By Maggie LaCoste
If you are planning a bike trip to the Loire, or are thinking about planning a bike trip to the Loire, Cher or Indre Rivers, there are several maps that can help with your trip planning.
The best overall trip planning map is available on request and it is free. Called “La Loire a Velo” this map is available from the Centre Regional Tourism Office in Orleans. Click on “Contact us” at the bottom of the home page, and send an e-mail requesting a copy of the map in English. Be sure to give them your mailing address in the USA. They are very responsive to requests, and you should receive your map within 2 weeks. The same map is available to look on the website, but it’s difficult to print, and I like to have a printed map. This map is great for developing a strategy on where you want to go and the distances between towns.
Even though the Loire route is well marked in both directions, most people like to have a real road map. The best in-depth, easy to read and follow Loire maps are those published by Euro Velo 6. You can buy them in local tourist offices along the route, or in some local bookstores. They come in a series and normally the tourism offices only carry the one that is for their region. For example, number 2 in the series is for the region from Angers to Blois, which is the main area of the Loire that most tourists visit. Depending on your itinerary, this may be the only map in the series that you will need on your trip. These maps produced by Eurovelo 6 cost about 3 Euros. This map series is the one that I use on my trips.
There are a number of free maps you can also pick up once you start on your Loire journey. The first is a map series produced by Touraine Regional Tourism, called “La Loire a Velo en Touraine”. This is a series of 5 topographical maps and they cover the area from Rigny-Usse and Chinon to Montlouis and Amboise. While you can access these maps online, they are very difficult to read and impossible to photocopy. Even the originals are difficult to read, but they do have some interesting information on local attractions. They are available at all tourism offices along the Loire, so if you don’t see them, ask for them by name.
The next map is also free and it is helpful if you are planning to bike along the Indre River. The booklet “Carnet de Route de L’Indre a Velo” follows the new route along the Indre River from where it reaches the Loire at Brehemont, to Azay-le-Rideau, to Montbazon, to Loches and then up to Chenonceaux. You can find this booklet at all tourism offices along the Indre River.
If you are going to be traveling in or near the vicinity of Blois, Chaumont, Chambord, St. Dye or Beaugency, you will want a copy of “Les Chateaux a Velo“. This map contains 13 different itineraries that go to Chambord, Cheverny, St. Dye, Bracieux and Blois. While it joins up to the Loire a Velo in different locations, it is a totally different group of itineraries, all with their individual route number. When you get to the area where these itineraries are, you need to watch route signs carefully. Having the Chateaux a Velo map is really helpful trying to navigate this area. You can also access all of the maps for this itinerary by clicking on the Les Chateaux a Velo link. This map is also free and is available at tourism offices east of Chaumont.
If you’ve not been to the Loire before, it is important to note that you really don’t need much in the way of maps when you are bicycling the Loire, unless you are planning to take many deviations away from the Loire. The markings on the route are by and large excellent. Your biggest potential for getting lost is when you leave the path for an overnight stay, and you need to get back on the path in the morning. That’s why I always suggest that people stop by the local tourism office where you spend the night and get a local map which will show you how to get back to the bike path. And if it doesn’t clearly show on the map, ask for help. I always get lost trying to leave Chinon, but this year, a quick trip to the local tourist office and I was fine! I also like to ask for the local maps as they often detail intricate local bike routes for exploring the local area. This information is great if you plan to spend a few days in the local area. Three towns along the Loire that have extensive local bike itineraries are Angers, Chinon and Saumur. I hope this information is helpful and if you find any additional maps that are helpful on your trip, be sure to let me know.