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Tour of Brittany

Posted: 11 Mar 2015, 8:59am
by Scruffysteve
A mate and I have a week off work in May and are planning a cycle tour, camping, round Brittany. I am looking for ideas and advice. The ferry lands at St Malo and we have a return ticket a week later.

My initial idea was to use some of the 8 major cycle routes in Brittany to create a clockwise route: head South from St Malo, then head West across the 'middle' in the direction of Brest. Pick up the coast at some point, then head East along the Northern coast back to St Malo.

Not sure what the terrain will be like and, hence, uncertain what type of bike to take, how many miles per day we can expect to cover, and therefore how long a route to plan.

We did Cherbourg to LeHavre a couple of years ago on crappy old mountain bikes overloaded with camping gear. Managed about 40 miles per day on mainly tarmac roads. Great fun!

This time the bikes will be better, the tyres a bit thinner and (hopefully) the luggage a bit lighter. So I was thinking that at 50 miles per day, about a 300 mile circuit would be do-able without too much pain. We were hoping to spend as much time as possible on the coast, so the return was planned along the Northern coast.

Our plans on these types of trip are fairly loose and only a guide, as we tend to 'wing it' if we find somewhere nice. Not sure whether my road bike or the wife's tourer would be the better choice.

Anyone with experience of the area on a bike or suggestions for the trip?

Re: Tour of Brittany

Posted: 11 Mar 2015, 2:39pm
by al_yrpal
Cycle to St Malo station, get a train as far west as you can go via Rennes and cycle back. You will see far more of Brittany that way. Did a similar tour last year doing between 40 and 70 miles per day but took the train back to SM. I think train out is a better bet. You can book the trains on the SNCF website making sure that the ones you choose take bikes.

Al

Re: Tour of Brittany

Posted: 11 Mar 2015, 2:49pm
by BeeKeeper
With just a week I think the above suggestion is a good one. My experience of Brittany is all from Roscoff, cycling down to Concarneau one year, using the old railway track from Morlaix for part of the trip - which is passable in more or less any bike. The rest of the roads are fine, any bike which can carry your luggage will do. My most recent trip was to the far west http://www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/Brittany2012
Fifty miles a day is a sensible distance in my experience if you want to have time to see things. The are no real hills of the Alpine sort but there are hilly bits but even I didn't find them very strenuous. Main issue in May I think is be prepared for wet weather!

Re: Tour of Brittany

Posted: 11 Mar 2015, 3:11pm
by tatanab
BeeKeeper wrote: Main issue in May I think is be prepared for wet weather!
And some campsites will not be open yet. I'd also second the take a train and ride back suggestion.

Re: Tour of Brittany

Posted: 11 Mar 2015, 3:40pm
by simonineaston
Another plus for the plan suggested above! May'll be a lovely time to go, once you've got your heads round the fact that either you will need to cycle through lots of rain, or else if not, you have been very lucky! As usual, when I read of such exploits, I am Green with envy! Might even go myself!!

Re: Tour of Brittany

Posted: 11 Mar 2015, 4:59pm
by Chat Noir
Great place to cycle tour. I'm doing week long circuit with group of friends from St Malo in July. This will be a very leisurely trip, taking in some of the old green ways, ie canal towpaths, old railway lines, etc. This website shows the lot.

http://cycling.brittanytourism.com/

If you like the idea of the greenways there is a publishing company that has good range of books, great to set the scene -

http://www.reddogbooks.com/

And if you go here - http://cycle.travel/map - really good mapping site. The route we've mapped out is called 'Breton revision 3' - not sure whether you can access or not.

Brittany does have some hard hills and can be windy but lovely place. Our route takes in Mur de Bretagne same day as the tour finishes there, so will manage to catch some of the excitement!

Have a good trip.

Re: Tour of Brittany

Posted: 11 Mar 2015, 10:27pm
by jamesgilbert
If you follow the suggestion of getting a train out west, I'd recommend booking on https://www.capitainetrain.com - it uses the same system as the SNCF website so ticket prices are identical, but it's much easier to book bike spaces. The Rennes to Brest train is a TGV so bikes will cost 10 euros and must be booked beforehand (tickets for you are also much cheaper if booked well in advance).

If you follow the coast very closely from Brest back to Saint Malo it could well be 300 miles. A few campsites may still be closed in May, but the majority will be open.

I really like the NW part of Brittany, it's much wilder than most parts of the coast with some fantastic scenery, but also a lot of hills! It's also the least sheltered place for bad weather coming in off the Atlantic...

I used this guidebook for a 2 week tour around the western end of Brittany a few years ago: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Bretagne-Tour-R ... 841823997/ The route was good, basically following quiet roads as close as possible to the coast. It is only available in French though...

Re: Tour of Brittany

Posted: 12 Mar 2015, 9:49am
by al_yrpal
..and, if you have a problem coming back from Breste having taken the train out, you can pick up the train for a ride back. Some parts of the north coast are very hilly but its much more interesting than the canal and Voies Vertes which can get pretty boring.

Al

Re: Tour of Brittany

Posted: 13 Mar 2015, 8:38am
by simonineaston
...I've been thinking about a couple of the assertions made up-post, about the weather in Brittany in May (including one by by myself) and thought I might do some digging - it wouldn't be fair to mislead ScruffySteve on the subject?!
With that I mind I found this site, which contains some useful charts comparing Brittany's weather with the South West of England. Looking at the columns for May you can see that although Brittany gets almost 2x as many days when it rains, the total rainfall is about the same. This translates into lots of light showers, I suppose.
The webpage is here http://www.brittanyfamilygite.com/weather.html and contains references to legit. weather data sites, so they seem to have done their homework.
I have written to say Thanks.

Re: Tour of Brittany

Posted: 13 Mar 2015, 5:23pm
by BeeKeeper
That's useful information Simon, my comment was based on my experience going in the middle of June when I had 4 days of rain and two without. I've also been in mid-September in our campervan and it was so wet and windy we went south which is easy enough to do with an engine. It is after all the Atlantic coast and if a depression comes in it gets wet. Warm, wet in my case in June and not a problem but compared to say Spain or the south of France I guess there is a greater chance of rain - but it didn't put me off, and won't for future trips. :D

Re: Tour of Brittany

Posted: 13 Mar 2015, 5:29pm
by al_yrpal
I did 14 days there in June four years ago. It hosed it down for days. I can remember the water cascading off my helmet, and there were headwinds sometimes 70kmhr. All whist Glasgow basked in warm sunshine. Its our equivalent of Cornwall so the weather can be very poor sometimes. Take some good wind and waterproofs!

Al

Re: Tour of Brittany

Posted: 13 Mar 2015, 10:05pm
by BeeKeeper
al_yrpal wrote:I did 14 days there in June four years ago. It hosed it down for days. I can remember the water cascading off my helmet, and there were headwinds sometimes 70kmhr. All whist Glasgow basked in warm sunshine. Its our equivalent of Cornwall so the weather can be very poor sometimes. Take some good wind and waterproofs!

Al

But don't let our experience put you off going!

Re: Tour of Brittany

Posted: 14 Mar 2015, 7:24am
by Cadwatta
I've spent a lot of time in Brittany over the past 15years and have come to the conclusion that with the weather you just have to take a chance. It can be scorching in early April and throwing it down in July . I think late summer is more reliable on the whole particularly mid September. Just go there and expect to get wet at some time and you'll be fine. :)

Re: Tour of Brittany

Posted: 14 Mar 2015, 8:58am
by simonineaston
Scruffysteve wrote:Not sure whether my road bike or the wife's tourer would be the better choice. Anyone with experience of the area on a bike or suggestions for the trip?

Moving on from the subject of the weather, I've been over to Brittany on all sorts of bikes and have concluded that any sort of bike will do! Going back years, I've always seen peletons of French sports cyclists enjoying the relatively emptiness of the roads, and so I guess the message is that all sorts of bikes can manage Brittany's roads, but in Scruffy's case it'll be more to do with how to carry the week's worth of camping gear - and how much voie vert you'll be using. Me, I'd pick the bike that had the capacity for about 50 litres of carrying, rather than pay much attention to tyre/rim combinations - the other consideration, of course is the gearing - Brittany kind-of dictates a low gear of at least 25" (21 in my case...) and the more gears the better. It's beginning to sound like you should take the missus' tourer - the downside is she might get quite used to your road bike while you and your mate are away!
les abers.jpg
Map of Les Abers

The area known as The Abers over on the west coast is lovely, and if I'm over that way (i.e. south west of Roscoff) I nearly always try to pass through one of the villages that have what's known as an enclos paroissial http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parish_close and combine a lunch stop with a stroll round one of these super-ornate old churchs and their almost cartoon-like stone carvings. But for me the star of the show are the modest local boulangeries. It seems to me that there is one in every village I pass through and alongside their lovely fresh-baked bread (Tip: ignore the temptation to buy the classic French baguette which while perfect for a French-style breakfast, will have turned to something akin to shoe leather by lunch-time. Choose instead pain au six cereal - perfect camping bread), there's always a stunning choice of small individual-sized offerings both savoury and sweet, so that it's almost impossible to whizz through a village without stopping for some sort of treat - a croissant aux amandes, a perfect little fruit tart, a fromage et oignon quiche etc.etc. There's talk that these skilled artisans are becoming an endangered species but I think there's still enough for cycle touring purposes!
Brittany remains a favourite destination for CTC types - you'll find lots of other threads extolling its virtues.

Re: Tour of Brittany

Posted: 14 Mar 2015, 9:51pm
by RichardPH
You could visit lac de Guerledan.. It's a hydro-electric lake that will be drained during the period April-September 2015 for maintenance work on the dam. This will uncover the canals and villages that were drowned when the lake was created back in the 1930s. If you like that kind of thing of course..