I realized the other day that I never did post a final update from my trip. Thought I'd also answer a few of the most common questions I get like 'How do you carry your luggage?' and 'How do you take your bike on the plane?'
I added a new photo album with pictures of my bike in its travel box, the contents of my bike bags spread out on a bed and everything loaded onto the bike that will help with this explanation.
My bike frame is built with special couplers that allow the frame to be split in half. This allows the bike to be broken down so that it will fit in a box that is about the size of one of the bike wheels and about 10 inches deep. It's a bit of a jigsaw puzzle to figure out how to get everything to fit the first time, but once I'd done it once, I took pictures of each step to make it easier in the future. Once I was in France it took me about 2 hours to reassemble the bike and another 2 hours to tear it down at the end of the trip. If I did this more often, I could probably cut the time down to 60-90 minutes, but I don't like doing it so much that I practice when I'm home. :-)
As for luggage, on the France trip I took two panniers (bike saddle bags) that connect to the rear rack of the bike, a handle bar bag and a small backpack that sat on top of the rear rack. For a trip that included camping, there would also be a front rack with two additional panniers mounted to it. But, in France, I stayed in hotels every night so there was no camping.
Everything is packed into big ziplock plastic bags. This serves several purposes - 1) it allows the air to be pressed out so everything packs smaller, 2) it keeps things better organized and a little more wrinkle-free, and 3) it keeps everything dry if it rains or if a bag falls off the bike into a puddle (both of which happened on the trip!).
The handlebar bag carries the stuff I need often or want to take with me everytime I'm off the bike - map, camera, money, credit cards, travel guide book, food. Pretty much everything else is clothing (bike clothes, rain gear, street clothes, sweater, jacket, walking shoes) or toiletries.
In general, I took three sets of bike clothes and three sets of street clothes. I actually found that I had more stuff than I needed! The key to making that work is to take mostly quick-dry fabrics that can be sink washed and will hang dry over night. Cotton t-shirts and jeans are a big no-no as they weigh a lot and take forever to dry. Every couple of weeks I'd also find a laundromat. You can only get clothes so clean in a hotel sink.
As for the final stats on my French Extravaganza:
Calendar days: 39
Cycling days: 26
Distance ridden: 1384 kilometers
Distance climbed: 12665 meters (1700 were in one day on Mt Ventoux)
Number of flat tires: 1 (on my last day of cycling)
Number of pictures taken: 983 (be glad I didn't add them all to the blog!)
Number of great French meals and glasses of wine: too many to remember
Since getting home, I've been spending time planning new adventures for 2009, so stay tune for future updates!