Touring Southern France

J-Lo

Senior Member
Hello,

I've previously been on a few short tours, most lengthy being 10 days through Normandy & Brittany - but this year I fancy a bit more of a challenge and some decent weather. With this in mind (and having got the leave) I quite like the idea of 17 days cycling through Provence & Languedoc Roussillon from first week of September.The reason for my post is how do I get there?

I'm not well rehearsed on travelling with a bicycle & related luggage and so i'm seeking advice from anybody that has done this area of France or similar? I understand that Eurostar are introducing new direct routes to Marseille this year which would have been ideal however from their website appears would not be possible with a bicycle (they do not allow large bike box and associated luggage) and suggest on their website to use a company 'First Luggage'. However I don't really like the idea of this and it's not cheap. Likewise, I don't like the idea of flying with my bike and putting its safety in the hands of airline staff...

Seen as I don't mind driving, I came up with the following plan... Get the channel tunnel, drive to Marseille, leave car in airport/long term parking for the duration, head off on bike and return some time later after having looped through earlier stated provinces. Having got the quotes, total cost of return crossing, petrol & long term parking would be around £430. Only other expenses would be campsites (for tent) although plan to stay at Municipals and previous experience shows this can be inexpensive and of course plenty of food along the way.

1 of the reasons I love cycle touring is the low cost associated with it, so this is always in my mind. Does my plan seem daft/ or reasonable and do you have any alternatives or suggestions?

Thank you!
 

betty swollocks

large member
 

andym

Über Member
If you have your bike in a bag you can simply go across Paris and get on a TGV. OK it's a taxi ride or metro ride but still will save you a shed load of time compared with the bike bus or driving.

If you don't have bike bag: buy one.

You could also try seeing if there's a direct train from Lille Europe - if there is, that would be definitely the quickest and easiest option.

Go to en.voyages-sncf.com - or capitaine-train.com.
 

TheDoctor

Resistance is futile!
Moderator
Location
Stevenage
Changing in Lille is the simplest option - see seat61.com for times and train info in general. Getting across Paris with a bike bag and luggage is not much fun.
Getting the 1258 Eurostar will get you to Marseilles by 2046, and the 1214 from Marseilles gets you back to London by the evening.
Personally, I'd start from Avignon or Aix en Provence - cycling out of Marseilles doesn't look all that appealing...
 

robgul

Guru
The Eurostar/TGV options are best - but the posts above are a bit random on detail!

1 Bike by Eurostar bike service to Lille (preferably) or Paris - passenger on Eurostar (bike is loaded on the train as freight, you just take panniers off)
2 Bike & passenger by TGV to the south from Lille or Paris. Capitaine Train's booking system tells you which TGV trains will take bikes .. and will make a booking. [I think it's only a few trains down to the south that take bikes)

You might check whether Eurostar will take bikes as freight on the new (start next week) services direct from St Pancras to Marseille (I don't think they do but ring up the freight people and ask)

Or as suggested - European Bike Express

OR - and this is a serious suggestion - cross the channel with the Eurotunnel Bike Service (minibus and trailer, twice a day) to Calais and cycle to the Med - it's a fantastic ride ... then train/bus back. [There's some stuff about the ride in the JOURNALS at www.cycle-endtoend.org.uk ]

Rob
 

TheDoctor

Resistance is futile!
Moderator
Location
Stevenage
Or put the bike in a bag, then book it on Eurostar, and carry it onto any TGV, as per my post above.
While the Eurotunnel option is valid, it's also ridiculous. There's over 30 Dover - Calais ferries a day, any of which will take bikes. Why tie yourself to a twice daily minibus service?
 
OP
J

J-Lo

Senior Member
Thanks all for the replies!

European bike bus seemed like a good option but having checked their routes, there aren't any that fit around my leave - must be due to time of year September...

The new direct route from St Pancras to south France does not allow large bike bags, has to be under 85cm - even with my bike suitably dismantled just won't fit.

If I'm right - the only other train option would appear to be st Pancras - Lille Eurostar (allows larger luggage bike bag). Then TGV from Lille - Avignon. Not keen on faffing about in Paris
 

andym

Über Member
You're confusing two things.

The limits on Eurostar for bike bags are quite tight: if you exceed them (you probably will) then you'll need to put your bike into the registered baggage service. If you do it right, your bag will travel on the same train and you just need to pick it up at Lille or Paris.

You can then take your bike as normal luggage on the TGV.

I'd recommend the Ground Effect Tardis bag - this fits perfectly on TGV luggage racks.

Travelling between the Gare du Nord and Gare de Lyon with luggage and a bike bag isn't a whole lot of fun, but it's perfectly do-able. Given the choice I'd far rather change at Lille, but it's still very feasible - and far quicker than the alternatives.
 

robgul

Guru
At risk of starting an argument - the rules changed about 18 months ago - unless you have a very, very small bike you cannot take it on Eurostar trains as bagged luggage - my 20" wheel Dahon folder only slipped 1cm inside the limit. For a full size bike there's no option but to use the Eurostar freight service (which is excellent)

On the plus side, an increasing number of TGV trains now take wheel-on bikes (unbagged)

Rob
 

Brandane

Is it because I lied when I was 17?
Location
Costa Clyde.
It all sounds like a lot of hassle, with the exception of driving, which in the OP you state you don't mind. If the costs are similar then it's a no brainer. Take the car!
I'll be France bound soon, hopefully, and it will be bike in the back of the car for me. To get to Portsmouth from Ayrshire it is cheaper and just as quick as the train. Then once over the channel I can head for whatever destination I choose and dump the car for as long as I decide. Much more flexible than pre booked public transport.
 
OP
J

J-Lo

Senior Member
Thanks for all of the advice. I have decided on the car option - not much difference in price and is a lot less hassle... getting to St Pancras would have been difficult enough! Thanks again
 

jay clock

Massive member
Location
Hampshire UK
If you do drive, I suggest a cheaper and safe alternative to a long term car park. Use Warmshowers to find a friendly local host, spend a night with them and leave the car there. I have hosted someone doing that flying from my local airport on one occasion, and I am sure it will be fun, not to say cheaper. Also means you can find someone rural and avoid you first and last days to be cycling in and out of a city/airport
 
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