I did my own Tour de France! Feedback from riders of 2014

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In this beautifully illustrated guide to travelling across France by bike you will discover hidden lanes, stunning gorges, amazing places to eat and stay, plus the best of French cycling culture. This iconic journey of 1000 miles takes you through 19 of France’s regional départements and into some of the country’s most striking and dramatic landscapes, helping you to discover the true heart of rural France.

Tom Brutton: “My name is Tom and last Saturday I reached Nice having cycled the entire route (and a little bit more). Whilst I was riding I promised myself that I would write to you to communicate my appreciation for what was a perfect itinerary, beautifully presented and thoroughly well researched book.

Prior to departing for St Malo I had done little more than buy the book and to book my accommodation based on your recommendations. As such my two weeks were totally in your hands! However after one day I had seen Mont St Michel, had a photo stop at the fortified chateau in Fougeres and stayed at the Petit Billot in Vitre. I sat down to dinner that night knowing that it was going to be a special trip. Every road, every village and town and every suggested accommodation along the route was better than I could have ever expected. When the book said that somewhere was worth a stop, it really was worth it. After a hard day’s riding I would be filled with excitement as to what my stop for the night had in store for me. I remember vividly rolling down the hill and across the bridge in Brantome after 120 miles of riding with a huge smile on my face as I realised that it was somewhere truly special. Nothing beat the feeling of sitting on one of the terraces with a glass of red with the peaceful river running past.

I could honestly write forever to you discussing my favourite bits and how much I appreciate your book but I am sure you get it from everyone who has done the trip. However in one sentence, thank you for giving me the trip of a lifetime! I should add that it was a few months back when I saw your flyer on my car at an event down in Box Hill that I first really contemplated doing this trip. I looked your book up, bought it instantly and booked everything as soon as it arrived. Everyone who has seen my photos from the trip is incredibly envious and I have made numerous recommendations to them to buy your book.  Merci, merci, merci!”

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Ellie Willmott: “I just wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed riding through France for 2 weeks this September following your route.  It was a proper adventure. My Mum lives in the Ardeche and I’d been talking about cycling to her house for ages (but avoiding the UK bit (I live in Perth)) and so when I stumbled across your book in the local Waterstone’s at the end of May this year I felt like it was ‘meant to be’ since the route actually goes through the wee village she stays in.  I’ve never done any cycle touring before and I thought having a route to follow would make life a lot simpler with all the things that need to be organised.

I decided with my lack of experience the 3 week itinerary would be the most realistic option, but I would get to my final destination in 15 days, giving me time to have a holiday when I got to my Mum’s too (I had 3 weeks leave).  So I got the train to Portsmouth, ferry St Malo and after a week in the Ardeche flew back from Marseille.  In the end I did the trip in 14 days, mostly due to meeting another cyclist in Mende (Simon) on my last night camping who was doing the 2 week itinerary and so I cycled with him from Mende to St Alban Auriolles – that final day is amazing – downhills that go on forever on quiet roads and climbs that are manageable even with a laden bike.

I know Simon (cyclist I met) has also e-mailed and mentioned this but I think the only thing that I would add to the book is a wee line about being aware that in the shoulder season campsites/restaurants might not be open.  It wasn’t a huge issue but any extra miles at the end of a long day feel hard.  But mostly the whole experience was incredibly positive, the camaraderie of all other cyclists on the road, the greater courtesy that French drivers have to cyclist, the fantastic nature of the route following river after river exploring many parts of France I don’t really know – I thought the Lot valley in particular was brilliant.

I suspect the weather helped (13 and three quarter days of wall to wall sunshine then a drenching just as we left Les Vans) but I do think the route is well thought out.  I did undertake some ‘edits’ to my journey (as you suggest, making it my own adventure) as I used traditional maps for navigation, some of the editing was just evening out the day lengths on the itinerary so they were closer to fifty-ish miles – as I found they varied a fair bit.  I also chose not to take the rest day but to do 2 shorter length days as I’m not sure I would have managed 74 miles and 1500m of ascent with my adapted mountain bike (road tyres) and camping kit, especially over Goudard pass.

I would (have already) recommend the book/route to anyone interested in touring or just exploring France generally.  It is a fairly hefty tome for cycle touring with but I did enjoy looking at my maps and the book of an evening to see what the next day had in store.  I didn’t have the book out during the day but quickly learnt that some of the salient directions for getting through towns noted down on a bit of paper with the map made navigation pretty straightforward. I know there’s lots of digital ways of doing these things but the maps gave a better sense of where I was and also let me adapt the route a little.

All in all this is just a big thank you – France en velo – made something I’ve been thinking about for years come to fruition – and I’m chuffed to bits I did it 🙂

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Rob Backhouse: “The PDFs were invaluable. I printed and laminated them and had each days stages fixed to the handlebars. Worked really well. I just referred to the book for the trickier sections like getting out of towns, as well as reading the detail before each day and at coffee stops. I did stages 1-17 solo, during September. weather was brilliant and I really enjoyed it. I’m planning on completing the second half next year.”

Susan Cooper: “We did your route this summer starting on 27th August in 16 days. It was a fantastic route and the guide book was superb- we plotted it into our garmin before we left turn by turn. We would like to do something similar perhaps for a longer time Spain  France Italy. Do you have any suggestions and any other route books in the pipe line?”

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Richard Bowsher: “I only ventured down to the Loire so just completed stages 1-7. The route was excellent, just a few alterations due to the lack of open campsites etc. I’ve plotted the gpx routes for these sections – can forward them if you’re interested.”

Looking forward to going back in the spring and completing the whole St Malo to Nice route.

 

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