Though it owes much to the popularity of the Tour de France, cycling through the Gallic countryside has become an experience that many travelers to France absolutely must indulge in. Ancient roads abound – some dating back to Roman times – and city sights beckon, but France didn’t get its reputation as an ultimate cycling destination because of its urban lanes and traffic.
The countryside is where one should really experience cycling. The roads are small and quiet, winding through a variety of terrains which showcase the diversity of France’s beautiful natural landscape. From countryside to seaside, the mountain ranges of the Pyrenees to the wine-soaked valley of the Loire, France is a huge country with plenty to offer cyclists of all skill levels. With many cheap flights available to Paris and other parts of the country, accessing these cycling grounds is easier than ever.
Clear skies and comfortable temperatures are the norm throughout the country and make cycling possible almost year round. However, the spring and autumn seasons are the best times to bike ride through France, because tourism is lowest then, making the already quiet roads of the countryside even quieter. Many of the hotels, campsites and restaurants are less busy as well, leading to the possibility of deals and discounts.
Can’t miss tips and trips
To experience the “real” France means getting off the main roads and, occasionally, off the beaten path completely. Take heart, for even the back roads here are paved in some way and locals are very welcoming of any cyclists riding through or stopping by. There is spectacular cycling in the countryside of Normandy, the scene of pivotal moments in the Second World War. The steep grades of the Pyrenees also offer rewarding views for those who conquer the challenges of the ascent. The Dordogne region provides plenty to see and experience for the cyclist who has a yen for medieval history; its historical sites include ancient villages and some of the best preserved medieval castles in Europe.
Wine country is always popular, with the Loire Valley headlining. Visitors staying in Paris can make a worthwhile side trip to Burgundy, a breathtaking region in the countryside which produces unique wines. The beautiful landscape is crisscrossed with gravel paths, peppered with charming French towns and villages and bisected by the noteworthy Burgundy Canal.
One of the best areas in the country for cycling is Brittany, located in the north of France. Generally ignored by travellers, this region is full of tiny traditional French villages and offers farms, forests and the best of rural France.
It is worth noting that many of the shops in the towns and villages of these rural areas are closed between noon and 2pm during the week, so purchasing picnic fixings or breakfast for the next day should be done the night before. Many of these shops are completely closed on Sundays, so meal plans through the weekend should be seen to on Saturday if possible. This is especially important if doing a Skedaddle self guided holiday in France.
Go to our website for the full range of Skedaddle cycling holidays in France which includes Brittany, Burgundy, Corsica, the Dordogne, the Loire and Provence!