Advise for a group of Icelandic cyclists in south England?

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The Icelander
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Advise for a group of Icelandic cyclists in south England?

Postby The Icelander » 23 Jan 2012, 10:49pm

We are a group of 8-12 Icelanders who are looking towards cycling in the southern part of England this summer (June or July).

We would very much appreciate if any of you will be so kind as to make recommendations for this trip. However, be warned that we are not "true enough" cyclists as to be traveling with our own bikes. We usually contact bike touring companies like Velociped to plan the trip and provide bikes and we have used their services in Germany and France. So, basically a lazy group not wanting to ride too hard or too much. We enjoy going at a leisurely pace (40-50 km in a day), always on the lookout for a nice pub or restaurant or some interesting sights. We like to ride traffic free paths, preferably paved.

You real cyclists are now welcome to stop reading or throw up, but we hope some kind persons out there do exist willing to help out (we only meet awfully nice Britons coming to Iceland, so we know there are plenty of good people there).

Basically we are looking for recommendations or insights regarding respected bike-tour planners and where to go - what's a "must" for cyclists and meets our criteria. We are planning to be on the cycle paths for 4-6 days. Believe or not, there are flights from Iceland (Reykjavik) to all four major London airports this summer. We probably won't go to Heathrow, as Icelandair is the most expensive airline serving this route. Easyjet starts flying to Iceland from Luton in March, and Iceland Express flies daily to Gatwick. In June, a new airline, called Wowair, will fly from Stansted to Reykjavik. This means that the regions to the north, east and west of London, are the closest for this group. Naturally we can do some travelling by train or bus, but it seems to us that trains are getting quite expensive in England.

In 2006, we biked from Glasgow to Edinburgh and really liked this way of travelling in the UK - which is to say Scotland of course. Nice people, nice pubs, good food and great beer.

So - anyone out there willing to share their knowledge?
Olafur (The Icelander)

TonyR
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Re: Advise for a group of Icelandic cyclists in south Englan

Postby TonyR » 24 Jan 2012, 7:18am

How many days do you have and what total distance do you expect to cover? Just thinking if Glasgow to Edinburgh is the typical distance you are looking at for this trip too)

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frank9755
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Re: Advise for a group of Icelandic cyclists in south Englan

Postby frank9755 » 24 Jan 2012, 7:51am

To be honest, you may not be asking in the best place as most people on here, while they might do an organised tour abroad, would be likely to strike out on their own in the UK.

However, I know of one company, called Country Lanes, based in Brockenhurst in the New Forest, who have a service like this. I have hired bikes from them before (including a tandem) and they have always been well-maintained. Its a few years since I've used them but they still seem to be going: http://www.countrylanes.co.uk/. They also had an outpost in the Cotswolds. I am sure they could provide you with routes and accommodation and bike hire in a package. Obviously they need to make money out of it so you have to pay a significant premium for the service!

eileithyia
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Re: Advise for a group of Icelandic cyclists in south Englan

Postby eileithyia » 24 Jan 2012, 8:05am

I must admit as I started reading I was thinking New Forest, it might not inc lots of 'sights'.... define sights and what you want to visit. But SE england is very crowded population wise and busy, esp for novice-ish cyclist coming from a country like Iceland.

You can get a train to Brockenhurst, I do not know about the hire companies, but there are a few in the area, as well as beautiful countrside, forest and open heathland quaint thatched cottages, pubs and traditional tea shops. Roads with restricted speed limits and plenty of traffic-free routes thru the area.

I do not know the relative costs, but remember if you are flying into London, you have to ocnsider all costs, ie an airport further out might be cheaper to fly to but it might be more expensive to then get a train into London to then get a train out to your chosen destination. A closer in airport might be more expensive to fly to but cheaper on the transfer to central London.
I stand and rejoice everytime I see a woman ride by on a wheel the picture of free, untrammeled womanhood. HG Wells

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Cunobelin
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Re: Advise for a group of Icelandic cyclists in south Englan

Postby Cunobelin » 24 Jan 2012, 10:38am

This area is filled with villages, churches, ancient buildings, sites and monuments, follies,views, quiet lanes etc

Do you have any particular interests?

Another general thought for a day would be the Isle of Wight

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al_yrpal
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Re: Advise for a group of Icelandic cyclists in south Englan

Postby al_yrpal » 24 Jan 2012, 11:43am

If you reckon Scottish beer was actually great, you will just love England!

If you came to Luton you could ride West along the Chiltern Hills ridge and then peel off to the city of Oxford which you will find is cyclist friendly. There is a new Chiltern Cycle route, http://www.chilternsociety.org.uk/about-ChCyWay.php . Just beyond Oxford are the Cotswolds an undulating region stuffed full of fantastic picturesque villages. That should give you an excellent tour of a small picturesque area of Southern England.

Al
Touring on a bicycle is a great way to explore and appreciate the countryside and towns you pass through. Make a difference...

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Millhouse
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Re: Advise for a group of Icelandic cyclists in south Englan

Postby Millhouse » 24 Jan 2012, 11:46am

The Chilterns is a fabulous area for cycling. http://www.chilternsaonb.org/cycleway
Plenty of villages/towns to stay in, lots of quiet lanes to cycle along, great pubs with great beer!
Fellow user al_yrpal lives in the area and may have some recommendations.

Millhouse

snibgo
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Re: Advise for a group of Icelandic cyclists in south Englan

Postby snibgo » 24 Jan 2012, 11:47am

I'd fly to Stanstead* and spend a few happy days exploring country lanes and villages in East Anglia. I don't know what bike hire places are available, but there may be some in nearby Cambridge. Or you could stay in Cambridge and do day trips from there. It's a great city to visit, with loads of cyclists.

EDIT: Oops, sorry, Stansted.
Last edited by snibgo on 24 Jan 2012, 4:08pm, edited 1 time in total.

iviehoff
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Re: Advise for a group of Icelandic cyclists in south Englan

Postby iviehoff » 24 Jan 2012, 2:39pm

An issue here is hiring a substantial quantity of bicycles. This means that OP is not leaving Luton or Stansted (correct spelling) airports straightway on bicycles.

I think good places to negotiate hire of a reasonable number of bikes is somewhere like Oxford or Cambridge. Personally I'd recommend Oxford because I find the flat fields around Cambridge not so interesting cycling, though certainly if what you are mainly interested in are cultural places, since SE English countryside can only rarely compete with Icelandic, then probably there isn't much in it. From Oxford you can head into the Cotswolds, and perhaps even get as far as Bath in a few days. Though it will be fairly hilly. Or you can head for the Berkshire Downs and then into Wiltshire for the grand archaeological sites, which can involve some fairly long distance cycling on off-road cycle routes. Or maybe that can be two arms of a circuit back to Oxford.

You will find that there are fairly good bus services from all airports to Oxford, and probably Cambridge too. Also the buses are not as extortionate as the trains. Though if your plane arrives very late in the evening you may have a problem.

Don't get hung up on using cycle routes. I suspect Icelanders are somewhat unfamiliar with having to navigate a complex network of roads with junctions turning up all the time with misleading signposts, or none at all. But nevertheless it can be done, especially i fyou have some 1:50 000 maps that show sufficient detail. Just look to ride on the smallest roads (coloured yellow on those maps). You'll need the maps anyway for when you miss the cycle route and get lost. I've never been able to follow them without checking on a map.

dinger207
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Re: Advise for a group of Icelandic cyclists in south Englan

Postby dinger207 » 24 Jan 2012, 3:35pm

If you wanted to land at Stansted there is a company called Trailnet who hire out bikes from their base at the Black Notley Discovery Centre, Braintree,Essex. The centre is close to the Flitch Way, a linear park, formerly a railway line, that runs from Stansted to Braintree, thus opening up north Essex, Suffolk and Norfolk. I understand they will hire for long periods and will bring the bikes to the airport. I have no connection with them, the man to contact is Geoff Fletcher on 0044-7939-249980, or via info@trailnet.org.uk. The website will give more detail. A relatively flat East Anglia might make a change from all your hills, the pubs are good and there are loads of history and pretty villages, if you make it to the Norfolk Broads you can rent a boat and explore.

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al_yrpal
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Re: Advise for a group of Icelandic cyclists in south Englan

Postby al_yrpal » 24 Jan 2012, 3:51pm

Oxford would be a pretty good base actually. Easy for the Cotswolds and Chilterns

Coaches are easy : http://coach.nationalexpress.com/times- ... =192142634

and bike hire too it would seem: http://oxford-cycles.co.uk/

Plus, a very interesting city with The Ashmoleum Museum, The Bodlian Library and a fantastic indoor market. Nothing like it in Iceland (I think!),,,, and the chance of bumping into Morse!

Al
Touring on a bicycle is a great way to explore and appreciate the countryside and towns you pass through. Make a difference...

The Icelander
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Re: Advise for a group of Icelandic cyclists in south Englan

Postby The Icelander » 24 Jan 2012, 5:03pm

I'm overwhelmed by all the helpful replies. Many, many, many thanks.

For sure, there obviously are great many options for our group. Without your helpful advise we wouldn't know where to start. I'm now going to meet the the group and start exploring all the suggestions you all have made so far. They all look tempting.

Although it's nice to have a company plan a trip like this from A-Z, provide bikes and accommodation and luggage transfer, it's also fun to do all the planning yourself. We'll definitely ponder both options. We plan to be on the road for 4-6 days and of course we know that we can't expect traffic free lanes all the time.

I would welcome more suggestions and thoughts, and I will definitely come back for some more help when we have set our sights.

And then, at the airport we will probably meet some biking Britons on their way to Iceland, for hilly rides on dirt roads, in rain or dust and chilly nights. Pardon me for rather longing for a serene countryside, with calm weather, loads of history and the occasional pub.

Olafur (The Icelander)
Olafur (The Icelander)

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megilleland
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Re: Advise for a group of Icelandic cyclists in south Englan

Postby megilleland » 25 Jan 2012, 12:00am

Two good established companies here in the west of England/Wales which hire bicycles and offer self guided holidays to a high standard. Check out:

Wheely Wonderful Cycling based near Ludlow in the historic border country of England and Wales. Great history.

and also Drover Holidays at Hay on Wye famous for its bookshops and acess to Black Mountains and Brecon Beacons National Park. They have electric bikes as well.

The Icelander
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Re: Advise for a group of Icelandic cyclists in south Englan

Postby The Icelander » 25 Jan 2012, 12:09am

Thanks for pointing these companies out. Wales has always been a bit of an enigma for Icelanders - there is just so little in the news about Wales and then there is this quirky language (says an Icelander...)
Olafur (The Icelander)

Dudley Manlove
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Re: Advise for a group of Icelandic cyclists in south Englan

Postby Dudley Manlove » 25 Jan 2012, 3:34am

The Icelander wrote:Thanks for pointing these companies out. Wales has always been a bit of an enigma for Icelanders - there is just so little in the news about Wales and then there is this quirky language (says an Icelander...)


Everyone speaks english. But as an Icelander, i'm sure a few words of welsh would be very much appreciated (as an englishman they would think u are taking the ****)