Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Eight Great Sites for Touring Cyclists

  • Warm Showers

    This site's made my day - the Warm Showers concept has been around since the early nineties but has only recently become a fully mappified website.

    If only we'd known about it sooner. When you sign up, you are joining a network of people who offer accommodation facilities to touring cyclists. You can choose what you offer, from a camping spot on the lawn to full B&B service, and dictate your own terms. In return, you get access to everybody else on the network for accommodation when you're touring, and the hopeful excitement that maybe somebody will take you up on your offer.

    The idea of letting a stranger into your home might make some people a bit uneasy - I think people are quite wary about doing so, and there are some good reasons out there, but those good reasons are few and far between and being afraid of them is really not very constructive. While travelling last year we were often helped by kind strangers who helped us find somewhere to stay or somewhere to eat, or just pointed us in the right direction. The most amazing of those was being given the key to the home of a Portuguese family within fifteen minutes of meeting them, along with an invitation to live there rent-free, and apparently without a moment of worry on their part about what kind of nutters we were.

    There's not really enough people signed up to the Warm Showers network - we've done our bit. You don't even have to be a cyclist, just willing to help somebody who needs a place to stay. We're looking forward to hearing from our first cyclist!

  • Friends of the Bicycle (Vrienden op de fiets)

    We really, really wish we'd known about this one when touring the Netherlands, as the hotels were so expensive there.

    Friends of the Bicycle will send you a list of thousands of addresses in Belgium and the Netherlands where homeowners will give you B&B for a maximum of 17euro per person per night (You'd be lucky to find a double room in a hotel for under 60) and optionally a packed lunch next day for up to 4euro. There's a membership fee of 9euro but that'll pay for itself several times over in just one night. This one's for bikers and hikers.

  • Bikely

    Cycling route planner based on Google Maps. Click points on your tour one at a time, and Bikely will connect them up and display the distance. You can make notes about each point on the route, and save your route off for everybody else to see.

    There is a down side - it can make your machine rather sluggish after several hundred points but I suspect that's Google Maps' fault. It'd be much better if the route could snap to roads but, again, that's a Google Maps limitation. (Along the same lines is GMaps pedometer which has been around longer, but is more geared for walking and I don't think offers any advantage over Bikely these days).

  • The Fully Loaded Touring Bike Gallery

    This one's eye candy. It's exactly as the title says, pictures of fully loaded touring bikes against scenic backdrops. I wish I'd known about this one sooner or I would have taken some suitable pictures last year. Digging through the photographs we did take, I only found one picture of both our bikes up against a wall in France. I submitted it, but it hasn't appeared yet. Apparently it's quite hard to get a picture into this gallery.

  • Trento Bike Pages

    Hours of entertainment here - various people's accounts of their bike tours all over the world. If you're wishing that hel and dgym would hurry up and post more cycling stories, go here instead and read about other people's adventures, which are probably much more exciting anyway.

  • Cycle Tourer

    Assorted information about cycle touring in several different European countries. Tells you all sorts of useful things such as what maps to use, how to camp, road conditions, shop opening hours, how easy it is to take your bike on the train, and plenty of useful links. There is also lots of general cycle touring advice.

  • Bike Access

    If you're planning a tour some distance from your home and need to take your bike on the plane or train to get there or back, it's worth checking Bike Access for somebody else's experience taking a bike on that airline or train route. There is also a lot of general information about boxing and bagging bikes for transport and the practical issues involved. It's not the best-organised site, but is a goldmine of information. You could combine this with the information on Seat61 to transport your bike hundreds of miles. Not that we're advocating the lazy option or anything.

    Within the UK, you can also consult the UK Bike/Rail Page.

  • How to make a housse

    If you live in the UK and want to tour central Europe or beyond, you can either fly there, cycle there or take the train. Flying's no fun, especially with a bike, and you may not have time to cycle there. If you take the train, it's quite likely you'll need to go through France. If you read enough of Bike Access, you'll find out that this is a right pain and the only real way to get your bike on the French trains without too much hassle, is to take the wheels off and bag it up into an housse (pronounced "oose", it's a bike bag. The commercially sold ones are bulky and heavy, so this site gives you instructions to make your own.

1 comment:

Willem said...

You can also take the Harwich Hook of Holland ferry, and use the excellent Dutch trains to get onto the even better German trains. German train tickets can be dirt cheap, bike facilities are often excellent, and trains connect to countries like Switserland and beyond