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The River Loire Cycle Route: ultimate planning guide

Perfect for chateau spotters or history fans, the Loire Cycle Route passes through historic cities like Orléans and Tours, continuing past Angers and France's fourth largest city Nantes. In fact the Loire is known as 'the royal river' by the French as it is bounded by extravagant châteaux and vineyards. You will also cycle past extinct volcanoes, crater lakes and deep gorges on your journey through the heart of France. Here is a very quick introduction to this delightful cycle tour.

The river loire cycle route location map
What?The River Loire Cycle Route
Where?From the source in the Massif Central to the Atlantic coast.
Start point?Gerbier de Jonc
End point?St Brevin-les-Pins
How long is the route?1061km
How many stages are there?The route has been broken into 26 stages, averaging 40km per stage.
How long to complete?2-3 weeks (A fit cyclist, cycling an average of 80km/day should be able to complete the route in under a fortnight. Travelling at a gentler pace of 50km/day and allowing time for sightseeing, cycling the Loire to the Atlantic coast would take three weeks. There are many places to stay along the route, making it is easy to tailor daily distances to your requirements.)
How hard is the route?Apart from a steep 1000m climb to reach the start and a few ascents and descents in the first six stages this is a straightforward route that is generally downhill or level and often on dedicated traffic-free cycle tracks.
Is the route waymarked?The route joins EuroVélo route 6 and the fully waymarked Loire à Vélo which is France's most popular cycle trail.
What are the surfaces like?Asphalt surfaces in good condition, dedicated off-road cycle tracks, short sections with main roads.
What type of bike do I need?The most suitable type of cycle is either a touring cycle or a hybrid (a lightweight but strong cross between a touring cycle and a mountain bike with at least 21 gears). There is no advantage in using a mountain bike. Front suspension is beneficial as it absorbs much of the vibration. Straight handlebars, with bar-ends enabling you to vary your position regularly, are recommended. Make sure your cycle is serviced and lubricated before you start – particularly the brakes, gears and chain.
What accommodation is available?There is, mostly, a wide choice of accommodation for all budgets, from B&Bs or chambres d’hôte to hotels. Helpfully, tourist information offices will often telephone for you and make local reservations. Booking ahead is seldom necessary, except on popular stages in high season, although it is advisable to start looking for accommodation after 1600. Most properties are cycle-friendly and will find you a secure overnight place for your pride and joy. Accueil Vélo is a national quality mark displayed by establishments within 5km of the route that welcome cyclists and provide facilities including overnight cycle storage.
What time of year?With the exception of Stage 1 in the Massif Central, where snow can remain on the ground until late April, the route is generally cycleable from April to October. If the source is inaccessible, an alternative would be to start from the beginning of Stage 3 in Le Puy-en-Velay, which can be reached directly by train.
Route highlights?There's so many! There's Mont Gerbier de Jonc and the volcanic hills of the Ardèche. Or the royal châteaux, such as Chambord, Blois, Chaumont, Villandry, Amboise. Or you could drink at some of the finest vineyards - Sancerre, Touraine, Chinon, Saumur, Anjou, Muscadet. On rainy days you could also choose to explore some of the historic cities of Orléans, Tours, Angers and Nantes of the Loire Valley.
Why do this route?A significant portion of the Loire River is designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Some areas are also known as France’s Valley of the Kings and The Garden of France. Traveling along La Loire à Vélo keeps you close to France’s last major wild river, with its sandy banks, islands, vine-covered slopes, typical towns and villages, good food, and unique atmosphere.
The River Loire Cycle Route - Front Cover

The River Loire Cycle Route

From the source in the Massif Central to the Atlantic coast


Guidebook to cycling the Loire, France's longest river, from its source in the Massif Central to the Atlantic. The 1061km route incorporates the popular, waymarked Loire à Vélo and takes in extinct volcanos, vineyards and châteaux. Predominantly downhill or flat, the route utilises mostly cycle paths and minor roads.

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