First post since mid-November! Many apologies but until a new CTC touring bod gets going, it’s not going to happen. Until then, the very occasional blog will be published, like this link to a great set of photos. Enjoy!
(I should mention that the photo on the right is not one of the ‘great cycling photos’ – it’s just me having a go at pedalling a rickshaw in Beijing with my mum in the passenger seat. She was a very nervous passenger – the smile is one of sheer terror. It wasn’t totally easy to pedal and the brakes were abominable.)
A friend pointed me towards this website which is all about cycle touring and contains a lot of good stuff, including equipment reviews. Being on the verge of a whole new way of life myself, which will hopefully involve lots more cycletouring, I’m particularly interested in bits of kit which recharge other bits of kit, eg mobile phones, mp3 players etc., and Tim Travis (owner of the site) provides some useful information on his experiences.
Couple that to an earlier blog on the subject, not to mention an update, generously provided by the author himself and you’ll find you’re just beginning to get your head around what’s out there and how it works. Here’s yet more stuff to take a look at.
This is a bit of a long winded way of contacting you but having enjoyed the Semaine Federale earlier this month I’m wondering if you know of a website or similar listing European events for 2012. Clearly we have the S-F at Niort, but there’s also an event in Northern Spain in July. Are there others?
I’ve just returned from the CTC’s own Birthday Rides, which are a smaller version of the Sem Fed, and very good they were too.
The one in Spain next year is the Semaine Europeene de Cyclotourisme. and has been adopted by the AIT (Alliance Internationale de Tourisme) so it’s now called by both names. (There’s been an AIT rally for many years but it petered out a few years back when they changed their constitution and became less cycle friendly, resulting in CTC and others leaving the organization. However it now seems to be back and partnered with the Sem Euro.)
There is one in Italy but I know nothing about it, ditto Sweden, ditto Germany and I daresay there are similar events in Belgium and the Netherlands.
Well, here we go with a bit of research… It’s simply a question of googling and searching out links. Time consuming, but in the absence of a dedicated website….
European Cycle Touring Rally / AIT Rally (Location changes annually throughout Europe)
Main site for the Semaine Fédérale is http://sf2012.ffct.org/
Can’t find anything akin to the Sem Fed, although there are all kinds of cycling events which take place.
As Germany really.
This is the events page of the website belonging to the Belgian Federation of Cycle Touring: http://www.cyclo.be/SiteFBC-BBR/FR/Calendrier/PERSOCalendrier.php Nothing relevant found.
http://fiab-onlus.it/italycyclingholidays/ and follow the links.(eg http://www.fiab-onlus.it/gite/gite2.php for a list of events). Can’t find anything which has the flavour of a Semaine Federale. The following looks vaguely promising: http://www.fiab-onlus.it/staffett/index.htm
CTC Birthday Rides: http://www.cyclingholidays.org/brides/index.php
Then, of course, there are other cycling rallies: the UK Tandem Club run several each year and then there’s the international one. This moves around between countries.
I hope this helps a bit. I’ll put your question and my answer up on my blog so others can see the results of my research. I’m sure there are other rallies but don’t have the time to search them out. Knowledge of foreign languages would certainly help.
By the way, look out for a couple of CTC Holidays next year which will be taking groups to the Sem Fed and the Sem Euro. Details of next season’s tours should go up on their website in late November.
Cicerone Press are formidable guide book writers. Some quite delectable guides have been sent to CTC for reviews and reference purposes. All await some detailed ‘testing’ so if you, dear reader, would find one of the following books invaluable as a guide, then get in touch and we might be able to lend you the copy – provided you write a relatively detailed review for this blog. No pressure then!
The guides are:
Mountain Biking in the Lake District
Cycling in the Peak District
Mountain Biking on the South Downs
C2C Cycle Route
http://www.cicerone.co.uk/ takes you to the fantastic Cicerone website, which obviously contains full details of all their titles. In addition, however, they thoughtfully provide you with a sample route from each guide and other useful information to whet the appetite, so it’s well worth taking a look at in depth. Guides can all be ordered from your local bookshop.
They do, incidentally, produce guides more attuned to cycle touring than the titles shown above. Please don’t think we’re entirely selling out to the mountain biking fraternity!
The Pinhole Pedallers will be touring the South West towing a giant camera that people can get inside. The idea is to celebrate the landscapes we have and to promote the potential of cycling. The public will be invited within the camera at various locations to see the land in a whole new way, and workshops will be run around our landscape and photography and of course cycling.
The name ‘cycle rally’ bears the unjustified scar of being regarded as old fashioned and therefore not really in tune with what today’s cyclists like to do – perhaps a bit like the name ‘cycle tourist’ is to those ignorant enough to think that way. How little they know! But enough of that! Rallies may not be ‘pure’ cycle touring, which, to me, implies a daily progression from one place to the next, but they are the next best thing, basically consisting of touring from a fixed centre as the main activity amongst various others. This is where cycle rallies come in because that’s exactly what you do at most cycle rallies – go touring round an area and get to know it really well. It’s a terrific pursuit and suits a lot of people for whom the idea of moving on every day has less or even zero appeal for whatever reason. The good news is that the rallying season is upon us once again and there are the usual mix of destinations to choose from. What I find appealing about rallies is that you don’t have to do much planning and you don’t have to find someone to go with because the chances are you’ll know people there, or if you don’t, you’ll soon make new cycling buddies anyway. Below are a few suggestions:
The Heart of England Rally http://ctc-heartofengland.org.uk/generaldocs/Meriden-Programme-2011.pdf Sorry, this one has been and gone.
The CTC East Midlands Camping Rally http://www.ctceastmidlands.co.uk/ The photo above was taken at this rally two years ago. Good touring country!
The Welsh Festival of Cycling 2011 http://www.ctc-wales.org.uk/index.shtml
The New Forest Cycling Week http://www.ctc.org.uk/DesktopDefault.aspx?TabID=3876 (& scroll down for contact details)
The CTC 5th Grampian Rally http://www.ctc.org.uk/DesktopDefault.aspx?TabID=3876 (& scroll down for contact details)
The CTC South Bucks ‘Golden Beeches’ Weekend http://www.southbuckscycling.org.uk/index.html
The Kirkpatrick Macmillan Rally, Barnsoul, Shawhead, Dumfries. Friday 16th to Monday 19th September 2011. Further information Peter Hawkins 118/2 Stenhouse Cr., Edinburgh, EH11 3HU; Tel 0131 443 6712; firstname.lastname@example.org
Week Long Rallies
The 7th Semaine Europeene de Cyclotourisme / 67th AIT Rally ~ 16-23 July 2011 ~ http://cyclo.marche.be/images/stories/Documents/pdf/brochure_cyclos_2011_fin.pdf
The FFCT Semaine Federale 2011 (Flers, Normandy) ~ 31 July – 7 August 2011 ~ http://www.sf2011-flers.org/
The CTC’s annual rally, known as the Birthday Rides, is sadly fully booked.
Good Afternoon Mark
It would seem mutually beneficial to share information which may be of interest to our members and the public. I suspect that the 800 plus Friends of Nature Houses across Europe are little known amongst CTC membership and yet have often had cyclists staying at the ones I’ve visited
Some background information :
Friends of Nature are the UK arm of the International Friends of Nature (IFN). Established in 1895 and based in Vienna, we are one of the oldest and largest environmental groups in Europe with some 500,000 members. We have a chain of more than 800 Houses (Hostels) in the rural parts of Europe – aimed largely at the walker, cyclist and country lover. In the UK we have 7 Houses which are on our web site at www.thefriendsofnature.org.uk On the European/Global level you can see all the other Houses on the site www.friendsofnaturehouses.net As an international organisation IFN attempts to encourage green (‘soft’) tourism and promote walking, cycling and pan-european routes where possible. For an idea of their work go to www.nf-int.org
Simon Neal – House Manager/FoN National Secretary
Earby Friends of Nature House
13 Birch Hall Lane
Lancs. BB18 6JX
Tel/Fax: (0)1282 842349
Good to see something about cycle touring on the front page of the official CTC website. Slip down this Telegraph article to some recommended cycling along several of our wonderful canals (but it’s all worth reading). http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/outdoors/outdoor-activities/8434737/Our-pick-of-the-best-canals-and-waterways.html#
As an aside, it’s always useful to have a bell on your bike when cycling anywhere except on a road. You can get a lot of blind spots on canal towpaths, particularly around bridges. Some of us have suffered broken backs from being hit by a speeding cyclist coming round a blind bend. Whether the bell would have prevented this particular accident is actually unlikely since the other rider had headphones on. It’s actually surprising how many people jump out of their skins if you pass them from behind without giving a warning, and that can’t be good for our reputation.
Are you aware of these tiny bugs? If you spend time out of doors in the UK then you need to be aware of them. This applies particularly to off-road trail riders and cycle campers since ticks are just sitting on their blade of grass, or whatever, waiting to be brushed against by your leg or whatever dislodges them. They’ll then home in on your flesh and proceed to suck blood out of you. If this isn’t bad enough, then learn this – ticks can carry several diseases: in the UK, the worst at the moment is called Lyme’s Disease. However, lurking in European woods and pastures is the tick carrying Encephalitis. This serious, often deadly, virus is so common in parts of Eastern Europe that in Austria, for example, almost the whole rural population is vaccinated against the illness as a matter of course. So please don’t ignore this but find out more about avoiding ticks here http://www.tickbitepreventionweek.org/
TOP TEN TICK FACTS
• Ticks are most abundant from April to October (although bites can occur
year round) and are most prevalent in rural locations such as forests,
woods and grassland, but can be active in urban parklands and gardens.
• Ticks are arachnids which are closely related to spiders and can be as
small as a poppy seed.
• Ticks bite animals and humans to feed on blood they need to stay alive.
• Tick saliva contains an anaesthetic which means you don’t feel the bite.
• Some ticks can live up to a year without a meal.
• Ticks don’t fly or jump. Instead, they drop from low vegetation or climb on
as an animal or person brushes by the plants they are resting on.
• Ticks like warm places on the body like the groin, armpits and scalp. The
back of the knee, waist and buttocks are also favourite blood-sucking
• A female tick can lay up to 3,000 eggs at a time.
• There are over 20 tick species in the UK and over 800 worldwide.
• Ticks can carry and transmit more than one disease simultaneously.
There was a time, not that long ago, when the information, provided by CTC on all matters relating to cycling, was unique and very highly regarded. With the internet this is no longer the case, but we still like to think that our material is relevant and reliable, if sometimes a little dated. Member Ben Morris made the following apt comments some while back now. He also specifically mentioned some items relating to certain places and these have been added under the ‘Notes’ tab to the appropriate country information ‘sheet’ on www.ctc-maps.org.uk.
I was interested in your notes about touring information. Over the 20 years or so two of us have toured a range of out of the way places including rural Greece, Eastern Slovakia, and last year Kyrgyzstan. Many of our routes have been on the principle that if it is in the Rough Guide it will be too crowded. I have always scoured the web and CTC lists for an idea of what the places will be like but rarely get much useful information. Guide books are often good but arranged from the view point of someone in a car. On a bike you have to find somewhere to stay before it gets dark and within a few miles – we arrived at an isolated village in Spain where both small hotels were full and the next village was 20 kilometers away and we were already tired and it was getting dark. We have slept in a bandstand and a number of beaches and other strange places. The guide book doesn’t help in these circumstances so a bit of comment about how the locals view desperate cyclists bunking off piste might be useful.
I largely agree with your concept that the adventure is mostly about finding the unexpected and not following other’s tracks. However, it is responsible to do some research and useful to know if you should put on the knobbly tyres or the tourers.
Not useful: other peoples route details are of little interest – I can never find their route on the map. What the weather was like is of no use. There are some wonderful weather web sites online so we don’t need that info. Details of a particular guest house or hotel are no use – even if I am near at the time of day they could be closed, changed hands, full, etc.
What might be of interest is more general info and some detailed tips; the state of the roads and any particular hazards to be avoided, like this, for example…
In Kyrgyzstan we read that the tunnel from Bishkek towards Sysamyr is very difficult on a bike and so we took notice – we went through on a bus and it would have been a terrifying experience of narrow lanes, high altitude, little ventilation, no escape path, heavy lorries and quite a steep gradient for over a mile.
Maybe a simple form to cover each country could give basic information
a) Airport hints – access routes, can you sleep the night in the waiting area,
b) State of the roads. Main roads, secondary roads, minor roads, tracks
c) Features to avoid – deadly tunnels, race tracks, etc
d) A simple list of the good things – the south side of the lake good for swimming, main roads that are bike friendly
e) Camping availability and options for wild camping (none in Italy – everywhere in Kyrgyzstan).
f) Where are the toilets and what type are they usually
g) The people. Everyone waved in Kyrgyzstan, most in Morocco were sullen and some threw stones at us.
h) In very remote places you can almost always find a room if you ask. But in some places don’t do this!
i) Problems for women on their own.
j) Availability of bike shops
k) Are you prepared to talk briefly on the phone/email to someone planning a trip where you have been?
I bet you can think of more but I think a standard format could guide people into providing simple information without the extensive travelogue rubbish that might be artistic but is of no practical use to a cycle adventurer.
Hope this is useful
Certainly is, Ben. I can’t admit to agreeing totally but quite enough to add doing a re-hash of our ‘information submission’ forms to my extensive ‘to do’ list. It’ll go near the top too.