Cycling has long been recognised as a low-impact aerobic exercise. Pedalling a bicycle stimulates and strengthens the cardiovascular system (the heart and lungs) and exercises the lower body. Cycling can improve your health and fitness without harming your joints. In France, cycling is a national pastime and although the balmy Mediterranean climate plays a part, especially in the south, the country offers many other benefits for holidaying cyclists.
The most popular cycling areas in France are the Loire Valley in central France, the Dordogne in the southwest and Provence in the southeast, on the Mediterranean adjacent to Italy. Cycling holidays France offers give the opportunity to explore the beautiful French countryside in your own time. The Loire Valley, sometimes known as the “Garden of France”, is famous for its architecture and landscapes but is also home to some of the finest varieties of white wine grapes in the world.
A classic cycling tour of the Loire Valley takes in the Chateau Royal d’Amboise and many other attractions. Cycling tours along the banks of the Dordogne and Vezere rivers take in castles and picturesque villages, such as Domme and Castelnaud, whilst Provence too offers largely unspoiled routes through olive groves, poppy fields and vineyards.
Attitudes to Cycling
Typically, the cycling in France is not highly strenuous with long, quiet roads and gentle hills. French roads are well maintained and it is not unusual to cycle 30 or 40 miles and only come across two or three cars. Indeed, cycling in France is much safer than in some other European countries. French drivers are used to cyclists and more friendly, patient and respectful towards them. You’ll also find many miles of dedicated cycle track in the most popular cycling areas.
Organised Cycling Holidays
If you take an organised cycling holiday in France, an experienced guide will help you to explore the back roads, which you may not otherwise discover. You’ll be able to stop off at bars, cafés and restaurants to enjoy a glass of wine and traditional cuisine along the way. This type of cycling holiday is particularly suitable for cyclists who don’t have aspirations to ride in the Tour de France. Daily cycling distances are typically quite low at 30 miles or less and the emphasis is on enjoying the experience rather than racing to the next destination in the shortest possible time.
Emergency backup vehicles are on hand to provide assistance in the event of mechanical breakdown, puncture or medical emergency. Organised cycling holidays usually include hotel accommodation in a different town or village every night and your luggage is transported from one hotel to the next on your behalf.
Cycling holidays in France offer something for just about everyone, regardless of their age and level of cycling ability. If you prefer to take a gentler approach to cycling, you can choose to cycle only on alternate days and rest, or explore the local area on your days off. Similarly, if you prefer deluxe accommodation, you may be able to choose a 4-star chateau, but if you’re on a budget, a more frugal 2-star hotel may be more to your liking.
Laurent David writes regularly on cycling holidays France and Europe for a range of travel websites and blogs. He lives and works in the Dordogne region of southwestern France.