Man Mountain rack which is supported at the bottom by the skewer, doesn't conflict with the disc brake mounts. Or get a Thule rear rack, which fits on all hard tail MTB's. I wouldn't trust it on bumpy dirt roads, but for paved roads it should be fine. You can always fixate it additionally to the screw eyelets in the saddle tube.
http://www.thule.com/en-us/us/products/luggage-and-bags/bike-bags-and-racks/racks/thule-pack-n-pedal-tour-rack-_-pp_100016



Offline misterflask

Re: Advice on a Bicycle for Trip to France
« Reply #8 on: April 25, 2014, 07:12:22 am »
A few additional thoughts.
Touring bikes generally have front geometry similar to a road bike so they don't feel luggish when loaded in front.  So they will steer briskly when used unloaded.  But with the stiff and heavy frame, and long chainstays, you might miss some of those ethereal qualities like 'liveliness' that people use to describe bikes.  I have a Long Haul Trucker with road wheels that I use for most of my riding around town and for club rides in the mountains.  It is a wonderful and comfortable bike, but it just doesn't display an eagerness for speed.  I somewhat unkindly describe it as the Ford Taurus of bicycles; It'll get you there, but with no panache.

A good choice for an 'everything' bike might be a cyclo-cross bike.  They ride pretty briskly and are heavy enough for touring.  I've toured on a Bianchi Volpe and another Bianchi cross bike and I see tourers with Surly Cross-Checks.  The cross bike should have the same brisk steering with a little livelier frame.  You'll also probably have a slightly higher bottom bracket and shorter chainstays ( and consequently wheelbase), both good traits for zipping around town.

Offline newfydog

Re: Advice on a Bicycle for Trip to France
« Reply #9 on: May 11, 2014, 03:18:39 am »
i'm here in France, and yes, this is a cycling paradise.  The bike I have here has been back and forth to the US five times in cardboard boxes.  I just throw it out at the airport and go.  For the return, I have picked up boxes at any bike shop or  department store.  In the old days bikes were free for international flights.  They still forget to collect half the time.

I like the mtb and ride a lot of canal tow paths and rough little roads.  I wouldn't want a bike Friday.

Offline JDFlood

Re: Advice on a Bicycle for Trip to France
« Reply #10 on: May 12, 2014, 11:13:13 am »
If money is tight then I would stick with the Bike Friday. A loaded down bike on tour is a different animal from a racing bike. You ride it differently, it feels differently. I actually like a loaded bike. Your young, a few extra pounds aren't going to make a lot of difference. I haven't tried the case as trailer. You could always store the trailer and just use panniers. Picking out a tour bike is much easier after you have done some touring.

Offline DaveB

Re: Advice on a Bicycle for Trip to France
« Reply #11 on: May 13, 2014, 09:09:12 am »
If money is tight then I would stick with the Bike Friday. A loaded down bike on tour is a different animal from a racing bike. You ride it differently, it feels differently. I actually like a loaded bike. Your young, a few extra pounds aren't going to make a lot of difference. I haven't tried the case as trailer. You could always store the trailer and just use panniers. Picking out a tour bike is much easier after you have done some touring.
I'm beginning to think this is the best solution if money is tight and the model Bike Friday you have is suitable for racks and panniers.  I've ridden a Bike Friday a modest amount (my son-in-law has one) and, while it's initial handling is different from a 700c wheel bike, you get used to it pretty quickly.  After that, it's just another bike and only seems strange when you look down. 

Offline indyfabz

Re: Advice on a Bicycle for Trip to France
« Reply #12 on: May 13, 2014, 09:47:48 am »
If money is tight then I would stick with the Bike Friday. A loaded down bike on tour is a different animal from a racing bike. You ride it differently, it feels differently. I actually like a loaded bike. Your young, a few extra pounds aren't going to make a lot of difference. I haven't tried the case as trailer. You could always store the trailer and just use panniers. Picking out a tour bike is much easier after you have done some touring.
I'm beginning to think this is the best solution if money is tight and the model Bike Friday you have is suitable for racks and panniers.  I've ridden a Bike Friday a modest amount (my son-in-law has one) and, while it's initial handling is different from a 700c wheel bike, you get used to it pretty quickly.  After that, it's just another bike and only seems strange when you look down.

+1. For several years I did a bike-train-bike commute on a Friday New World Tourist. It was actually geared too low for my relatively flat commute. Many years ago I spent a week off and on touring with a couple riding a Friday tandem pulling the suitcae trailer you describe. Don't recall the model, but it had drop bars. Whatever model it was, they managed to drop me for a bit climbing Hoosier Pass from Breckenridge, CO and had no problem on the descent to Fairplay, where we went our separate ways.

As for airline bike charges, last year U.S. Airways from Philly to Venice was supposed set me back $200 each way. Fortunately, the rent-a-agent who helped me with the kiosk check in didn't realize one of my checked pieces was a bike (or didn;t know there was an extra charge) so I only paid $100 for it as my second checked bag (the first was free). But they got their $200 for the flight home.

Offline Alan-CO

Re: Advice on a Bicycle for Trip to France
« Reply #13 on: May 19, 2014, 08:54:30 am »
Max - as a father I was giving my 25 y.o. daughter a lot of advice about a bike when she was going to Ireland for a month.  Of course she did her own thing. Got on Craig's list before leaving and spent the first day in Dublin looking at used bikes.  Bought a nice bike, used it for a month and sold it on Craig's list before heading home to Colorado. France is a beautiful county for touring - spent a week there last spring touring in the southern Provence region. Low altitude and rolling hills - good food and wine.  The Alps were different - altitude lower than Colorado but much steeper and it seemed longer mountain passes, consider low gears for this region. Are you planning on camping or using hostels and Gites. Paris has rental bikes located all over the city - you can buy a pass to unlock these bikes, pay for the time you use it - leave it, then find another for your next errand (like looking for a bike).  Check out your ATM and credit card if using - we change to ones that did not have extra service fees for use in Europe. Also some US credit Cards do not work at some places like train stations since they have chips in their cards not the magnetic strips we use. If flying into Paris bring Euro's so you can take the train at the airport - you US credit card will not work in these ticket machines. Enjoy

Offline brad

Re: Advice on a Bicycle for Trip to France
« Reply #14 on: May 23, 2014, 03:30:45 pm »
Just bring your mountain bike - get a trailer and some fenders. It will be much more versatile than a normal touring back and cheaper to get a BOB than a new bike. Also, touring in Europe you will want the low gearing as roads tend to be steeper than back in the States, particularly in the mountains.

I have lived in Europe and Africa full time since 2003 and use a mountain bike frame set up for touring after several other touring specific bikes. You wouldn't go wrong.
If you reject the food, ignore the customs, fear the religion and avoid the people, you might better stay home. ~James Michener