- a cycle-friendly country
Printable PDF route maps for the long-distance cycle route from
Cherbourg to La Rochelle.
is for pedal-cyclists, and does not concern motorcycling.
on two wheels
While France is certainly not as cycle-friendly as the Netherlands, and
some parts of the country are distinctly lacking in dedicated cycle
ways, cycling has a place close to the heart of many Frenchmen -
witness the degree of national fervour aroused by the country's biggest
annual sporting event, the Tour
weekends in France, drivers on country roads know that it is advisable
to look our for cyclists - either bunches of speed-cyclists on sleek
bicycles preparing for or taking part in local races or championships;
or just individual cyclists or families out for an afternoon ride. That
is common all year round. In the summer months, local cyclists are
joined on the roads and cycle-ways by an ever increasing number of
international cycle-tourists, making the most of the opportunities that
France offers for long-distance rides or circuits.
cycling on the Atlantic cycleway, western France
on trains in France
It is worth noting that cycles can be taken free of charge on
many trains in
France, notably on most "TERs", the regional express trains that cover
the whole network; bike space must in theory be ordered when buying
your ticket –
but according to the French train company SNCF this service is not
available online. On rural
routes, the most common practice is to buy your ticket at the station
for the next train - indicating that you have a bicycle. TERs are not
usually full, except for commuter services.
The situation with regard to intercity expresses and TGVs is
confused. Some take bikes for free, others charge; most of those that
accept bikes have only limited space, and others don't take bikes at
The safest solution is perhaps to buy a
lightweight bike bag
in which you can carry your bike as hand luggage; bike bags count as
ordinary luggage, and there is no charge, and no reservation
needed. This way, you can safely buy all your tickets in advance
from SNCF's online international ticketing website Rail
By far the largest opportunity for
relaxed cycle-tourism in France is
provided by the country's vast network of secondary roads and country
lanes. France has some 880,000 km (550,000 miles) of roads - excluding
motorways - and almost all of this network is open to cyclists. The
vast majority of this road network is composed of very minor byways,
where vehicle traffic is very light, and lorries few and far between.
Cycling conditions on these roads are generally safe to very safe,
meaning that cycling holidays can be planned throughout the country.
and marked cycleways in
However, even safer than the minor road network
is the constantly developing network of long-distance
cycleways which - if
it can not yet be said to criss-cross France - does now offer a couple
thousand kilometres of dedicated tracks where the most
serious hazards are likely to come in the form of jay-walking
pedestrian hikers or wandering wildlife.
The map on the left shows the six most substantially complete
long-distance cycle routes in France today - plus a few other routes
that connect with them. As the map shows, it is possible to travel
safely by bicycle using marked and often dedicated cycle routes from
the Channel to the
Mediterranean, and from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean or to the
German border. See below for essential route information.
most substantially complete long-distance cycle routes in France
Cycle-way: marked bicycle route either on dedicated way or
on minor byways.
Veloroute: or "Voie verte": dedicated cycle route with
smooth tarred surface.
surface: graded compacted hard surface - smooth cycling,
but not suitable for rollers.
: usually a rural track or towpath with old gravel surface.
|Major long-distance cycle routes
description of the route
Euro veloroute EV1.
coast cycle route
(Roscoff) La Baule to Biarritz.
almost uninterrupted dedicated cycle way from La Baule, at the mouth of
the Loire, to Biarritz. South of the Gironde, in the region
the route is
entirely a tarred veloroute. The most complete long-distance
route in France.
Euro veloroute EV6.
- Danube cycle route
complete cycle-way from La Baule at the mouth of the Loire to Orleans.
Hard surface. Some gaps in the Loire valley between Orleans and Digoin.
Almost complete from Digoin to Strasbourg, via Besançon
valley. Following rivers and canals, much of the EV6 is on former
towpaths or levees.
Atlantic coast to Mediterranean coast.
dedicated veloroutes from Arcachon or Lacanau on the Atlantic, almost
to Langon s-e of Bordeaux. Then tarred veloroute - "Voie verte du Canal
du Midi" to Montferrand, 49 km southeast of Toulouse. After that the
route follows the surfaced or unsurfaced canal towpath to near
Sète, on the
from Cherbourg via Coutances, Mont St. Michel, Dinan,
Loudéac and the
Nantes-Brest canal, to Roscoff or Brest. Over
half of this is on dedicated hard-surface cycleways, the rest on tracks
or minor roads. Connects with the north-south tarred veloroute from
Mauron to Questembert, and via a mix of dedicated routes and byways
with La Baule, for EV1 and EV6.
to la Rochelle
Cherbourg, St Lo, Domfront, Laval, Angers, Saumur, Parthenay, Niort.
About half of this is on dedicated hard-surface cycle routes, the rest
- notably south of the Loire - on marked cycleways.
/ download a pdf map of this route (printable)
Also accessible from Ouistreham (Caen)
From Fort-Mahon plage 50 miles southwest of Calais, via
Dieppe and Fécamp to Le Havre.
Marked cycleways mostly on small byways. Plenty of hills.
information: French association for Veloroutes - website
Cycling in the French Alps
French Alps attract cyclists from all over the world. There are those
who just wish to enjoy the spectacular scenery of the Alps at slow
speed; and there are those who come to relive the exploits of the great
mountain stages of the Tour de France - also at a slower speed.
Unfortunately for cyclists, the Alps also attract large numbers of
motorists during the warmer seasons (June to September) when all Alpine
passes are open to traffic.
For those just wanting
to enjoy the alpine scenery, there are plenty of bike hire facilities
(notably mountain bike hire) in resorts and other towns and villages
all over the Alps. Cycling can be a great way to enjoy the Alps, as
long as you stay clear of the busy through routes
For those in search of an enjoyable and quite
strenuous Alpine cycle tour, About-France.com recommends the southern
half of the French Alps, where there tends to be less traffic on the
roads than in the more developed Savoy Alps. The following four or five
day itinerary largely avoids the busiest Alpine routes. While climbs of
up to 1200 metres (days 2 to 5) can be undertaken by reasonably fit
cyclotourists carrying paniers and even very lightweight camping
equipment, the climb from St.Michel de Maurienne to Grand Galibier
should not be attempted on touring bikes carrying luggage –
least, certainly not in a single day.
d'Izoard, in the Queyras regional park
cycling: Alpine pass cycle tour: St. Michel de Maurienne to
Grasse - 325 kilometres
- Stage 1
Starting at Saint Michel
de Maurienne, altitude 700 metres, (easy access by train
from Paris via Chambéry), there is a 35 km climb, via the
Col du Télégraphe and Valloire, to the Col du Grand Galibier
at 2642 metres; but be warned, this is serious cycling. The climb can
be broken into two days, with an overnight stop at Valloire (altitude
1400 metres). However, the descent from Grand Galibier pass to Briancon is
free-wheeling most of the way. Accommodation : Saint
Michel - Valloire
- Stage 2
(altitude 1160 metres – train
station ), the route heads up over the stunningly
beautiful Col d'Izoard,
at 2361 metres. This climb, a "mere" 1200 metre ascent, is considerably
less strenuous than the 2100 metres of combined ascent from Saint
Michel de Maurienne to Grand Galibier. From the Col d'Izoard, the route
drops down amid spectacular scenery, to the small town of Guillestre, at an
altitude of 867 metres.
- Stage 3
South from Guillestre,
the route takes riders over another high pass, the Col de Vars at 2109
metres altitude, then down via Saint Paul Ubaye, to Barcelonette, at an
altitude of 1100 metres. There is no train station at
Accommodation : Barcelonnette
- Stage 4:
the next climb is a 17.5 km climb to the Col d'Allos,
at a height of 2250 metres. On Friday mornings in July and August, the
road up to the Col d'Allos from Barcelonette is closed to motorised
vehicles, and given over entirely to cyclists. From the top, the route
then goes down the beautiful Val d'Allos and the high valley of the
Verdon, to Saint
André les Alpes, where there are train
connections to Digne
or Nice by
the Chemin de Fer de Provence (4 trains a day - timetable).
Accommodation : Saint
André les Alpes Castellane
- Stage 5:
For those wanting another day's cycling, albeit rather less strenuous,
after a night at Saint
André les Alpes or Castellane,
the last day's cycling can take in either the Col de Clavel, at a lowly
1080 metres, or the Col de Valferrière, at a
lowly 1163 metres. The former is on the route between Castellane and Draguignan (73 km),
the latter on the road from Castellane to Grasse (63 km).
station at Draguignan les Arcs is on the main line between
Paris, Marseille and Nice; the station
at Grasse is on a branch line with regular trains to Nice.
- Accommodation : Grasse
code for cyclists in
The lines below are given solely for information, and are valid at the
time of writing. They do not constitute
an exhaustive list of all laws and rules governing riding a bicycle in
France, and may in time be changed..
- To be roadworthy, bicycles must be
with a bell, fully functioning brakes,
dark with reflectors and front and rear lights.
- The wearing of cyclists' crash
helmets is not compulsory in France, but is
Cyclists must also wear a high-visibility waistcoat if
cycling after dark outside urban areas.
- In urban streets, cyclists must use the
marked cycle lanes where these exist.
must obey traffic signs and signals in the same way as other road
users; this includes respecting "no entry", "one
- Like cars, cyclists riding behind each
other on a roadway are obliged to keep a safe distance between them.
Cyclists may ride two-abreast, but only during hours of daylight. At
night, single file cycling is obligatory.
- Drinking and cycling:
cyclists are subject to the same alcohol limits as other road users.
Cycling while under the influence of alcohol can lead to a hefty fine,
the impounding of the cycle, and/or the withdrawal of the cyclist's
vehicle licence if he/she has one.
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