Everyone has heard of the Tour de France, but did you know that France is a hot spot for cycling holidays all year round? Continue reading to discover everything that you need to know about cycling in France like a pro!
The benefits of cycling.
When it comes to cycling there are many physical and mental benefits. Firstly, cycling is a fun way to exercise and improve cardio. It’s a challenging sport and hobby, but once you get started you’ll be hooked! It’s also an inherently social activity. There are many clubs and organisations worldwide that are available to join. Whether you’re interested in a weekend hobby or an early morning ride, there is something for everyone. For most cyclists who want to take their game to the next level there are cycling holidays. One of the most popular destinations is France. The French countryside is the perfect playground for cyclists at every level. If this wasn’t enough, there’s also the spectacular views, food, wine, and culture. This is the trip of a lifetime that has everything to offer!
Why cycling in France?
France has over 800,000 kilometers of road networks. In fact, almost all of these roads are accessible and safe for cyclists. The road conditions are also at quite a high standard. This means that cycling in France is safe and stress-free. In fact, France recently rolled out a national cycling strategy to promote, educate, and encourage cycling among its citizens and visitors. This is one of the main reasons why so many people travel to France every to cycle and soak up the stunning views.
On top of this, cycling is also very popular in the country. When there are planned races and cycling events, French roads are always closed. Actually, France is usually ranked in top five lists for the best countries for cycling. Usually, it’s just after Denmark and The Netherlands. In fact, many people visit France just to ride across the country. This can take anywhere from 10 days to a couple of weeks, depending on the route. When you’re traveling around France by bike, you get to see the breathtaking countryside and experience a whole new side of the country away from the tourist traps!
France is also famous for its smooth and well-kept roads. They’re just perfect for professional and novice cyclists alike!
There are actually over 275 long-distance routes in France. That means that there is plenty to choose from. Overall, it’s important to decide what you’re after. Whether it’s stunning views, historical sites, or an athletic challenge. Whatever it is, France has you covered!
Even though the country its famous for the Tour de France, there are actually routes to suit every level! There are a countless number of incredible places to cycle in France. Here is a brief list of our favourites!
1- Normandy to Brittany
Travelling through the North of France is breathtaking. There are plenty of sweet country towns and romantic narrow lanes that allow visitors to experience France in style. This route is best enjoyed during the summer months. Most of this trip consists of flat country roads, so it’s also perfect if you want to soak in the views and the fresh air without breaking a sweat!
2- Burgundy: Beaune to Ouche Valley
If you love wine, then this is the perfect route for you! This 44-kilometer journey takes you through the hilly countryside, small regional villages and local vineyards. Summer is the best time to take this route and it’s a great trip for any level. Also, as this route is off the beaten path there isn’t a lot of heavy traffic, so it’s also a great route for families too!
3- Morzine Alps
This complex network of trails and mountain peaks are not for the light at heart! Morzine is nestled in the French Alps right by the Swiss border. This area has some of the most challenging climbs in the country. There are several climaxes, including Col de le Rama (14km) and Col de la Joux Verte (25.2 km). Keep in mind that although summer and spring are the best time to visit, these roads can get quite busy during the school holidays. Also, you will need to prepare for this one with a good quality mountain bike and weatherproof gear. This is area is perfect for cyclists who are up for a challenge and some stunning panoramic views.
4- Provence: Petit Luberon valley
This is a well-loved trail by cyclist enthusiasts and newcomers alike. The Petit Luberon valley features incredible views but also small and steep hills. Travel through Bonnieux and Goult village to discover cafes, shops, and vineyards off the beaten path. This route is suitable for all levels and is perfect from May to September.
Burgundy is one of the most family-friendly regions to cycle through. There are plenty of traffic-free bike routes, with a number of options for extracurricular activities and accommodation. Most routes also take you along the river, which can make a day out with the kids relaxing! This is the best region to travel through if it’s your first time and you want to test the waters. If you enjoy Burgundy, then you can take it to the next level in Dordogne or Loire.
6- Bordeaux and Dordogne – East past the Dordogne River
This is a relaxing route that meanders through the stunning Bergerac region. This journey takes you past the beautiful banks of the river, historic villages, and cute vineyards. This trip is also good for the spring and summer months and suitable for intermediate cyclists.
7- La Rochelle to Royan
This is one of the most popular cyclist trails in France. It’s over 1,400 km, so it’s definitely one for serious hobbyists or professional cyclists. The best part of this long journey is that you can soak up the most breathtaking coastal, beach, and forest views that France has to offer. To top it off, your last stop on the trip will be Royan. This place is famous for its gorgeous seaside views and relaxed atmosphere. It’s just what you need after a tiring ride!
8- Southwest France – Conques and The Lot Valley
This stunning trail winds through idyllic country roads in the heart of Southwest France. However, this 90km trip is only recommended for experienced cyclists. Keep in mind that there are a couple of steep hills alongside the river. Start your journey in the Sain Cirq Lapopie and travel towards the Conques. Although this is quite a long trail it boasts some of the most spectacular roadside views, castles, and monuments in France. You can go on this incredible trail anytime from May to September, to enjoy the beautiful weather and temperature!
Best time to cycle
The best time to cycle really depends on the season.
Essentially, the middle of April to the middle of October is the best time to cycle through France. However, if you’re traveling through the Alps, it’s better to go from the middle of May through to September to avoid the snowy weather. Ideally, just before or after summer is perfect. This is because you can avoid the scorching summer sun and still cycle in perfect weather. Remember that if you’re traveling in Southern or Central France, Spring and Autumn is a great time to visit. However, you’ll need to come prepared with waterproof gear and thermals if you’re heading into the Alps.
Overall, it’s a good idea to try and avoid the summer holiday peak season. This is because the price of accommodation, flights, bike rentals, and hotels will generally rise during this time. On top of this, there is also a lot more traffic and other cyclists. For a more private and unique experience, it’s best to avoid this high season by a couple of weeks. Additionally, make sure you always check out scheduled roadwork maintenance and closed routes before planning your journey. There’s nothing worse than heading out on an adventure of a lifetime to then have your dream trip sidelined by planned roadwork. Stay informed and updated on government websites to make sure your trip is seamless!
Accommodation for different budgets.
The best part of heading on a cycling trip through France is that you can really make the experience personalised. For instance, if you’re on a budget there are many different campsites along the cyclist routes. These spots are perfect for pitching a tent, having a shower and getting a good night’s sleep. However, if you have some money to spend and want a more up-market experience, there are also luxurious hotels, bed and breakfasts, and Airbnb’s. There’re also dormitories and hostels for those looking for some creature comforts at an affordable rate.
Cyclist trips are so popular that there are many different options at your disposal. It’s up to you to make the trip uniquely yours. Just remember to always read up on reviews before booking your accommodation. This is especially true when it comes to low-budget campsites and hostels. There can be a world of difference from place to place. There’s nothing worse than traveling an entire day only to arrive at really low-quality accommodation. Fortunately, online reviews are a good way to dodge any bad places and pull off your trip without a hitch!
If you’re looking to travel through France as cheaply as possible, the best way to do it is by stealth camping. Essentially, all you have to do is carry a tent and any other supplies and set up camp in a field, park, free-campground, or beach. Many people do this to save money and get in touch with nature. If this option isn’t for you, campgrounds are an affordable option. Generally, a month of camp accommodation will cost you around £300, if you bring your own tent. Luckily, there are many lightweight tents available that are perfect for this purpose. Otherwise, most campgrounds will also have affordable cabins or tents for hire. The best part is, most travellers don’t book ahead of time, and just turn up at the site to score a spot. This gives you the flexibility to see where the wind takes you on your journey!
Bike rentals: choosing the right bike
This is one of the most important things to research when you go on a cycling trip. Your bike is everything! You’ll rely on it every day to get you where you need to go. An entire trip can be completely ruined if you don’t have a good quality bike. First, you need to figure out where’s the best place to find a rental.
Also, don’t be frightened to talk to the specialist and get some seasoned advice. Tell them about your itinerary and the route you’ll be taking. Most likely, they’ll be able to pick out the perfect bike for your needs. There are also many blogs, forums, and magazines that have a ton of advice and professionals that can help you out. It’s important to stay informed and be prepared as much as possible so your trip goes off without a hitch.
If you’re looking for a more unique option, check out a VéloSoleX bike, or as they are more commonly known as, Solex. These are classic French motorised bikes and they have a rich history. Originally, they were produced just outside of Paris in Courbevoie. They became popular during World War II and were loved by students and workers because of their lightweight and economical design. Still to this day, VéloSoleX is made in France and is a well-known icon of French design. Today, the VéloSoleX is still well-loved for its innovative and streamlined design and amazing convenience.
These bikes are a great option for people who want to have some electrical assistance while they travel their route. Additionally, a VeloSolex is also foldable. This makes it easy to store when you reach your accommodation or want to explore a village or city. On top of this, riding a classic style VéloSoleX will immerse you into the French way of life and travel. These romantic and yet practical bikes are just one way you can say “au revoir!” to your troubles and hit the road in style!
Planning your French cycling holiday.
As already mentioned, it’s essential to plan your holiday ahead of time. Even if you want to book accommodation night by night, make sure you still check out hotels or campsites online and become familiar with the area. Also, it’s a nice idea to book accommodation the night you arrive, to avoid any stress when you first set foot in France. Keep in mind, that the Internet is your best friend when it comes to advice and recommendations. Many people travel to France every year for cycling tours. This means there are countless blogs and articles, all rich with advice and real-life experience from the road. If you’re already reading this article, that means you’re on the right track!
Remember, before you rent a bike make sure you research the rental shop beforehand to make sure they have good reviews. Some great and trustworthy rental shops include Aquitaine Bike Hire Dordogne in the Perigord Noir Region, Bike Hire Direct, a nation-wide rental network, and Bikever in Western France. They not only have great bikes, but also a variety of different gear that is essential before you hit the road. These are just a few great French bike rental companies, but each different area has something different to offer.
Follow links mentioned above to check out tried-and-tested reliable rental shops!
If you are doing a self-guided tour make sure you invest in a good map of the area and carefully track your route. Technology is great, but you can’t always depend on the fact that your GPS navigation will work or you’ll have battery power on the route. Going on a self-guided tour is a great way to set the pace and explore the country on your terms. However, as many other people will tell you, there can also be a lot of stress and pressure. Traveling by bike in a foreign country has its downsides. If you want a stress-free experience it might be a good idea to go on an organised French cycle tour. This is also an easy way to make friends and explore the country with a seasoned local. The downside with an organised tour is that you won’t be able to improvise day-by-day and take your time. However, many travellers go on a tour on their first trip and then strike out on their own the next time when they have the confidence.
France cycling holidays: Check out these amazing tour companies and find out more about building your own custom experience!
One of the benefits of traveling to France for a cycling holiday is that there are so many different routes to choose from. Whether you want a challenging mountain route or a relaxing country ride, it’s all there! Just make sure you organize ahead of time and create a route and itinerary that works for you. As far as cities are concerned, Strasbourg, Bordeaux and Nantes are very cyclist-friendly. However, Paris is infamous as a difficult place to cycle through. Keep updated and informed to get the most out of your trip!
Overall, cycling in France is an amazing experience and you’ll make memories that will last a lifetime. It’s an utterly unique and special way to explore the country and challenge yourself. Sometimes, it can be difficult to take the road less traveled. However, with some preparation and open curiosity, you’ll have the adventure of a lifetime. Enjoy France cycling holidays!