Cycling accommodation in France - Advice for owners

Published by Lyn on 3 June 2013

In my quest to pinpoint what constitutes secure bike parking and cycle-friendly accommodation, I went in search of the author, Julia Stagg, who used to run an auberge in the Ariège-Pyrenees. She is also a cyclist, which meant she was perfectly placed to offer the following (rather quite entertaining) advice.

Viewpoint of the cyclist/guest

Some cyclists arrive with bikes that cost a lot of money. I mean A LOT of money. And even if it didn’t cost much, they don’t expect to have to squeeze their vital piece of kit into a tight space between the lawnmower and the washing machine where it will possibly get bashed. You need a designated space for bikes, just bikes.
Many who are travelling light might not have a robust lock with them. Provide the option of a padlock if you are storing more than one bike when other people have access to the bike storage point.
A drainpipe and a padlock does NOT constitute adequate storage. Covered storage, preferably behind a locked door, is a minimum.
As a short cyclist, hooks from the ceiling aren’t always ideal if I have to get my bike down myself. Offer some floor storage too.
For cyclists, their bike is as important as the next guest’s car. They expect it to be treated with respect.
Cyclists will love you forever if you have a communal washing machine. I mean FOREVER. Offer to put their bidons in the dishwasher overnight (clearly identified/marked if they are in a big group with similar bottles) and you will make them cry.

Viewpoint of owner

Bikes in hotel rooms is NEVER OK, unless the floor is tiled/wood. Owners have to think of the next guest and the cleaning. Getting oil out of the carpet or off the wall isn’t easy. But cyclists, no matter how much the bike cost, hate to be parted from their machines, especially if the secure storage has communal access. So they will always ask to take their bike to their rooms. Be prepared! If you have ground floor rooms, consider converting one or two to bike-friendly by tiling them. Allow bikes in those rooms but expect some wear and tear as a result. And lots of cyclists slipping on the tiles in their cleats!

Forestall the bike-in-room option by offering a secured facility that is locked with only you holding the key. Yes, this means a bit of palaver in the morning when people want their bikes, but it strikes a balance between open access by all cyclists, not all of whom will be considerate of other people’s bikes, and personalised storage. Plus, the knowledge that the owner of the property is present whenever a bike is stored/removed offers some reassurance. Cyclists will need that reassurance as they part from their baby. If you have a group of cyclists in who know each other, give them access to the key. And sod’s law dictates that someone will always ask for access to their bike just as you are in the middle of serving breakfast.

Think tandem. If you can make space for a longer bike you can add this to your cycling USP.

Offer additional extras. I used to offer a kit wash for 5 euros/head (two full kits per person) or free if the cyclists were staying two nights. I would hand the cyclist/cyclists a washbasket when they arrived. They would return their toxic laundry to me when they descended for dinner and it went straight in the machine. Cyclists will need to know you understand how to wash kit! Detergent specific to delicates/woollens, delicate cycle, 30/40 degs and NO conditioner. That bit is vital. They will be reluctant to take you up on the offer if you don’t say that. And NO tumble dryer. Throw it on an airer over night and it will be dry by morning – apart from gloves. Deliver with breakfast. Why do this? It stops them washing it all in the sink, stringing it around the room so it drips all over the carpet and melting their gloves on the radiators! Yes, that happened.

An alternative to the above is to offer a communal washing machine as mentioned above.

Finally, get the odd issue of Velo magazine or Le Cycle if you know cyclists are coming. Invest in some good cycling guides (such as the excellent guides by Richard Peace, for example) and other cycling related reading matter so you have a small cycling library. And get IGN maps for the area. Cyclists love looking at maps while waiting for dinner and solo cyclists travelling light are always grateful for something to read over their meal.

See our blog on bike storage for more tips on making your B&B or hotel cycle-friendly.

Julia Stagg writes fiction set in the Ariège region of the French Pyrenees, an area she discovered through her passion for cycling. Her latest novel, The French Postmistress (UK, US, Fr), is the third in the Fogas Chronicles. From 2004-2010, Julia ran a small auberge in the Ariège, where she added chambermaid, receptionist, cleaner and chef to her CV (she has since reverted to being a plain old 'author').

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