Bikes Supplied for your Cycling Holiday
BRETON BIKES' VERY SPECIAL BIKES!
For adults we use two different types of touring bike, or as an option (£50/60 extra per week) we can supply electrically-assisted Ebikes. 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 including ladies' frames, 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. To this add of course top-quality children's bikes.
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 25 years experience of running Breton Bikes and 40+ 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 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 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.
Hybrid BB Special
BB Special Touring version
How good are they? We regularly run trips to the Pyrenees and Alps with them, 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 for...
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 and run very low gears. The snag is that they don't come in ladies' frames (See Article) and and are frankly rather 'overkill' for unladen cycling. As most of the rides on our fixed-centre tours - Gite or Camping - are based around the use of the canal towpath and the converted railway lines and never with a load, it makes sense to use something a little less specialist and so we offer vsf Hybrid bikes in both gents and ladies' frames as the default option on these tours. They are based on a high-quality heat-treated Aluminium frame and made for us in Germany. The quality of equipment is otherwise similar to the BB Specials. If for any reason you would prefer a BB Special for the fixed-centre then there is no problem with this, or indeed the VSF's are more than capable of carrying panniers for easier hotel tours especially for those who cannot cope with a gent's frame. However I wouldn't normally recommend them for touring with full camping loads.
Our tandems are all built by Dawes to have a low rear bar - that makes them ideal for beginners, and also means that they will take children down to 6 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.
For some people the effort of cycling all day isn't their idea of a holiday and so for them we have bought some new EBikes that are suitable for our cycling holidays. Built in France they are extremely comfortable and able to cope with canal towpaths just as easily as road work. These particular bikes use a hub motor and so can be ridden almost like a scooter with no effort at all - merely turning your legs over - but of course you'll get a lot further if you do help the battery out! The use of these bikes adds just 50€/£40 to the cost of your week.
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. We've also designed a version of Carradice's excellent front-bags which clips off and has a shoulder-strap.
Everyone is equipped with a bike, set of panniers and frontbag, each group will have at least one puncture repair kit and pump (no point in carrying more than you need). In addition you will have a detailed route plan and map. Campers of course have a much wider range of kit. A very high quality lightweight touring tent (averaging 1.5kg per person), a sleeping bag (1kg), Trangia cooker, cook set and camping mat, in fact all your specialised camping kit. Fixed centre campers add a gas cooker, and full pots and pan sets to the list.
We really want you to have a holiday as if you were using your own bikes and equipment. However we are always in the background in case you need us and you can always call for advice. We are by the phone ready to help from 9.00 am to 6.00 pm every day. Even if we go out we transfer our calls to a mobile phone so if you need us we're there. If you have a breakdown we first ask for details (sometimes it's something very simple that can be fixed in 30 seconds on the phone) and then drive to you as fast as we can. How long a call-out takes depends solely on how far you are from our base, in extremis it can take up to 2 hours but usually is much quicker. Sometimes it's quicker and easier for you to get something simple fixed by a local garage etc and in this case we will re-emburse you, but we need you to contact us first so we can OK this.
This is important - it means that whatever happens you will be able to continue your holiday very quickly. The vast majority of our customers never need this but it is worth it for the peace of mind. The only thing we ask you to fix yourselves is punctures. We supply all you need for this and will instruct you if you don't know how to do it. The reason is that it's something you should be able to fix in 10 minutes and that's much more convenient than sitting at the side of the road waiting for us to arrive, it also takes us away from being able to answer any other callouts. BUT if you are really stuck on this then we will still come out.
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 at least as good as 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:-)
Spec of the 'BB Special'
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 or even 10-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? 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.