The River Rhone Cycle Route
From the Alps to the Mediterranean
By Mike Wells
Guidebook to cycling the Rhone Cycle Route, an 895km ride through France and Switzerland from the Swiss Alps to the Mediterranean Sea. Divided into 20 stages, each approximately 45km long, the route can be completed by most cyclists in 10-14 days. Includes information on preparation, navigation, accommodation and amenities on route.
SeasonsExcept for stage 1 in the high Swiss Alps, the route can be cycled between April and October. Stage 1 can only be cycled when Furkapass is snow free, usually mid-May to mid-October.
CentresA point-to-point route passing through Martigny, Montreax, Geneva, Lyon, Vienne, Valence, Montélimar and Arles.
DifficultyA straightforward route that is generally downhill or level, (though there are a few short ascents). Mostly asphalt surfaces in good condition suitable for hybrid or touring cycles. Much of the route follows dedicated off-road cycle tracks, suitable for family cycling, though there are a few short sections where main roads are used.
Must SeeThe Rhone glacier, Furka pass, Lake Geneva, Château de Chillon, Montreux, Lausanne, Geneva, Lyon, Vienne, Valence, Montélimar, vineyards of the Côtes du Rhone, papal city of Avignon. Roman Arles, Camargue delta.
Guide to The River Rhone Cycle Route, an 895km bicycle ride starting high in the Alps of central Switzerland and finishing at the Mediterranean Sea, near Marseille. The route - which is mostly downhill - is divided into 20 stages (averaging 45km per stage) and can be completed by most cyclists in 12-14 days. The described route uses two waymarked national cycle trails: the Swiss R1 Rhone Route and the French ViaRhôna, which together have been adopted by the ECF (European Cyclists' Federation) as EuroVélo route EV17.
The guide provides detailed route descriptions and 1:150,000 mapping for each stage, together with plenty of practical advice such as preparing for the journey, transport options there and back, what to take, accommodation en route and more. A Swiss/French glossary is also included.
Taking in dramatic mountain vistas, Lake Geneva's enchanting beauty and the coastal delights of southern France, the route showcases some of the region's most spectacular scenery, making it a veritable gem for any tour cyclist looking to stretch their legs in stunning surrounds. If a visual feast is not enough, cyclists can indulge in the gastronomic wonders of the region. And need we mention the fact that the Rhone flows through some of the greatest wine producing regions of both Switzerland and France?
The Rhone Cycle Route
Getting there and back
Food and drink
Amenities and services
What to take
Safety and emergencies
About this guide
Stage 1 Furkapass to Brig
Stage 2 Brig to Sierre
Stage 3 Sierre to Martigny
Stage 4 Martigny to Montreux
Stage 5 Montreux to Morges
Stage 6 Morges to Geneva
Stage 5A Le Bouveret to Thonon-les-Bains
Stage 6A Thonon-les-Bains to Geneva
Stage 7 Geneva to Seyssel
Stage 8 Seyssel to Champagneux dam
Stage 9 Champagneux dam to Lagnieu
Stage 10 Lagnieu to Lyon
Stage 11 Lyon to Vienne
Stage 12 Vienne to Sablons
Stage 13 Sablons to Tournon-sur-Rhône
Stage 14 Tournon-sur-Rhône to Valence
Stage 15 Valence to Le Pouzin
Stage 16 Le Pouzin to Montélimar
Stage 17 Montélimar to Pont-St Esprit
Stage 18 Pont-St Esprit to Avignon
Stage 19 Avignon to Arles
Stage 20 Arles to Port-St Louis-du-Rhône
Appendix A Stage summary table
Appendix B Facilities summary table
Appendix C Twelve-day schedule
Appendix D Tourist information offices
Appendix E Youth hostels and gîtes d’étape
Appendix F Useful contacts
Appendix G Language glossary
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Stage 9, page 143. Between Le Port de Groslée and the Villebois dam, a new fully
waymarked section of the ViaRhona was inaugurated in June 2016. This follows a
route different to that in the guide, making a large detour away from the Rhone
to pass through Morestel and Arandon. This route is 40km in length, compared to
24.5km for the route described in the book. A map of the new route and
information on points of interest and facilities can be found at
www.viarhona.com under stage 7.
Well written and easy to follow. Worth buying the book and well worth doing the ride.
My wife and I like to tandem in France and have used a few Cicerone books but our latest was the River Rhone route. A few of our friends wanted to try riding in France and asked if I could find a 'good route' that we could get to from Brisbane Australia.
I searched the Cicerone catalogue and found this new route book. Having bought and read it I lent it to one of the keenest hopefuls. He agreed and bought his own copy. The another two wanted to join us. They bought a copy too and asked if one of their friends could come along too. Why not? My brother-in-law and his wife joined us too.
Six of us left for Geneva and rode around the lake, arriving back to meet the other two and take off from the Med together. We were riding as a group of eight to Avignon and then splitting up to go to different spots in Europe. Three of us would continue on to the Med. We took our own route out of Geneva, a less scenic one than in the book but that was to allow a simple route for our jetlagged couple to Seyssel, our first night stop.
Leaving Seyssel on the route was the only really badly prepared section where we had to push through bush and lift the bikes and tandem over some quite large rocks - take the road to avoid that section. The rest of the route was really good. Signage comes and goes in places and we supplemented with Maps.Me, to good and bad results at times. Avignon is a mess with massive road works and very poor signage. After Avignon life picks up again to Arles. After Arles there is an off-road bitumen bike route running alongside the road all the way down nearly to the Med. It's a brilliant standard and must have been completed after the book was published.
The eight were joined by a Lyon resident at Seyssel, a friend of one of our group who has lived in Lyon for 30 years. He rode with us into Lyon and showed us around the city for three days. Lyon is well worth stopping in and looking around for a few days. Very cycle friendly too. We took the train from Lyon to Givors, about 5Eu each, bikes free, to avoid what most seem to regard as a bad section of road south out of Lyon. About 25 kms and worth the trip.
We used the book all the way down to the Med. It's well written and easy to follow. The route was very good for our group of mixed ability riders and our distances were set to accomodate the least experienced riders. We rode about 65-70 kms a day with only one day of 100kms when it was down to us, on the tandem, and an experienced solo rider. Worth buying the book and well worth doing the ride.
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Mike Wells is an author of both walking and cycling guides. He has been walking long-distance footpaths for 25 years, after a holiday in New Zealand gave him the long-distance walking bug. Mike has also been a keen cyclist for over 20 years. After completing various UK Sustrans routes, such as Lon Las Cymru in Wales and the C2C route across northern England, he then moved on to cycling long-distance routes in continental Europe and beyond. These include cycling both the Camino and Ruta de la Plata to Santiago de la Compostela, a traverse of Cuba from end to end, a circumnavigation of Iceland and a trip across Lapland to the North Cape. He has written a series of cycling guides for Cicerone following the great rivers of Europe.View Articles and Books by Mike Wells