Resources To Help Plan Your Bike Trip to France

Cyclotourism is getting to be big business in Europe, worth somewhere around 45+ billion Euros per year to the European economy.  This is great for you and me because countries like France, (and Germany, Austria and Switzerland) want our business.  Their improving their marketing efforts and they are rapidly stepping up efforts to provide better information on major routes.  Don’t get too excited, this doesn’t mean that you will have an easy time finding information on all major itineraries.  But it does mean that access to better information is improving, more of it’s offered in English, and the result is easier trip planning. To kick off the new year and bike trip planning season, let’s take a look at several major websites to see how they can help you decide where to go and where to bike.

Loire a Velo

In my mind, this is the bicycle touring website that has set the standard for all others in France.  Full of information and easy to use, this should be the first stop for anyone considering a bicycling vacation in France.  Loire a Velo helps you understand the history of the Loire, what you can expect to see along the way, and also provides information on where to stay, where to rent bikes and a lot of other trip planning information.  The website is available in French, English and German.

Chateau Usse

Chateau Usse

One new function of the website that can be useful is the ability to create a personalized map and list of attractions that you would like to see.  To access this function, click on “Tailor Made Holidays” on the right hand side of the home page.  This will provide instructions on how to get started and how to save and retrieve your map.

New for 2013 is a new Loire a Velo mobile app that facilitates quick and easy access to 11 different categories of information including attractions, bike repair locations, the Loire a Velo map, where to stay and where to eat.  The accommodations function will let you search by type of establishment–hotel, B&B, gite, campsite, by rating, by price or by location.

Whether you are interested in planning a long excursion along the Loire, or a weekend or day biking adventure, this website can help you narrow down your choices, and decide what to see along the way. Sites like La Loire a Velo make planning a trip as much fun as taking the trip….well almost!

Eurovelo 6

Screen shot 2013-03-27 at 5.28.38 PM

Another great resource for bike planning along the Loire is the EuroVelo 6 website which traces the bicycling itinerary from the Atlantic Ocean to the Black Sea.  Often called the great rivers route, this itinerary is one of the most popular in Europe, enabling cyclists to follow history along the Loire, the Rhine and the Danube.  Along with the Loire a Velo website, it is one of my favorites, both in the amount of information available, and its ease of use.  This website is available in French, English and German.

Bicycling along EuroVelo 6

Bicycling along EuroVelo 6

You can access information on the route either by river or by specific stages of the 4,000 km route.  My favorite way to explore is by stage, since I like to explore the several stages that I have yet to complete.  Each stage includes a thorough description of the overall stage, and then detailed information on each segment within the stage.  Users have access to information on accommodations, bike support services and attractions within each stage.

La Velodyssee

While there were some glitches in the first months after the official debut of La Velodyssee last summer, all seems to be back on track with this popular itinerary. The website may look familiar as it uses the same format as Loire a Velo, and luckily it offers most of the same functionality with a few extras.

LavelodysseelogoAccording to the website, the entire French Velodyssey is now signposted between Roscoff and Hendaye with the logo on directional panels throughout the route, although how these look may vary according to the region you are in.

If you plan to do any part of this itinerary in 2013, please be sure and send me information regarding how easy it is to follow the route with the new signage.  This will be of great benefit to others planning to take this route!

There are two functions on this website that I love.  The first is the “Find My Cycling Route” function located on the top right hand page.  You can specify the region–Brittany, Loire, Poitou Charentes, Aquitaine or Devon England that you want to visit, the level of cyclist you are and the type of theme you are interested in, and it will bring up a list of itineraries that meet those criteria.

The second function that I like is the interactive map where you can click on a particular Screen shot 2013-01-10 at 4.50.26 PMsection and you get in depth information on that stage.  You can also access accommodations information by type, bike repair locations, tourism offices, places to eat, picnic areas, farmers markets and local attractions.

This map also contains the most up to date information on the route in that particular area.  Greenways or car-free paths are marked in green, temporary routes in red, shared routes in yellow and alternative routes, normally deviations to attractions in purple.

This is a great feature that is very easy to use and it’s certainly worth taking a look at!

Aquitaine Regional Tourism Office

When you are planning a vacation, it’s true, a picture can be worth a thousand words!  That’s the reason why I love this new website from the Regional Tourism Office of Aquitaine. If you’re torn between bicycling the Bordeaux and Saint Emilion vineyards and the Bay of Arcachon, this resource could help you make the decision.

Saint Emilion

Saint Emilion

Whether you are interested in going to the beach, exploring the vineyards, cycling around quiet lakes, or venturing into the mountains, whether you’d like to search by region or activity, this website should help you narrow down where you’d like to visit.

My favorite resource available on this website can be found in the brochure section.  Bike Ride Through Aquitaine is a terrific cycling resource that shows every major cycle route in the region.  This map was developed in 2015 but it’s still the map that I use for every trip that I plan to Aquitaine.  The brochure can be downloaded to help with your trip planning and you can pick up a hard copy at any major tourism office in Aquitaine.

Vendee Velo

This is the new website for bicycling in the Vendee, now with over 1,000 km of bicycling trails, one of the largest in France!  This website is very helpful for trip planning because there has not been a lot of information available on biking in this area.  Unfortunately this website is currently only in French, but it is so rich with information that it is more than worth the trouble to link it to Google Translate!  The geographical diversity of this area is amazing from the coastal trails along the Vendee Coast, to the marshes of the Marais Poitevin to woods and green countryside of the Haut Bocage.  There is something here for everyone.

An interactive map on the main page illustrates each of six major itineraries.  Click on one of the itineraries and you are able to access maps and other detailed information about the specific itinerary and attractions.  All of the Vendee itineraries also have mobile apps, but at the current time they are only available in French. Click here to link to the cycling section on the Vendee Tourism website.  Among other things, you will find a great downloadable map on cycling in the Vendee, note that it is also in French, but nonetheless, a great resource. I hope that one of these resources may be of some help to you as you consider routes to explore in 2013.  Stay tuned for more top resources in the upcoming weeks!

©2013 Experience France by Bike.  All rights reserved.

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. […] Cyclotourism is getting to be big business in Europe, worth somewhere around 45+ billion Euros per year to the European economy.  This is great for you and me because countries like France, (and Germany, Austria and Switzerland) want our business.  Their improving their marketing efforts and they are rapidly stepping up efforts to provide better information on major routes.  Don’t get too excited, this doesn’t mean that you will have an easy time finding information on all major itineraries.  But it does mean that access to better information is improving, more of it’s offered in English, and the result is easier trip planning. To kick off the new year and bike trip planning season, let’s take a look at several major websites to see how they can help you decide where to go and where to bike. Read more […]

  2. Very useful post, Maggie. We’re hoping to do more of the EuroVelo 6 route this summer, maybe see more of Germany. I’ve featured this post in my Wednesday’s bloggers’ round-up. Keep up the good work!

    1. As always, thanks so much for the feedback. We have done the Danube portion of EV 6 four times! The farthest we have traveled straight through is Vienna. We have done parts of the route from Vienna to Budapest, but not the whole thing. When we did these rides, the path east of Vienna was not that good. Actually, cycle paths in Germany are growing very quickly…may mean that I need to start branching out to other parts of Europe. Experience Europe by Bike may not be far away! Please send me the link for your B&B as I would like to include it in my first e-guide which will hopefully be out before March 1.

      Once you decide where you will be going on EV 6, let me know if I can pass along any suggestions!

      Maggie LaCoste
      Experience France by Bike

  3. Ah, thank you. I’m very interested in Vienna to Budapest. I’ll have a look and let you know. We loved cycling around the Reinfall the summer before last. Gorgeous.
    Thanks. It’s a gîte and not a B&B with a 3-night minimum stay so may not be ideal for itinerants. However, it’s fully equipped. http://www.closeriefalaiseau.com.

  4. We are planning a bike holiday in July 2013 in Bordeaux area for about 5 days and then 10 days along the Canal de Garonne and the Canal du Midi from Bordeaux to Sete. We are planning to mostly camp and are bringing a small tent and sleeping bags. I am a little worried about sleeping on the ground after bike riding. My arthritis may not like that very much. I wish I could bring my cadillac inflatable hiking mat but they are big and heavy- moan- maybe I’ll find something not so heavy that will help! We have decided not to bring stove/fuel/pots… and just picnic and go out to eat.

    1. Hi Sharon!

      Wow, it sounds like you and I will be traveling close to the same route this summer! I have just about decided on the Medoc and St. Emilion vineyards, then going through the Entre Deux Mer to the Garonne and then the Canal du Midi, finishing up with a few days in the Luberon! So I will very much look forward to sharing stories, and I certainly hope you will keep a journal that you can send me, especially with information on route signage and things like that.

      Regarding camping and sleeping on the ground: I would definitely investigate the new lightweight inflatable pads. Here are two examples that I found just doing a Google search for “lightweight inflatable camping pad”:

      http://www.altrec.com/exped/airmat-75
      http://www.altrec.com/thermarest/trail-scout-sleeping-pad

      For me, $45-$50 is well worth the price to know that I will definitely get a good night’s sleep!! Otherwise, it’s just no fun and it will be impossible to enjoy the adventure on the road. Great idea to not bother with pots and pans. Picnics are much, much more fun and since you are traveling in the summer, there will be lots of fresh produce and stuff from the local markets.

      Please stay in touch! And let me know what you decide for the air mattress!

      Maggie LaCoste
      Experience France by Bike