YOUR QUESTIONS - ANSWERED
With any travel, there’s always a lot to do, a lot to think about and a lot to prepare for. Over the years, we’ve answered what must be thousands of questions from clients, and have distilled them down to their essence – a FAQ that we feel will help you prepare for your next big adventure on the famous roads.
Who can ride a BikeNOW Europe tour?
How fit do I have to be?
The average ride distance of about 75KM per day (for the Alps and Coast to Coast Tours) sounds pretty easy.
It does sound easy, doesn’t it? There are three factors at play that make it more challenging than may at first appear: at least 20km each day is constantly uphill: 75km per day, for 7 to 13 days is more than most people usually ride; at the same time we travel across France. Each day there are shorter and longer options. It turns out to be a big challenge; doable, amazing and unforgettable.
Are BikeNOW Europe tours a race?
No, our tours are not a race! Each day we ride at our own pace. We usually have a riding guide at the front and another following up. Often a small bunch of riders keep together at the front and clusters of a few people spread out along the route. We assemble from time to time on the road. Café stops and photo stops tend to spread people out too.
Do Coast to Coast and The Alps Tour riders see the Tour De France?
Only* on TV. We schedule The Alpes and Coast-To-Coast Tours so they are not on the same roads as ‘Le Tour’. This means we are not delayed by the extensive road closures associated with the passage of ‘Le Tour’. However, on days where we are riding, and ‘le Tour’ will be on TV, the plan is usually to find a café at around 4:00 PM so that we can watch the stage finish on television. *We do offer tours that have an option to meet in Paris pre-tour for the last Tour de France stage.
Which is the best climb on the bikeNOW Europe Tour?
We think the winding climb up Col de la Croix de Fer is special, and when you catch a glimpse of Mont Blanc in the distance it’s hard to disagree. There is an aura of epic adventure around Alpe-d’Huez and Mt Ventoux. Although, it must be said that the descent from Col de Tourmalet is even better than standing at the top! Everybody has their own personal view on the topic, and everybody takes away an experience they’ll never forget.
What sort of bike do I need for the bikeNOW Europe Tours?
Low gears are the key. It’s difficult to imagine the persistently steep gradient on some of the climbs our Alpes tour encounters. We recommend everyone’s bike be fitted with a cassette with a large cog (27 teeth) on the back wheel, adding a triple or compact crankset gives the lowest gearing and can mean riders look forward to the challenge. Of course the lighter your bike, the easier it is to climb with. This could be your chance to buy the new wonder-bike-of-your-dreams. We offer substantial discounts at our showroom when you enter a Bike Now Europe Tour to help with all the new stuff you’ll want.
Can I hire a bike to use on tour?
We do recommend that you bring your own bike as it fits you, you know it’s workings and how it rides and it’s simply more comfortable. We do have a small fleet of bikes for hire and can organise hire bikes from local operators if need be (except during the Tour de France).
What happens if I have a mechanical issue with my bike?
That’s where the cycling guides come in. After years of experience in remote areas, our dedicated on-tour mechanics can perform the requisite roadside repairs to get a malfunctioning bike going again – mechanical assistance is NEVER far away on a Bike Now Europe tour. If a bike part breaks there is always a solution. Replacing parts is an option–we keep an up-to-date record of where reputable retail stores are located. Whilst it is useful (but by no means essential) if you are able to repair a puncture or replace your own tube. If not, that’s fine – we’re here to help.
What else do i need to bring for my tour?
The trick is to bring everything you need and still make the airline weight limits. But don’t worry, starting in February, we send out a monthly information sheet that covers a lot of aspects of preparation details, including what to bring (and what not to bring!)
Can someone help me unpack/repack my bike?
Of course – our on-tour mechanics will be only too happy to assist you. If you’d like to get a little more involved, we run pre-tour classes that cover issues like bike packing in our Melbourne showroom a couple of weeks prior to each tour.
What training should I do to prepare for my tour?
The key is to get on your bike regularly and build up the time you spend on the bike. Starting in February, we send out a monthly information sheet to registered participants that covers a lot of preparation details, including suggested minimum training and training plans. Once you’re registered for your selected tour, you’ll receive our training information packs.
What if I hate riding downhill?
Incroyable! Actually, it’s common for people to feel uncertain about riding down mountains. There is no hurry to descend and we offer riding technique suggestions and in some cases can set up riders’ bikes differently to make descending more comfortable and braking easier. You will never feel forced or pushed to perform outside of your comfort zone. We have seen many people feel very nervous about descending the large mountains, only to become downhill demons within a few days!
What if I don't want to ride?
We hope you will ride most days. There is always the option to stay with the support vehicle, although that can be a bit boring. For the Tour de France Tour, many locations on the race route are only accessible by bike or on foot.
How do I get to the start of my bikeNOW Europe Tour with my bike?
The Bike Now Tours start (and finish) near big cities that have airports and high-speed train (TGV) connections. If you are arriving while we are in town, we will meet with you. Full information on locations, times and dates is provided well ahead of departure dates.
What is the best way to get around Paris?
Paris is a bustling metropolis at the best of times and only gets busier with the running of Le Tour de France. The very best way to get around Paris is via the Metro, it’s simple to use, has stops everywhere and is moderately inexpensive. See our page ‘Getting Around Paris – The Metro‘ for a map of the system.
Do I have to be able to speak French?
Non! We’ve found that many French people speak a little (or a lot of) English and that riding a bike, a smile, and a polite greeting is a good start to the easy dialogue. French people, in general, are very friendly and supportive if you have a go, we are there to help too. On the climbs, riders have been knowing to say “pardon my French” so you will probably learn some new English phrases too! In general, being able to say “Bonjour Monsieur” or “Bonjour Madame” really is all the French you need. Saying “Good Day” indicates you are polite, and our accents tell any French person that we are not local. Anytime you feel like dropping a “Bonjour” at a ticket office, going into a shop or dining room, in a restaurant, or as you pass people on the road, or just about anywhere, you’ll get a polite nod and reply. Don’t be scared to sing it out! When it comes to language, especially in France, the French are impressed by foreigners who at least attempt to speak their language – it demonstrates to them that you are respecting their culture and trying your best to communicate.
When do I pay?
We ask for a deposit when you book and final payment about 10 weeks before the Tour itself. Refunds will be made if you cancel early enough. (speak with us for full details). As with any travel, we recommend that you purchase travel insurance – your travel agent or broker can assist you with this.
Can my non-riding partner accompany me on tour?
Of course! In fact, we design some of our Tours with parallel and overlapping programs for riders and non-riders. It should, however, be understood that the Bike Now Europe Tours’ main focus is cycling, the support vehicle is available for non-riders, but does not necessarily follow the rider’s route, so travelling with the support vehicle misses some of the best parts. Contact us to find out more about being on one of our Tours as a non-riding participant.
Do you run BikeNOW Europe Tours in countries other than France?
Yes! We currently offer tours through France, Switzerland, Spain and Italy, however, our itinerary varies from year to year. The 2020 tour will commence in the Basque country and conclude in Verona. We are always interested to hear where you would like to bag a few cycling trophies! Feel free to contact us to discuss your needs.
Other Tours / Operators / Tour Outfits are cheaper?
While it’s true that you are able to purchase cheaper tours, you’ll not find any that match our offerings in terms of duration, support, experience and quality. Our Tour de France Tour is 12 days; we think a Paris start and finish is not only convenient for our clients but also incredibly exciting during the running of Le Tour de France. Most operators run shorter 6 days to 11-day tours starting in regional France. Once you factor in additional travel and accommodation, not to mention the fact that we provide professional on-tour mechanics and support vehicles (something very few operators offer), we feel that you’ll agree: Bike Now Europe Tours are excellent value. In many cases, you can choose to join one of our Tours late, for fewer days, at a reduced fee if you so desire.
Does my tour price include airfares?
No. Your tour price is for the cycling tour of your choice itself and does not include airfares to or from Europe.
Will I be safe?
France and Italy are safe countries, with a relatively low crime rate. The areas of Pigalle and Les Halles in Paris have a reputation for being a little unsafe after dark, but generally, you can wander Paris day and night with little problem. As with any major city, pick-pockets are not unknown, so keep your cash and valuables hidden from view and out of reach. Violent crimes against tourists are almost unheard of, and should not unduly concern you. Normal security precautions should be taken – don’t carry large sums of cash with you, leave it in the hotel room safe instead.
Will my bike be safe?
You may wish to use a lightweight cable lock to secure your bike. DO NOT let your bike out of your sight in Paris – not even for a minute – bike theft is a substantial problem in this city. In the rural areas of France and during ‘Le Tour’ bike theft is not common, but you always err on the side of caution. It is a good practice to take a light cable lock with you on your rides, this provides peace-of-mind in the event you wish to stop for a while.
Is it easy to travel with a bike?
If you’ve never travelled by your bike, you’re quite possibly thinking it’s a daunting experience or an expensive one. This need not be the case at all; it all depends (like so many things) on how well you prepare. Selecting the right bike bag is crucial, not only for the security of your bike in transit but also for your peace-of-mind and ease of use once you get to your destination. We have used bags from all of the major manufacturers with varying degrees of success. We’ve found the very best bags to be from EVOC: their Bike Travel Bag is exceptional, complete with wheels, tow handles, support uprights, a fantastic internal system to pack your bike in total security as well as well protected space for your wheels. These are a well thought-out bag, check their Website for full details. If you’re looking for a hard-shell case rather than a soft bag like the Evoc, a brand we have had a lot of success with is Scicon. Scicon makes soft-shell and hard-shell cases. Scicon hard-shell cases are similar in construction to hard-sided suitcases and protect their contents very well. The downsides with these types of cases (something that all hard-shell cases suffer from) are case damage and the fact that they cannot fold for storage. Being a hard case, baggage handlers tend to meet out tougher treatment to these units than they do to soft cases. It sounds counter-intuitive, but soft cases are actually just as good if not better at protecting your bike, and fold down far smaller for storage once you’re at your destination. It should be noted that Scicon does make soft-shell cases also. If you are looking to purchase a bag for your tour, contact our retail showroom and let them know – you’ll receive excellent service as well as a healthy discount as a client of Bike Now Europe.
Should I travel with a cycling GPS?
In a word – YES. Not only are cycling specific GPS units fabulous for knowing exactly where you are (so you can’t get lost), they are also generally able to provide a whole raft of health/status monitors such as:
- Heart Rate
- Power (if you have a power meter fitted to your bike)
- Training Zones
And a host of additional features – like route planning, find-a-route and general mapping.
All of the features offered by cycling specific GPS computers are wonderful to have while overseas – especially the ability to upload your recent rides to services like Strava and Garmin Connect or to utilize Web-based solutions like Training Peaks. If you’re unsure of where to start with cycling specific GPS units, give us a call and we’ll walk you through the various options. Personally and professionally, we recommend the Garmin range of products as we’ve found them reliable, sturdy and feature rich.
I'm taking my old bike, should I have it serviced first?
Yes. You should have your bike looked at by a trusted mechanic. You should inform them of your impending trip and ask that a complete service is performed on your bike – everything from hub services to a bottom bracket overhaul. Your body isn’t the only thing that needs to be prepared to perform at it’s best – getting your bike in tip-top condition will maximise the likelihood of a thoroughly enjoyable tour.
I'm a little uncomfortable on my bike - Does this matter?
It depends on your degree of discomfort and how willing you are to deal with it over the course of a week or more of solid riding. If you have never been properly fit to your bike, we recommend that you have this service performed. There are many fitting methodologies available on the market today, we utilize the RETUL/Specialized Body Geometry Bike Fit systems, and have found them to be excellent at providing exceptional long-term comfort and balanced power delivery to riders. Feel free to see the details of our retail service offering for bike fits at our partner retail showroom – Bike Now Stores.
I'm using carbon wheels - I've heard that descending can cause them to heat up - Is that a problem?
Are Disc Brake equipped road bikes a good idea for climbing?
In a word: yes! In the last couple of years, the road bike segment has undergone a disc brake revolution, with many models available with high-quality hydraulic disc brakes. These have been a boon to those road riders who frequently ride the steeper climbs, allowing for unparalleled control while descending, with little to no ‘brake fade’. If you’re looking to purchase a new bike for your Bike Now Europe Tour, we would strongly suggest you look at one fitted with Disc Brakes – look for larger (140mm or 160mm) disc rotors, flat-mount brakes and thru-axles. If these terms are a little confusing, come and see us and we’ll be happy to demonstrate what they are and why they’re good ideas!