Europe Bike Tours Made Easier

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A new company and web site now make it easier for travelers to find and book overseas bike tours. BikeToursDirect (http://www.biketoursdirect.com) features more than 140 tours in 27 European countries. Destinations range from familiar routes, like the Loire Valley and Tuscany to exotic routes in Croatia and Slovenia, island-hopping in the Adriatic and a yacht-and-bike tour along the French Riviera. Tours start at Â?440 (about $595) including hotels, luggage transfers, rental bikes and other services.

A new company and web site now make it easier for travelers to find and book overseas bike tours. BikeToursDirect (http://www.biketoursdirect.com) features more than 140 tours in 27 European countries. Destinations range from familiar routes, like the Loire Valley, Provence, Danube, Tuscany, the Rhine Valley and Ireland, to exotic routes in Croatia, Greece, Turkey, Finland and Slovenia, island-hopping in the Adriatic and even a yacht and bike tour along the French Riviera.

Tours start at €440 (about $595) including hotels, luggage transfers, rental bikes and other services.

BikeToursDirect is located in Chattanooga, Tenn.; phone 877-462-2423.

The “direct” in the company's name comes from its direct dealing with the 30 European bike tour operators it represents, as well as with local and regional tourist offices. The company handles all bookings and payments.

“We find that their prices are often quite reasonable even with the declining dollar,” says BikeToursDirect founder Jim Johnson. Also, tour operators based overseas also offer many weekly and even daily departures, and many clients tend to like the camaraderie of an international clientele.

On many routes, clients can choose between guided and self-guided tours. While most guided tours have guides and support vans, self-guided tours still have considerable support: Most include hotels (mostly two- and three-star), luggage transfers, bike rental, breakfasts, route planning, maps and either onsite service or a service “hotline.”

Self-guided tours can be a real value. For example, a one-week tour along the Danube costs €440 (about $595). Tours in the Loire Valley, Provence, Tuscany, Hungary and Germany’s Mosel River Valley cost less than €540 ($740). Add a guide and support van, and most tours still are still well below €1,000 ($1,350).

The BikeToursDirect web site features a search engine that allows visitors to specify destinations, dates, level of difficulty and price range. Search results present tour summaries and thumbnail photographs. A click on a tour name reveals complete tour information, additional photos and a link to an onsite reservation form. The site also has helpful information on how to choose a tour and to prepare for an upcoming trip including packing tips.

While Johnson hasn't been on all routes (“unless dreams count,” he says), he says he can usually answer most questions or find the answers. And it's not just a booking service, Johnson explains. For him, it's a passion that came from his own bike touring in Europe, and he enjoys advising clients on routes and options.

“Many clients come to us with needs that existing tours don't meet,” he explains. “It's rewarding when we can work out a program that they'll remember for a lifetime.”

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