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Tour Types

All Real Travel France tours are inspired by two themes: farm to table and travel by bike. Tours take place in my home region of French Catalonia located in Languedoc-Roussillon—the southernmost region of France on the border of Spain.

Farm to Table: Visits to local producers are incorporated on every tour, where you get to meet the makers of fine olive oils, goat and sheep cheeses, artisan patés, lavender honey, organic almonds, natural wines, country bread and all the farm foods for which the south of France is famous. No matter which type of tour you choose, expect to taste your way through southernmost France getting a behind the scenes look at traditional food and wine production—while touring in a rich cultural setting with the Pyrenees and Mediterranean as a backdrop.

Travel by Bike: I’m dedicated to supporting and inspiring travel by bike and all Real Travel France tours reflect this. Traveling by bike means parking your car, carrying your belongings and pedaling to your destination. I realize everyone may not be ready to hit the open road by bike just yet. So you’ll get varying levels of comfort and support on my tours–to meet you where you are and get you started. I don’t offer luxury service to spoil you. I offer just enough service to encourage you.

LEVELS OF SUPPORT

Trip leaders, inn-to-inn, self-contained: Real Travel France provides your bike, helmet, handlebar bag and two rear saddle bags. Tour leaders pedal with you from inn to inn. You carry all your stuff in rear saddle bags. With lodging and meals in inns and restaurants, you won’t need to carry much. There is no official vehicle support, but there is a vehicle on standby for extreme situations (we won’t leave you stranded on the side of a mountain). There is no luggage transfer. You are responsible for getting you and your provided saddle bags to the next destination (you’ll get detailed instructions for packing and traveling with saddle bags).

Trip leaders, single location with daily loops: Real Travel France provides your bike, helmet and handlebar bag. Tour leaders ride with you and return to the same location each night—usually a countryside inn with views and a tranquil setting. Since we’re based from one single location, you won’t need to carry your bags with you. There is no official vehicle support, but there is a vehicle on standby for extreme cases (if someone has truly underestimated their physical condition and can’t make it back).

Self-guided: Any itinerary is available as self-guided from April to October according to availability. I make reservations at inns and restaurants for you, I set you up with bikes and gear, I give you maps and cue sheets and you pedal at your own pace, on your own.

Personalized Itineraries: If you want a campground to campground trip, a shorter or longer tour or a theme like Tour de France cols of the Pyrenees, I’ll do the planning and send you on your way.

YOU SHOULD KNOW…

No “official” support vehicle means I don’t want riders to be dependent on a sag wagon. The idea is to practice traveling by bike. Sag wagons don’t exist on the open road, so practicing with one doesn’t let you face your real limits. With that said, mishaps can happen. Since Real Travel France itineraries are limited in days, I do keep a vehicle on standby to quickly deal with the rare problem avoiding unnecessary delays. The vehicle has also been know to carry emergency supplies for the week–wine, cheese, wine…


DIFFICULTY LEVELS

All Real Travel France itineraries are for active individuals. There are no tour options for sedentary people. Though each tour is rated with a difficulty level, it’s up to you to determine your own condition and capability.

Ratings are not comparable to other tour companies’ ratings or descriptions. Difficulty levels are very subjective, so I encourage you to look at each tour’s mileage, elevation gain/loss, and road conditions.

Might I stress elevation gain and loss.

While Real Travel France itineraries do not cater to ultra-sports seekers cycling from dawn to dusk in search of the steepest and longest mountain passes in the Pyrenees (while foregoing the cheese maker, the sheep herder, the olive grower and the wine producer), we do ride in the Eastern French Pyrenees as they make their way to the Mediterranean. That means hills, rolling or with meandering climbs, are a part of all itineraries. Flat, easy going, beach cruisers should be very wary. To note: all tours include hills, all tours travel on roads where there may be automobiles, and all  tours travel short portions on gravel roads.

Real Travel France specializes in travel by bike and that means accepting whatever terrain happens to be between you and your destination. Of course, I seek out the best routes between destinations. Which may mean you’ll get an extra hill because I know the view is worth it. Or it may mean you’ll pedal more distance because I know a winemaker worth the detour. Travel by bike is not about getting there as efficiently as possible, it’s about getting there–and appreciating the ride along the way.

YOU SHOULD KNOW…

I like hills. To quote world traveler Tore Groenne,

They mean views, change, and challenge.

This does not exclude beginning cyclists from Real Travel France tours. Contrary to popular belief, hills are not something you have to work up to. You can begin with hills (I did). The only difference between beginners (in good physical condition) and seasoned riders, is speed. Sad fact: hills don’t ever get easier, you simply go faster up them. But travel-by-bike isn’t about performance. It’s about traveling. You don’t get to decide if and when a hill will get in the way of you and your destination. So what do you do? Put yourself in granny gear and keep pedaling. If you hit a wall, get off and walk. You’ll get there eventually. In other words, expect the stray hill (that you never imagined you would ride) on any Real Travel France tour.

Beginners: I believe beginners can handle the same obstacles as seasoned bike travelers. They simply need more time to get comfortable on the bike, more time to get where we’re going and some good tips and instruction. Beginners are active people (runners, hikers, walkers, swimmers, etc.) who may not have biking-specific experience. Or they may have biking experience, but no travel by bike experience (saddle bags, distances, daily consecutive riding, weather conditions). So be forewarned, if you’re a beginner I may have shortened the mileage and chosen less challenging hills to allow for more time, but you’ll still be facing the same obstacles as other tours: hills, distance, automobiles on roads and bumpy surfaces like dirt roads through vineyards.

To consider:

• What about hills? I began traveling by bike in mountainous regions. I can tell you, if you start with hills, you don’t know anything different. With the right gears and patience, anyone who determines they’re capable of joining a tours, can climb hills. The worst thing that can happen is you get off and walk. Big deal. So don’t expect beginner rated tours to be devoid of challenging hills.

• Automobiles. You need to have good balance and feel comfortable enough on two wheels to share the road with drivers.
The most scenic routes in our region are often dirt or gravel roads. All tours include portions on these surfaces. We ride hybrid style bikes with wider tires than road bikes for that reason. But there are NO technical mountain bike trails on any tours, so you do not need mountain bike handling skills.

• The goal is to get from point A to point B. You don’t have to train like you would for a competitive event, but you should put a few miles on a bike before joining a beginners tour. And you should be in your best physical shape.

• What about distance? Newcomers are usually surprised at how much ground you can cover on a bike. Over equal units of time, an individual can ride a bicycle four times the distance as someone walking.

• Beginners are also surprised at how each day’s mileage works for them, not against them. As your body adjusts to the bike, each day get’s easier, not harder.

• Be ready and willing for an active vacation. I believe everyone who wants to, can travel by bike. If you don’t want to travel by bike, you may have a difficult time.

• The ambiance on tour is not competitive. We don’t ride in formation and drafting is prohibited. We encourage everyone to go at their own pace.

• I encourage everyone to ride to the challenge each day. Tours do not have a sag wagon. The support vehicle is on standby only for bike repairs, injuries and real instances where riders just can’t keep pedaling. You won’t be left stranded in the middle of nowhere, but you are expected to put forth your best effort before a rescue is called.

 

Moderate: Moderate tours have slightly longer distances and longer hills. It’s all subjective though, so look at the tour statistics and decide for yourself. Other challenges may include carrying weight in saddle bags and attempting at least one notable col (mountain pass that climbs for several miles.) You do not need to be an experienced adventure cyclist to join a moderate rated tour, but you do need to be in good physical condition. You’ll receive a handbook with training advice once you’ve signed up for a tour.

To Consider:

• Hills. Some people think moderate tours should not include hills. Be forewarned, there will be hills on moderate rated tours. But I understand you may be a novice hill-climber, and that’s okay. We’ll give you tips and we won’t rush you. You’ll have all the time you need to make the mount. Moderate tours are good tours to learn how to approach hills.

• Automobiles. You need to have good balance and feel comfortable enough on two wheels to share the road with drivers.

• The most scenic routes in our region are often dirt or gravel roads. All tours include portions on these surfaces. We ride hybrid style bikes with wider tires than road bikes for that reason. But there are NO technical mountain bike trails on any Real Travel France tours, so mountain bike handling skills are not needed.

• The goal is to get from point A to point B. You don’t have to train like you would for a competitive event, but you should put a few miles on a bike. You should ride some long hills and you should ride with saddle bags before arriving on tour.

• Be ready and willing for an active vacation. I believe everyone who wants to, can travel by bike. If you don’t want to, you may have a difficult time.

• The ambiance on tour is not competitive. We do not ride in formation and drafting is prohibited. We encourage everyone to go at their own pace.

• I encourage everyone to ride to the challenge each day. Tours do not have a sag wagon. The support vehicle is on standby only  for bike repairs, injuries and real instances where riders just can’t keep pedaling. You won’t be left stranded in the middle of nowhere, but you are expected to put forth your best effort before a rescue is called.

 

Challenging: Challenging tours include more than one col (high mountain pass) and average the longest distances of any other tours. Other challenges may be carrying weight in saddle bags. Though more challenging than other Real Travel France itineraries, these trips are still accessible, not the extreme adventure of other companies that focus on epic climbs of the Tour de France (happy to refer you if that’s what you’re looking for). Real Travel France tours are not about cycling the hardest routes in record time. But please, study the statistics of the tour you’re interested in joining before deciding if you’re capable.

To Consider:

• Expect at least one high mountain pass each day. You don’t have to be fast. Tortoise slow is acceptable and expected. But you have to be willing.

• Automobiles. You need to have good balance and feel comfortable enough on two wheels to share the road with drivers.

• The most scenic routes in our region are often dirt or gravel roads. All tours include portions on these surfaces. We ride hybrid style bikes with wider tires than road bikes for that reason. There are NO technical mountain bike trails on any Real Travel France tours.

• The goal is to get from point A to point B. You won’t get there if you don’t train. You should ride distances, climb some long hills and ride with saddle bags before joining a tour rated challenging.

• Be ready and willing for an active vacation. I believe everyone who wants to, can travel by bike. Even tours rated challenging are accessible to anyone who is in good physical form and who is mentally prepared for the challenge. If you’ve been coerced into signing on, you may have a difficult time.

• The ambiance on tour is not competitive. We don’t ride in formation and drafting is prohibited. We encourage everyone to go at their own pace. Though the terrain may be challenging, you do not have to be a competitive athlete. You just have to be willing to pedal.

• Challenging tours do not have a sag wagon. The support vehicle is on standby only  for bike repairs, injuries and real instances where riders just can’t keep pedaling. You won’t be left stranded in the middle of nowhere, but you are expected to put forth your best effort before a rescue is called.

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