Tour Reports

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

What a day, Normandy in early summer is amazing, blue skies, and green fields emblazoned with yellow flowers of rapeseed, the vibrancy of the colours almost a shock to the system after the grey seas of the journey over. Unfortunately I had little time to take photos as the route I chose is mostly through D roads with 650 kilometres before my next stop in Avalon.

While the route is incredibly beautiful it was far slower than I had anticipated, with the result I had to jump onto the A6 motorway near Chartres. Still it was a solid 8 hours on the road. The hotel Ibis outside Avalon felt like an oasis upon arrival and a great hotel for a stop over. Good food, friendly staff and absolutely spotless, one of the cleanest hotels I have ever stayed in and just 3 mins off the A6, I can wholeheartedly recommend this place as a stop over on your way south or south-east.


Next: 2010 Euro Bike Tour. Avalon to Aosta / Matterhorn Valley

2010 Euro Bike Tour, Biking Routes - France, Biking Routes - Italy 5 Responses so far

5 Responses to “2010 Euro Bike Tour. Cherbourg to Avalon”

  1. Dai Nese says:

    Hi Denis,
    We will be travelling from Cherbourg to Annecy in June, and I was concerned that we might try to do too much on the first afternoon (boat docks at noon). We have planned a B road spin to Nogent-le-Rotreau, 310km, looks about right.
    BTW I found AvaLLon, but Charles???

  2. Dai Nese says:

    Hi, we are travelling from Cherbourg in June, and were concerned that we might push it too far on the first afternoon (boat docks at 12pm). We have planned a nice B road run to Nogent-le-Rotreau, about 310km, 4hr 40mins according to Mapsource. We are going to spend a leisurely two and a half days getting to Annecy, stopping at Nevers on Day 2.
    BTW I found AvaLLon, but not Charles???

  3. gpsroutes says:

    Hi Dai Nese,

    Firstly let me apologise for the confusion, Charles should be Chartres, it’s a bit south of Paris and west of Nogent-le-Rotreau which is a good place to stop for the night. It’s got a seriously imposing Norman castle if my memory serves.

    When you say “we”, do you mean a pillion or a few mates on other bikes? I ask as if you’re planning those B roads with a pillion you can easily add 2- 4hrs to your travel time, a bit less without. I also suspect you’re forgetting a very important point in the difference between B roads and N or A roads! N “French national roads” usually dual carriageways and A roads, autoroutes are not faster just because they allow higher speeds, rather it’s the lack of junctions, the amount and type of which dictate road speed and travel time. For example, your B route will most likely run in on 120 junctions/turns.

    MapSourse calculates a route, using the (fastest time, avoid toll roads settings) by creating a route with the “least” amount of junctions! But it does not calculate the time taken in slowing down to navigate each turn safely!! This creates a big problem in even guessing trip time! No navigation software currently on the market does this even remotely properly. If you go into the properties of your route to see the amount of junctions/turns, if it’s over 90 then you can throw your travel time of 4hrs40min out the window!

    MapSource trip time calculation is inherently optimistic, for me it’s always been way off, even when using motorways. Remember, it also does not take into account petrol stops, lunch/coffee/smoke breaks, traffic etc. Also take into account if you have your wife or whoever riding pillion she will need a break every hour and a half or so.

    Secondly, while the Normandy B roads are almost perfectly surfaced, you wont know them, and most are small and windy, if your lucky you will average 60kmph riding safely, with no stops or slowing down for any reason that gives you a travel time of 5hrs 16mins on a 310km route. There’s also all those pretty new sights to be seen, villages and endless junctions etc to slow you down. I re-created your current 310km route with MapSource which kicks out 122 junctions/turns, I suspect you might get well pissed off with this after 50 rural junctions, and even with very light traffic it’s impossible to accurately guess at an arrival time.

    After trying using just B roads from Cherbourg (docking time 9:30am) to Avalon I got utterly fed up after 3hrs of endless villages and junctions, beautiful roads and views – yes, but slow, slow, slow, and tiring! First 3hrs were great, I then became frustrated and started dreaming of dual carriageway’s and, God help me even the motorways I hate with a passion.

    Also add another hour to your trip as while the boat docks at 12 you most likely wont really get out of Cherbourg until 1pm which now gives you an arrival time at Nogent-le-Rotreau 18:30ish, 19:30 with 3 x 20 min breaks (not accounting for stopping or slowing down for petrol, villages and 100+ junctions)

    If you are with mates and no pillion it will obviously speed up your journey time. But I still would not take the MapSource trip time too seriously, so if I were you I’d have a back-up plan/route if you find your current route too slow to get to a booked hotel at a respectable hour :) Again, this probably does not matter too much if your with a bunch of lads, but a bike tour is a very different thing if you have a wife/girlfriend riding pillion, forget her position at your peril.

    If you have a pillion I’d seriously consider recalculating the route with different setting’s, in MSource menu – Edit – Preferences – Routing Tab choose (faster time, avoid toll roads with road selection slider set to centre) in MapSource. This should give you route running a cool 120km along the N13 before hitting the B roads which will at least give you a chance of getting to Nogent-le-Rotreau and getting some food before the restaurants close, rural towns last orders can easily be 21:30, kitchens close 10pm. Travel time here is estimated at 3hrs30mins, more likely – 5hrs30min inc breaks etc!

    Usually, unless I know exactly the roads I want to ride I now always compare the MapSource route with the route created by Google Maps. In this instance this will give you almost the same route also using the N13 for 120km but at a travel time of 4hrs.

    Same route but a 30min time difference between the MapSource result, but here is the real difference, this route only has 65 junctions which, trust me, makes a massive difference in travel time by keeping up a good consistent speed.!!! Your original 310km route I calculate at 121 junctions which would drive me nuts, I have no doubt it would take me closer to 7hrs. If my wife was riding pillion she’d be pissed off with this on a 1st day, And if I was in a group of more then 3 other bikes I’d bet the faster riders would also get fed up and leave me for dust forcing me to ride faster and out of my comfort/safety zone!

    Hope I haven’t given you a headache dude, there is a lot to consider here, and much depends on riding style, pillion or no, how big your group is etc. But from my experience, while the French B roads are by far more interesting, they are slow, and 310km of them with a start time of 1pm hoping to get to your hotel at a respectable hour is possibly a mistake. If you want to enjoy the ride using B roads don’t plan on doing over 250km with a full day to play with, especially with a pillion. If riding with a pillion on B roads for more then a few days I’d never consider doing more then 200/250km, more then this it get too tiring, stressful and heightens the risk of an accident or your better half hating the experience.

    There is also safety to think about, most accidents happen at junctions, as this is your 1st day riding the wrong side of the road, on strange roads, rural roads I might add with tractors, stray sheep and cow shit appearing out of nowhere, on a 310km route with 120+ junctions, maybe also being responsible for the life of a pillion as well is possibly a little,, hmmmm, pushing the odds?

    My advice, with the ferry not docking until 12pm and if you want to get to Nogent-le-Rotreau on day 1 then choose to mix B with N roads, if not consider not going so far as I think you’ll enjoy it more. You will also be more relaxed, have a better feel for French roads/traffic and mentally better set up for day 2! With 2 and a half days to get to Annecy you have plenty of time, no need to push it on day one.

    Let us know what you decide; we’d love to hear how the trip goes. If you find the time please write back with photos and I’ll post your trip up here for all to see, I’m sure your experiences will be of great interest and help to others. Best of luck, take it easy and have a blast..


  4. Dai Nese says:

    Hi Denis,
    Thank you for taking the time to write such a comprehensive reply. There will be 4 bikes on the trip, no pillions.
    You have confirmed my concern that our route might be too much off the beaten track. I planned it out in detail on a map, and then duplicated that in Mapsource so that our route takes us exactly where we want to go.
    Partly because we wanted to get some kms under our belts the first 120kms of the route is the N13 to Caen, leaving us with 190kms on regional roads, about 55 junctions according to Mapsource.
    However, following your advice I will now come up with Plan B which we will activate after 180kms or so, if we are way behind schedule.
    We have booked a hotel in Nogent, food wise there’s a Buffalo Grill next door if we are desperate!
    After Annecy we head through the Alps to Nice, a few days there and then we head west to Millau before turning north for the return leg to Cherbourg.
    I will let you know how we get on, with some pics. Roll on mid-June.

  5. gpsroutes says:

    Looks like you have the trip well sorted, I’m seriously jealous, really wish I could do this trip again this year, but have plans to tour Ireland and Pyrenees.

    If you haven’t done the Alps before your going to love it. On your return if you think anything should be updated on RoadTrooper on Route Grande Alp please let me know so we can update it, tips, advice anything to help other bikers enjoy the route as much as possible.


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