Ruckenwind Reisen bicycle tour review Canal Du Midi (including bike pictures)
We took a bicycle tour along the wonderful Canal Du Midi in the south of France this past summer. We booked our tour with Eurobike.at but the actual tour was done by another company, Ruckenwind (http://www.rueckenwind.de/en ) from Germany. The scenery was beautiful and the daily distances travelled were good, neither too far nor not far enough. The path was level with no hills to climb. We cycled in a group but without tour guide. This is not a guided tour, but we knew that before we started. What we did not know is that everybody in our group spoke German and little English. Upon closer reflection, we should have known that German was going to be the language of choice as both Eurobike.at and Ruckenwind are from German speaking countries (Austria and Germany). Unfortunally, the guidebook given to us was also in German. But since we were in a group, we just followed behind the others and thus really had no need for any guidebook or map. However, it also did not allow us to set our own pace or schedule. The Germans like to wake up early, probably due to fact that they did not suffer from jet-lag. A lovely Swiss couple helped us translate parts of the guidebook that talked about history, which was very nice of them to do.
We were, however, more dissapointed in the bikes we were rented (note: the tour prices on their website do not include an actual bike; they assume you bring your own). The bikes were not comfortable for the towpaths along the Canal Du Midi. The towpaths were not paved in most parts, and the bikes had neither a suspension fork nor seat suspension to help smooth out the ride. We were quite sore for the entire trip! Everybody on the trip had the same problem. I took some pictures of the bikes, so you can see what we rode. Pictures link: http://s1314.photobucket.com/user/jimmy_davids/media/lesomailruckenwind3_zpsa7c83945.jpg.html The ruckenwind website shows in fact the same bikes. They were not in the best condition, and they looked like they were stored outside all year.
Another problem we had about Ruckenwind was that their website claimed that their entire route was sign posted with their own private signs. Maybe they are in their other routes in Germany, but we did not see any signs during our trip. We asked the Ruckenwind representative about this when we returned the bicycles, and he actually told us that their website was indeed wrong and that there are no Ruckenwind signs along the route. He said it was something that the webmaster had to correct, but as of this date no changes have been made to their website… We certainly felt deceived by this false claim. The van support was also not true. We never saw the van, only during the first and last days of our trip. When we got a flat tire, we had to change it ourselves.
The hotels were very good for the first three nights, but quickly become less attractive as the trip progressed. After getting back home I went on booking.com and found that we could have easily booked the same hotels ourselves and saved several 100 dollars / euros by doing so.
In summary we think the trip was great with beautiful scenery and nice weather. The problems were with the bicycles (poor quality, uncomfortable, noisy), the false claim of route being sign-posted (no signs anywhere), lack of van-support (no van seen) and the high price (cheaper to book own hotels online). Would I recommend trip to friend? Yes, mainly due to scenery and climate.