Outbike :: Australia & EUROPE


Epic (and shorter) rides of Australia's Outback, Rail Trails, France-Belgium Western Front and Europe's Greenways

From Allan (retired Sgt Major, Aus Army) on our 2016 ride:


G'day Carl and Ralph,
I wish to thank you both for a most memorable cycling tour of the WW1 "Western Front " Oostende to Basel.
With my military background and having visited Gallipoli, I needed to see the Western Front to get a "feel" of this "War to end all wars".
War in all its forms from the dark ages to the present are totally wasteful in terms of human suffering but my view is that this war was perhaps the most wasteful and horrific with so many paying the ultimate price with their lives due to a large extent bad leadership.
Our journey was for 23 days covering 1500km. There was just so much to see and absorb. To absorb is a factor I am still and will continue to do for some time.
As with my trip to Gallipoli, being shown around the various cardinal points of that, by comparison, small theatre of war, was most informative. Unfortunately, no tour operator can allow sufficient time to a visitor to sit and analyse or get the feel of what actually happened at a particular battle site. The entire Western Front in 23 days is a large chunk of real estate to cover plus 4 years in largely stalemate and attrition situations in the progress of that war makes it even more difficult to fully comprehend.
I am absolutely in awe of the scale of it, the conditions, the battles, the deprivation, the massive loss of military life and civilian sacrifice as well.
I extend a most hearty thank you to you both for a tour which was for me unlike any other and one I would never to have been able to do by myself. I will never forget the informative dialogue and assistance you provided to me.
PAX
LEST WE FORGET.
Kind Regards,

Allan

2016 Ride photos

TOUR DE FRONT

​2018 ITINERARY

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Day prior - YPRES ARRIVAL

28/06: Arrival to Ypres (from within Belgium by rail or shuttle from Lille FR). Flanders Museum, Last Post at Menin Gate. Overnight Ypres at Hortensia B&B ***.
Come earlier if you like more time for Ypres.


Day 1 - FLANDERS LOOP

29/06 88 km: Flanders. Ride to the coast at Nieuwpoort then loop back, Yser River, Langemark, Belgian Memorials, German Military Cemetery.

Overnight at Langemark at Greenhouse B&B **.


Day 2 - FLANDERS

BATTLES OF YPRES

30/06 60 km: More time in Flanders. Passchendaele, Hill 60, The Bluff, Messines Ridge, Xmas truce, Ploegsteert.

Overnight Bailleul at Fleur de Lys Hotel ***.


Day 3 - FRANCE NORD

BACK TO THE WALL 1918, BATTLE OF FROMELLES

01/07 80 km: We are now in France. Nieppe Forest, Vieux Berquin, Fromelles, The Cobber, VC Corner, Pheasant Wood. Overnight Lens at Hotel de France ** in the town centre.


Day 4 - LENS TO POZIERES
VIMY, BULLECOURT, POZIERES

02/07 79 km: Notre Dame de Lorette (France Memorial), The Ring (all fallen soldiers of all nations), Vimy Canadian Monument, Arras, Bullecourt Digger, Rue des Australiens, Bapaume, Martinpuich.

Overnight near Pozières at Butterworth Farm Cottage **.


Day 5 - POZIERES TO AMIENS

THE SOMME 1916
D 05 03/07 88 km: The Somme battlefields. Contalmaison, Lochnagar, Thiepval Somme Monument, Auchon-Villers, Sailly-le-Sec, Corbie.

Stay 2 nights in Amiens town centre at St-Louis Hotel **.


Day 6 - AMIENS
BATTLE FOR AMIENS

04/07 Rest: Day off to explore Amiens. See the Cathedral, Hortillonages, Jules Verne, Somme River.


Day 7 - AMIENS TO PERONNE

BATTLE FOR VILLERS-BRETTONEUX
05/07 76 km: This is where the war finally turned in 1918 with the Australians busting the pointy end of the German advance with tactics that may have inspired the 'blitzkreigs' of WW2. Visit Villers-Bretonneux, Sir John Monash Centre, Australian Memorial, Le Hamel, Mont-St-Quentin, Péronne.

Overnight at farmstay Moulin de Binard ** 4km east.


Day 8 - PERONNE TO VILLEQUIER

HINDENBURG LINE

06/07 72 km: 4th Australian Division Memorial, St-Quentin, Villequier-au-Mont.

Another country overnight at Auberge de Villequier **.


Day 9 - VILLEQUIER TO SOISSONS
THE ARMISTICE 1918

07/07 93 km: Bellicourt, France-USA Memorial, Compiègne, Armistice Park, Pierrefonds Château, Aisne River.

Overnight Soissons at a typical pub, the Rallye Hotel **.


Day 10 - SOISSONS TO REIMS

AISNE BATTLEFIELDS
08/07 88 km: Le Chemin des Dames 1917 (also site of Napoleon battles), Cerny French and German cemeteries.

Stay 2 nights at Reims Au Tambour Hotel ***.


Day 11 - REIMS
REST AND CHAMPAGNE

09/07: Day for rest and explore Reims.

Nearby are the Champagne wineries.


Day 12 - REIMS TO APREMONT 

BATTLE OF THE ARGONNE

10/07 90 km: Into the heavily forested Argonne Region.

La Montagne de Reims, Sommepy USA Memorial.

Overnight Apremont village at Hotel Argonne Auberge **.


Day 13 - APREMONT TO VERDUN 

BATTLE OF THE ARGONNE 2

11/07 99 km: Romagne USA Memorial and Cem, Vauquois crators, Varennes, Montfaucon, Meuse River left bank. Overnight near Verdun at Hotel Orchidees ***.


Day 14 - VERDUN TO LAC MADINE 

LORRAINE 1

12/07 90 km: Our 2 days from Verdun to Nancy traverse the Parc Naturel Regional de Lorraine. Visit Douaumont Ossuary and Fort, Chaumont, Azannes, Vaux, Les Eparges.

Overnight at Hotel Lac Madine ***.


Day 15 - LAC MADINE TO NANCY

LORRAINE 2

13/07 65 km: Montsec USA Memorial, Battle of Seicheprey US 26th Div, Martincourt, Moselle river. 

Stay 2 nights in Nancy at Hotel de Guise *** in the old town.


Day 16 - NANCY

SPLENDID CITY
14/07 Rest: Enjoy a day off in Nancy. Explore the Beautiful square and artdeco buildings.


Day 17 - NANCY TO BLAMONT

BATTLE OF GRAND COURONNE
D17 15/07 84 km: 500,000 men fought the Battle of Grande Couronne in Sep 1914 in an arc around Nancy. Reillon, Battle Hill 303, Leintrey Craters.

Overnight in Blamont at L'Auberge du Diabl'o Thym **.


Day 18 - BLAMONT TO ST DIE

THE MEURTHE
16/07 67 km (1400m of climbing):  Entering the Vosges region we start to encounter the mountains. Badonviller, Col de la Chapelotte, Meurthe River.

Overnight St-Dié-des-Vosges at Campanile Hotel ***.


Day 19 - ST DIE TO GRAND BALLON

UP INTO THE VOSGES
17/07 73 km (1800 of climbing): Climb quiet roads onto the Vosges ridge then follow to the Grand Ballon summit. This is a popular alpine road for team training.

Overnight at the rustic Grand Ballon Hotel **.


Day 20 - GRAND BALLON TO PFETTERHOUSE

DEAD MANS MOUNTAIN, KM ZERO

18/07 69km (+9km): Today's ride includes a long spin downhill, a short stretch on the Rhine-Rhone Canal bikepath and nearly 20km of rail trail. Visit Hartzmannwillerkopf (Vieill Armand French site), Cernay, Dannemarie, Pfetterhouse (Km Zero). Overnight 9kms away at Hotel le Morimont ***, one of our favourites from 2016.


Day 21 Exit - TO MULHOUSE OR BASEL
19/07 50km or 40km: To exit to Mulhouse (FR, TGV services) is 50km. Retrace to Pfetterhouse, rail trail 20km to Dannemarie, canal bike path 25km to Mulhouse. Alternatively, by road Basel is 40km from Hotel le Morimont.

We can transfer baggage to either point.

          

From Outbike's Ralph Jackson:  

I dedicate our Tour de Front rides to 3 of my forebears, 2 of whom fought and were wounded on the Western Front: my English Grandfather Henry Jackson and my Aussie Gt Uncle Ernest McKinnon of the 31st Battalion. 

The other is my Gt Grandfather Major Henry Krone, officer in charge of Emerald Hill (South Melbourne) Artillery through the 1860s. He was well before WW1 but allow me to share some more about him:


Born to an émigré Jewish family living in London's East End, Henry sailed to Port Phillip on the news of the gold rush, along with his two brothers, future postmaster Alfred Lionel and pioneering masseur, hypnotist and electric shock therapist Maurice. 


Henry joined the Victorian Volunteer Force as a gunner in 1855 and did well both in military and civilian life in colonial Melbourne, rising to be Registrar-General. 

Major Henry Krone and General John Monash have some common ground. Both were among the first Jewish-born officers of Australian forces. Both were promoted through the ranks to became majors in the Victorian Volunteer Force artillery garrisons. Krone at South Melbourne, Monash at North Melbourne. Krone was a generation before Monash and never had to fight a war. He did have some discipline issues though and was in a mess room punch-up that made front page news in 1870 Melbourne. And we're glad he didn't go to NZ to fight the Maoris.

Tim Fischer, 'Monash for Field Marshal' champion, former Lieutenant and Deputy PM (I discovered a few years back) is also a descendant of Major Krone. Tim is a Gt-Gt-Grandson, or next generation along (albeit senior in age) to me. 

I salute Tim's extensive WW1 work, his book 'Maestro John Monash' and his leadership of the campaign to have Monash posthumously promoted to Field-Marshal.


I wore the slouch hat - as an army reservist for 4 years - with 4th Field Engineering Regiment (Gladesville) and 3rd Royal NSW Regiment (Wagga) in 1979-83.

In 1983 our crusty CSM insisted I get a discharge before travelling across China and the USSR on my way to Europe!

There I cycle-toured Northern France and Belgium, my first encounters with WW1 Western Front sites.


I am proud to present the Tour de Front - however WW1 was all up an unbelievably horrific and senseless carnage played out like a game between the imperial powers.


Technically, warfare was changing drastically: new machine-guns, new heavy artillery, new aircraft, new tanks, new gases, new subs, new ships and new mines.

New tinned food made feeding troops possible all year.

New reinforced concrete made stronger fortifications.

New motorised trucks, buses, train transport and ocean liners made it possible to move tens and hundreds of thousands of troops like never before.

New communications made co-ordination easier.

Many diseases that previously ravaged armies were understood and measures applied to prevent them.

However in September and October 1918 the Spanish flu wiped out so many troops in a few weeks to become one of the biggest killers. 50% of US Army deaths were from disease, 43% were through fighting (is being shelled 'fighting'?).

All armies on the Western Front lost tens of thousands to the pandemic. Morale hit rock-bottom and in retreat, 

Germany declared they'd had enough and it was all over.


But without the world-changing WW1, history would have followed another course.


For a final thought, without WW1 it's fair to say we'd all not be here today - the world would be populated by a different set of people!

TOUR DE FRONT 2018

BELGIUM & FRANCE 

ride the line

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2016, 2018, 2020 

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1500+ KM, SMALL GROUPS, GUIDED, VAN SUPPORT

Dates 28 June to 19 July 2018

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When Austria's 29 year old Archduke Ferdinand sailed into Sydney in 1893, principally to shoot our koalas, platypus and any other innocent wildlife he could line up, no-one could have imagined the apocalypse his own shooting would trigger.

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A tribute and a challenge:

A ride the full length of the Western Front we thought could be both a personal challenge and a way to give tribute to the tragic sacrifice of our gt/grandparents' generation. 

We couldn't see anything organised so "Why not?".

We named it the 'Tour de Front' and pay our respects to the gruelling Great Ride as well as the gruesome Great War.

Our first ride in 2016 marked the centenary of ANZAC troops on the Western Front. 

2018 is the Centenary year of the German Spring Offensive, the Aussie successes in halting their advance around Amiens and the Armistice.

Next we plan is 2020.

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The Western Front as a bike ride:

The Tour de Front traces the Front Line from the Belgium coast to the Swiss border. For most of the Great War, the Line didn't shift much. It is around 800 km but we will cover a fair bit more, around 1500 km. 

Along the way, we're biased towards: sites significant to the ANZAC and Commonwealth forces; minor roads; towns of historical and scenic interest; nice character accommodations to overnight (most with bistros/restaurants); patisseries and cafes and bars!

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Route and key points:

Nieuwport, Dijksmuide, Ypres and surrounds, Armentieres, Fromelles, Vimy Ridge, Arras, Bullecourt, Bapaume, Pozieres, Albert, River Somme, Villers-Brettoneux, Amiens, Compiegne, Peronne, St Quentin, River Aisne, Route des Dames, Reims, Argonne Forests, Verdun, River Meuse, Nancy, Mosel River, Meurthe River, St Die, Vosges Mountains, Grand Ballon Summit, Haute-Alsace and on to Basel (Switzerland).

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Rest days: 
In the major centres of Amiens, Reims and Nancy.

-------------------------------------------------------------Small groups:

Maximum 12 riders (minimum 6).

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Participation costs per rider for 2018:

Guided, 2-3 star hotels and gîtes x 21 nights, vehicle support for bags, hotel breakfasts.

3000 Euro if sharing a room (approx 4500AUD)

+800 Euro for single rooms (add approx 1200AUD)

Gîtes are BnBs, farmstays and self-contained rental properties.

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Crew of rider-guide and van support driver:

In 2018 we will have Carl Ooghe riding and guiding as far as Nancy. Carl is a cycle tour guide and battlefields expert, living near Ypres. Carl accompanied the June 2016 event for 11 days from the Belgian coast to Reims. Carl has now added the Lorraine and Alsace battlefields to his expertise.

Carl's daughter will drive their Mercedes 9-seater van.

Outbike's Ralph will be about for the event's first days in Flanders and again from Nancy through to Basel providing ride directions and vehicle support. There is no riding guide on the final days from Nancy.

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Extras:

Lunches, dinners, bike hire, admissions.

Travel to Ypres to commence and away from Mulhouse or Basel.

Bike hire is 15 Euros per day. ​

Photos by Outbike

For more 2016 Ride photos scroll down the page