Outdoor shots from French Alps and one from Glacier National Park

Bike Trip to France, 2000

For Christmas of 1999 my wife gave me the go ahead to take a two week cycling trip to any place I wanted to go. Since we have a five year old this was no small sacrifice on her part being that she was taking on single parent duties for two weeks. So anyway, thanks Mary.

The planning Day by day text with photos Trip Expenses Equipment Hotels

The planning

Deciding on what to do was a tough process since I'm not going again for a very long time. I looked at Italy and France and at a few different types of vacation:

  1. Supported tour with a company like Cycle Italia
  2. Cycle camp/inn like Pyreneen Pursuits
  3. Self-guided tour, riding from hotel to hotel
  4. Self-guided tour with a car to go the long distances between cycling venues, riding loop rides out of the hotel

And of course one can combine different types of vacation in one trip too.

I ended up choosing France both because the last two trips I've made have been to Italy and because the prices in Italy seemed to be more expensive. In France I had it narrowed down to a self-guided tour with a car, the Erickson Alps tour or some combination of the Graham Baxter Raid Pyreneen tour with a stay at Pyreneen Pursuits.

To make a long story short I chose the "self-guided tour with car" option. I rented a car and drove to my cycling venues staying between 2 and 4 nights in each place. I stayed in 2 star hotels to keep costs down. My goal was to come in under $3000 for two weeks (including air fare, hotels, meals and car/gas ie all the big stuff) which I did.

Day by day text with photos

These are day by day writeups including text and photos. The photos imbedded in the text are thumbnails that load faster. If you want to see a better image click on the thumbnail and a larger, slower loading image will come up.

I apologize for my lack of writing skills. I try, believe it or not.

Trip Expenses ...

Firstly I'll account only for trip expenses peculiar to this type of bike vacation as opposed to a conventional supported bike tour. My goal is to provide an aid for price comparisons for those wondering about the relative costs of a supported bike tour and doing it this way. I didn't call out the price of the flight or the cost of taking the shuttle to and from the airport or lunches or souvenirs because if you were taking a supported tour you'd still have these expenses.

I hope I don't peeve any of the folks at the touring companies, my experience with whom has been positive, but it doesn't take a CPA to see that this is a relatively inexpensive way to go compared to a supported tour. I'm not saying it's definatively better than a supported tour, it isn't, it's just significantly cheaper. I've taken supported tours before and probably will again.

Neither am I saying this is the cheapest way to go. Skipping the rental car and riding from hotel to hotel is very much cheaper still and, taking it one step further, skipping the hotels and camping is yet cheaper still.

Hotel Cost Car Expense Cost
Savoy $ 152.94 AVIS Car Rental 1 $ 585.40
Milan $ 108.55 Gas (diesel) $ 95.00
Aupillon $ 110.45 Tolls 2 $ 48.50
Pyreneen Pursuits $ 123.20 International Driver's Permit $ 10.00
Primerose $ 120.69
Sub-total Hotels $ 615.83 Sub-total Car Expenses $ 748.90
Total Self-Supported Costs $ 1364.73

1 This includes mandatory insurance plus collision, no theft or PAI
2 I didn't actually keep track of these but used Mappy.fr which is a nice site that, among other things, lets drivers see the tolls on an intinerary.

Now follow some of the links to touring companies and compare the price of a two week tour in France to $1365. Being fair you should really compare it to the cost with a single room supplement since that's what I got with my car/bike tour. You'll see that you can't touch an organized tour for this.

I kept track of the other bigger ticket items but, I confess, I lost track of my daily expenses for food (lunches and snacks for the road mostly since breakfasts and dinners were part of the hotel bill). Hey it wasn't business travel. OK. Now we add in the other general expenses.

Item Cost
Flight 1 $ 957.50
Passport 2 $ 51.00
Bike light (See Light for more info.) $ 188.00
Small bike bag $ 25.00
Total General Expenses $ 1221.50

1 This includes everything - taxes, fees, $10.00 shipping of tix.
2 This includes everything - passport, photos, shipping.

And the total expenses without lunches, snacks, souvenirs, daily spending money, etc.:

Total General Expenses $ 1221.50
Total Self-Supported Costs $ 1364.73
Total $ 2586.23

Equipment ...

  • Frame:
    • Serotta Colorado Legend II - a nice, high end steel frame. Not the highest zoot factor but no slouch either.
    • Columbus Nivacrom Steel (circa 1992)
    • 63 cm. Yeah. I do need a frame that big. :^) See?
  • SachSuntouShimaNoloElli Gruppo ;^) - a mix of mostly utilitarian and some higher zoot stuff from just about every component maker known:
    • Suntour: Sprint brakes
    • Shimano: rear derailleur and retro-grouch down tube shifters
    • Sachs: front derailleur and chain
    • Cinelli: bars and Ti stem
    • Stronglight roller bearing headset. (This is so nice. I have not touched it since I set the bike up in the winter of 1992.)
    • Campy Record 177.5 crank and BB. 53/39
    • Speedplay Pedals. Light (even accounting for the slightly heavier cleats) and very easy entry.
    • American Classic Ti seat post
    • Selle Italia Turbomatic II with Ti rails
  • Wheels: (Yeah. I brought two pair.)
    • Tubulars:
      • Mavic GL330 rims. 32 hole-3X rear, 32 hole-2X front.
      • DT spokes. 15 gauge?
      • Sachs New Success hubs.
      • 8 speed. 13,14,15,17,19,21,24,26 Cycle Dynamics Ti gears.
      • Vittoria All Weather tires
    • Clinchers:
      • Front: Mavic Cosmos
      • Rear: Shimano Dura-Ace, 8 speed. Vanilla Shimano 13,14,15,17,19,21,23,26. Mavic rim. 32 hole-3X.
      • Michelin Axial-Pro 23mm tires
  • Accessories

Hotels ...

This is a list of the hotels I stayed at while on the trip.
Hotel Town Department Region
Savoy Hôtel Saint Michel de Maurienne Savoie Rhône-Alpes
Hôtel de Milan Bourg d'Oisans Isère Rhône-Alpes
L'Aupillon Barcelonnette Alpes de Haute Provence Provence Alpes/Côte d'Azur
Pyrenéen Pursuits Biert Ariège Midi-Pyrénées
Au Primerose Hôtel-Restaurant Argelès-Gazost Hautes Pyrénées Midi-Pyrénées

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