HOW TO SURVIVE A BRETON BIKES HOLIDAY
The following few pages have been produced to help you have the best holiday possible. They draw on our experience of our own cycling holidays, and feedback from the many people who have been before you, the result I hope you will find useful and informative. There are many tips that will help make the difference between a good holiday and a great one, but please feel free to ignore it all and do it your way!
Our 'new' bunkhouse - perfect for larger groups or cyclists or solos.
Big news for Breton Bikes! We've taken over the lockhouse at the entrance of the campsite and will be renting it out as 'bunkhouse' accommodation for 2019. It will sleep up to 10 in three dormitories, with a 'comfy' area and large kitchen. This year we have fitted two shower cubicals and toilets which is ample for 10-12 people. There's a grassy garden with BBQ and picnic tables too. Costs are exactly the same as for camping so as an alternative to the fixed-centre camping holiday or gite for larger groups of cyclists - for those not on one of our holidays you can still rent the entire lockhouse for 120€ a night or one bed for 15€ - for single cyclists not wanting to 'tent' its' a lovely and very economical option.
The Lockhouse is even closer to restaurants (25m!) and just 100m from the centre of Gouarec and of course on the actual canal towpath...
- Written by Administrator
Discover the Freedom...
All of Breton Bikes cycling holidays in France are self led and we don't carry luggage – that makes our holidays quite different to the majority on the market.
A self-led holiday means that you cycle unguided – you find your way using our comprehensive route notes and maps and you decide how you divide a day up. This is the single biggest advantage of being self-led. If you are on a guided tour then you are inevitably in a group, and that group will be made up of English speakers (a positive or negative depending on what you want) but which greatly reduced the 'French' experience. Being in a group means that your itinerary for the day is dictated by the leader and the group. Of course the group leader may well be extremely knowledgeable and have a series of 'sites' for you to see, but when and how you visit them will be up to him/her. So for example if you decide that you want to stop off for a coffee somewhere, or spend an hour exploring a village market, or conversely do not want to spend an hour at a village market, then you are stuck. Your itinerary and timing is the group's itinerary.
Of course if you want to have this sort of structure, to be in a group of English speakers (who you may or may not get on with) and to stay in places geared for groups like yours then that's fine and there are lots of excellent companies in France that will supply just that.
But we don't;-) With us you are free to plan your day exactly as you want – stop where you want, eat where and when you want in total independence. Because we offer so many trips it's quite likely that you won't see any of our other customers and so fulfill our company's aim of offering independent, self-led cycle tours as if you had organised it all yourself. This freedom is, for us, what cycletouring in France is all about.
Why no luggage transfer?
Almost all companies offering self-led trips in France also supply luggage transfer. This is of course a popular choice but we don't do it because just like having a guide it imposes certain constraints. To transfer luggage, especially on longer trips, is very expensive. Working on an average of 50€ a transfer that makes 400€ for an 8-day trip like ours. That only works economically if the company organises customers as much as possible into groups (or charges a fortune). Now because it's self-led you don't have to cycle together, but again you will be in a group in the evenings and this has a big affect on the 'French feel' of the holiday. You also miss out on the 'cleansing' experience of living for a week with what you carry with you!
For us and our customers the other advantage to not not transferring luggage apart from cost is that because we don't have to make up groups, we can offer a much wider range of cycling holidays and even produce custom routes for you.
I can't carry all that weight!
We expect you to carry your gear so we supply bikes designed specifically for that purpose. So that means very stable but very lightweight and with a wide range of gears. Our bikes cost around £1000 each – rather better than you'll find elsewhere and the result is that you'll find that if you pack sensibly the weight has very little effect on your progress. But most important, you retain a total feeling of independence that for us is the very essence of cycletouring – we want you to have the kind of holiday that we love ourselves – never feeling part of some organised tour (unless you need us...).
So if that sounds like the sort of holiday you want then get in touch...
Day Hire of Bikes and Canoes/Kayaks
Sitting directly on both the canal towpath and just 300m from the V6 cyclepath this is a unique spot in Brittany for a day's very easy and safe cycling or Canoing – perfect for families. For example it is just a half-hour ride along the canal towpath to the ruined abbey at Bon Repos with it's visitors centre, shops, cafes and restaurants. Another km takes you to the Museum at Forges des Salles, or the Petit Train Museum - For those who are more adventurous we will also supply routes all over the area that are free with the bike hire.
We also have several canoes and Kayaks and nowhere is as safe and easy as our pretty little section of canal - and in a day it's possible to canoe all the way to Bon Repos.
Special Bike + Canoe Day
As a special offer you can come all day and use both bikes and canoes for the basic one-day price (20 Euro per adult, 10 per child). So a morning cycle can be followed by an afternoon pottering down the canal by canoe - a lovely day out...
As with everything we do 'quality' is paramount, and the bikes we hire are high quality and in perfect condition - well beyond normal hire bikes. As well as more serious touring bikes and hybrids we also have tandems, children's bikes and even electrically assisted bikes. We've also a range of rather lovely Dawes 'traditional and Dutch' bikes which are just perfect for a gentle wobble down the Canal. These bikes come complete with panniers for your picnic, puncture repair kits and also with a back-up service should you break down. Thus we are not the cheapest bike hire, but we are the best...
Equipment for Children
As well as children's bikes (of the best quality) we also have child-back tandems, baby seats, trailerbikes and child trailers so we can cater for all ages - read about what we can provide for families here.
Adult bikes are 20 Euro per day, 15 Euro per half day.
Children's bikes - 10 Euro per day, 7.50 per half day.
Tandems – 30 Euro per day, 20 per half-day.
Electric bikes – 30 Euro per day, 20 per half-day.
Child trailers and trailerbikes – 10 Euro per day, 7.50 per half-day.
Child Seats – 5 Euro per day, 3 per half-day.
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Now taking holiday bookings for summer 2020!
France is the home of cycling and rightly most people's first choice for a cycling holiday. Brittany is probably the most cycle-friendly area of France and so that is where we have been based for the last 30 years. It's a magical place for cycling and I'm sure you'll fall in love with it as we have. Uniquely in France we offer cycling holidays based on camping, hotels and also the option to stop the whole week at our base in Gouarec – with costs from £215/260€ per week for a camping holiday to £530/653€ for hotel based tours, we have cycling holidays to fit all budgets and families are something of a speciality. Our holidays range from very gentle pottering on easy cyclepaths to much more serious tours up to 80 km a day, but with the addition of high-quality electric bikes to our touring fleet, groups of mixed abilities can still choose longer routes or even-up ability by taking a tandem. No other company offers this variety.
Covid-19 and Breton Bikes. It's impossible to pretend that this isn't happening and both changing and ruining many people's lives. For Breton Bikes the effects are obviously pretty major. The chance of international travel, and the uncertainty about whether campsites, hotels and all the other amenities tourists need will be open mean that it is impossible for us to guarentee you any sort of holiday. But by the same token it is important that we all have things to look forward to.
So for that reason we have made a major change to our booking proceedure. From now on all you need pay up front is 25€ per person. That will safely book your holiday for you with us, but if for any reason you can't come then your only outlay is just 25€. As we don't want to lose you that 25€ stays on account and you will be able to use it at any time in the future so that if the worse happens you still have something to look forward to in 2020 or 2021. In the meantime we remain healthy and live in Paradise so we spare a thought for all those stuck inside in a big city or tiny flat - our thoughts are with you. Stay well - we need you!
We provide all the equipment you need, whether for cycle camping or hotel based holidays to the same standard we use ourselves and of course maps, routes etc. You can fly into France with a carrier bag of clothes and a wash kit and we provide the rest. We're also there as cheerful support in case of problems – no sitting by the side of the road on a Sunday morning wondering where on earth you are going to find a replacement rear wheel...
Of all the areas of France, Brittany has the most variety. The longest coastline in France, moorland, forests, lakes, countryside straight from a Constable painting and all criss-crossed by cyclepaths and quiet country lanes linking pretty villages and market towns. In the heartland the roads are deserted, the cycling easy and the few drivers you meet are careful with cyclists.
Our base in Gouarec is set on the famous Nantes-Brest canal which forms part of the Velodyssee and the V6 Eurovelo cyclepath crosses the village. The historic port of Morlaix, the standing stones of Carnac (the largest megalithic monument in France), the Rose-Granite coast, the towering chateaux of Pontivy (very military) and Josselin (very French) and much more are all within easy reach, and on a week-long holiday you'll see something different every day. Surrounded by 5000 years worth of history and with a Celtic character distinct from the rest of France you could spend months touring here and never see the same thing twice. - Read more on Brittany...
Over the last 30 years we've discovered some wonderful places to stay and of course put together routes that link them and give a wide choice of average daily cycle from 15 to 80 miles per day. Some routes will take you all along cyclepaths for as much as 200 miles, others on small quiet roads to the north or south coast and others a gentle meander through the rural heart of Brittany - Read more on hotel based cycling routes...
In such countryside nothing would break the spell more completely than staying in identikit chain hotels no matter how many stars, and so our stops are at a combination of small family run hotels and Chambre D'Hotes. The latter are effectively B&B but with evening meals provided, some are really spectacular, some quirky, but all are places we'd love to stay ourselves. The hotels are likewise all family run and to be honest the distinction between the two is pretty blurred. The question we ask before we choose an accommodation is always - “do we love it?” - If the answer is "yes" then we think you will too. All hotels and Chambre D'hotes have rooms with en-suite and breakfast is included. Evening meals are available but not compulsory so you can explore other restaurants in an area if you prefer. - Read more on hotel-based cycling holidays...
As well as being the natural home of cycling, France is easily the No1 camping destination in Europe. Almost every large French village has a campsite with hot showers and our holidays use this unique network to take you on a very gentle introduction to cycle camping. Being so close together we can even produce routes of little more than 15 km a day, or as much as 80 km – it's all there for you to choose. - Read more on camping route choice...
The attraction isn't just the low price, but the freedom that cyclecamping gives. You are self-contained, carrying your own home like a snail with its shell (hopefully a bit faster) and so although we supply a route you are free to alter that as you go along and we're there to give advice on this on a day-to-day basis. This flexibility takes the stress out of touring, especially with families as often you'll find you've underestimated your abilities and want to strike off further per day than you originally planned – with us that's all very easy. Lastly this flexibility also extends to 'days of luxury'... If after a few days you really would prefer a night in a hotel you can call us up and we'll book you in to one of the hotels we use – in peak season there is a chance they may be full but it's rare and there are usually alternatives. - Read more on cycle camping holidays...
Of course it's also an option to camp the whole week at our beautiful campsite at Gouarec which being on the crossroads of two of the major cycle routes in France – the Velodyssee and the V6 makes a perfect base for exploring gently by bike. The surrounding countryside is gorgeous and the huge Lake at Guerledan just 5 miles away. The village itself has a baker, supermarket, various bars and three restaurants – Gouarec is the perfect base for cycling, which is why we're here;-) Fixed-centre campers get a massive 5m diameter cotton tent (with beds!) and also get free use of the campsite canoes and rowing boats – all included in the price. - Read more on fixed-camping cycling holidays...
As an alternative to cycling from place to place we offer two options where you stay at Gouarec and cycle the local area – with the added advantage that the gite option is open all year. The fixed-camping option has been mentioned above but we also have two beautiful houses in the village that are reserved for our cyclists. The village of Gouarec is a superb base for this – the roads in the area are just perfect for cycling and we're right on the crossroads of two cyclepaths with the famous Nantes-Brest canal running through the centre of the village which has all the amenities you could wish for including three restaurants and an indoor swimming pool. You also get the run of the entire Breton Bikes 'fleet' including tandems, canoes and rowing boats - Read more on gite-based cycling holidays...
We have cycled in France with our own three children from when they were tiny babies. Now in their 20's they all still remember those holidays and have so many happy memories. This is a real 'family' holiday where everything is shared: the food, the getting lost and the moaning about a hill;-) But the experiences last a lifetime and I have to admit that we are now getting an increasing number of customers coming with their families who came 20 or more years ago as children!
We are uniquely well equipped for children of all ages. As well as the usual baby trailers, we also have Burley trailerbikes, child-back tandems (which are great) and a range of children's bikes that are very high quality and cover all ages from 5 to 10 years-old – after which children generally get adult equipment. Some of our routes are also geared specifically for smaller children on their own bikes and are almost all off-road with very little in the way of hills so that parents can relax and let the kids strike off...
In our case we chose cycle-camping holidays and for those not adverse to sleeping on a thin mattress it takes some beating. The children get involved with putting their own tents up and cooking, they have acres of grass to run around on in safety and parents end up playing cards in the evenings in a way we've almost forgotten. Toddlers love it that adults are at their level for much of the time – hard to describe but you'll find out when you try it.
But obviously camping isn't for everyone and for those wanting a little more luxury the gite or hotel options work really well – the big advantage of the gite being that you can swap around between equipment – a tandem one day, a canoe the next and so-on – all included in the price. The fixed-centre camping option is a sort of half-way house as the large tents have beds and lots of space in them and of course the wide open spaces of the campsite to play in. - Read more on family cycling holidays...
Cycling holidays for Groups
We are equipped to take groups of up to 30 people however larger groups may require 'special' routes that avoid our smaller hotels. On the campsite we have a lot of accommodation for groups doing a fixed-centre holiday and also the village Lock-House which can sleep up to 10 people and is ideal for family or club groups.
We've been cycletouring for 40 years – both as a couple and as a family and so we know what works and what doesn't. Because of this we only use high quality bikes (electric bikes an option), panniers to our own design, and all camping gear (for those camping) is to the same standard as we use ourselves. This has two great advantages. The first is that the bikes are nice to ride;-) That's important for those considering bringing their own bike – we can't promise that you will love ours as much as yours, but it's quite likely you may prefer ours. It makes the decision on whether to ship a precious bike in a baggage hold or not rather more straightforward. The other advantage is that being good quality they very rarely break down. If there is a problem we're out straight away to sort you out, but it's still better to avoid having to sit at the side of the road for an hour waiting for us to get to you. - Read more on equipment supplied for your cycling holiday...
What cycling holiday for you?
Food and Drink
At the end of the day you are spoilt by the best fruit and vegetables in France (a haven for vegetarians), locally raised meat all used in hearty peasant cooking Elizabeth David would be proud of. Brittany is also the source of the finest seafood in France and of course the local delicacies like buck-wheat crepes, mussels or Kig-ar-farce go perfectly with locally produced cider or apple juice. Though Brittany isn't a wine-producing area the choice is much the same both in quality and price as the rest of the France. I'm not a personal fan of French fizzy beer, but Brittany has a thriving small-brewery sector that produces some really fine beers for those extra hot days...
Lastly the bakeries... Most medium sized villages have one and not only is the bread delicious, but because Brittany is a dairy area all patisserie is cooked with butter. The croissants in Paris may look wonderful but there is absolutely no contest. If you're looking for a holiday where you'll lose weight this isn't the one...
Breton Bikes season starts on the 1st May and finishes on the 30th September – currently we have availability for all weeks. Between these dates all hotel, gite and fixed centre routes are available. Before the beginning of June some campsites are closed so whilst we can still offer moving-on camping tours it does sometimes involve changes or limitations re route availability. - Read more on booking your cycling holiday...
Getting to us
The centre of Brittany is deep in the heart of the French countryside and yet it's increasingly easy to get to us. Combinations of low-cost flights, trains and ferries mean the choice can be bewildering, but for more information - Read more on travel to Brittany...
2019 was a lovely and very sunny season, though the numbers of UK holidaymakers fell for obvious reasons. So here I'd just like to thank all the people who came and helped make it such a success, especially those on the led-cycling trip who were such marvellous company cycling round Brittany. I'd also like to thank the customers from both France and far abroad - Australia, New Zealand, USA, Kenya, China, Canada, S Africa, Russia etc for their trust in sending money into the "wide blue yonder" on the strength of a bandit in France with a website!
Places to visit in Brittany
Or what can you see during your stay in this special part of France...
Brittany is without question the most varied region of France. Combine the longest coastline in France with an inland area which in the space of a few kms will go from lush farmland, to moors, lakes, forests and market towns and you feel like you have visited 5 countries instead of one area... But beyond that is the number of specific sites that a cyclist can easily reach over a week's cycletour - or if based in the centre of Brittany as with our campsite/gites in Gouarec- there are many that are an easy day-ride away. What follows is an ever growing blog of some of our favourite places to visit...