Cycling in France
Cycling along quiet, rural roads, taking in the spectacular countryside can be just one of the many delights of being on holiday in France. Whether you fancy tracing the route taken by one of the many Tour de France races, or cycling one of the flat shaded routes along the canals and rivers, France has something for every kind of cyclist.
Cycling is an extremely popular hobby in France and cyclists are generally treated with respect and courtesy by other road users. In rural areas there is much less traffic on the roads so it is possible to cycle along country lanes and hardly encounter a car.
Local tourist offices are well equipped with maps and route guides showing cycle paths.
Cycling in South West France
This area is renowned for its cycle paths and beautiful rural countryside. There are many cycle routes across this vast region whether they are near the rivers, deep in the countryside, riding near massive gorges or riding through some of the medieval villages. One particularly good route is the Lot Valley véloroute which runs alongside the river for 86km down carefully-marked, gently-undulating cycle paths. From where the Lot meets the Garonne, cycle past the town of Villeneuve-sur-Lot and right up to the Bonaguil fortified château. This riverside circuit is perfect for cyclists who want to drink in the wonderful scenery along the way, with green expanses of countryside, orchards, fortified towns and farms. Cycling in the Dordogne
The Dordogne area is no exception with lots of opportunities for cycling on the back roads, by the Dordogne River or for the more adventurous the forests and countryside. A popular route is the car-free ‘Piste Cyclable’ which runs south-east from Sarlat to the river Dordogne with several off-shoots, depending on how far you would want to go. The Piste Cyclable is a disused railway line that has been converted into a smooth cycle way. Much of the route is through wooded areas and so is shaded making it especially pleasant on a hot summer’s day. There is a convenient stopping point halfway at the pretty village of Carsac-Aillac. Here, you can leave the cycle path and head down into the village where the Bar/Tabac must do a roaring trade in season from thirsty cyclists. Your onward journey carries on to the Dordogne River and then once over the river the Piste Cyclable gives way to country lanes that continue on to the Base de Loisir at Grolejac a perfect spot for a picnic.
Cycling in the Languedoc
The Languedoc is a cyclist’s paradise. From flat canal banks to undulating vineyards and steep mountain roads cyclists can follow various routes. Mountain bikers can get off the beaten track and into trails through the vineyards or mountains. Family cyclists can also enjoy the splendours of the area with well kept Voie Verte trails along quiet tracks or canal banks. There are 8 Voie Verte (national green cycle paths) that take in this wonderful region.
There are a number of classic cycle routes in the Languedoc that are easy to follow but top of the list is the magnificent Canal du Midi. This is the 240km trail that links Toulouse to the little port of Marseillan on the Mediterranean coast. You don’t have to cycle all of it, just choose the parts that you think you’d like to see. Cycling along the canal shaded by trees and passing the canal boats is a popular and beautiful way to enjoy the Canal due Midi.
There is a highway code for all cyclists in France that must be adhered to:-
Bicycles must be equipped with a bell, fully functioning brakes, and after dark with reflectors and front and rear lights.
Cycle helmets are not compulsory, but it is strongly advised that they are worn. Cyclists must also wear a high-visibility waistcoat if cycling after dark outside urban areas.
Cyclists must obey traffic signs and signals in the same way as other road users; this includes respecting "no entry", "one way" and "stop" signs.
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.