Experiencing France By Bike

“One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things”

Herman Miller

Small hill towns often missed when touring by car are a focal point of touring Provence by bike

Small hill towns often missed when touring by car are a focal point of touring Provence by bike

Do you want to be an adventurer or a tourist? Do you dream of taking a vacation that enables you to see France in a way few tourists do? Do you want your vacation experience to be filled with new adventures that immerse you in the life, people and culture of France?  Do you want to enjoy the freedom, liberation and simplicity that come from touring by bike? If the answer to any of these questions is “yes”, then seeing France by bike may be the perfect travel experience for you!

By bike is the best way to experience the vineyards of France

By bike is the best way to experience the vineyards of France

Whether you’re interested in cycling for a weekend or a week, whether you’re 20 or 60, whether you’re experienced or not, if you can ride a bike, read a map, follow a road sign and embrace adventure, there’s a bicycling itinerary in France for you. There are options perfect for every age, skill and fitness level. Over the next few months, I’ll write about some of my favorite itineraries.  But first, I’d like to share some of  my favorite reasons to experience France by bike!

1.     You’ll see France in a way few tourists experience

Bicycling in France is the perfect slow travel experience.  Your relaxed pace enables you to literally become part of the environment you’re traveling.  You experience a sensory wonderland as you travel through the countryside by bike.

The scent of lavender fills the air along the bicycle route

The scent of lavender fills the air along the bicycle route

2.     You become a traveling ambassador, creating a sense of community with those you meet

When you travel by bike, you’ll interact with locals and fellow tourists you meet along the way. The French love cycling, and they have very fond feelings towards those who choose to visit their country by bike. They will engage you in conversation.  Be prepared to talk about politics.  I’ve learned that the French love to talk politics!  Take time each day to meet at least one new person, your new friendships may change your life.

New friendships are a wonderful part of experiencing France by bike!

New friendships are a wonderful part of experiencing France by bike!

3.     You’ll enjoy a real sense of adventure, exposing yourself to an unknown path

No matter how well you plan, every day on a bike holds a new adventure.  That’s one of the things that makes traveling by bike such a life-changing, character building experience.  Some days you’ll take a wrong turn and get lost, some days you’ll rescue someone in trouble, some days you’ll encounter unexpected sights, some days you’ll simply marvel at the beauty of what lies around the corner.  No two days on a bike are ever the same. Venture off the beaten track, keep a sense of humor when you’re lost, don’t be afraid to take detours, ask for help and laugh at the unexpected. Take the time to enjoy the adventure of experiencing France by bike!

First sighting of Mont-St-Michel from about 20km away

We turned a corner and were treated to our first sighting of Mont-St-Michel, 20km away

4.    You’ll enjoy life’s simple pleasures 

Life is simple when you travel by bike; your only goal to enjoy the magic of your French bicycling experience. Your days are preoccupied with finding a perfect stop for a mid-morning cappuccino, exchanging pleasant bonjours with fellow cyclists, searching for a perfect spot for a picnic lunch, looking for great photo ops, finding a charming place to spend the night. Traveling by bike is a perfect antidote to today’s hectic world, and experiencing France by bike is the ideal place to do it!

Simplicity at its best: a twilight picnic dinner surrounded by the Cote du Beaune vineyards

Simplicity at its best: a twilight picnic dinner surrounded by the Cote du Beaune vineyards

5.     You’ll “earn” the right to indulge in great French food and wine

This could possible be the best benefit of experiencing France by bike! France is definitely a paradise for foodies and wine lovers alike. Your time on the bike will burn calories and help you work up an appetite to enjoy the best local specialties and sweets and wine. One of my favorite indulgences is a mid-morning sweet and a strong expresso!

A perfect mid-morning treat found at a local market

A perfect mid-morning treat found at a local market

One of the best experiences of any trip to France is a trip to the local market.  Not only can you load up on picnic supplies, but you’ll enjoy participating in one of the most integral parts of the French way of life.  Market day is one of my favorite events when I’m bicycling in France.  Local market days are one of the first things I put on my calendar when I plan a bike trip.  If you want to feel French, don’t forget to bring your own market bag!

The market is the social event of the week in France

The market is the social event of the week in France

There are plenty of other destinations that offer some of the same features I’ve listed here.  But France consistently delivers a perfect blend of these factors, making it a perfect choice for recreational cyclists looking for safe itineraries, well signposted with great support services, lots of attractions, affordable places to stay, great food, wine and easy train access from Paris. Once you’ve zeroed in on France for your cycling destination, the hardest part will be choosing an itinerary.  Watch for posts in the upcoming weeks on new resources to help you narrow down your list.  Coming in December, my top 5 cycling itineraries for 2017.  Happy planning!

Burgundy is a perfect cycling destination for all ages and skill levels

Burgundy is a perfect cycling destination for all ages and skill levels

Posted by Maggie LACoste

I love the adventure and unpredictability of experiencing France by bike. Cycling in France is the ultimate slow travel adventure, an opportunity to see it through the back door in a way few tourists experience. One week on a bike in France and life takes on a different meaning! I created Experience France By Bike to inspire recreational cyclists to visit France the slow way....by bike, and to be the best source of information for planning the perfect bicycling adventure. I encourage readers to embrace the uncertainty of the road ahead and to take the path less traveled, exploring roads, towns and villages that you would never experience traveling by car.

  1. Maggie, I couldn’t agree with you more! You have summed up beautifully what I like about cycling in France (and in other countries). It is just the right pace and you see things you’d never see otherwise. No matter how often we cycle along the twenty or so itineraries in the Loire Valley, we always find something new. Today, we came across a church that has just been renovated so we were able to visit the inside for the first time. Recently we talked to the owners of a troglodyte house and they invited us in. The other day we cycled to Château de Chambord for an ice-cream at the end of the day. And I always wear my “Experience France by Bike” cap!

    1. Thanks so much for the wonderful note! I always love reading about your cycling adventures along the Loire and what a wonderful time you have enjoying the most simple of excursions….like cycling to Chambord for an ice cream!!! Touring by bike is the perfect antidote to everything stressful about the world today and always brings me back to a much fuller appreciation of the important things in life! I love sharing this with others, as you do too.

      Thanks again!

      Maggie LaCoste