It's important for us to feel that we offer a good level of equipment, and naturally that starts with the bikes we use.
We offer both hybrid bikes and road bikes. To understand the difference, it's useful to borrow the French names. The French for a mountain bike is a 'vélo tous terrains', or a bike for all terrains. A road bike is a 'vélo de course', a race bike. Our hybrids are called 'vélos tous chemins' in French, bikes for all tracks. And that sums up what a hybrid bike does. It's faster and easier than a mountain bike on a road, and is perfectly capable of coping with tracks, no matter how rough.
We don't have any mountain bikes in our fleet. We don't go anywhere that's rough enough to need one, and for cycling on roads they're frankly too much like hard work.
When cycling, helmets are not obligatory, but we do recommend them. We suggest you bring your own to guarantee comfort and correct fit, but we have a large selection of helmets, and you are invited to help yourself at the start of the cycling holiday.
Our Hybrid Bikes
We use TREK 7300 FX bikes. Trek make lots of bikes, from Lance Armstrong's beautiful Madone race bike down to some pretty basic entry-level mountain bikes.
The 7300 benefits from the superb Trek Alpha frame, which is probably the best thing about the bike.
It makes the whole bike very light, and the level of equipment specified by Trek makes these hybrids what I call 'click, click' click'.
One small click on the gear lever, and everything behind you clicks up or down perfectly, like it should.
On cheaper bikes, this beautiful feeling lasts for several days, but that's about it. The whole thing about decent equipment on a bike is that it stays true, and can be properly maintained.
The same is true of the brakes. If you start with a good frame and add good equipment, everything can be better adjusted. You should experience no rubbing, no rattling, and no grating noises. And if there are any, they can be adjusted within seconds.
Sadly, that means that if you're struggling up a hill it's probably your fault, and not the bike!
The Trek 7300 has a total of 24 gears, including a very low gear for climbing difficult hills.
Good quality headsets mean you can descend hills in confidence, and the V-brakes combined with the Bontrager wheel rims make braking quite amazing.
Much better than you'll find on any road bike. They're a bit heavier than our road bikes, with slightly wider tyres which cause more drag on the road, but they come into their own when we leave roads and cycle along tracks and paths
On our Italian Cycling Holidays we only offer hybrids because of the terrain.
Our Road Bikes
Our road bikes are a more varied crew. We have some frames from UK frame builder Graham Weigh, which use Reynolds 531 Touring tubing designed with a specific touring geometry.
We also have some French-bought Giant frames which are more pure-race shape, as well as some Trek road bikes.
In all cases the road bikes are now equipped with triple chainsets, some of them converted by The Chain Gang.
For many keen riders this is tantamount to treason, but I believe that once you've ridden a triple you'll never go back.
You never have to be frightened of hills again, just patient enough to cycle slowly up them in 1st gear!
Some of the bikes only have 21 gears due to restricted width of the rear stays, but most have 24 gears. The difference is frankly minimal.
Road bikes are pure delight on a decent road surface, much faster than either hybrids or mountain bikes. They can be more temperamental, and with thinner tyres are more prone to punctures.
But, again, with decent equipment throughout they can be maintained in a 'click, click, click' condition with very little difficulty. And 'click, click, click' on a road bike is far more exciting!
Road bikes can be used on all our French Bike Tours, but the ride can be a bit hard on tracks.
Many people think they are more prone to buckled wheels on an uneven surface, but with good quality rims this problem is minimised, and in any event your guide will true out a buckle in a few minutes.
They certainly suffer more punctures, especially if the tyre pressures - normally much higher than on hybrid or mountain bikes - are not maintained.
But as your guide will fix all your punctures anyway, why should you worry?
And there will always be a track pump waiting at the hotel to get the tyres back to adrenaline level again.
A Note About Tandems
Just out of interest, Bernard wrote a blog post about the subject of Tandem Bicycles and why they are not offered on Chain Gang Holidays.