Cycle Touring in France
Eight tours in Brittany, Picardy, Alsace, Auvergne/Languedoc, Provence, Dordogne/Lot, the Alps and the Pyrenees
By Stephen Fox
Guidebook for 8 cycle tours of between 1 and 2 weeks duration exploring France's diverse landscapes and superb scenery. Suitable for most levels of ability and experience, the routes are in some of the most picturesque parts of Brittany, Picardy, Alsace, Auvergne/Languedoc, Provence, Dordogne/Lot, the Alps and the Pyrenees.
SeasonsLate spring to early autumn recommended. Summer hot, mostly dry. Winters can be cold, with snow.
CentresParis, Strasbourg, Geneva, Arles, Brest, Toulouse.
DifficultyAll levels. Routes (209km–354km) divided into daily stages. Range from low-level rides to high mountain climbs.
Must SeeRugged Brittany coast, Gorges du Tarn, Tour de France routes, Dordogne villages, Alsace Wine Road, lavender fields of Provence.
Cycle Touring in France concentrates on eight selected one- or two-week bicycle tours which endeavour to offer cyclists of all levels a taste of France’s diverse landscapes and superb scenery.
From rugged mountain ranges to vast, variegated patchworks of farmland, from beautiful, tranquil forests full of wildlife to high, remote, sweeping plains, from deep, snaking gorges to gentle valley slopes covered with vineyards, France is undoubtedly one of the most inviting countries in the world for cycle touring, a country understandably proud of hosting the greatest cycle race on Earth, the Tour de France. Peppered with hundreds of charming villages that time seems to have forgotten, here you will encounter friendly people, sample fine wines and enjoy exquisite, regional cuisines.
Covering some of the most picturesque parts of Brittany, Picardy, Alsace, Auvergne/Languedoc, Provence, Dordogne/Lot, the Alps and Pyrenees, the tours in this guide are accompanied by detailed route descriptions and maps, lists of campsites, bed and breakfasts and hotels, airport and rail connections, and practical information including tips on when to go and what to take, transporting your bicycle and being prepared for carrying out bicycle repairs on the road.
Which Route and When To Go
A Short History
Bicycles on Trains in France
Passports, Visas, Health and Insurance
Money, Banks and Payphones
French Food and Wine
The Tour de France
About the Bike
What to Take
How to Use this Guide
Route 1 Finistère, ‘The End of the World’: Brittany
Stage 1 Morlaix to Le Folgoët/Lesneven
Stage 2 Le Folgoët/Lesneven to Lanildut
Stage 3 Lanildut to Brest
Stage 4 Brest to Le Faou
Stage 5 Le Faou to Huelgoat
Stage 6 Huelgoat to Morlaix
Route 2 Champagne and The Kings' Forest: The Marne Valley and Picardy
Stage 1 Aeroport Paris CDG to Charly-sur-Marne
Stage 2 Charly-sur-Marne to Dormans
Stage 3 Dormans to Villers-Cotterêts
Stage 4 Villers-Cotterêts to Pierrefonds
Stage 5 Pierrefonds to Compiègne and back
Route 3 The Wine Road and Bas-Rhin: Alsace
Stage 1 Colmar to Barr
Stage 2 Barr to Saverne
Stage 3 Saverne to Niederbronn-les-Bains
Stage 4 Niederbronn-les-Bains to Haguenau
Route 4 An Alpine Experience: Geneva to Grenoble
Stage 1 Geneva to St Jean-de-Sixt
Stage 2 St Jean-de-Sixt to Albertville
Stage 3 Albertville to St Jean-de-Maurienne
Stage 4 St Jean-de-Maurienne to Le Bourg d'Oisans
Stage 5 Le Bourg d'Oisans to Alpe d'Huez and back
Stage 6 Le Bourg d'Oisans to Grenoble
Route 5 The Land of Lavender: Provence
Stage 1 Arles to Cavaillon
Stage 2 Cavaillon to Caromb
Stage 3 Caromb to Buis-les-Baronnies
Stage 4 Buis-les-Baronnies to Sault
Stage 5 Sault to Mont Ventoux and back
Stage 6 Sault to L'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue
Route 6 Meadows and Mountains: Pyrénées
Stage 1 Foix to St Girons
Stage 2 St Girons to St Bertrand-de-Comminges
Stage 3 St Bertrand-de-Comminges to Arreau
Stage 4 Arreau to Bagnères-de-Bigorre
Stage 5 Bagnères-de-Bigorre to Argelès-Gazost
Stage 6 Argelès-Gazost to the Col d'Aubisque and back, then Lourdes
Route 7 Rivers and Castles: Dordogne and Lot
Stage 1 Brive-la-Gaillarde to St Céré
Stage 2 St Céré to Figeac
Stage 3 Figeac to Cahors
Stage 4 Carhors to Monpazier
Stage 5 Monpazier to La Roque-Gageac
Stage 6 La Roque-Gageac to Souillac
Route 8 Rugged and Remote: Auvergne and Languedoc
Stage 1 Meymac to Riom-ès-Montagnes
Stage 2 Riom-ès-Montagnes to St Flour
Stage 3 St Flour to Marvejols
Stage 4 Marvejols to Florac
Stage 5 Florac to Alès
Appendix A Glossary: Bicycle Parts and Other Useful Cycling Terms
Appendix B Accommodation
Appendix C Further Reading
Appendix D Regional Specialities and Wines of France
Appendix E Information Centres
Appendix F Embassies and Consulates
Appendix G Summary Table
The blue IGN (Institut Geographic National) 1:100 000 Carte Topographique Top 100 maps are highly recommended for the tours in this guide. There are 74 in all, covering the whole of France. They are detailed maps complete with contour lines, aimed especially at cyclists and walkers. Most good bookshops can order them in, or you can buy them online at www.stanfords.co.uk or www.mapsworldwide.com.
This is a list of the relevant map numbers for the tours in this guidebook:
• Brittany tour 13 (Brest/Quimper), 14 (St Brieuc/Morlaix)
• Marne Valley and Picardy tour 09 (Paris/Laon)
• Alsace tour 12 (Strasbourg/Forbach), 31 (St Dié/Mulhouse/Basle)
• Alps tour 45 (Annecy/Lausanne), 53 (Grenoble/Mont Blanc), 54 (Grenoble/Gap)
• Provence tour 60 (Cavaillon/Digne les Bains), 66 (Avignon/Montpellier), 67 (Marseille/Carpentras)
• Pyrénées tour 70 (Pau/Bagnères de Luchon), 71 (St Gaudens/Andorre)
• Dordogne and Lot tour 48 (Périgueux/Tulle), 57 (Cahors/Montauban)
• Auvergne and Languedoc tour 49 (Clermont-Ferrand/Aurillac), 58 (Rodez/Mende), 59 (Privas/Alès)
Michelin publish the very useful France 1:200 000 Motorist and Motoring Atlas, updated annually. It covers the whole of France, indicates most recommended campsites, and includes some city and town maps. The campsites in this atlas are described in detail in Michelin’s Camping Caravaning le guide, which is also updated annually.
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The length of Tour 7 day 4 is 80km not rather than 69.
The Eurostar terminal in London is now at St. Pancras International, not Waterloo, and there is also a new station in Kent, Ebbsfleet. For train information and to book tickets go to www.eurostar.com
'Written by a cyclist, for cyclists. Each tour has a detailed route description plus maps, lists of campsites and tips on what to take and how to deal with roadside repairs.'
(France Magazine / September 2006)
'Having toured extensively through France, it came as a surprise to find how much superb information is contained within this handily-sized guide. There is an excellent set of 8 routes in different areas of France, each well set out in stages easy enough for most cyclists to follow, complete with an altitude graph when there is a climb of some difficulty.
This book is not just ideal for planning a first visit, but also to inspire those who wish to explore further afield within the country.'
(Cycling World / November 2006)
'This little guide is a gem. The author has carefully selected eight varied, linear routes dotted around Fance and then gone into great detail about how to get to the start and back from the finish, where to stay and what to see.
Routes are between four and six days' long and range from between 131 and 221 miles in length. Also contained within the book are numerous useful sections including using French railways, what to take on tour, parts of the bike in French.
On the whole, there's everything here that you need in one neat volume to get you on tour - and what better place to go than France?'
(Cycle magazine / June - July 2007)
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Stephen Fox has been cycle touring since 1989 and has toured extensively in France, Italy and Norway. He now lives in southern England with his wife and daughter, and works in the photographic industry as well as being a freelance writer and photographer. This is his second guide; the first was a walking and scrambling guide to Italy's Central Appennines.View Articles and Books by Stephen Fox