France's 8 greatest biking routes, from Alpine climbs to leisurely wine trails

From the Tour de France cycle race to the pensioner biking residence from a village market with a pannier stuffed with greens, the bicycle is as a lot part of French life and tradition because the baguette and the Eiffel Tower.

There are cycle associations in nearly each city, statues of cyclists on roads over Alpine mountain passes, and metropolis bike rent schemes all through the nation. France is a nation that loves le vélo and in each division (district), there are superbly-maintained cycle paths and routes that make cycle touring one of the vital pleasing methods to discover France.

Whether or not you crave Alpine surroundings or a mild roll via the vineyards of Burgundy, listed below are a number of the greatest cycle routes in France.

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Col de Tourmalet and the Pyrenees

Greatest for: Yellow jersey wearers and masochists

In 1910, when the primary Tour de France rivals crested the Col de Tourmalet, the winner of that stage famously yelled on the occasion organizers “You’re assassins. Sure, assassins.” That ought to let you know all that it’s good to find out about this legendary cycle route via the central Pyrenees.

In the course of the grueling 19km (12-mile) climb from Luz Saint-Sauveur to the Col du Tourmalet at 2115m (6939ft), you’ll ascend over 1400m (4593ft) at a median angle of seven.39%. At its steepest level, the route climbs at over 10% – no surprise the climb as much as the Col du Tourmalet (and the high-speed descent down) is taken into account one of the vital fearful, but thrilling, phases of the Tour de France race.

The route is closed by snow from late October to late spring, however in summer season, lots of of cyclists set out day by day to see in the event that they’ve received what it takes to race up and over the very best highway cross within the Pyrenees. And whether or not you pant up over the course of hours or pace like a cheetah to the highest, anticipate to be blown away by the majesty of the excessive mountain surroundings. Yep, that is one among France’s nice cycle routes for an excellent motive.

If you’ve conquered Tourmalet, take into account finishing the so-called ‘Circle of Demise’ by driving from the Col de Peyresourde to the Col d’Aubisque, an additional 141km (88 miles).

Pedaling from winery to winery is the right approach to discover Burgundy © Backyard Picture World / Alamy Inventory Picture

Burgundy Winery Route

Greatest for: Gourmands, oenophiles and lovers of the nice life

Wine, gently rolling countryside carpeted in vineyards, pleasing bike paths, and but extra wine – what’s to not like in regards to the Voie de Vignes (Approach of the Vines)? Stretching for 20km (12 miles) between Beaune and Santenay within the Burgundy area of jap France, this route is all in regards to the present of the grape.

Begin your trip on the École des Vins de Bourgogne (Bourgogne Wine Faculty) the place tastings can be found – simply don’t style an excessive amount of, as drink-driving guidelines additionally apply to cyclists! Then roll your means in the direction of the Château de Pommard and the Château de Meursault, each of which produce acclaimed wines (okay go on then, yet another fast style…), earlier than wobbling your means into Santenay.

Exploring the Île de Ré

Greatest for: Households and occasional cyclers

Caressed by salty sea winds, and washed via with oceanic daylight, the virtually pancake-flat Île de Ré lies a brief means offshore from La Rochelle on the central Atlantic coast, and it was tailored for simple household bike rides. A community of well-maintained cycle paths scribble throughout the island – any route you selected is just about assured to incorporate lazy biking alongside lengthy, sandy seashores, via stunning villages and previous small seaside cities the place you’ll be able to cease to refuel with a seafood lunch.

There’s nothing remotely grueling about biking across the Île de Ré. As an alternative, it’s easy pleasure after easy pleasure. Though there are quite a few routes across the island, we extremely suggest the loop from the tiny village of Ars-en-Ré, as much as the dramatic lookout level Phare des Baleines (Lighthouse of the Whales) after which east to the saltpans (the island is famed for its salt) round Les Ports-en-Ré.

A family cycling in the countryside in Provence, France
Cycle routes in Provence vary from family-friendly day journeys to robust multi-day circuits © Picture and Co / Getty Pictures

Leisurely rides in The Luberon (Provence)

Greatest for: Cycle tourers

The Luberon is the image ebook picture of southern France. The inspiration for a thousand novels, movies and work, this inland area of Provence with its sun-soaked olive groves, vineyards, and fields of startlingly brilliant lavender vegetation, is dotted with attractive hilltop villages constructed from honey-colored rock, linked to 1 one other through quiet nation roads and very good cycle paths.

There’s a good bit of up and right down to driving right here – and in summer season the climate will be as sizzling as a furnace – however most individuals are so greatly surprised by the great thing about the countryside that they don’t actually discover the arduous work they’re placing in. There are all types of routes to be pedaled right here – some are straightforward family-friendly affairs, whereas others, together with an entire 236km (147-mile) circuit of the area, are far tougher.

The Canal du Midi Cycle Path

Greatest for: First-time cycle tourers and historical past buffs

Biking alongside southern France’s Canal du Midi entails passing a roll name of fortified cities, crumbling castles, avenues of stately aircraft timber and quiet villages. And the Canal du Midi isn’t nearly attractiveness, it’s additionally heavy in historical past. That is each the oldest canal in Europe and the primary canal on this planet to make use of a system of locks to permit boats to simply cowl its size. Enjoyable truth: The inventor of the canal locks was none apart from Leonardo da Vinci, who spent the final years of his life in France.

The Canal du Midi is usually flat and straightforward to cycle, with numerous bike-friendly vacationer amenities alongside the best way. In different phrases, it’s just about the dream cycle route. Formally, the Canal du Midi cycle path runs from Toulouse all the best way to the shimmering Mediterranean Sea at Sète some 240km (149 miles) away. Most individuals skip the primary little bit of the route and as a substitute start their journey within the fairy-tale, fortified city of Carcassonne. This implies 4 days of regular peddling earlier than you’ll be able to don your swimsuit and dive into the ocean on the route’s finish.

Bikers bicycle touring near Chambord Castle in the Loire Valley, France
Pedaling to traditional châteaux similar to Chambord is a part of the enjoyable within the Loire Valley © Michal Szymanski / Shutterstock

The Loire Valley

Greatest for: Historical past buffs and anybody who’s ever received on a bicycle

Loire à Vélo (Loire by bicycle) was the primary official, way-marked long-distance cycle route in France. Following the River Loire, from its birthplace within the icy heights of the Massif Central to its union with the ocean on the Atlantic seaboard, the route streams via 900km (560 miles) of traditional French surroundings.

Finishing the entire tour could be a bit a lot for the typical bicycle owner, however tackle the 100km (62-mile) stretch via the Touraine area and you may hit the highlights of the route in a number of lazy days of biking. That is the center of French châteaux nation, and alongside the best way, fortunate bikers will roll alongside glories similar to Amboise, Excursions and Chinon.

The great thing about the principle Loire Valley route is which you can additionally fortunately ignore it and take any variety of aspect cycle trails to different châteaux and engaging cities and villages. Vacationer places of work can advise on trails appropriate for everybody from seasoned cyclers to first-time pedalers.

Véloroute Vallée de Somme

Greatest for: Anybody fascinated by WWI historical past

The Somme – the very identify instantly brings forth photos of the waste and destruction of WWI and the infamous Battle of the Somme. And true sufficient, this 160km (99-mile) cycle route alongside the banks of the River Somme does cross by many unhappy reminders of one of many darkest moments in human historical past. It is as a lot a pilgrimage as a biking vacation. 

However, right here’s the factor: The Somme is not a spot of tears. Alongside the conflict memorials, what you’ll bear in mind from this bike trip are the large open areas on the mouth of the Somme, marshes and lakes ringing to the decision of birds, historical archaeological websites and the enjoyment of biking proper as much as the gates of the cathedral in Amiens. It’s one of many best rides in northern France. 

There are many cities and villages to relaxation up in alongside the best way and the route is essentially stage, following a well-maintained cycle path, which suggests that is one long-distance route that just about anybody can tackle. 

A mountain biker rides a trail on a ridge near Les Arcs in the French Alps
The ridges and roads of the French Alps are a ceremony of passage for cyclists © NielsVK / Alamy Inventory Picture

Col de la Loze within the French Alps

Greatest for: Cyclists with legs of metal

With spectacular mountain vistas and hovering and tumbling roads that stand up and over quite a few excessive passes, the French Alps is likely one of the world’s nice cycle locations. However the rewards don’t come straightforward right here and most Alpine routes are usually not for first-time cyclists, although there are countless biking prospects for skilled riders.

Maybe probably the most famed are the routes as much as and down from the 2304m (7560ft) Col de la Loze within the Les 3 Vallées area. There are 4 totally different cycle routes of various lengths that take within the cross, and an excellent longer and tougher 3 Vallées circuit is presently beneath development. The principal path to the highest entails a grinding 7km (4.3-mile) climb – typically at an angle of 23% – from 1673m to a excessive of 2304m.

This text was first revealed September 29, 2020 and up to date about 23 hours in the past