Planning A Cycling Trip To Provence

While many are dreaming of a white Christmas, a lot of cyclists are dreaming of a new adventure for 2014.  But planning a perfect bicycling trip can be time consuming and frustrating for the average recreational cyclist.  Up to date information on cycling routes can be difficult to find and plotting daily distances for a region you’re not familiar with can be challenging. This is definitely the case in Provence, a region peppered with mountains such as Mont Ventoux, the Alpilles and Dentelles de Montmirail and the Luberon.  One small miscalculation in route planning can lead to a major vacation disaster as you find yourself headed directly for the mountains!  This was my biggest fear this summer when I planned two trips to Provence:  one to the Luberon and one to the region around Mont Ventoux.  I’ve learned that regardless of how well you plan, there’s a lot of room for error when you are actually on the road!

Are we going around or through the mountains ahead?
Are we going around or through the mountains ahead?

Because of the mountains, planning your first bike trip to Provence is definitely a bit more challenging than planning a bike trip to routes like the Loire, La Velodyssee or the Nantes-Brest Canal.  But the payoff will be one of the most spectacular bicycling adventures of your life.  There is nothing to compare to bicycling in Provence.  Don’t abandon your dreams of a perfect Provence bicycling trip in 2014 if the planning gets complicated. Take advantage of the Vaucluse Office of Tourism website. The cycling section on this website is great.  If you still feel like you need a bit more support on your first cycling trip to Provence, here are two suggestions that can help you enjoy bicycling Provence like an insider.  Both options are Provence-based companies with years of experience in bicycle touring in the region. Their experience insures that you’ll have access to the best cycling routes in the region and insider information to help you to enjoy Provence in a way few tourists do.

The hill town of Lacoste in the Luberon
The hill town of Lacoste in the Luberon

Based out of a picture-perfect 17th century Provencal farmhouse in the Luberon Regional Park, Provence Cycling Holidays is a total turn-key vacation and perfect destination for recreational and experienced cyclists alike. Located opposite the Luberon hills, on the outskirts of the village of Coustellet, Provence Cycling Holidays provides the kind of experience you get from a custom tour with the freedom and flexibility of traveling on your own.  You choose the length of your bike vacation and the day you want to start. You choose your daily cycling itinerary from the Comprehensive Ride Directory of more than 60 rides with multiple selection criteria. You select your itinerary based on the length of time you want to ride, things you want to do and attractions you want to see. Using the GPS system, you select your chosen ride and then follow the route which will bring you back to the farmhouse at the end of the day.

Memories de Provence
Memories de Provence

Rides are zoned off into 6 different areas around the farmhouse called Memories de Provence. The zones are mostly flat to rolling hills, suited to average level cyclists.  The minimum distance is around 35 kms which can be limited to almost no climbing to a max of 400 meters of climbing, depending on the zone. The beauty of the GPS is the ability to create whatever experience a guest wants: you can bike a little or a lot, bike the flats or the hills, sightsee a little or a lot. The GPS system works just like your car GPS with color maps and verbal prompts before each junction.  In the unlikely event that you have a mechanical problem, full support and transport are just a phone call away.  To read more about a typical week tour, click here.

Owners Neil and Natalene Cowell have been living and cycling in the area for more than 10 years, so they are able to show you a side of Provence that few tourists get to see.  All rides start from the farmhouse and travel mostly along quiet countryside backroads with little traffic. Areas covered in the GPS include:  Fontaine de Vaucluse and Isle-sur-la-Sorgue to the west, Gordes and Rousillon to the northeast, Menerbes, Oppede le Vieux and Les Taillades to the south along with the petit Luberon, Apt and Bonnieux, Lacoste and Goult to the east.  Rides include some of the most spectacular hill villages in Provence, as well as vineyards, chateaux, orchards, cherry groves and miles and miles of lavender fields.

Lavender fields of the Luberon
Lavender fields of the Luberon

When you are done riding for the day, you can enjoy the wonderful Provence weather lounging in the landscaped gardens on the estate, or relaxing in a hammock in the shade, or better yet, taking a swim in the pool.  The farmhouse, Memories de Provence is highly rated in Trip Advisor, another reason to consider a cycling holiday here.

The Cowells have developed a comprehensive package that includes everything needed for the perfect bicycling vacation:  lodging in 17th century Provencal farmhouse, pool with garden and terrace, breakfasts and 3 course dinner including wine every other night, Lapierre Hybrid bike rental, Garmin GPS rental, Comprehensive Ride Directory, 60+ road rides, preprogrammed into GPS, bike helmet, repair kit, lock, panniers, full back-up and transport, if needed, Real Provence guide with best things to see and do in Provence, and all the individual help you need to make this a perfect vacation.  All you need to bring is your suitcase!  Prices start at 155Euro/day per person, based on 2 sharing a room.  For further information, contact Neil and Natalene at

Not convinced that you want to tackle the hills and rolling hills of Provence by bike?  What would you say about a 7 day tour of Provence by electric bike?  I only spent 2 days this summer touring by e-bike and it was definitely a highlight of the year for me!  Fortunately Sun-e-Bike based in Bonnieux has started offering package tours with their very popular e-bikes and the prices are quite affordable.  The 8 day Sun-e-Bike tour of Provence begins in Bonnieux and includes visits to some of the most beautiful villages in Provence, as well as many incredible places hardly mentioned in American guidebooks.  On this tour, you will effortlessly travel by e-bike to Menerbes,

Traveling to hill towns like Oppede-le-Vieux by Sun-e-Bike is great fun
Traveling to hill towns like Oppede-le-Vieux by Sun-e-Bike is a fun adventure

Oppede-le-Vieux, Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, the Abbaye of Senanque, Fontaine de Vaucluse, Gordes, one of the most beautiful villages in France, Roussillon, Saignon, Rustrel, Cereste, la Bastide des Jourdans, Lourmarin, Mallemort, Eygalieres, St Remy de Provence, Graveson and Chateaurenard.

It would be extremely difficult to visit all of these towns in 7 days on a normal bike, but on a Sun-e-Bike, it’s easy.  Traveling around the hill towns of Provence by e-bike is a great experience for even the most novice of bicyclists. And for the more experienced cyclist, don’t underestimate the fun and adventure of traveling by e-bike until you have tried it.  There’s an exhilaration that you experience on an e-bike that is unlike anything you’ve ever done before!  I’ve not taken this particular tour, but it’s definitely on my list of trips that I would love to take!

Sun-e-Bike package tours offer different price levels based on the type of lodging chosen.  Seven night packages with accommodation in a 2* hotel start at 105Euro/night, based on 2 people per room, in a B&B from 108Euro/night per person and from 132Euro/night per person in a 3* hotel.  Included in this rate are rental of an e-bike for 8 days, 7 nights in the hotel category of choice, 7 breakfasts, a road book with detailed route information and attractions, and 24 hour emergency assistance.  Available options include taxi transfer from Avignon to Bonnieux and daily luggage transfer.  For more information about package tours with Sun-e-Bike, contact Florian at:

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2 thoughts on “Planning A Cycling Trip To Provence”

  1. France is indeed best experienced by bike, pedaling through the rolling countryside. And with the E-bike, cycling has now become accessible to more people – even up to those perched medieval villages in Provence.
    Yann Delord – Walk Inn Provence

    1. Bonjour Yann!

      Thanks so much for your note, and yes, you are so right about the e-bike opening up access to a cross section of people! My husband was very reluctant in the beginning to travel on an e-bike, much preferring the traditional bike. But after our first day in Provence, he realized how many more villages we had the opportunity to explore than we would have on our regular bikes. As I tell people, I am not going to give up my regular bike for an e-bike, but there is certainly terrain that I would never consider bicycling, that I would definitely do on an e-bike! I bicycled the Rhone Valley and the area around Mont Ventoux this fall, and I would definitely have loved to have done this on an e-bike.

      I am sorry that I was not able to meet you my last trip, but I hopefully will on my next visit to Provence. I have spoken to Valerie Gillet at Vaucluse Tourism about you and your company, and I would love to stay in touch!

      Thanks again for taking the time to read Experience France By Bike!

      Maggie LaCoste
      Experience France By Bike

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