Author Topic: old farts planning a big trip through Europe seek advice  (Read 8882 times)

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Offline BentCyclePig

old farts planning a big trip through Europe seek advice
« on: June 04, 2009, 09:29:29 pm »
Gentle People,
I come seeking wisdom.  The admiral and I have elected to get off our broadening butts and do a fairly significant ride this fall. We are over fifty and rather out of shape.  We have a recumbent tandem and the only significant touring we have done was a supported tour down the Rhine 4 years ago.  The plan (such as it is) is to fly into Amsterdam and wander around until we eventually end up in Italy.  We hope the wandering will take us through France possibly Portugal Spain and Italy.  We will take at least two months and hope to make it a semi-credit card tour.  We want to spend our money on good food and better wines rather than expensive hotels, so there will be some camping and some hostels and some hotels. Optimally we would like to be on very small roads or bike paths.  Negotiating a ten foot recumbent in trafic over cobblestones is slightly less fun than a root canal without aneshtetic. soooooo   Many questions and just a general appeal for advice.
   If anyone has any touring experience on a tandem recumbent we would like to hear your words of wisdom.
   Thoughts on GPS versus maps and map books. 
   Paniers versus a trailer.
   Carrying spare parts.
   Route suggestions.
   Lodgding suggestions.
   Any other thoughts.

Thanks in advance

The bent pig.


Offline RussSeaton

Re: old farts planning a big trip through Europe seek advice
« Reply #1 on: June 05, 2009, 09:34:28 am »
   If anyone has any touring experience on a tandem recumbent we would like to hear your words of wisdom.
   Thoughts on GPS versus maps and map books. 
   Paniers versus a trailer.
   Carrying spare parts.
   Route suggestions.
   Lodgding suggestions.
   Any other thoughts.

Summer of 1992 I rode from Rome to Brussels.  Eastern part of Europe while you are looking at the western part.  I stayed in cheap motels, pensiones, and youth hostels every night.  Easy to find and at the time pretty cheap.  In late 2000 I went to Portugal and Spain and stayed in cheap motels and cost was reasonable.  Motels are easy to find and cheap and towns are close together in Europe.  Unless every dollar matters, no need to camp.  Actually it may be much harder finding spots to camp in Europe than the US.  There is open space, but not nearly as much as in the US so wild camping will be more difficult.  And laws and customs in a dozen different European countries may not be the same as in the one US.

I used Michelin maps of some reasonable scale.  1:200,000 or something like that.  Bought from a bookstore here in the US.  I suspect you can order them online too.  Do some research from other touring books, websites and see what scale they recommend.  I forget which I used.  The Michelin maps show all the roads.  Even some that are not paved and you really want to stay off of.  Its easy to navigate with the Michelin maps and a compass.  Helps to know North South East West when you come to an intersection.  I also carried a Fodors book for Italy.  Probably not needed.  Sent home later in the trip.

I used panniers front and back.  Even though I did not camp.  Maybe packed extra heavy.  If going again I'd go much lighter.  Never used a trailer so don't know what they are like.

For spare parts I think a spare tire and a couple spare tubes and patch kit are enough.  Bikes should be and are pretty reliable.  And there are bike shops in Europe if something goes wrong and you can still keep going well enough to get there.

Offline staehpj1

Re: old farts planning a big trip through Europe seek advice
« Reply #2 on: June 05, 2009, 10:49:13 am »
Different strokes, but a spare tire is probably overkill. 

Offline RussSeaton

Re: old farts planning a big trip through Europe seek advice
« Reply #3 on: June 05, 2009, 11:37:13 am »
Different strokes, but a spare tire is probably overkill. 

No it ain't.  I've used mine on tours and would never ever go on a loaded tour without one.

Offline staehpj1

Re: old farts planning a big trip through Europe seek advice
« Reply #4 on: June 05, 2009, 12:21:07 pm »
As I said "different strokes".  It is a judgment call and if you feel you need to, by all means do, but I think there are other things more likely to fail that I don't carry.  In 50 years of riding I have had only a very few sidewall failures (none while touring) but was always able to boot, stitch, or tape them up well enough to ride until a replacement could be found.  Where the OP will be touring isn't a remote area where it would be tough to get a tire.  My guess is that it would be much less likely to be a problem there than on a ride like the TA where in my experience a small minority seem to carry a spare.

Traveling in remote places I probably would carry one.

Offline BentCyclePig

Re: old farts planning a big trip through Europe seek advice
« Reply #5 on: June 05, 2009, 03:43:44 pm »
Russ,
thanks for the input.  You have no idea how happy you have made the admiral.  the only way I could sell the camping idea to her was to promise the "better wine."  she is one of those people who have their own special tasting glass and can actually talk about the defferences between vintages and the like. We will be travelling with a two bottle wine pack even if we have to cycle naked to compensate for the weight.
When you say "cheap" what kind of dollar figure are you refering to?
Any thoughts on taking a notebook computer?  What is the wireless internet access like?  Last time we were in England it was actually cheaper to buy a phone and minutes than to try and use our own phone and the roaming package.
Has anyone used a Kendel and downloaded fodors or any of the other guidebooks?
One of the problems with a bent bike is that to carry a tire spare means carrying two different tires.  However it may be worth it since the weight on those two tires would be close to 400 pounds if we use paniers.
Does anyone have any feelings about whether a fairing on a touring recumbent is worth the bother, not to mention the money?
Thanks again everyone please keep those suggestions comming,

the bent pig

Offline Reinier

Re: old farts planning a big trip through Europe seek advice
« Reply #6 on: June 06, 2009, 02:47:46 pm »
Europe has little truly remote areas, so you should be able to access the internet with a GPRS/UMTS card pretty much everywhere. I don't have a clue about how much it will cost. It may be that if you buy a prepaid SIM card in Amsterdam, you'll be paying high international rates a day's bike ride south when you reach Belgium.

I once rode from Utrecht (my home town at 25 miles from Amsterdam) to Dunkirk. You pass by a lot of interesting towns (Antwerp, Ghent, Bruges), and the Flemish countryside has lots of those flat, quiet roads along canals. It's a nice route for your first couple of days.

By the way, how are you planning to package your bike for the airplane in America? In Amsterdam you can buy special bike boxes at the airport, but I suppose such a service is not available in less bike-loving countries.

Offline percussionken

Re: old farts planning a big trip through Europe seek advice
« Reply #7 on: June 07, 2009, 02:20:08 pm »
Hi
Living in Europe and have done lots of touring here. You didnt write when but I assume in summer. If you are here in the second half of July and August keep away from the coasts. Holiday times and lots of people and traffic. Think you have to decide after France, Spain or Italy, both is to much with the time frame and dont think about going by the coast from Spain to Italy in summer, to stressful with traffic and a big recumbent. I would recommend going to France use maps with scale around 200 000 to 300 000, lots of clean and cheap camping sites and cheap hotels in the country site. With some careful map reading there are lots of small roads with little traffic. We are big fans (in the fifties) of using camping sites with a hotel now and then and the spend the money on nice menus (food and wine)in the evenings.

If you want to go to Italy I would recommend go through Germany and Austria. Could recommend this way "Via Claudia Augusta", it follows an old roman road.  Did it last year and it just goes on small roads with little traffic or roads just for bicycles, mostly on tarmac with some small streches on gravel. In Italy though, it can be some more traffic.
Use this guide http://www.esterbauer.com/buecher/html/vca_buch.htm , its in German but you will get by with the maps . Its well signed in Germany and Austria and the most northern part of Italy. I think the easiest way for you to buy it, is on the German Amazon site www.amazon.de , use the ISBN number when you search the site for the guide.
If you go to Italy look for the weekly daily lunch menus (not weekends)in villages, but not in the tourist hot spots. Look where there are crafts men with there working clothes and small trucks outside the restaurant. You eat gourment food with two courses, a glass of wine and coffee for around 10-11 Euros. The Italians are fussy with there food. And it doesnt take 1 1/2 hour like in France. Spend like 45 minutes and you are in heaven. And dont ask me how, but you are not stuffed up with food after, so there is no problem to hit the road again. A last advice regarding Italy, the small roads around the cities in the big Po river area can have a lot of truck traffic so there are not a lot of space.
The GPS is good when you want to get through a city and want to find that small road on the other side. Otherwise no problems with maps if you use scales like 2-300 000.


Good luck
Kenneth




Offline RussSeaton

Re: old farts planning a big trip through Europe seek advice
« Reply #8 on: June 08, 2009, 11:32:58 am »
When you say "cheap" what kind of dollar figure are you refering to?

In the fall of 2000 in Portugal and Spain, the cost was about $20 a night for motels, pensiones, etc..  Way back in the summer of 1992 the cost was about $5-15 a night.  But that was 17 years ago so those prices aren't too relevant.  2000 prices may not be relevant either.

Offline BentCyclePig

Re: old farts planning a big trip through Europe seek advice
« Reply #9 on: June 08, 2009, 01:11:42 pm »
Thanks everyone for the input.

We are planning on arriving in the first couple of days in September and heading out.  The bike can be taken down to the point where everying can be put in a big suitcase except the main support which can go in a ski bag.  That being said the last time we took the bike on an airplane despite very careful padding they managed to bend a sproket.  The only thing I can think of is that the airline ran over it with a forklift.  so when we came back we just shelled out the bucks and had them load it.  Given it's size it had to go on top of the luggage not underneath so it worked out rather better.  I also didn't have to spend 6 hours putting it back together also a plus.

I am still debating the decision of trailer versus paniers, does anyone have any thoughts in this regard?
Of course any other input as well.
I am hoping the general cost is accurate.  When we were in England a couple of years ago the cheapest - I stress cheapest hotel we found was 70 pounds which at the time was about 130 dollars.

thanks again
bent pig

Offline Stewart

Re: old farts planning a big trip through Europe seek advice
« Reply #10 on: November 11, 2009, 03:05:52 pm »
Your post was very interesting to me, because, after years of 'conventional' bike touring on standard bikes with front and back panniers, my son and I are planning a tour of Eastern European countries, hopefully on a tandem recumbent, and I want to know loading schemes. All I've seen so far are rear racks piled really high, though I know the possibility exists of towing a trailer, but that sees like it would be very long. Have you been to any web sites, etc. that discussed loaded touring with recumbent tandems?

Offline Westinghouse

Re: old farts planning a big trip through Europe seek advice
« Reply #11 on: November 11, 2009, 04:32:26 pm »
There are many dedicated biking / hiking paths in W. Europe, and the maps to go with them. The paths I used were excellent. The cobblestones are found in intersections, not entire roads unless they are very old and left that way for some reason. Summer is extremely touristy. Reserve hostels, pensions, rooms, and campgrounds ahead of time. The Romantische Strasse is supposed to be a very good route for crossing Germany. Crossing the Alps into Austria via the Brenner Pass (Paseo Brennero) can take you into Venice  and Verona. Roads made of the small square basalt stones are ok for cycling, but can be slippery when wet. Sidewalks can be excellent for cycling; however, in many places the transitions from sidewalk to road and road to sidewalk are not what I would call bicycle friendly, but bicycle indifferent at best. All my experiences bicycle touring in Western Europe have left me with the impression that it is a very good to excellent region for cycling. It is a bit expensive, a relative evaluation for sure. As I learned in Belgium in 1986, powerful storms can come out of nowhere in a moment's notice. Keep an eye on the sky. Hostels usually have places to lock bikes; some have campgrounds. Try to stay off main arteries of commercial transportation, e.g., the M roads in France unless you want to breath in lots of carbon emissions, and enjoy having large noisy trucks barreling by at 90 m.p.h.

Offline johnsondasw

Re: old farts planning a big trip through Europe seek advice
« Reply #12 on: November 11, 2009, 09:40:39 pm »
Different strokes, but a spare tire is probably overkill. 

No it ain't.  I've used mine on tours and would never ever go on a loaded tour without one.
Interesting...I used my spare tire last summer on the first day of a 6 day supported tour, and the tire I was replacing was almost new.  I hit a large, sharp bolt and it ruined the tire by ripping the sidewall.  Once, years ago, I had to replace a tire on tour, too.  I bring a spare with me even on 3 day tours, because a seriously wrecked tire will seriously wreck your trip, unless there's a bike shop around.
May the wind be at your back!

Offline paddleboy17

Re: old farts planning a big trip through Europe seek advice
« Reply #13 on: November 12, 2009, 12:40:01 pm »
I am still debating the decision of trailer versus paniers, does anyone have any thoughts in this regard?

There have been several threads on trailers versus panniers.  I prefer panniers on road, and a trailer for off-road touring.  Bikes with panniers are just too wide for my taste to go off road, and I think a bike with panniers handles better on the road.  Others have different opinions.

If you are not camping, I would think you could get by with less gear.  Panniers could simplify the allocation of space.  You get one bag and the admiral gets three.  :D
Danno

Offline Westinghouse

Re: old farts planning a big trip through Europe seek advice
« Reply #14 on: November 15, 2009, 01:03:22 am »
I always used the cheaper tires, so I always carried a spare. Not carrying a spare made me feel naked. On a 4,500 mile tour into the land of questionable goods and services, eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union in 1994, I carried four spares, two of which I ditched in the train station in Thessoloniki, Greece after it became obvious that tires would be more available than I had thought. With these new, expensive, tough, tires on the rims, perhaps carrying a spare is not such a necessity. In some stretches of roadway across the United States debris of all kinds is scattered all over the sides of the roads and shoulders. In some towns in Louisiana it appeared they had built their roads decades ago and had not cleaned them even once. They may know cyclists go through there occaionally, but they are unconcerned because the carpet of car parts, broken glass, mufflers, sticks, gravel, door knobs, and kitchen sinks, wait, not kitchen sinks, everything but, is in the cyclists' road not their own. I do not see a spare tire as overkill, but for a certain type of touring in some areas it definitely could be unneeded. I would recommend carrying one on a transcontinental tour of the U.S.A.