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Old 15.01.2008, 14:24
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Cycling long distance in April?

Hello all,
New member here.
I am excited to be moving to Zurich in May!

Before that I have 5 weeks free and I am looking for ways to spend them. Any ideas?

I was thinking of cycling around northern continental Europe, but I am not sure if the weather will be ideal for that (i.e. it's going to rain all the time...)

Does anyone have experience with cycling long distances, and especially in spring?
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Old 15.01.2008, 14:49
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Re: Cycling long distance in April?

About 10 years ago I cycled from Amsterdam, up the Rhine valley, and eventually to Munich. I started it in late April, and the weather was reasonable - not many rainy days and reasonable temperatures, but I can't remember any detailed stats. A good place for those is the BBC's weather site which gives historic average temperatures and rainfall for each month in many international cities. Alternatively, why not give the southern half of Europe a try?

The one thing that I did find bike-touring at that time of year was that many campgrounds had only just opened for the season, so beware if you are planning to use those.
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Old 15.01.2008, 17:16
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Re: Cycling long distance in April?

Well according to BBC April is less rainy than August in Belgium! The same seems to be true for Germany. So if rain is of a concern April seems to be one of the better months.

The bike I have is reasonably good: http://www.halfords.com/webapp/wcs/s...tegoryrn_60956
Adding panniers and good mud-guards should make it road-worthy for such a trip, what do you think? (btw I reading the Cycling in Switzerland post too)

I haven't thought about sourthern Europe, but cycling London to Zurich is also symbolic for me as it's the move I'm making :-) And avoiding a flight might be enough to convince me to suck up the rain...
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Old 15.01.2008, 17:18
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Re: Cycling long distance in April?

There doesn't seem to be a way to make edits, so I wanted to add that I'd go from London to Zurich but riding along the northern coast and then descent through Munich.
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Old 15.01.2008, 17:38
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Re: Cycling long distance in April?

I like the idea of doing the "symbolic" ride from old to new location - very cool.

We lived in Amsterdam last year and all I have to say is always be ready for rain! Then again the rain is usually light, so I found it didn't really bother me to ride in it. Especially since there are separate bike paths all over the country so you aren't getting splashed by cars on the road. Last year April was the most beautiful month in The Netherlands of the whole year, with lots of sun and warm temps, so maybe you'll get lucky and have that again.

I haven't done very much long-distance riding by myself, but a friend of ours biked all over Europe last summer, and he wrote a blog with some tips on what to bring and a description of a typical day, so maybe that will give you some ideas (just keep in mind it's written by a sarcastic American! )

And let us know how it goes once you get here. Enjoy!
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Old 15.01.2008, 17:44
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Re: Cycling long distance in April?

The bike should be good enough to do the trip, although I wouldn't classify in the "reasonably good" category as you do. A few things to look at changing to do such riding which won't cost much money:

First, I assume you're going to be primarily riding on the roads or paved trails, but it looks like the bike has 26-inch wheels, and so probably has trail-ready tyres: knobbly, about 2 inches wide and with tyre pressures of about 50 psi. Instead, I would replace those with some smoother 1.5-inch wide tyres pumped up to 70 psi, which will be MUCH more efficient.

Second, do some long test rides, not only to improve fitness, but also to test whether the saddle is suitable for spending many hours in it. Generally, you don't want something that is too soft (softer is not always better), although you certainly don't want racing-hardness. However, saddles are a very personal thing.

Third, put some bar-ends on the handlebars if you haven't already got them. Everyone who tours with straight bars without any extensions complains of hand numbness. The way to avoid this is to give yourself multiple hand positions to use. The straight bar is somewhat limiting in this respect compared to butterfly bars or drop bars, but if you get a set of bar-ends then that will give you an extra hand position, and if you get some really long ones (like these) then you may be able to get a third, with your hands at the ends and your wrists resting on the grips.

Regarding editing posts, you'll be able to do so after you've made at least 5 posts and been a member for at least one week (I believe).
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Old 15.01.2008, 18:51
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Re: Cycling long distance in April?

Why not reasonably good? I guess the previous bikes I've had were really bad... I'm really impressed that the gears always work, I think it's lightweight and sturdy, and it's a pleasure to ride in general, though I wish the pedals were somehow higher. Btw, I am not trying to criticise, but I might just go ahead and buy a new bike if I definitely do the trip and I think it'll make the experience considerably better.

It's a "town and trail" bike and has 1.5 inch tyres (I think -- they are definitely not the mtb type with the treads but relatively flat-surfaced)
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Old 17.02.2008, 00:37
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Re: Cycling long distance in April?

The next step is to find cycling maps! I thought that would be an easy task but I couldn't find anything (searched on amazon and Google)

My rough plan is to cycle from Brussels to Rotterdam and then to Basel by the following the Rhine, and then to Zurich...

Why? Because I think it's going to be easy to follow a river and I found a book that has good route information (Cycling the Rhine Route). Even so, I'd like to have some additional maps with the areas I am going to cycle...

Does anyone know where I can find maps with cycling trails for Belgium, Netherlands, NW Switzerland and
the Rhine valley?

Or, does anyone have any advice on cycling from Brussels to Antwerp to Katwijk (near Rotterdam) and from Basel to Zurich?

Thanks :-)
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Old 17.02.2008, 10:42
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Re: Cycling long distance in April?

There's a British organization called the Cyclists' Touring Club who have tons of the kind of information that you're looking for. It is only available to their members, and membership is 35 pounds per year for adults, or 12 pounds if you're a student under 26. For that price, you get access to all of their information sheets, route maps, etc, with lots of stuff for cycle-touring across all of Europe. Plus, you get 6 editions of their magazine, and you support their cycle-advocacy lobbying in the UK.

Following the Rhine is a good idea, I did most of your route on a very early tour of mine. However, I just figured out the route as I went along, and it probably could have been much better if I'd researched ahead of time like you are. I remember the section south of Koblenz being the most attractive because the valley gets quite narrow and there are lots of vineyards on the hillsides. Stopping in Cologne for an extra day at the youth hostel to rest weary cycling legs while having a look at the city was also pretty nice.

You also won't have to fear getting stuck anywhere for long with a mechanical problem on that route. There are well-equipped bike shops in every town in the areas you are going to, most of which have at least one person who speaks good English. After some spoke-breakage problems half-way through my trip, I found a great little shop who entirely rebuilt my rear wheel and kitted me out with a front rack and front panniers to distribute my load better, all for a fair price. I've since learnt that spoke breakage is one of the most common mechanical failures for cycle-tourers, so I now put less weight on the back of the bike, my highest-quality component is the rear wheel, and I carry some spare spokes with me and have the tools and knowledge to change them. However, any bike shop you find should have spare spokes available in almost all lengths if you have a problem.
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Old 17.02.2008, 11:05
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Re: Cycling long distance in April?

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Does anyone know where I can find maps with cycling trails for Belgium, Netherlands, NW Switzerland and
the Rhine valley?
These two guide books will get you from Rotterdam to Basel along the Rhein. I used them in 2006 and found them to be excellent. The only downside is that they're in German, which means you'll miss out on some of the tourist information.

Rhein-Radweg Teil 2: Von Basel nach Mainz
Rhein-Radweg Teil 3. Von Mainz nach Rotterdam

Have a great time!
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Old 17.02.2008, 14:20
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Re: Cycling long distance in April?

I cannot believe how hard it is to find good cycling maps to *buy*!

I mean, even knowing that I am looking for the "Kümmerley & Frey" map, it's so hard to find anything!

Thanks for the info on the Rhein maps, I already ordered them Now I have to find maps for Belgium and Switzerland....
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Old 17.02.2008, 16:38
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Re: Cycling long distance in April?

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I cannot believe how hard it is to find good cycling maps to *buy*!

I mean, even knowing that I am looking for the "Kümmerley & Frey" map, it's so hard to find anything!

Thanks for the info on the Rhein maps, I already ordered them Now I have to find maps for Belgium and Switzerland....
I understand the frustration. I'm trying to find maps for my upcoming France tour.

I know the Swiss map you're looking for: I happen to have two of them. You can order it from here: veloplus.ch.
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Old 17.02.2008, 17:02
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Re: Cycling long distance in April?

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I cannot believe how hard it is to find good cycling maps to *buy*!
To be honest, after living on 'the continent' for awhile, I've found that it's not necessary to have a cycling-specific map so long as your map-reading skills are good. In fact, once I got used to reading topo maps, I now prefer them to any other type of map, including the cycling-specific ones.

The two key things of importance to cyclists can be determined from topographical maps. Namely:

1-The gradient of the road: are there any major hills where you're heading? Hills are fine on a bike (and even a bit fun) but it's always good to be prepared. A quick check of a topo map will let you know what to expect.

2-How busy are the roads? If the route you're taking is the only one into/out of a major town it will probably be busy, and then you might wish to look for alternatives. Any map will let you know this relatively easily. In general, side roads are better than main ones, so long as they don't take you too far out of your way and still have a reasonable surface. Most maps let you know which roads are paved and unpaved as well. Sometimes, you will have to suck it up and head through a town on the main drag, but it's generally not a big problem.

One thing I really like about using a topo map as opposed to one with set cycling routes is that you don't feel compelled to follow pre-determined cycle paths. Some of my best cycling experiences have been 'off the beaten path', so to speak, and I wouldn't trade them for the world.

So "etc", I say just grab a few topo maps from the shop and then go wherever the wind takes you between here and there. Combine them with a good guide book to give you some locations to head for, and you're set! (And if ever the weather turns foul and you're far from shelter, it never hurts to ask at the next farm you come across if they can house you for the night. Even in this day and age, people can be very hospitable.)

Bon voyage,

HeatherM
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Old 17.02.2008, 17:17
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Re: Cycling long distance in April?

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To be honest, after living on 'the continent' for awhile, I've found that it's not necessary to have a cycling-specific map so long as your map-reading skills are good. In fact, once I got used to reading topo maps, I now prefer them to any other type of map, including the cycling-specific ones.

The two key things of importance to cyclists can be determined from topographical maps. Namely:

1-The gradient of the road: are there any major hills where you're heading? Hills are fine on a bike (and even a bit fun) but it's always good to be prepared. A quick check of a topo map will let you know what to expect.

2-How busy are the roads? If the route you're taking is the only one into/out of a major town it will probably be busy, and then you might wish to look for alternatives. Any map will let you know this relatively easily. In general, side roads are better than main ones, so long as they don't take you too far out of your way and still have a reasonable surface. Most maps let you know which roads are paved and unpaved as well. Sometimes, you will have to suck it up and head through a town on the main drag, but it's generally not a big problem.

One thing I really like about using a topo map as opposed to one with set cycling routes is that you don't feel compelled to follow pre-determined cycle paths. Some of my best cycling experiences have been 'off the beaten path', so to speak, and I wouldn't trade them for the world.

So "etc", I say just grab a few topo maps from the shop and then go wherever the wind takes you between here and there. Combine them with a good guide book to give you some locations to head for, and you're set! (And if ever the weather turns foul and you're far from shelter, it never hurts to ask at the next farm you come across if they can house you for the night. Even in this day and age, people can be very hospitable.)

Bon voyage,

HeatherM
Hmm, wouldn't Google maps be sufficient in that case? I mean, it does have all major routes! I'll have a blackberry with me, which means that I'll have all the maps and information in the world (though the money I'll save on trains by cycling will go to the phone bill )
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Old 18.02.2008, 08:51
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Re: Cycling long distance in April?

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Hmm, wouldn't Google maps be sufficient in that case? I mean, it does have all major routes! I'll have a blackberry with me, which means that I'll have all the maps and information in the world (though the money I'll save on trains by cycling will go to the phone bill )
I'm using Google Maps to help plot parts of my France tour. You've probably seen the feature that gives you driving directions based on a start and end location. However, there is also an "avoid highways" feature, and you can now drag the route around to force it through particular locations. You can then export the track to GPX using GMapToGPX and import it into your GPS.
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Old 18.02.2008, 09:40
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Re: Cycling long distance in April?

Other than Google, Swisstopo maps have contour lines which is an advantage for wandering and cycling.
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Old 18.02.2008, 10:23
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Re: Cycling long distance in April?

Following on from Heather's reply about getting more cycling-specific information from a map than is available at first glance, there is some excellent information on Ken Kifer's Bike Pages. Even experienced tourers and map readers should enjoy reading what he has to say about estimating how busy a road is, inferring elevation changes when there is no such info explicitly shown on the map, etc.
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