The Journey

A Bit of History

We live for the path between destinations and that is why we like a good bicycle tour.  It’s through the time that we’ve really come to appreciate what slow travel, especially biking and hiking, brings.  A healthy dose of satisfaction, that forces us to live simply, and to remember the essentials.  It sharpens our senses and probably gives us a total different range of colors leading us to appreciate wherever we are, whatever we go through.  It pushes us every day to get out of the ordinary, out of the routine, by going out of our comfort zones and provoking meeting all kinds of different people; a true exploration of the unknown, of the world and of oneself.

Note: to see the map legend, click this icon in the top left corner of the map

Note: to see the map legend, click this icon in the top left corner of the map

Note: to see the map legend, click this icon in the top left corner of the map

As travelers we have come to preferred slow and immersive travel, constantly reflecting on our impact and trying to be as responsible as we can.  For years, we have used travel as a way to connect with people, discover the world.  And now more than ever with Hope in Motion. 

With ankylosing Spondylitis, the way we travel has to be adapted accordingly to how it’s affecting Laetitia’s condition. It’s very important that she listens to her body and follows her rhythm.

By bike, train, on foot we will go forth and as well adapting the pace and intensity to spondyloarthritis, our new companion on the road. We have chosen specifics routes that will allow Laetitia to get back her strength and stamina while facing the challenges of traveling with an illness.

Countries

  • Switzerland

    One of the most beautiful countries to cycle.

  • France

    A great place to eat and drink

  • Norway

    Stealth Camping, friendly faces, wilderness

Ireland

Ireland

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The Gear

When your home has only 25kg of belongings in it (some would say that is a lot!!) you choose carefully.  We take the essentials and  then we take a bit more, this is our home and we enjoy a few small comforts.

To keep in mind that over the length of our trip our gear and bike set up have changed.

Transportation

  • Surly Troll

    10,000km and going strong, it's still just a baby!

  • Riese & Müller Charger

    We need to buy an electric bike for Laetitia to make this project possible.

  • Schwalbe Marathon

    These tires are the go to solution for touring. Some have done more than 20,000 km on one set.

  • Tubus Bicycle Racks

    Steel racks that, though there are lighter, stand up to the test of time.

  • Ortlieb Panniers

    The gold standard of bike touring panniers

  • Sea to Summit Flow 35L

    Tent storage for touring / daypack for hiking

  • Sea to Summit DriBags

    We carry extras 'cause they keep things dry. Also, for dirty laundry!

  • BBB Fuel Tank XL

    Very well built 1.5L bottle holders

  • Ergon Grips

    Making it easy on the wrists

Camping

  • Jack Wolfskin Squamish 3

    Heavy, cheap and reliable.

  • Mountain Equipment Helium 450

    Comfortable, basic sleeping bags that zip together.

  • Sea to Summit Sleeping Bag Liners

    For the really cold nights up North

  • Exped Synmat Hyperlite Duo LW

    1080 g for two people and super comfortable

  • Original Steripen for water purification

    Small and efficient.

  • Ortlieb Folding Bowl

    Great for when you're washing Dishes, washing clothes, or washing yourself

  • Primus Gravity Multifuel

    Sturdy, quiet, and burns almost anything.

  • Ferro Cerium Spark Rod

    The most reliable fire starter

  • MSR Alpine 2 Pot set

    Light, Durable steel cooking set.

Clothing

  • Haglöfs Astral Gortex Jackets

    Is there any better jacket?

  • Gore Bike Wear Element Pants

    Used to wear plastic bags, now we wear Goretex, we don't miss the garbage bags...

  • Northstar Cycling Pogies

    Nothing better than putting the pogies on when it starts raining.

  • Julbo Sunglasses

    Good for people with prescription lenses

  • Buff Headware

    Adaptable, durable, and well made

  • The Rest

    Shirts, shorts, pants, socks, and underwear; stuff that we have picked up along the way.

Tools, Spares, and Repairs

  • Toolkit

    Allen keys, Leatherman, duct tape. That'll do it!

  • Spare Parts

    Tires, tubes, brake parts, extra screws, a chain, and a few other specialities

  • Stove Kits

    This has come in handy more times than it should have...

  • Tire Repair Kit

    Essential.

BIKE & RAIL

🚲🚂🚲🚂🚲🚂

For us, the combination of train and bike is a very interesting way to travel which obviously has advantages and disadvantages. In addition, to travel among Europe there are Interrail Pass or Eurail (for non-European citizen or residents) that we have tested several times and we are totally fan!  This type of pass offers great freedom and allows a lot of spontaneity, which we love!

However, combining “bike and train” can quickly be intense in twists, and lead you into mighty vicissitudes! So we strongly recommend that you consider your motivation when undertaking this type of adventure, because it is an adventure in itself, and you should maybe think carefully if that can suitably match your planned trip.

In our case, we have learned to appreciate all types of adventures, and also sometimes to privilege the fact of being able to pedal for a longer period on time in a desired place in exchange for the time to get there.

For example, recently one of our objective was to be able to pedal in Scotland. For this time, we had a restricted amount of time. We alternated bike and train allowing us to cycle in Scotland and to return to France through Ireland, all that in a month!

INTERRAIL

First of all, in our opinion, the most appropriate, affordable and fun way to travel Europe by train nowadays is to get an Interrail or Eurail Pass (Interrail if you are a European citizen or resident or Eurail if non-European).

So depending if you will need Interrail or Eurail, you will have the choice between: a global pass & a one country pass. Plus a select pass which means 2,3 or 4 countries if you use Eurail.

Then you will be able also to choose different duration and days of travel. Price will vary accordingly but  what is for sure is that there are a few options, which can be very relevant to give a thought on how you wish for using the Pass.

The Pass actually be your official train ticket and will allow you to travel in most European countries (see map).  Also this pass will let you in almost any trains without additional cost, some train requires booking and extra fees. It is also possible to benefit of some reduction, for exemple if you embark on a ferry!

Boarding on a vast majority of train by simply presenting your Pass (with handwritten on it the accurate date of the journey and trajectory) becomes very quickly quiet fun! 

We believe these passes allow a great freedom, change of plans and adventure!

For any additional info regarding Interrail and Eurail services please visit their website.

PROS & CONS

Avoid distances for X reasons (time, visa, interest..)

Travel by land, good for relaxing and enjoying the landscape

Life on the train can be a real moment of immersion in a country, usually give an insight of locals life -- A great way to do multiple countries or places in a limited amount of time

Can be an easy way to cross borders 😉

An option for spending a dry day;) or to take a day rest

Can be a alternative to enter or leave a city -- The pass permits to be completely spontaneous, to jump in at any train station for available options at that same moment! --<br /> Once managed to get in the train there is this tremendous satisfaction for being in and and be at peace for few hours 😉

Understanding where to ride the bike to get in the train is sometimes worthwhile

The adventure of buying a ticket

It also strives to really meet the culture of the country that you are traveling in. This will force one to have to build a bridge in order to be understood and understand, but above all will give a glimpse of a reality of a country's railway system. Interesting.

Bike spaces, sometimes only few and need to be booked

Some train, train stations, or train company are not really bike friendly

Changing train for connections with bicycles can sometimes fall into the realm of madness in terms of time and space!

Each country, each train, each company has different rules regarding the transport of bicycles on the train

Sometimes must dismantle the bike or/and put in a box

It can require a certain organization. But sometimes it also not possible make a reservation for bikes earlier than the same day, so it can abruptly leave you with no option to put the bike or to have a seat in the desired train.

If missed a connection, can lose a day the pass

Everything can be an extremely stressful moment!

Sometimes until the last minute it’s not possible to know the departure way and everything must go very very quickly (especially when you have to go down to change lanes and there is no lift;)) or when no ones knows which wagon will carry the bikes and then it is at the opposite of the train! It can be a real race against the clock!

Some useful questions to ask at the counter or by phone:
How many bike spaces are they on this train?
Do we need to book?
Will the bikes be in a a separate car?

OUR WAY TO DO

Our ways and therefore our advices (this is when we are not so tight with the schedule, but not really actually;) )

We have almost never booked, we inquire very briefly about the trains with the Interrail App and/or with local railway company. If it sounds tricky, like it may need a booking, we might call the train company and ask them how many bicycle can be carried on the train (sometimes only 3) and maybe we will make a reservation.  If not, it is only once we arrived at the train station that we will look into the available options at that same moment and simply go with it!  About 98% of the time we got on the train we wanted, and reserved only few times!  But watch out, like this it can quickly turn into a real countdown from the moment you end the conversation at the counter!

Regional trains

Often with this type of train there is no need for booking, no additional fees for bicycles neither for the pass.  Often there is a space for bicycles and we don’t even need to disassemble the bikes or to put them in a box = JUST ROLL IN! (well almost ;))

Several time we used our passes for boarding on ferries.

Step by step

Take one connection at a time.  This can eliminate the pressure a lot of pressure, and give space for spontaneity, change plan in case needed or wanted. As said before, 98%  of our connections worked out well and places were available. We like this last minute way but obviously they are some rules to be respected to give it a better chance to work!

This app is so accurate and will tell you if you need a reservation. It’s very useful and works very well in most countries we did. Although a lot of infos about bike carriage aren’t available and need to be complete by an actual research with local train companies. But once you understand how per country trains work for bike carriage it become so so useful for bike too.

Be flexible

For short distance train ride it is sometimes worth it to pay the cost of a ticket ride instead of using a day of the Pass.

Adventure is in everything a missed connection may be a door for an opportunity to do things differently.  Let’s seize this push to be creative about a situation!

Don’t be afraid to do a race with the clock! 

🚲IMPORTANT! If  you decide to give it a try with regional train, here are some little advices: 

Board at the beginning of the train line and get off at the end of the line, this is important with regional trains because the time at the stop is often only just 1-2 minutes (so depending on the train and crowd, no way to do it!)

 

🚲IMPORTANT TOO! Avoid the busy hours when people go to work, also Monday morning or Friday afternoon, and sometimes Sunday night are to be avoided in general, especially without reservation for the bikes!  Many people take their bike to work and bike & rail!

The situation in Europe when transporting the bicycle on trains will really vary from one country to another, or even from one train to another within the same country.

Some countries are super bike friendly and encourage people to bring their bike on the trains while others tempt to see us as troubles. But some trains are really ideal, the entrance for the bikes is at groundlevel, sometimes there are cars or spaces that are specially designed for bicycles without even having to remove the panniers.

Also to take in consideration that not all regional trains are slow! For example in UK some regional lines are equivalent to fast trains while in Spain, it can take up to 8 hours to do what a fast train does in about 2 hours. 

In most European countries where we have bike & rail (France, Germany, Ireland, the UK, Spain) there is in principle never a need to book for regional trains, nor need to dismount and neither additional charges.

Some trains have special cars for bikes while others can really be a bit complicated.

Sometimes although we did not have to pay extra, we had to reserve the space as there are a certain number of places available. Reason why sometimes it’s also wise to get on at the start of the line. 

To be flexible with the schedule is a plus, and with an Interrail Pass it has been perfect, just a bit slow in regional trains but completely doable. We had a 10 day pass over a month.

In our opinion, there is not much point on writing more details about train as it changes and evolves all the time. On the other hand we strongly recommend you to look at the websites of the local railway companies which are rather well listed on Interrail once again, where you will find the infos by countries.

👉Here a few website that can be useful

Seat61

The Cycle Tourer explains pretty well in detail for few countries

Infos on A to B Magazine

For Denmark

For France with SNCF

For Germany with Bahn

 

For Ireland with Irishrail

For UK with National Rail

For Scotland with Scotrail

For Spain