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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I'm turning 40 this year, and my wife's idea (bless that woman) is to celebrate with a cycling trip through the French Alps with some good friends of ours. I'm working through the logistics pretty easily other than the car rental. Naturally, the selections are largely limited to Citroens, Renaults and VWs, and I need to choose something that can fit four people, two bike boxes (only the guys are riding) and luggage (we won't have much extra). I may just play it safe and spend the money on a large van, such as a VW bus or the big Citroen, but it would be nice if I could spend less by going with a smaller minivan, such as the Renault Espace or even a station wagon. I have gathered what I can on-line in terms of dimensions, but it is hard to tell what will work when cutting it close. Any advice?

By the way, we will be starting in Annecy and leaving from Paris, with Mont Ventoux in the middle, so we can't conveniently store the boxes and throw the bikes on a rack.

Thanks.
 

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That's a tough situation. I rented a small station wagon a couple years ago, (I think a VW Golf but not sure). Anyway, it was barely large enough to store one bike in back with the seat down and some luggage, and 2 adults in front. There is no way it could hold two bikes and 4 people, let alone some bike boxes. This was what they called a mid size auto. I think you will have to have a van, and then the boxes will be questionable, unless you can lash something to the roof. One possibility is to ship over a trunk/hatch mount bike carrier. You can find them at thrift stores and they are usually $5 to $15 max. Just leave it there when you're finished with your tour.

Birddog
 

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Keep in mind when renting a van that you might be limited as to whether you will be able to drive into medieval villages. Some of those streets are awfully narrow.

Also in regards to Mont Ventoux. The weather up there is pretty unpredictable. Of the several times I've been to Southern France, the summit was visible only once. That was the day I went up to the summit and I swear the winds up there were like 40-50 mph sustained. Just keep your itinerary flexible. Sounds like a great trip. If you want recommendations I'd be happy to go on and on and on about France. :)
 

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Henry V said:
I'm turning 40 this year, and my wife's idea (bless that woman) is to celebrate with a cycling trip through the French Alps with some good friends of ours. I'm working through the logistics pretty easily other than the car rental. Naturally, the selections are largely limited to Citroens, Renaults and VWs, and I need to choose something that can fit four people, two bike boxes (only the guys are riding) and luggage (we won't have much extra). I may just play it safe and spend the money on a large van, such as a VW bus or the big Citroen, but it would be nice if I could spend less by going with a smaller minivan, such as the Renault Espace or even a station wagon. I have gathered what I can on-line in terms of dimensions, but it is hard to tell what will work when cutting it close. Any advice?

By the way, we will be starting in Annecy and leaving from Paris, with Mont Ventoux in the middle, so we can't conveniently store the boxes and throw the bikes on a rack.

Thanks.
For 4 people and 2 bike boxes, a Renault Espace would do -- but only if you don't have *too* much other luggage and you can store the extra seats you would have to take out. Since you are not returning the car at the pick-up agency, I doubt this will be an option. A Renault Traffic should do nicely but you will still have to figure out how to move around the back seat to make place for al the luggage.

What time of year are planning on coming over? I ask b/c there are some really nice cyclosportives in June/July tthat are worth trying out if you are in the area.

Oh, and just so you know, the Mt. Ventoux is *not* "on the way" to Paris from Annecy -- but I'm guessing you won't mind meandering about!

A+

Philippe
 

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BTW, just as a warning, if you want an automatic, specify that whenn you reserve the car. Most European rentals are manuals.
 

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philippec said:
For 4 people and 2 bike boxes, a Renault Espace would do -- but only if you don't have *too* much other luggage and you can store the extra seats you would have to take out. Since you are not returning the car at the pick-up agency, I doubt this will be an option. A Renault Traffic should do nicely but you will still have to figure out how to move around the back seat to make place for al the luggage.

What time of year are planning on coming over? I ask b/c there are some really nice cyclosportives in June/July tthat are worth trying out if you are in the area.

Oh, and just so you know, the Mt. Ventoux is *not* "on the way" to Paris from Annecy -- but I'm guessing you won't mind meandering about!

A+

Philippe
Don't listen to Phillipe he only lives in France!!! (kidding). I've spent some time working with American tourists in France so here is my take...

For most people I've dealt with I'd say the Traffic is the minimum as it would let you spread out a bit more. If you go all out go forget a fiat ducato which will have plenty of room for all of your things and room full size bike cases behind the last row of seats. I use the Ducato for 7 people with bikes on the roof. Without a roof rack you can store the bike cases behind the last row with ample room for excess luggage. Then you'd have space for the bikes inside on the back seat plus all the seating room you'd need to relax. In american terms I'd say the Traffic is a larger sized mini van like a dodge grand caravan but perhaps a wee bit taller. The ducato is more like a ford econoline van but a little taller. Someone above mentioned driving in small village with a bigger vehicle and my personal experience is that you can drive either of these vehicles with little hassle. Sometimes in parking lots they'll have bars preventing you from driving anything but car into the lot but in these cases they also typcially have bus and mini-bus parking lots. All the roads are narrow but very rarely will a vehicle of this size cause you issues.

If you are starting and stopping in Paris most hotels will let you leave the bike boxes and often you can arrange this ahead of time. The other option is to go for Crateworks brand boxes (www.crateworks.com) as they velcro in the corners and fold flat. Not as solid as a serfas/trico/ etc BUT I've made 6 trips with my current crateworks with no issues at all.

There are two links below. One of them is suggested ride circuits in Provence (Ventoux area). The second link is for the Haute Savoie region for Annecy region. It is a PDF with tons of info including rides with maps.

http://www.lemontventoux.net/circuits-velo.htm

http://www.tourism.savoiehautesavoie.com/images/upload/portfolio_img/brochure_velo.pdf
 

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OMG OMG OMG,,, NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!! NOT A RENAULT!!!!!!!! For the love of all that is good and decant in this world do not, not, not rent one of those miserable POS's!!!!!! RUN do not walk away from Renault!!!! Those things are the most assinine things ever put on wheels!!!! They'er always breaking down, thye'er harder than hell to work on, and you never know what parts to buy!!! My wife had a Renault Eancore/Aliance when we got together... I spent more time servicing it than riding in it. It had a Porche computer, Brigs and Straton engine block, and a GM cooling system... What ever they could get cheeply and still match everything up. THere were 3 possible starters for her car, a Dautson, Crysler, or a GM, and you had to know which one you had before you went to the salvage yard to get the new one. Her starter came out by taking it loose, and slid up and out nicely over top the tranny, and between the exaust manifold and block. The salvage car on the ohter hand,,, forget it... I had to take the pasenger's side half shaft out,,,, which I may add was held in with a Fk'n SPLIT PIN!!!!!
And i'm not alone in this,,,, I have spoken to other Renault owners who have had the same problem(s) I had. I could have started a Renault haters' club! I have yet to meet anyone with anything good to say bout thease cars.....
[end rant]
 

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Big worry

Yes, you must be extremely cautious when renting cars because you never know when you'll have to go to a salvage yard and to get a replacement starter, go to the parts store for repair parts, or do a radiator swap at the side of the road. It seems like every time I rent a car, I'm worried about these sorts of things :)
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Much thanks to everyone for the advice. After a little more searching, it looks like the Opel Zafira might serve us well. Their marketing materials hype the seating flexibility without having to remove seats--it looks like most fold flat, and the specs otherwise look good. The Trafic is still an option, but so far it looks like I can only get one without air conditioning. Since our wives will spend the most time in the vehicle, that will be our choice only if nothing else could conceivably work, and then it will be me and my riding buddy, and not the boxes or bikes, strapped to the top of the car. :) Even if things are a little crammed in the Zafira, or something equivalent, the only moderately long car ride with everything we have will be from Grenoble to the Cotes due Rhone, and we could repack the bikes if necessary.

We are scheduling the trip for July 26-August 7, with July 27-31 as riding days in the Alps, followed by a couple of days in the Ventoux area, and then a TGV ride to Paris for the final days there. If there is a cyclosportif event consistent with this schedule, we would give it some serious thought.

By the way, although most of the hotel planning is coming along nicely, I am having a tough time finding something in the Maurienne valley. My current route plan includes a day starting with a downhill from Courchevel, after which we will tackle the Madeleine, Glandon and Croix de Fer--we'll reserve the Galibier and l'Alpe de Huez for their own special day. That means I need a hotel for one night in between la Chambre and St. Michel de Maurienne, and so far I am coming up dry. Any recommendations?

Thanks.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Teoteoteo, thank you for the recommendations and PDF. The Crateworks box looks to be very practical and economical, although I would have to get over the anxiety of not having a hard shell. And I second the "wow" response to the PDF. For anyone else reading this thread, I found a very interesting and helpful web site at Grenoble Cycling. The guy obviously has a passion for the area.
 

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Henry V said:
Much thanks to everyone for the advice. After a little more searching, it looks like the Opel Zafira might serve us well. Their marketing materials hype the seating flexibility without having to remove seats--it looks like most fold flat, and the specs otherwise look good. The Trafic is still an option, but so far it looks like I can only get one without air conditioning. Since our wives will spend the most time in the vehicle, that will be our choice only if nothing else could conceivably work, and then it will be me and my riding buddy, and not the boxes or bikes, strapped to the top of the car. :) Even if things are a little crammed in the Zafira, or something equivalent, the only moderately long car ride with everything we have will be from Grenoble to the Cotes due Rhone, and we could repack the bikes if necessary.

We are scheduling the trip for July 26-August 7, with July 27-31 as riding days in the Alps, followed by a couple of days in the Ventoux area, and then a TGV ride to Paris for the final days there. If there is a cyclosportif event consistent with this schedule, we would give it some serious thought.

By the way, although most of the hotel planning is coming along nicely, I am having a tough time finding something in the Maurienne valley. My current route plan includes a day starting with a downhill from Courchevel, after which we will tackle the Madeleine, Glandon and Croix de Fer--we'll reserve the Galibier and l'Alpe de Huez for their own special day. That means I need a hotel for one night in between la Chambre and St. Michel de Maurienne, and so far I am coming up dry. Any recommendations?

Thanks.
I always hire cars in Europe through: http://www.holidayautos.com/
 

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I lived in Grenoble for a year when I was in high school ('95). You will love it... a cyclists dream area. Be sure to check out 'pizza street'. There are over 20 excellent pizza restaurants in a row on the other side of the river, at the base of the old napoleonic fort. Lots of local bike races end by racing up this hill... an perfect vantage point for a race and some excellent food!

My family rented a renault espace a few times for week long trips for skiing etc, 2 adults and 5 teenagers, and we did it. I'm sure if you chose that car you'd have no problem with space.

I really look forward to going back.. you'll have a fantastic time!
 

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I rented a car when I was there in 2003. I don't remember what kind it was, but we got three bikes in it one day, along with three people.

I highly recommend a diesel, because it will save you a lot of money on gas.
 

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Henry V said:
That means I need a hotel for one night in between la Chambre and St. Michel de Maurienne, and so far I am coming up dry. Any recommendations?
Try either one (preferably La Chambre, gives you a little more riding options) instead of in between. They're not that far apart. You could try a gîte d'étape at camping Le Bois Joli, pretty cheap and excellent vantage point. Not much to do there, though, apart from starting great rides.
 

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Henry V said:
Teoteoteo, thank you for the recommendations and PDF. The Crateworks box looks to be very practical and economical, although I would have to get over the anxiety of not having a hard shell. And I second the "wow" response to the PDF. For anyone else reading this thread, I found a very interesting and helpful web site at Grenoble Cycling. The guy obviously has a passion for the area.
Russell Standring does that site. He's a great guy. Never met him in person but I hope to at least have a beer with him sometime as we've spoken by mail a few times. I use the plastic crateworks and it is sturdy but I go overkill on packing my bike. As someone that has unpacked and repacked hundreds of cases I've seen it all. Since you've mentioned riding all of the mecca's of the Alps and not just around Annecy let me suggest one more document. It is 30 rides in the Alps printed in English and French. I contacted the Oisans Tourism Office and asked if the price included shipping to the United States and was told yes but I ssupect they misunderstood my question. I asked if I can pick one up in person and was told that I could.

http://www.bike-oisans.com/uk_cyclo_sommaire.php
 
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