Inspirational Adventures on the Path to
About our Tours
A note from Dick: Bike touring has been my passion since my late wife Mailyn and I started taking bicycle vacations in 1972. We had our first bike vacation in France in 1985 and that eventually led us to start Outfitter Bicycle Tours in 1996. We owned a professional bike store, The Bicycle Outfitter in Los Altos, California, for 28 years, 1976 through August 2004, so we know bicycling. In 1996 we added Outfitter Bicycle Tours to the business and ran group tours both guided & self guided in France, Italy, Ireland and Hawaii, until 2010. So we know bicycle vacations. We even had a home in France in the Dordogne near Plum Village where we lived half the year. So we know the Dordogne & Lot. Now retired and focused very much on mindfulness practice, I created Mindfulness Tours and have been joined by Jane Brown to help others find the wonders of the Dordogne & Lot & Plum Village and now Normandy. Mindfulness Tours never really got off the ground because my late wife Marilyn became sick and I became a full time caregiver for almost 5 years. In 2017 I lead a "Founder's Tour" for 11 day and 10 nights Click on 2017Guided. In 2019 we are leading 2 tours in Normandy Click on 2019. Presented below is information about our tours, the rides, hotels, support, food, what to take and a whole lot more. If this does not answer all your questions about us and our style, email me at: DickPowell53@aol.com
THE RIDING: We plan our rides for cycle enthusiasts, but not racers or other hard core riders. We can always add extra miles for you if that is your style, and there are always excellent options available. Any cycle enthusiast can do the rides. They are definitely not flat, but rolling hills, often along the river valleys and then over the ridge to the next valley.
THE ACCOMMODATIONS: We personally searched out our hotels, always looking for something special. Over the years we have established wonderful relationships with our hotels in the Dordogne and Lot. Many of the owners have become good friends which always assures our clients of getting extra special attention. We generally use 3 Star or better rated hotels. We also use some very special B&B accommodations.
THE FOOD: The included meals are outstanding. Special dietary requirements can be met. I am vegan at home, but eat vegetarian while on tour. The French really do not understand vegan, so we suggest that you adjust to cheese and some eggs in your meals. Plum Village is Vegan and abundant. The Tour Booking Form has a space for you to list special food needs and any other special need as well.
WHAT YOU SEE: All of our tours are in very scenic and historical areas. We search out the best routes with the most to see and visit. We generally keep our mileage short enough so you can spend time at the wonderful scenes and sights we pass. Entrance fees are not included in the trip cost. There are many photo opportunities each day (a great excuse to pause for a break while climbing I might add).
OUR SUPPORT: We meet you at the beginning and provide a complete orientation, then move your baggage when you change hotels and are on call for emergency support. This support is provided by our local guide. On days when we move the baggage we usually find you on the road to make sure all is well. You are expected to be able to fix your own flats and generally take care of yourself including riding in the rain. We do not have a Sag Wagon following along behind. We cater to enthusiasts, who can take care of themselves - - unless there is an emergency. When it is more than a minor flat, or it snows or hails, we will be there to help.
GETTING THERE: We do not include airfare or the train in our tour price. We pick you up at the train station in Les Eyzies or Puy en Velay and take you to your first night hotel. We return you to the Les Eyzies depot for the train to Sainte Foy Le Grande where you are met by Plum Village Monastics to be taken by van to Plum Village. You can choose to cycle the 72 km if you prefer. We will also provide guidance on choosing flights, renting cars and the train to help you plan your trip. If you want to bring your own bikes we will work with you to choose the best way to get to the start. SIGNING UP: Sign up on line. Click on Tour Booking Form in the Navigator on the left.
TRAVELING WITH YOUR BIKE: It is best to have a Bicycle Travel Case. Cases with wheels work best. If you want information on purchasing a case just ask.
WHAT TO TAKE:
1. YOUR BICYCLE
700x23 or 650x23 or larger tires on your bike,
Spare Tire (we will keep in the van)
Tire repair tools,
Water bottles (2) or Camel Back,
Fenders a good idea but not mandatory,
Pack for rain gear and cold weather clothing,
Assembly & packing tools,
Spare parts based on your own experience or paranoia. We can always go to a bike shop in the van for major problems. Spare spokes are a good idea.
Lock & cable, lightweight
2. YOU ON YOUR BICYCLE
Helmet cover for rain
Cycling shorts with padded seat, 2 pair
Cycling tights for cold weather
Layering pieces for cold weather
Rain jacket, (pants optional)
Cycling jerseys (or equivalent), 2 or 3
Padded cycling gloves
Cycling shoes & socks, some warm socks
Camera & extra memory card & battery
Magnifying glass (for map)
Rag (for dirty hand clean up after repair)
Cash. Most days there are small stores to stop at for refreshments. ATMs will be available near most hotels and in your arrival airport.
3. OFF THE BIKE CLOTHING ETC.
Sweat shirt or sweater (it will be cold at night)
Nice casual clothes for dinner
Hang around clothes for after the ride
Shoes & socks for walking and dinner
4. TRAVELING BEFORE - AFTER
You will be able to leave an extra bag, along with your bicycle case/box, for other clothing at the starting hotel. We will move it, if necessary, to our final hotel so it will be waiting for you at the final hotel.
Do not forget your passport & drivers license & airline tickets & credit cards. ======================================
PREPARING YOUR BIKE & BODY FOR YOUR ADVENTURE:
BODY: During your training rides leading up to the trip, climb as much as possible, but emphasize “saddle time” as your itinerary will offer 20 to 40 miles each day, as we move from hotel to hotel. Try to build up riding consecutive days as your trip gets closer. Be ready for a challenge, but don’t ride yourself into the ground the week before the trip! Arrive at the start of the trip fit, but not fatigued. The Dordogne tours require less training for sure, but be comfortible with 30 miles and some hills.
BIKE: Please have your bike inspected and serviced by a competent technician before packing it for travel. Explain to the mechanic what you will be doing and where you will be riding. If he/she has any questions have them call me. Any component showing wear, such as tires, brake pads, cables etc. should be replaced before you pack your bike. If you plan on a bike shop doing the work and/or packing your bike, make your appointment well in advance.
GEARING: Install the lowest gearing possible. We have never had a customer that said they wish they didn’t have such low gears. Usually the opposite. Make sure you have ridden with the new gear combination before the bike is packed and arrive with the gearing you will use for the entire trip already installed. We will not have the time or tools to do this in France. If you are not sure if your gears are low enough, discuss it with Dick.
PACKING YOUR BIKE FOR AIRLINE TRAVEL:
GENERAL: Start with a clean, lubricated and well tuned machine. A bicycle travel case is best (the wheels make moving through the airport etc. much easier), but a bicycle box works well. I do not recommend airline boxes, they are to large and the bike moves around and is more likely to have damage. Get a good box from your local bike store. For a tandem we only recommend BikePro Travel Cases or S&S Cases if coupled. Note: If you are using the train in France, bring a bike travel case with wheels, not a box.
WHAT YOU NEED: Pedal Wrench and other Tools to remove pedals, seat post & stem; plenty of Toe Straps or Plastic Ties, Foam Insulation, Bubble Wrap, Rubber Bands (large), Packing Tape, Magic Marker, Travel Axle (optional), Rags for cleaning and Lubing. We have tools for reassembly and repacking, so your emergency on the road tools will be all you need to bring. THE BOX: Start by reinforcing the box, make sure the bottom is securely taped, repair any damaged handholds. You may want to double layer the bottom with extra cardboard as the box may be dragged through a few airports before you are through with it.
PACK THE BIKE: Now mark the stem and seat post positions with the marker or tape to make reassembly a snap, then remove the pedals (remember the reverse thread on the left!). Next, shift the rear derailleur to the inside cog, remove the front wheel and remove the front skewer, install the travel axle, or put a piece of pipe insulation over the fork blades in a “U” fashion, with the bottom of the U to cushion the fork tips. Now cover the rest of the frame tubes with pipe insulation and remove the stem/handlebar and seat post and wrap them in bubble wrap secured with rubber bands. Note: If using a Bike Travel Case follow the manufacturers instruction, which usually means removing the rear wheel as well. Check to see if the brake cable slack is enough to lay the handlebar/stem assembly across the top tube, if so, secure it there with a toe strap or two or Plastic Ties. If there is not enough slack, remove the front brake caliper and wrap it in bubble wrap. Leave the tires inflated to cushion the rims (airline cargo holds are pressurized). Nestle the front wheel inside the main frame triangle while sliding the left crank arm inside the spokes, secure it to the frame with two or three toe straps or Plastic Ties. Next, after loading the box with the extra parts removed previously, you are ready to lower the bike into the box, sometimes it helps to have someone steady the box while you lower the bike in. Then, after checking to make sure the bike is sitting fully on the bottom of the box and the top will close, add any other items (helmet, shoes etc..). Secure all loose items to the bike or box. Floating items cause damage! After marking your name, airport destination, 1st night hotel destination name/phone on the box, seal it with the packing tape (save some tape in your carry-on for packing your bike for the return trip and touch up if forced to open the box at security.
CHECKING IN: When checking in at the airport, be as friendly as possible with the clerk/agent. Sometimes they will waive the fee on flights if they like you. Do not pack your camera or film with luggage you will check. Carry it on.
CHECK IN EARLY. Last minute check ins often result in delayed baggage due to inspections, bicycles especially. =================================
FRANCE TOUR NOTES
Helpful information to make your tour in France easier. France is 9 hours later than California. Calling from the US you dial 011 33 and then the local number, without the first zero. To call the US, it is usually less expensive to call from a public phone using your long distance carrier (MCI, AT&T etc). Check each hotel to see what their individual rates are for calls. Again, using your Calling Card will be the least expensive method.
CELL PHONES If you need to be available at all times, it is best to purchase a new phone or a SIM card (if you have a compatible GSM 3/4 Band phone or a European cellphone), in France after arrival. Be sure to check with your cell phone or other hand held device before you depart for France. This is the least expensive way to make and receive calls in France and a basic phone is about 70 euros. You buy cards locally to increase the time on the phone as needed. No One Year Plan etc. like here. Renting phones is more expensive. If you have a GSM phone, check with your provider to see what you need to do to have it work in France. We have T-Mobile phones and they work very well in the USA and Europe. In Europe it is, however, $0.99 per minute in or out.
BEING REACHED WHILE ON TOUR Have people call and leave a message at the hotel you will be staying at that night. If it is an emergency, we will pick up the message when we arrive with the luggage and get it to you. You will normally arrive by 5:00PM (8:00AM PST).
INTERNET ACCESS Most of our hotels will have DSL with WiFi connection.
DIETARY CONSIDERATIONS Breakfast is provided by each of our hotels/B&B’s and will generally be “Continental” style in France. There will be plenty, but do not expect Bacon & Eggs. Bring “Energy Food” such as Power Bars & Cytomax with you from the US for during the ride. Lunches are the responsibility of each of you. Everyday has the opportunity to buy food along the way for a picnic. Most days have lunch stop possibilities as well. We will provide this information at the initial briefing. Dinner is included many nights. Dinner beverages are not included. You can pay at the table or in some cases charge it to your room. Vegetarians can be accommodated at all our meals. Just let us know well in advance.
HOTEL CHECK - OUT You may charge beverages or additional items to your room. At all accommodations it is ok to bring outside beverages to your room, but not to the restaurant. At the hotels you can charge telephone calls to your room. Please checkout at each accommodation before leaving to settle any charges and turn in your key.
LAUNDRY Because laundry service is not always readily available, a small bottle of Woolite can be invaluable for washing cycling shorts, jerseys or socks. Some tourists plan their packing so as not to have to worry about laundry while on tour. Please be very sensitive to where you hang wet laundry. We will provide information on where laundromats are located at your orientation. This is always a good option on longer tours.
ENTRY FEES Entry fees are not included.
ON TOUR SUPPORT We will move your luggage between accommodations. If Hotel Staff is available it will be in your room when you arrive. You are expected to have your luggage at the van (or in the lobby if the van is not there) by 9:30AM each day we move. For emergency we have a cell phone. The number will be provided for each trip on your Route Notes. It often does not work well in the Mountains. It has been our experience that French drivers are very nice and will stop to help in an emergency if you flag them down. Most have cell phone and will gladly call for help. Emergency numbers are on your Route Notes.
ROAD SIGNS Road signs in Europe follow the now almost standard international system of symbols. The driving speed, however, is much faster in Europe. If it says 50 KM per hour, they will probably be going faster, but they obey all signs, at least in France. We will go over rules of the road & key signs during our initial “Map Reading” Session of your tour.
BRINGING YOUR BIKE Bicycles no longer travel free on international flights as one piece of your checked luggage. Expect to pay. The price varies from airline to airline and from check in clerk to clerk. Keep your suit bags under 50lbs. each. Bikes travel best in bicycle cases designed for that purpose. Try to keep under 50lbs as well, but usually this is not possible. Keep under 70lbs. Bicycle boxes also travel well, but are a little more difficult to lug around the airport etc. Be sure to take basic tools and spares as noted on the What To Take List.
Arriving in Europe A FEW HELPFUL HINTS As you plan your trip a number of questions come up. Several questions that consistently arise concern Money, Transportation, Car Rentals & Trains.
MONEY It is best to have about $100 worth of CASH in the currency of the country you’re traveling to in your pocket before you arrive at the airport. Many banks here in the US can sell you foreign currency. You usually have to order it in advance. Once there, and usually available at the airport in Europe, is the Magic Money Machine, the ATM. They all take Visa, Master Card & ATM Cards. You need a PIN number. It takes several weeks to get one for a Visa, Mastercard or American Express, so call the 800 number on the back of your card and start the process now. If you have an ATM card with Visa on it, you can use your existing PIN number and obtain cash directly from that account, the absolute best way with the best rate. Your normal Visa or Master Card will add an extra 3%, but is equally convenient, and still better than Travelers Checks or exchanging US dollars, which are the worst rates. If you do not mind a possible line, you can get cash at your arrival airport from an ATM in major European airports, such as Paris, Lyon, Geneva or Toulouse.
TRANSPORTATION When arriving and after clearing customs, and getting money if necessary, there are usually five options. Car Rental, Taxi, Airport Shuttle, Train and Hotel Shuttles, listed in order of relative cost, rental being the most expensive, taxi the next most expensive, and hotel shuttles free. If you are being picked up for the bike trip by Outfitter Tours, it will be at a nearby airport hotel with a free shuttle from the airport. This is specified in your packet. When arriving with a bicycle, a bit of planning in advance will help a lot. If you are spending time before or after the trip you will have to plan for the bicycle. We recommend you have your first or last night at an airport hotel and leave your bike in their left baggage room (check in advance, rules change continually). If you have a folding or S&S bicycle it is easier to take it around with you. There are too many options to outline here, so please contact Dick and discuss your particular itinerary and he will give you recommendations. We do not recommend using the Underground systems with your baggage and bicycle. The turnstiles and steps are murder. A bit of extra expense at the beginning will be well worth it.
AIR FRANCE BUS SERVICE These large busses can carry a bicycle in the luggage area and go between Paris airports and major train stations in Paris. Tickets are purchased just ouside the baggage area. Do not use this service to try to get you and your bike to a Paris hotel. See Airport Shuttle Service.
TRAINS If you use the French TGV (Train a Grand Vitesse, high speed), you MUST have reservations for seats in addition to the actual ticket or pass. If you are riding on one of the standard trains, advance seat reservations are not required. You can buy your tickets on line from the US for French or Italian trains at http://www.raileurope.com/us/rail/fares_schedules/index.htm or through a local travel agent. Call or fax Rail Europe at 800-438-7245. If you buy your train tickets in France you can do it at any train station (Gare). Go to the “Billets” window. More and more, Ticket Machines are being used which will take credit cards. One helpful hint is to first go to the room marked with the big “I” (Information). You may find someone that speaks some English to help you plan your itinerary. Armed with this information you can go to the Billets window and make your reservations. Credit cards are accepted.Last but not least, don’t forget to “Composte” your ticket at one of the bright orange boxes standing guard at the entrances to the train platforms. Composting your ticket is not an obscure French gardening practice, it is what happens when the machine punches holes in your ticket and the date to validate it. Without this stamp, you may be forced to pay a fine once on board the train.
CAR RENTALS We have had the best luck with Auto Europe at 800-223-5555. They use Europcar, the most prolific provider in France. Vans, Minivans and Wagons must be picked up at major airports. Sub-compact, compact and mid-size can be picked up in almost any mid size town in France. They can be dropped off almost anywhere in France as well.
AIRPORT SHUTTLE SERVICE (updated 4/28/2007)Airport shuttle service is available at Paris airports. We have had very good luck with this service. If you have a bike be sure to let them know in advance. This is the best way to get a bicycle into and out of Paris from the airports. Contact www.parishuttle.com. Phone from USA: 011 33 (0) 1 53 39 18 18. In France add the 0: 01 53 39 18 18.
LODGING IN PARIS A NOTE FROM MARILYN (old information from a one time expert on Paris): I have never found the perfect, small, charming, cheap Paris hotel. One that I liked is in the 5th Arrondissement, just off Blvd St. Michel, just across from the Pantheon. We walk everywhere, so I felt it was central enough and are a short taxi ride to Gare Austerlitz (for our Dordogne & Lot Tours):Hotel des Grands Hommes17 place du Pantheon, 75005tel 1 22.214.171.124 fax 1 email@example.com If you stay here ask for one of the rooms on the 5th or 6th floor facing the Pantheon with a balcony. I found them very nice. Also in the 5th and closer to Gare Austerlitz (still a taxi ride) is: Hotel des Grands Ecoles75, rue du Cardinal Lemoine tel 1 126.96.36.199 fax 1 firstname.lastname@example.org and:Hotel Parc Saint Severin22 rue da la Parcheminerietel 1 43 54 32 17 fax 1 43 54 70 email@example.com Another hotel and it's sister are on the Isle St. Louis in the middle of the Seine, very central, close to Notre Dame, small, well appointed, very nice with some charm. They are priced about the same. Paris is fairly expensive. They are:Hotel de Lutece***65, rue Saint-Louis-en-l'ile, 75004tel. 1-43-26-23-52 fax firstname.lastname@example.orgHotel des Deux-Iles***59, rue Saint-Louis-en-L'ile,75004tel 1-188.8.131.52 fax email@example.com Both are in the 4th Arrondissement. Hotels at Gare de Lyon for when you are coming to or from Paris for the Alpes, Provence or Le Puy tours, are located right at the train depot and central to all of Paris. It is best to book thru the hotel web site for the best rate.IBIS Gare Lyon $$Tel from USA: : 011 33 1 43 46 12 72 Fax from USA: 011 33 1 43 41 68 01Hotel # firstname.lastname@example.org Novotel Gare de Lyon $$$Tel 1 44 67 60 00fax 1 44 67 60 email@example.com Mercure Gare de Lyon $$$$tel from USA: 011 33 143 44 84 84fax from USA: 011 33 1 43 47 41 firstname.lastname@example.org When calling France numbers from the USA you must add: 011 33 in front of the 1. When calling in France, you must add a zero 0 in front of the 1. Good luck! We can provide additional recommendations as well, but have some fun and go to http://www.France.com , The French Tourist Office. Lots of stuff here. Bonne Chance!
FRANCE BY BICYCLE, What you need to know. All of France is custom made for bicycle touring, whether camping or inn to inn. Their network of small, well paved lanes through gorgeous countryside, with little traffic and people that literally love cyclists, is unsurpassed. There are itineraries for everyone, whether novice or serious racer, whether self supported touring or with a tour company which will carry your luggage. The camping sites, even in the cities, are excellent. Accommodations include farm stays or B&B, to hotels and chateaux, from inexpensive to very expensive. Bicycles can be brought with or rented on your own or from a tour company you are traveling with. Following is information which would be helpful in exploring cycling in France.
PARIS CYCLING Not normally considered a good place to cycle, 32 km of bicycle lanes have recently been constructed in Paris. Sunday is a good day to discover the city by bike. The banks of the Seine between the Jardin des Tuileries (1er) and the Tour Eiffel (7er), as well as roads along the Canal St-Martin (10er) are closed to cars on Sundays. The Bois de Boulogne (16er) and the Bois de Vincennes (12er) make excellent day-trip destinations in Paris. Bicycles are available at Vincennes metro stop, Tel: 01.47.66.55.92, or the metro stop Alma-Marceau. Bicycles may also be rented at Bicyclub 8, place Porte de Champerret (17er), or Paris Velo, 2, rue du Fera-Moulin (5er), Tel: 01.43.37.59.22.Nighttime bicycle tours of Paris are offered at C’est Sympa!, April - October, rue Jacques Coeur (4er), Bastille metro stop. Some English spoken. Tel: 01.48.87.60.01, Fax: 01.48.87.61.01. Also, highly recommended is: www.FatTireBikeToursParis.com:Fat Tire Bike Tours - Paris (formerly Mikes Bike tours). TRAINS & BICYCLESBicycles can always go where you are going by train, but not necessarily on the same train. There is a fee of about 10 euro. Some trains permit you to bring it on for free. Train schedules show which trains do and don’t allow bikes to come on with you. If not, then you pay the fee and they ship it to your destination. The bicycle usually arrives 24 hours after you ship it, but they only guarantee 5 days. Many train stations offer bicycle rentals. Pick up the booklet Guide de Train et Velo at any large train station for information about transporting bicycles on trains. If your bicycle is in a travel case, you can usually carry it on board most trains, leaving it in the entryway to the car where large pieces of luggage are put. The SNCF (French National Railway) Web site gives information on train schedules and the rail system’s rent a bike service. In French or English at http://www.sncf.com
BICYCLE INFORMATION IN FRANCEFor information on biking in France, contact the Federation Francaise de Cyclotourisme (FFCT), 8, rue Jean-Marie-Jego, 13er, Paris, Tel: 01.44.16.88.88, Fax: 01.44.16.88.99 or the Federation de Cyclisme (FFC), which will also have information on velos tout terrain (VTT) and mountain-bike trails. 5, rue de Rome, 93561 Rosny-sous-Bois Cedex, Tel: 01.49.35.69.00, Fax 01.48.94.09.97.
A FEW IMPORTANT WORDS It is helpful to learn the rudimentary words, such as hello, goodbye, thank you, etc. Bring a small translation book. You'll discover that the Italians are generally very appreciative of your efforts and help fill in the blanks. HELP--au secour THANK YOU--merci EXCUSE ME--excusez moi PLEASE--s’il vous plait GOOD DAY/HELLO--bonjour GOOD EVENING--bon soir (after 5) GOOD BYE--au revoir