No matter how much you love bicycling in Europe, you’re probably not a big fan of carrying all your clothes in panniers. But for cyclotourists, panniers are a necessary evil, a small price to pay for complete independence on the road. Despite how carefully I choose every piece of clothing and technology that I pack, my panniers still end up weighing between 32-35 pounds, something I curse every time I go up a hill!
This summer, for the first time in 20+ years of bicycle touring, I used a luggage transfer service for 4 nights along the Mosel River. It was a fantastic indulgence, enabling us to easily bicycle the 200 km in 4 days with lots of stops during the day. The itinerary is flat and not one that I would normally use a baggage service for (compared to the hilly terrain in parts of Provence), but the service was available and I wanted to see if it was worth the money. It was definitely worth the money, but it involved a lot of trepidation.
It was difficult to leave my luggage in a corner in a small hotel and have faith that it would show up at another small hotel 60 km away! Fortunately my bags were in the capable hands of Bernd Sauer Bossing from Gepaeck Transport Mosel, the major baggage and bike transfer service on the Mosel.
As indulgent as luggage transfer services are, there aren’t currently many areas in France where this service is available. Only one that I know of is located in hilly regions where they are most appreciated, that being the Luberon. Here are several of the major bicycling regions with baggage transfer services:
Baggage transfer service is just one of many reasons to choose the Loire for an upcoming cycling vacation! If you are considering a bicycling trip on the Loire, but are concerned about carrying your luggage, you have a number of options for baggage transfer.
Several reputable companies offer bag transfer services along all or part of the Loire and are listed on my favorite resource for the Loire, La Loire a Velo. Several of the better known services are Detours de Loire, Loc Val de Loire and Bagafrance. Bagafrance which began in 2013 is the only company whose business is primarily the transfer of baggage and bikes. For those interested in returning to their starting point along the Loire, Bagafrance offers bike transfer services also. Detours de Loire and Loc Val de la Loire are both bicycle rental agencies that also do baggage transfers. Baggage transfer with Loc Val de Loire is available only between Sully-sur-Loire and Saint Nazaire.
Prices can vary widely, so be sure to check pricing with each service.
The Burgundy Canal
The Burgundy Canal is one of the loveliest bicycle itineraries in France. While there are no hills along the Canal, many of the roads off the Canal that connect to area attractions are hilly. If you are planning a cycling trip along this itinerary, luggage transfer services might be just what you’re looking for. Bagtransfert has been providing baggage transfer services along the Burgundy Canal for several years. Bags can be transported to a number of towns along the Canal, as listed on the map below:
Luggage can be transported to hotels, B&B’s, private homes, campgrounds, even local tourism offices. Baggage service is available from May to September, check the website each year for exact dates. The website for Bagtransfert is still only in French, but translation is very easy using Google Translate. You can book a transfer as late as 5:00 the night before or, you can contact the company in advance of your trip to arrange for multiple transfers at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Canal du Midi
Beginning in May of this year, Bagafrance began providing luggage transfer services on the Canal du Midi between Toulouse and Sete. This is the second service area for the company which began providing luggage services along the Burgundy Canal 2 years ago. I don’t have any direct experience with this company, but its two owners, Bertrand Chandouineau and Jean-Louis Clique are experienced business professionals intent on building a successful company in the ecotourism industry. Their expansion to the Canal du Midi, just 2 years after beginning service along the Loire is an example of this success. Bagafrance also provides another great service, bike transfer services. This service may be more valuable to bicyclists than luggage transfer. With this service, you can now rent a bike in Toulouse or some other location, and have reliable transportation to return to the starting point. Prices are 18€ per bike for distances of 130 km or less and 36€ for distances of from 130-250 km.
The hills of the Luberon, home to some of the most famous Provencal towns like Menerbes, Bonnieux, Lacoste and Roussillon, can be very challenging for the recreational cyclist, especially lugging 35 km of luggage. This is definitely a place where luggage transfer services can be more of a necessity than a luxury. Luggage transfer services in this area are provided primarily by local taxi companies working sometimes in conjunction with area B&B’s and small local hotels that cater to cyclists. Some of these services are listed on the website of the Le Luberon A Velo Association and several additional options are listed on the Vaucluse Region’s Cycling website. The service providers listed on this page also transport bikes and their owners.
If you are pannier-averse, there are other options that will enable you to avoid carting your luggage by bike on your vacation. One of the best options is to rent a small gite in a centrally located area with easy access to a train, and take day trips by bike. Another alternative is to book an inexpensive self-guided your with a local tour company where baggage transfer is included in the price of your package. Several of these tour companies are listed on the Le Luberon a Velo Association website. Another example is this Luberon tour offered by Avignon-based tour company, Walk in Provence.
With all of these options for traveling without panniers, it’s time to start thinking about where you might want to take a bicycling vacation in the upcoming year!