Packing for a fall biking trip in France

May 5, 2004
Outside Magazine
Week of June 18-24, 1998
Packing for a fall biking trip in France
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Packing for a fall biking trip in France
Question: What clothing should I take to France in late September and early October for ten days of bicycling in the Loire Valley?

Eleanor Johnson
Fallbrook, California

A chateau in the Loire Valley
Adventure Adviser: Generally speaking, fall in the Loire Valley is golden and warm. Sunlit days are followed by crisp evenings, ideal for sleeping after a day of cycling and an a night of wining. But fall can also be a bit volatile with an occasional cold and rainy spell or, on the flip side, a super hot stretch. That said, packing appropriately without bringing too much is a bit tricky because you’ll want to be prepared for the full range.

In addition to the cycling basics (shoes, socks, shorts, gloves, helmet), I’d bring along a pair of breathable, wind-resistant tights in case you get a chilly day (Patagonia’s pursuit tights, or North Face’s similar style, are both good choices). A pair of these will keep your leg muscles warm so you can keep pedaling without cramping. If and when the rain comes, there’s nothing worse than not being prepared, so pack a reliable pair of rainpants and jacket. (Most European churches frown at cycling shorts, so your rainpants can also double as a quick coverup for cultural excursions). Don’t skimp here—there’s a big wet world of difference between ‘waterproof’ and water-resistant’ so buy a reliable material, such as GoreTex.

Since winds in the fall can sometimes pick up, a good addition that won’t take up much packing space is either a lightweight windbreaker designed for cycling or a wind-proof vest. Patagonia’s velocity shell is super light, and their storm cycle jacket could double as your raingear; Marmot’s Gore WindStopper vest is an excellent all-purpose item. Any of these will keep your upper body warm and dry, quickly whisking away any moisture. In addition to some t-shirts, pack a couple of cycling jerseys, maybe one long-sleeve and the other short or sleeveless. Or instead of another jersey, bring along either a lightweight capilene zip-t or something like North Face’s DriClime zip top. Both will add warmth without sacrificing your movement. Last but not least, pack an all-purpose fleece. They’re perfect for traveling (can act as a pillow for an afternoon nap), and you’ll be happy to throw it on while touring a chateau or checking out the stars at night.

As for off the bike, the Loire Valley is an elegant place with some world-renowned hotels and chateaux (I’m assuming you’re not camping). Again, nights will be cool, so although you might want to stick in one or two summery sun-dresses, better include a few sweaters and dress pants or long skirts as well. TravelSmith has a great selection of packable, good-looking travel clothes, like their indispensable black travel dress—wrinkle-free, comfortable and elegant enough for those long Loire dinners. And don’t forget your feet. After all that biking, they’ll need a rest, so remember to pack a comfortable pair of sandals or flats to pad around in. Lastly, before you go, check out some of the weather sites to get a sense of what kind of fall weather France is having. You’ll at least have an idea of what to expect your first few days.

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