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This page last updated on: November 171, 2016
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Planning and undertaking a European bike trip

Bicycle Touring in Europe

Part V: Maps, Guidebooks, Hotels, Tourist Sites

 

On this page:

Bicycle Maps and guidebooks.
Hotels and Tourist Site Information Sources.
Notes.

On related pages:

Why Bicycle in Europe? How much will it cost?
When to Go, By Commercial Group? Or, by Personal Tour?
Bring Your Own Bike or Rent or Buy? What Kind of Bike? Customizing Your Bike?

Trains and Bicycles.
What Should You Pack? Security, Traffic, and Safety.
How far will you ride?
Best European Cycling Trips: Author's ratings, and when, where, and how to do them

Bicycle Maps and Guidebooks

Maps: For the biking itineraries mentioned as Best European Bike Tours, maps to the scale of 1:200,000 or 1:100,000 are ideal. The 1:200,000 maps have the advantage of being more compact and less expensive. The 1:100,000 maps have the advantage of showing (in general) topography (valuable in hilly or mountainous countryside) and of being less crowded (valuable near big cities).

The Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland and Belgium have complete country coverage by maps especially for bicycling, maintained with the help of local bicycling organizations. The maps for the Netherlands (ANWB, 1:100,000 or 1:50,000) , Germany (ADFC, 1:150,000), Switzerland (Halwag -Kummerly + Frey, 1:60,000) and Belgium (various) are particularly helpful, as they show the extensive networks of bicycle paths.

Many European bicycling maps and guides, including bicycling maps from Germany, and the Netherlandsalso as well as certain maps from France, Finland,the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Austria are now available in the USA (N. Carolina) online at www.omnimap.com (telephone 336-227-8300). Prices are higher than obtaining the maps in Europe, but the convenience is probably worth it. The site has indexes showing map coverage, and small sample exerpts of each style of map. They also have most French maps by the IGN and topographic maps for other countries. The author recommends calling Omnimap, to make certain that they can ship your map promptly. A search on Amazon will turn up additional guide books.

For cycling in France, the author generally uses Michelin 1:200,000 maps, but prefers IGN 1:100,000 maps for cycling near Paris or for the Saint Jacques of Compostelle Pilgramage Itinerary.

Most cities in Europe have book stores with extensive collections of maps. In Paris, many detailed topographic and hiking maps for France and other countries (but not biking maps) are carried by Le Vieux Campeur bookstore (one of their several shops) (closed all day Sunday and Monday mornings), on the corner of Rue de Latran and Rue Jean de Beauvais, near the Maubert-Mutualité subway stop in the fifth arrondissement. In London, Stanfords(www.stanfords.co.uk) is an excellent source.

Maps from the Internet:

Many biking maps may be found on the Internet, and some of these are discussed in the individual bicycle tours of this site. One site is so useful that it bears discussing here: www.bikemap.net. To use this site, navigate to the area you are interested in by dragging and enlarging, or by a search. I recommend using full screen, obtained by clicking on the symbol beneath the plus and minus. You can use your keyboard's plus and minus keys. On the upper right, I recommend changing the map from "Relief Map" to "Open Cycle Map". To use existing bike routes, clikc "Radwege", which means in German "Bike Path", but these are not all bikepaths, but rather bike routes. National routes are red or in some cases blue-grey; regional routes are violet, and local routes are blue. A dashed line indicates a bike lane or bike path. A brown dashed line is a footpath (pedestrian path) on which bicycles are not allowed. Other symbols are blue bike parking areas, yellow bicycle shops or rental stations, black shelters, and so on.

Letters and numbers identify official routes. To understand these one needs to consult local documentation, but presumably readers already have a general idea of the route they wish to ride. The Site: http://www.veloland.ch/en/cycling-in-switzerland.html shows all the national and regional biking routes in Switzerland. Guidebooks, which are usually in German, sometimes in French, and occasionally in English are available via links on this site. By clicking on "Directions" (map not full screen) and entering in "A:" a start point, and then navigating from this point moving the plus key and moving the map, and then clicking on the desired itinerary (points "B", "C", etc.) the site shows the route, the distance to be cycled and an elevation profile. Cycling directions are also given, which may be useful if you map out a ride in great detail. You can click on the points in full screen, but the profile is only visible out of full screen.

If you wish to have access to Bikemap's maps and routes offline on your cell phone, they offer a premium membership that costs €4.90 per month or €29 per year, cancellable at any time. Another option would be, while online, to take screenshots of their maps, for use off line, or to print out..

Bike Route Guide Books: Specific information for obtaining guide books is given, when possible, on the pages of each of the European Best Bike Tours. General sources of information, useful for other tours, are mentioned below:

 

For German-speaking areas (Germany, Austria and part of Switzerland), there are very complete route-booklets from Verlag Esterbauer in Austria. The URL is http://www.esterbauer.com. For English text, click on the upper right. For guiedes in English, click at the bottom of the page. For a complete list of their bicycling tour books, click on "Radtourenbücher", and select the country. The maps (with English keysand hotel lists in these booklets are most helpful, and with the help of a German-speaking friend or a dictionary, you may pick up some useful tips as well. Esterbauer's telephone number is: (43) 2983 28982 0, but you can find many for sale on Amazon, at Stanfords or at Omnimap. Danube Bike Trail 2 covers the Austrian Danube, discussed on this site, and the North Sea Cycle Route covers the last part of the North Sea route and more. Their guide, in German only, to the Loire Valley bike route (La Loire à Vélo) is the best I've found. Highly recommended.

For an overview of bike tours along rivers in Germany (and some neighboring areas), there is Cycling Along Europe's Rivers – Bicycle Touring Made Easy and Affordable. The idea of the book is a good one: if you want step by step directions for an easy bike trip without hills or difficulty in route finding, cycle along river bike routes. These routes can be excellent for beginners or the elderly, but in my opinion, can quickly get boring unless the sites along the way are outstanding. The books duplicates most of the discussion section of this site, but with less consideration of alternatives. For example, they generally recommend not reserving hotels in advance, which may work fine in the cities and towns densly packed along the Rhine (if you are not particular), but would not do well is popular French tourist destinations or widely seperated towns with few lodgings. On the plus side if your personal taste agrees with the authors, they recommend specific tourist attractions and hotels. (My tastes would probbly differ.) On the negative side, the quality of the paper and printing is very poor, and therefore, to my eyes, the black and white photos and maps are virtually useless for deciding whether you want to ride their suggested tours or for planning.

In France (and Italy) there are only a few bike routes (along the Loire being a primary one) and fewer available biking guidbooks in English. However, France does have a very large network of secondary and tertiary roads, which can be found on Michelin 1:200,000 maps. The author has had fine success plotting out quiet routes using the secondary roads - those not between major towns. Trips take longer than they would along the main highways, but are safer and much more pleasant. For the Paris region, please see my extensive website dedicated to bike path and minor road departures from central Paris to the countryside, www.Mayq.com. I mentionr relevant guidebooks and maps in the discussion of each tour.

Books from Cicerone Press (see below) cover bike routes throughout Britain and Europe, but, not necessarily as well as other sources, including parts of this site. These booksn eed to be supplemented by maps. Contact: http://www.cicerone.co.uk. They are available in the USA from Omnimap and onlilne bookstores.

See individual itineraries on this site for more map and guide information appropos to the itinerary.

Hotels and Tourist Sight Information Sources

Hotels: These days I use Tripadvisor.com almost exclusively to find hotels. Often I call the hotels directly, to make sure that they can store bicycles. And this may result in price reductions. When I do not wish to plan very far in advance, I carry an iPad in a zip-bag in my panniers. Almost every hotel has Internet service, usually free. As a fallback, there are local tourist offices, or if you arrive at a hotel without space, asking them to call elsewhere for you. There is also airb&b.com.

Throughout Europe there are also rooms available for rent. In the French countryside, they are called Chambres d’Hôtes (some will prepare dinner or breakfast).  As with hotels, they are ranked by amenities.  Many are listed on Tripadvisor.com. You can find listings of these through local Tourist Offices Also available are several English- and French-language books, containing selections of "charming" Chambre d'Hôtes. In Germany and Austria you will find ubiquitous "Zimmer Frei" signs, and tourist offices can help.

Camping and Hosteling: Camping and Youth Hosteling are beyond the author's personal experience. There are many inexpensive campgrounds, with various levels of amenities, as well as the possibility of camping, with permission, in the yards or fields of farms. The "bible" for French camping is the Guide Officiel Camping Caravaning, which describes and ranks 9000 campgrounds and 1900 farms that welcome campers. This book is too heavy to carry on a bike trip. A map of campgrounds, from "Motorpresse", is also available .

There is now an "official" French camping Internet site, http://www.campingfrance.com that lists over 9,000 camping sites.. (Be careful not to go to the copycat site, www.camping-france.com.) On the "official" site, using the maps provided, first select the region of France, and within the region, the department. With some trial and error you will find your area of interest. You will need to key the many locations to a good map. If you are already on the road in France, and are not carrying information, the best method may be to ask locally, or call a local tourist office.

For Germany and Switzerland, for an internet search, click on, respectively www.camping-channel.com or www.camping.ch. In each case, click on the category "campingplätze".

For youth hosteling in all countries, for general information contact the IYHF (International Youth Hostel Federation) or for lodging specifically, www.hostelbooking.com.

Tourist sights Information Sources: As the description of tourist sights on this Site is cursory, you should carry a guide book along with you. Over the years the author has been mainly very satisfied with the Michelin Green Guides as his basic source of information on which sights to see, in all European countries. For France, the Hachette Blue Guides are excellent (but suffer the advantage and disadvantage of being in French, thicker, heavier, and much more complete). Many other good choices may be found in a bookstore or on the Net.

Notes:

All "stars" (*,**,***) mentioned in the itineraries refer to the ratings of the Michelin green tourist guide books or the Michelin red hotel and restaurant guide books. The author uses, recommends to his friends, and usually agreees with, these guide book (but has no connection of any sort with Michelin).

An early morning start on all itineraries can avoid most tourist cars, tour busses, and crowds at key attractions. Since you usually will stay in towns or small cities, you will be biking opposite the morning and evening commuter traffic, which is going to these towns in the morning and leaving in the evening. In many areas of Europe, there are also periods of busy traffic before and after the lunch hour, for example, from 12:30 to 1:00 p.m. in one direction, and from 2:00 to 2:30 p.m. in the other direction.

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