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Messages - dombrosk

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International / Re: Loire Cycling
« on: July 23, 2016, 11:04:48 am »
For future readers searching this thread, I want to share my experiences now that I'm back from my trip.

Usually I take my own bike to Europe and handle the trip planning... this time I wanted a local source to provide bikes for my wife and I, along with routing, reservations, and luggage transfer.  We did not want to travel with a group, which eliminated quite a few options (and saved a pile of money).

We ended up using "Detours de Loire" and were very happy with the results.

They offer a variety of pre-planned routes.  We went with the 7 day "Wonders of the Loire Valley" with an extra night tacked on at the start for arrival and settling in.

The route started in Blois and ended in Saumur.  We arranged on our own to spend three nights in Saumur at the B&B Casanova (great place)

Compared to simply following the Loire Cycle Path, this company provided a lot more variety, getting us off the river up into small villages that we might not have discovered. The hotel arrangements were fine and the luggage transfer was a treat.

I've bike toured a lot in the U.S., Germany, and the Netherlands.  This was a great addition to the travel experiences... in particular the food really was spectacular.  The people were extremely friendly... my German isn't bad but my French is extremely limited... but never a problem.  A phrase book--- especially the menu section--- came in handy.

For travelling from the U.S. it was easy to fly into Paris and take the train down to Blois, and  delightful to spend time  in Paris after the bike tour.  And as much as I love travelling with my own bike and kit, it was liberating to hand in the bikes and then box up our bike clothing to ship home, thereby lightening our load.

I usually take my own bike across to Europe from the US, but a few years ago my wife joined me and rented a bike for a tour in the Netherlands.

We had a great experience with Tulip Cycling:

Excellent bike and superb, friendly personal service.  Panniers and handlebar bag were supplied.  Peter & Liesbeth organize tours as their primary business, so you're not just renting a bike without racks, etc.

Looking at your post it seems you might be able to pick up the bike in the Netherlands, then take it on the train to Basel, then ride back.

Are you riding the Rhein Radweg?  I've done sections of it from Amsterdam to Cologne, but never further upriver to Switzerland.  Beautiful countryside and lots of good biking infrastructure and support.  If this is your first European tour, I'd look into getting a full-size GPS (I use a Garmin GPSmap 62) with European maps--- just makes side trips and getting creative a lot easier. 

The bike handlebar mount for the GPS is worth it--- the first time I used one I figured that having it in my handlebar bag would be OK... but it's really better to have it in sight.  Just be sure that whatever you get is waterproof.

Happy Trails!

General Discussion / Re: Reflections on First Rain Ride
« on: March 12, 2016, 10:12:46 am »
I love riding in the rain.

This post got rather long, but I wanted to share some thoughts on the how and the why.  I worry that people lose out from thinking  about rain as a problem.

My first multi-day ride, many years ago, was an MS fundraising tour.  Because it was a big challenge at the time, I was serious about training rides.  One morning I set out after breakfast in a light drizzle.  Once I was two blocks away from home the drizzle became a steady rain.  Prior to that day, I would have readily turned around.  Visions of another cup of hot coffee and the morning newspaper dangled in front of me.  But then I remembered.   In just two weeks I'd be riding all day for an entire week.  There'd be no turning back, only going on. 

So I gritted my teeth, scrunched up my face, and plodded on.

I had a 45 mile ride planned that day.  As the morning went on the rain intensified, with intermittent downpours.  Fortunately I had good enough raingear so that I was able to maintain a comfortable body temperature, but I was WET, WET, WET.

About halfway through the day I was riding through wooded country around a lake.  As I watched the whitecaps blending with the torrents of rain, I suddenly opened up to what an incredibly beautiful scene I was in the middle of.  One of my mentors is the writer and teacher Parker Palmer.  He tells a story of freezing up during an Outward Bound course and learning the lesson that sometimes the only way to get OUT of something is to get INTO it.  I ungritted my teeth, unclenched my face, and smiled. 

What a gorgeous day for a bike ride.

That was almost 20 years ago.  Now that I've toured quite a bit around North America and Europe, and turned into a year-round bicycle commuter (in Minnesota, no less) I've decided that there are almost no bad days for a bike ride.  Extreme heat and humidity spoil it for me.  And while I used to ride down to -5 F as I've gotten deeper into AARP land I've started to draw the line closer to +15 F.

A few tips on how to help this along:  there's no such thing as bad weather, there's just bad equipment.   For cold weather I've learned a lot about the virtues of wool and layering. For rain, I've invested in an EVent jacket and gore-tex pants.  I'm not afraid to put on shoe covers, and have over a dozen assorted gloves for different conditions.  For heat with humidity, given my body type, I know no cure.

I wasn't lying when I said I love riding in the rain.  There's a peacefulness to it that is unique.  I have fond memories of multiple sequential cold all-day rains in western Montana on the Northern Tier.  I can treasure my memories of storm clouds building over central Germany, and a steady drizzle along the North Sea in the Netherlands.  Not to mention  days at work when my co-workers come up to me with the always astonished look accompanying the question: "Did you ride your bike TODAY?"

My answer is, of course, it's a beautiful day to be out on a bicycle.

International / Loire Cycling
« on: July 04, 2015, 06:30:58 pm »
Looking ahead to summer 2016 I'm wondering if anybody has

  1) general tips for cycling the Loire Valley in France

  2) experience with outfitters who arrange tours with bike rental and luggage transfer.

Thanks in advance!

International / Re: German North Sea Islands
« on: July 04, 2015, 06:28:22 pm »
For the sake of future travelers, I'm going to answer my own question now that I'm back from tour.

I went onto two islands, Norderney and Langeoog.

For my tastes, Langeoog was a much better fit.  It's totally car-free and has a very laid-back feel. 

There's a unique way to enter.  Unlike most ferries, where you roll your own loaded bike on and off, for Langeoog you need to strip down your bike and hand over your bike and panniers for separate loading.  (you can hang onto hand items like your handlebar bags).  Everyone's gear is loaded onto small wagons which are forklifted onto the ferry.  Then, when you arrive at the island, you walk to a cute little Willy Wonka train that rumbles with you and your gear to the village on the other side of the small island, where you are reunited with your stuff.

There is a youth hostel for camping, lodging and restaurants are excellent and not cheap.

Norderney on the other hand has a traditional ferry including cars and is much more built up.  If your preferences run more in the direction of a high-energy busier spot, this might be a better fit for you.

General verdict is that this part of Germany has great biking, both on the islands and along the coast with the North Sea Cycle Route.

General Discussion / Re: Getting from Seattle to Anacortes
« on: March 22, 2015, 01:41:23 pm »
If you'd like an "adventure before your adventure" and have a few days to spare, here's a biking option.

You'd need to get from the airport to the Amtrak station (when I rode this I took the train to Seattle).  Then you start your ride east by going WEST...  I was compared to Wrong Way Corrigan by one person I met along the way.

Briefly, you bike and ferry north on the West sides of the Puget Sound,  jumping up across several islands, approaching Anacortes from the south.  It's about a 100 mile trip which I did in two days.  Beware: there are hills, but that's a good warmup for WA-20 across the cascades.

Below are a few routes I got from the friendly folks on the Cascade Cycling Club forum back in 2005,
I blended them and had a great ride.

However you get to Anacortes, enjoy the trip!


1st option

Take Low level Spokane Street Bridge/Bike path
Left/North on Marginal Way which becomes Alaskan Way
Veer left into Myrtle Edwards park when Alaskan way turns right and becomes Broad and take the bike path and come out on 20th Ave West in the railroad yard near Fishermans Terminal.
Ride north on 20th and turn right/East on Dravus
Left onto 15th and right onto Nickerson (before the Ballard Bridge).
Head East on Nickerson about 1 mile and turn left to Cross the Fremont Bridge and then make a right on to 34th go about ½ mile and you will see the Burke Gilman Bike path starting on the sidewalk at the light at the intersection with Stone Way. Take the path, heading east and then north for about 12 miles to Kenmore – Tracy Owens Station/Logboom Park and make a left on to 61st Ave NE – head north, up the hill about 1 mile.
Left/West on 200th, which turn right and becomes 61st Ave NE and then in a few blocks as it crosses the county line it becomes 23rd Ave W.
Left/West on to 236th.
Right/North on Brier Road
Left/West on 214th
Right/North on 44th Ave W - you have an option of skipping the next few turns if you’re comfortable in heavy suburban/city traffic as the route rejoins 44th in about 2 miles.
Left/West on 212th
Right/North on 52nd Ave W
Right/East on 200th.
Left/North on 48th Ave W and go straight until the T
Right/East on 180th.
Left/North on 44th
Left/West on 168th
Right/North on 52nd
If you like scenic and lots of hills turn left on Picnic Point Road, if you don’t then continue as 52nd becomes Beverly Edmonds Park Road and then turn left on the Speedway (hwy 525) and follow it to the ferry dock.
If you picked the scenic route here are the directions:
Picnic Point Road – follow it as it veers right at the Y and down the hill, make a right on to Marine View Drive/Maplewood Ave go up the steep hill and turn left on to Marine View Drive and left when you re-intersect with Maplewood and follow it right as it curves at 116th and then left into the golf course development on to Saint Andrews Drive, up that big hill to Harbour Pointe Boulvard, and a left on Harbour Pt and then straight until the Speedway (hwy 525) and left down the hill to the ferry dock.

In Mukilteo get on the ferry to Clinton on Whidbey Island – it’s the only ferry J

From the Ferry dock, head up the hill about ½ mile to Bob Galbreath Road.
Right on Galbreath
Right on Wilkenson – Dead End with a bike path through
Left on Sandy Pt
Right on Camano
Left on 2nd which becomes Saratoga
Left on E Harbor, crosses 525 and becomes Fish Road
Right on Mutiny Bay Road
Left on Bush Point Road becomes Smugglers Cove Road
Possible Camping – South Whidbey State Park
Cross back over 525 making a right and an immediate left to get on to North Bluff Road
Right turn – North on 525
Right on Race Road
Right on Harrington Road
Right on Morris Road
Right on to Parker Road at the intersection with Hwy 20
Ride through Coupeville as Parker becomes 9th and then Madrona Way
Cross 20 veer left and then right to get on Libbey Rd
Right on Beach Rd which becomes Crosby
Left on Golf Course Rd
Right on Clover Valley which becomes Ault Field Rd
Left on Hwy 20 and cross Deception Pass Bridge – awesome whirlpools when the tidal currents are moving
Left on Rosario Rd
Left on Havekost Rd which becomes “A” Ave
At the T intersection with Oakes Ave the ferry dock to the San Juans will be to your left and downtown Anacortes to your right.


2nd option

You can find ferry schedules at The Spring schedule ends in the middle of June so you may need to wait for the Summer schedule to be announced. But the two ferries you need run often enough that you won't be in dire straits if you miss one. The runs you need are Seattle-Bainbridge and Port Townsend-Keystone.

At the ferry landing on Bainbridge Island you roll directly onto hwy 305. This is a fine route across Bainbridge, with good shoulders most of the way. There are side roads but they are much more hilly and don't deliver much in the way of scenery, IMHO. Bikes are generally allowed off the ferry first, but after getting off any ferry, I recommend pulling over and letting all the cars blast off up the road. At Bainbridge you will find a nice little business district with food and coffee shops to the left at the first light.

305 takes you to Poulsbo, where I recommend you turn right on Forest Rock Lane and then immediately left on Little Valley Road. Little Valley changes to Big Valley Road where it crosses hwy 307. Big Valley is a nice quiet bucolic route. Then turn right on hwy 3.

Take hwy 3 to hwy 104, where you turn left and cross the Hood Canal Bridge. Narrow shoulders make this bridge the worst section of this route.

Once across the bridge you can choose either a scenic hilly route through Port Ludlow and Port Hadlock, or a less hilly less scenic (but still pretty) more direct route to Port Townsend.

For the most hills take the first right onto Paradise Bay Road. Bear right onto Oak Bay Road. Pass through Port Ludlow. In Port Hadlock turn right on Irondale Road. When Irondale ends turn right on hwy 19. Bear right onto hwy 20 and continue into Port Townsend. This route will likely have less traffic than the other alternative.

For less hills, continue straight off the Hood Canal Bridge. Yes there is a big hill, but trust me this is the easier way! Turn right on Beaver Valley Road/hwy 19. There is a visitor center here with water and toilets. Follow hwy 19, bear right onto hwy 20 and continue into Port Townsend.

Port Townsend is a cute town. It has restored Victorians, a thriving wooden boat scene, and a wonderful state park, Fort Worden, formerly a Coast Artillery site. I like The Public House for a meal and brew, and Elevated Ice Cream for that important food group.

On Whidbey Island, I think hwy 20 while not the most scenic choice is fine for cycling except through Oak Harbor. I was there at rush hour once and it was clear the drivers were in no mood to be nice to cyclists. Hopefully someone can route you around Oak Harbor.

At the north end of Whidbey there is a very high bridge across Deception Pass. Tidal currents here put on an amazing show. There is a state park on both sides of the Pass where you can spend some time down by the water.


3rd option

 I would recommend taking the Fauntleroy ferry to Southworth and riding to Port Orchard. At Port Orchard taking an old original turn of the century Mosquito fleet foot ferry to Bremerton. From B'ton ride north up the west side of the Puget Sound where it is more rural and scenic to Kingston. At Kingston take the ferry to Edmonds and at Edmonds continue north to Mukilteo. I can provide more detailed route information later. This was the first leg of a 10 day tour that my wife and I did a few years back that continued up Whidbey to Anacortes thru the San Jaun Islands to Victoria, Port Angeles, Port Townsend and returning to Seattle via the Bainbridge Island ferry. In Mukilteo we stayed at a great little B&B about 4 blocks from the ferry to Clinton. I can't remember the name of it now but can/will find it and forward it to your e-mail.
I also liike Ross' suggestion of riding up to Port Townsend and taking the Keystone ferry to Whidbey instead of crossing the sound at Kingston to Mukilteo you would continue north from Kingston to Pt.Townsend. This route would include the historic logging town Port Gamble (blackberry pie), of course Port Townsend (James House the first B&B in WA the el supremo!) a must see, and on Whidbey Island the first town in the state of Washington-Coupeville (great ice cream shop). Stop by the Captian Whidbey Inn, built in 1907 from Madronna wood logs, for a pot of Penn Cove mussels and a brew or stay the night on thier feather beds! Stop me now I'm having too much fun on this ride. Can I go too?

International / German North Sea Islands
« on: March 15, 2015, 07:30:11 am »
This summer I'll be riding along the north sea route from the Dutch/German border up as far as Cuxhaven.

There are quite a few possible Island excursions along the way, starting with Borkum, then Juist, Norderney, Baltrum, Langeoog, Spiekeroog,and Wangerooge.

Can anyone recommend one or two of these as best for a cycling tour?  I've been on Schmiermonnikoog in the Netherlands and like that kind of wild, semi-populated island over a busy party-oriented area.

I'm heading as far as Cuxhaven to be able to take a day trip out to Helgoland, but wouldn't mind visiting another island along the way.

Happy riding!

General Discussion / Re: Question About Minimum Stay Requirements
« on: February 08, 2015, 08:43:01 am »
I've often found that campgrounds have more flexible rules for bicycle tourists.  I stayed in some RV oriented sites that do not allow car campers, but DO welcome bicycle tourists.  Before giving up hope I'd politely ask about exceptions for bicyclists.

And for what it's worth, I usually write out the entire word bicycle, because some folks will take the word 'bike' to mean motorcycle.

Happy trails!

Gear Talk / Re: Keen R.I.P.
« on: January 26, 2015, 06:27:05 pm »
Thanks for that info, Tandem Tom!

On the theory that the more they hear from cyclists the better, I also sent an inquiry. 

Here's what I got in reply:

"Thanks for contacting us.
KEEN took a hiatus from the cycling business and did not produce any pedal styles for 2014.  We are planning to release new cycling styles in April 2015.  Check out our site,, at that time for details.
Please let us know if you have any further questions.
All the best,
KEEN Footwear"

This gives me hope that perhaps a new leather lace up shoe will also be available, which I really like both for daily commuting and touring.  It was also nice to get an actual reply from a human being!

Gear Talk / Keen R.I.P.
« on: January 19, 2015, 04:32:34 pm »
Shoes/sandals for touring is a recurring topic on these forums.

I'm sorry to pass along the news that Keen has exited the bike footwear business.  Their leather lace-up spd shoe was a unique product, and their sandals were very popular.

Amazon seems to have a few sandals left in stock, and Sierra Trading Post has a few small size shoes, but they've mostly disappeared.

General Discussion / Re: bike rental, amsterdam
« on: August 27, 2014, 11:09:18 am »
I'd agree with the suggestion to look like tourists.  Better for you, and better for the hundreds of thousands of bikes around you!   :)

Your first time riding in the central part of Amsterdam can be overwhelming and seem chaotic.  But there are definite rules of the road, and newcomers usually break a lot of those without meaning to.  As another poster noted, a tourist bike lets people know to expect.

For riding around the city of Amsterdam and short trips into the countryside (Haarlem makes a great day trip) I've had good experiences with "Yellow Bike".  And yes, the bikes are bright yellow.

Central Amsterdam is so compact that you might also consider walking and trams in addition to biking.  The advantage of walking is that you can stop and look around you. Some days you may want to just walk, other days the bike (especially to the Vondelpark)  will be a great option.   Even walking you want to be aware of the bike lanes, usually colored red... backing up to take a photo can lead to trouble if you stray into bike traffic. 

For longer trips out into the Netherlands and beyond I take my own bike across, but for a companion's bike I had an excellent experience with Tulip Cycling.  (some folks may recall an article about them in Adventure Cycling a few years back.)  I would not suggest using one of their bikes in the city of Amsterdam, though.  If I were them, I wouldn't even want to rent a bike for that use.

Enjoy your trip!  The Netherlands is bicycling heaven. 

p.s.  For a real feast, try the Celebres Risjtafel at Sampurna

Gear Talk / Re: Best foot wear for touring?
« on: July 21, 2014, 11:37:44 am »
Definitely not for most folks, but because I regularly spend up to a week at a time 'off the bike' during tours exploring cities along the way, I travel with these two items:

1)  Keen Austin leather bike shoes with SPD clips.  Keen has a giant toe box which is comfortable with my (aging) feet.  Off the bike they could pass as casual-dress shoes and are comfortable for all day walking.  I've never had problems with my feet feeling hot in them, although if you are prone to that issue you might want to look into sandals as others suggest.

2)  Ecco sandals.  Here again, probably heavier than most folks will want, but excellent support for all day walking.  As another poster mentioned, with/wiithout socks gives you two different personas.   ;)

Also, I ride with reversible pedals which give more flexibility in footwear and foot position.  (tip: If you have any history of plantar fasciitis it may be useful to not always have to be clipped in.)

Gear Talk / Re: Saddle Suggestion other than Brooks
« on: May 08, 2014, 05:21:39 am »
I've been very happy with Serfas RX saddles for over 10 years now.  The combination of the type of padding and the open split design have worked well for me.

In addition to touring I'm also a daily bike commuter, so my saddle gets a lot of wear.  I've been getting about 3 years of wear from the Serfas, after which the padding isn't quite as comfortable.

You mention that you're planning your first tour.  Happy riding!!!  Bike touring is a great activity that combines fitness and travel, and can be a (nearly) lifelong activity.

Before setting off, for peace of mind I'd suggest riding the length of your expected longest day on the new saddle.  For me, the Serfas involved zero break-in time and was immediately the right choice.  Having said that, one thing I've learned is that there's no real substitute for seat time when it comes to touring comfort.  Even commuting 10 miles each way every day, it takes a few 50 plus mile days to get my touring legs (and seat) happy.

I'm a big believer in supporting my local bike shop.  If your shop doesn't stock Serfas they may be able to order it in for you.

General Discussion / Panniers as Checked Luggage
« on: April 27, 2014, 01:22:43 pm »
There are many strategies for using duffel bags or boxes for taking panniers on flights.  This is a different question.

On an upcoming trip I'll have enough baggage allowance to send both rear panniers through separately.  (I link my front panniers and take them as my 'carry-on', with my handlebar bag as my  'personal item')

BUT, I'm concerned about damage to the exposed mounting hooks/hardware in baggage handling. 

Has anybody sent panniers through as luggage? 

What have you done to protect the mounting hardware?

General Discussion / Re: newbie planning Belgium tour
« on: April 23, 2014, 05:44:39 am »
I'd definitely suggest that you take your own bikes.  I'm heading across this summer for my 4th European tour and never regretted paying the fee to have my own bike and gear that matched it.

One thought on logistics.  I've found that Amsterdam Schiphol is an incredibly bike-friendly airport to travel in and out of.  I'm often not the only cyclist setting up my bike in the baggage claim hall, and the truly amazing Dutch bike network begins across the pedestrian mall from the main terminal.  I used an Amtrak box for my 1st trip across... minimal fuss to get your bike ready to fly.

Perhaps more importantly, on departure you can buy bike boxes at the airport (left luggage office sells them for about 20 Euros).  These are sturdy cardboard boxes similar to the Amtrak style that last until the return trip you're going to want to make after this first one.   :)

There is a train station connected to the terminal if you want to speed south to Belgium, or it's a pleasant few days down along the coast to Belgium.  It's a reasonable option to take the train back to Schiphol from your tour ending point--- but do a bit of planning on which trains take bikes... most do, but not all, and some require reservations for your bike.

Happy riding!

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