For adults we use two different types of bike. For all moving-on holidays we use our own design BB Specials which are specifically designed for loaded touring. Those doing Fixed-Centre tours, either camping, hotel or gite based, are provided with rather different bikes as the requirements are different and of course we can also supply tandems. However if you have a specific preference for either type regardless of route then just ask as both sorts will 'fill-in' the other's role.
If you want to see what 13 of our bikes did in 2003 go and see our charity site at www.cycling-in-france.com
Breton Bikes is almost unique in that we use bikes that we have designed specifically for our own use, and have had built by Orbit cycles in Sheffield GB, the most specialist touring bike manufacturer in Britain. Though this inevitably costs more to us, it does mean that you get a bike ideally suited to our local conditions, you also benefit from our 22 years experience of running Breton Bikes and 30 years of our own touring experience. We gain because we get bikes that our customers love, that are tough and reliable, and most important of all avoid the bizarre fashions the bike industry is forced to follow in order to shift product (don't get me started on that subject!). Experience? On average our fleet covers a total of over 50,000 miles a year - twice round the world... We also test all equipment on some of the toughest roads in Europe - places like the Pyrenees, Alps, Auvergne every year. No company does more.
The result is that BB Specials all use the same basic frameset/forks in Reynolds 520 a top quality butted Chro-Mo steel, (light, comfortable and safe) with variations for all sizes right down to children of 4'6". Though steel is not the most fashionable material for bikes it is the best for a touring bike which is why we use it (aluminium would be cheaper) see my article on 'steel'. They use immensely strong wheels, have indexed gears that give lower ratios than production touring bikes. These bikes we have made up as 'Hybrid' bikes and 'Touring' bikes. Hybrids have flat handlebars, with sit-up-and-beg position and indexed gears by the brake levers. Touring bikes are exactly the same except for drop handlebars and downtube gear changers, i.e. classic touring set-up. These bikes weigh in at under 30 lbs - very light for a bike with mudguards and rack, and about 10 lbs lighter than a typical 400 pound ($600) hybrid bike, despite what the ads tell you:-) As we expect you to carry your own gear that extra 10lbs advantage over cheaper bikes really pays off.
How good are they? We regularly run trips to the Pyrenees and Alps with them, this year for charity... , and if you are planning a round-the-world expedition this is the sort of bike you need! For a detailed spec list see the bottom of the page
All this might seem economic madness for a hire company operated in Brittany, but the advantage of such good bikes to us is that they are incredibly reliable, in a typical week I reckon only one out of 40 bikes will have a minor problem, and our customers love them. Orbit sell a similar spec bike using our frame design for £1000. Ask any other company how much their hire bikes retail at - few will be more than £300 and most considerably less.
There's a bit of a rant about the problems associated with sourcing bike equipment here;-)
Although 'BB Specials' are wonderful bikes, they are designed specifically for loaded touring. They are built as light as possible (27lbs) and yet are incredibly solid. They don't have any suspension as that would add weight and produce a less stable bike when loaded, and on the road the springy steel frame is very comfortable without it. But it is true that they can be a little harsh off-road when unladen. As most of the rides on our fixed-centre tours are based around the use of the canal towpath and the converted railway lines, a little suspension does not go amiss. As during these rides there is no luggage then the extra weight of the suspension fork is less critical. Because of this we have a small 'fleet' of suspension equipped bikes for these routes. They are Decathlon Riverside 5's - these weigh 35 lbs (still pretty light), have a quality adjustable fork (cheap suspension forks are a disaster!) on a heat-treated aluminium frame. The quality of equipment is otherwise similar to the BB Specials. They are also the only bikes available with ladies frames. If for any reason you would prefer a BB Special for the fixed-centre then there is no problem with this, or indeed the Riverside 5's are more than capable of carrying panniers for easier hotel tours. However I wouldn't recommend them for touring with full camping loads.
Our tandems are all specially built to have a low rear bar - that makes them ideal for beginners, and also means that they will take children down to 7 years-old or so. However simply raising the rear saddle will make it big enough for people up to about 5'10" so ideal for a couple. This flexibility also means that for groups, especially families with children on their own bikes, it's possible to play swaps on-the-road, where when one child (or adult) gets tired, or just fancies a ride on the tandem, it's easy to swap them round. Generally tandems are also quicker than solos and so a couple made up of two weaker cyclists will keep up with fitter collegues on solos. Lastly, tandems can be tricky to ride, but this one is very, very stable and easy to ride.
As with our bikes we've learnt from bitter experience what makes a good pannier. Sadly no-one makes them so once again we had to design our own and have them made up by Carradice - Britains most famous pannier manufacturer. The main difference is that we've binned the traditional plastic hook arrangement which is hopelessly unreliable and ends up with panniers bouncing (dangerously) down the road, to be replaced by a system of straps where you just throw the panniers over the rack, do two clips up and they cannot fall off. Other design features are straps that can't get caught in a wheel, a net pocket that means that if your suntan oil leaks it doesn't ruin your clothes, and a truly huge capacity of 45 ltrs.
Re own bikes... We generally discourage this quite heavily. The reasons are simple - Part of our service is mechanical back-up. I cannot carry spares for every type of bike that is likely to come, no bike shop does either... So if you had a problem, say broken axle, spoke, failed freehub/wheel, damaged rim, all very common, it would effectively end your holiday as parts would take days to get to me. In addition I have no way of knowing the state of your bike, it may be that I'm called out to repair it every day (this has happened...), and is it geared/tyred for our terrain and does it have the necessary fittings to take panniers etc?
I know all this sounds hard, I'm joined at the hip to my bike, but our bikes are better than those of any other tour company and they are ideal for the area/terrain we are in. If you still want to bring your own bike we can accommodate you, but we hold back a bike of your size ready to ride, so that if you do have a problem then we can simply bring out one of ours to you. For this reason there is no reduction in price if you use your own bike, but you are secure in having a functioning bike for the holiday - which after all is one of the reasons you pay us:-)
Frameset is TIG welded Reynolds 520 double butted chro-mo steel
with butted curved Chro-Mo forks.
Powder coated (tough plastic) blue with yellow 'BB Special' decals.
Design is 'compact' with sloping top tube, low bottom bracket and oversized headset. All touring braze-ons possible including three bottle cage mounts, but no low rider 'holes' (which can weaken forks).
Standard 'old fashioned' adjustable quill stem rather than the insane 'aheadset' which has no place on any touring bike (but all now have...). This combined with a long fork steerer means that your hands can be higher than your rear, which is what most people actually want (as opposed to what most manufacturers give them...).
The wheels are 26" MTB size which is lighter and stronger than 700c and are built on tough alloy box section rims and QR Deore hubs. 36 Spokes are stainless with tandem weight at the rear. Tyres are Schwalbe semi-slick . Gearset is 24 speed with an 8-speed freehub. The reason I've avoided the now fashionable (that word again) 9-speed is that that extra gear (and only 1 1/2 extra ratios) is bought at the cost of thinner weaker chainrings, chain and sprockets which will inevitably wear more quickly. They also are more finickety about set-up. Ask yourself - do you really need 27 gears (NOT ratios) on a touring bike? No-one with any brain would say yes:-) So we've manged to put together a quality 24 speed gearset using Alivio changers, a Deore rear Mech and XT front Mech. What IS critical is the range of gears and ours run from a 42 chainring to a 11 sprocket (very high) down to a 22 chainring to a 30 sprocket (lower than any commercial touring bike) using a Shimano steel ringed chainset (harder wearing and tougher than alloy) - with a BB Special there is a gear for every occasion, even climbing the Tormalet loaded with camping gear...
Brakes are Avid V-brakes including matched Dia-Comp levers on the drop handlebarred tourers (which use 8-speed downtube levers) - if anything they are too powerful...
Rear rack is a stiff tubular-alloy 'Bob Yuh' affair, decent plastic mudguards and a bottle cage are supplied as well.
These bikes will carry anything without shimmying, are light, shock absorbing and comfortable. They are also staggeringly reliable.
See Breton Bikes new venture! For those wanting a place to drive their sportscar...!