Highs, Lows, and Touring Tips

We’re now safely back in Berkeley, and thought it would be worth a wrap-up post to review how far we went, the highs and lows, and things we learned.

Total Distance: 2261km (see our daily distance, costs, and notes log)
kms in Ireland 361.1
kms in France 664.8
kms in Italy 145.8
kms in Switzerland 196.5
kms in Germany 834.9

Highlights of the trip

  • The campsite at Camping de la Mer, Primel-Trégastel, Plousganou, France.
  • Road D17 in Provence, from Arles to St. Maximin-la-Sainte-Baume, along the southern edge of the Alpilles and then (later) past Mont-Sainte-Victoire.
  • Biking around Lake Lucerne in Switzerland, starting at Fluelen.
  • Staying with friends and family in France and Germany.

Low Points of the Trip

  • The first week. It took a while to get into a rhythm of doing the daily things of bike touring — packing up and preparing to ride in the morning, figuring out how to make decisions together, and figuring out how to deal with rain. Suzanne was frustrated that Joe brought an old map of Ireland that was missing a major freeway, and Joe was frustrated that Suzanne hadn’t helped plan the route at all before leaving. It wasn’t all bad, but the first week was the most challenging.
  • The Val del Inferno in Tuscany. Michelin map led us astray onto hilly, rocky roads, with temperatures in the 90s.

We also came up with a few guidelines that helped us out. Here they are, perhaps as a note to ourselves if we do this again, and perhaps for any other bike touring couples out there:

Joe and Sanne’s Touring Tips
1. Always carry wet wipes. (thanks Ewan MacGregor)
2. Don’t let your spouse get hungry. Corollary: Always carry peanut M&Ms.
3. Test out all you gear, particularly your high pressure tire pump, before leaving (and don’t buy a tire pump from Lezyne).
4. Consider fatter tires for touring in Germany, where dirt roads and bumpy bike trails are the norm. , esp. the rear tire if that’s where the load is.
5. Never put both ATM cards in the same wallet (no wallet-related incidents for us, but seems like a good idea).
6. Camping gear in Europe can make it much cheaper, but cooking gear is unnecessary.  We chose not to bring a stove and we very happy about that decision.  Having a double sleeping bag was awesome.
7. Use French maps in France, German maps in Germany, etc. Michelin is great in France, not so much in Italy. No need for a map on Switzerland’s national bike routes; check out the Swisstrails information sheets (many of the “more infos” links have pdfs with town distance lists/topo profiles) to help guide your way.
8. Bring a miniature packtowl to wipe down the condensation in the tent if you have a single-wall tent.
9. Plan to take a day, or at least half a day, apart once every week to 10 days.
10. Trade off being “trip leader”. The TL is in charge of navigation (although consulting with the other person is a good idea), making reservations, asking for directions, etc. There are some decisions that are worth collaborating on (e.g., how far and where are we going today?), and some where it is better to have the TL make an executive decision (this hotel or that one? Left here or at the next road?).

Also check out our packing list with weight of everything we brought.

4 comments

    • Joe

      Christopher — sorry to be so slow on the reply, and this is too late for you, but for anyone else we used Viking City Cykler. It was just okay service, and I would double-check their packing job. But they drove the boxes to the airport (where we stored them for like $30-50 or so), which was great.

  1. Nathan

    My girlfriend and I have recently decided to do a trip very similar to your honeymoon trip and were curious what brand/model of double sleeping bag you brought. I was unable to find it on your pack list. We have been using a dbl bag for our car camping adventures all fall and winter, but its far to bulky, heavy, and warm for a cycle tour. I really appreciate the write up you did on your trip by the way. It will be very helpful to have such recent and specific info. for our own trip. Good fortune.
    -Nathan

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