2019 Advice and tips
Do you love cycling and watching the landscapes and sights roll by as the kilometres clock up?
Whether you’re a hardened cyclist or an apprentice trailblazer, swap your suitcases for saddle bags this summer and make your holiday a cycling holiday. Here’s a selection of 10 itineraries to get your adventure started:
Leisure / Discovery tours
If this is your first touring adventure, choose a 2 to 5-day circuit with a moderate vertical climb. That will get you off to a gentle start and let you take your time with each stage, especially if you’re travelling with children. The idea with a cycling tour is to explore the region by bike, but that’s not all: you can also make the most of breaks by planning activities and visits along the way, as well as refuelling with local specialities and immortalising the beauty of the landscapes you’re travelling through by taking some photos.
Le Grand Tour des Vosges
Tour du Jura
This 155-kilometre route is easily accessible and can be carried out over 2 or 3 days. Made up of cycle paths and little country roads, this circuit offers the chance to discover the Jura region’s historical and culinary heritage. Pass through the medieval city of Dole (Jura’s Little Venice), ride alongside Arbois vines (in the Jura wine capital) and make an obligatory stop-off at Poligny to sample some delicious Comté cheese.
155 kilometres. Overall vertical climb of 870 metres.
For hardened and/or experienced touring cyclists, try these legendary routes. Grandes Alpes, Pyrénées, Auvergne… there’s no shortage of French mountain ranges to take you from summits to valleys, Alpine pastures to high-altitude mountain passes. Longer distances require a decent level of physical fitness…or an e-bike!
La Traversée des Pyrénées
From the Atlantic Ocean to the Mediterranean, this demanding itinerary uses legendary routes and mountain passes from the Tour de France (Tourmalet, Aspin, Portet…). Setting off from the undulating, lush green Basque Country, the road climbs up to the Saint-Lary, Tourmalet, and Ax les Thermes summits. High-altitude passages lead to a gentle descent to the eastern Pyrenees. Emerge from Ariège’s wild forests, with the Mediterranean in your sights, just a few kilometres from the Spanish border.
100 to 115-kilometre stages per day / 1,200 to 2,800 metre vertical climb per day.
Le Tour du Sancy Circuit
Only 76 kilometres long, this entire circuit is located above altitudes of 1,000 metres. That means you have to take the height into account when managing your energy expenditure and breathing, as well as the vertical climb: 2,370 metres in total. This undulating, demanding route passes through the medieval city of Besse, (at the foot of Besse Super-Besse resort), and Mont-Dore, offering a 360° view over the volcanic mountain chain, and takes in the Col de la Croix Saint-Robert mountain pass, then the Rocher de l’Aigle which overlooks the Chaudefour Valley. Stock up on gourmet provisions at Saint-Nectaire and try the local cheese.
La Route des Grandes Alpes
Undoubtedly one of the best-known touring routes, the Route des Grandes Alpes connects Lake Léman to the Mediterranean. Comprising legendary mountain passes, lush green pastures, arid and mineral zones, the route unveils a palette of landscapes as sublime as they are eclectic. La Route des Grandes Alpes in figures:
- 730 kilometres
- 16,000 metres of altitude change
- 18 mountain passes
Mountain Bike touring routes
If you prefer woodland trails to asphalt, you could also try out a mountain biking touring itinerary. High-altitude lakeside paths, adrenaline-packed descents and stunning summits as you emerge from forest paths are all yours.
La Chaîne des Puys et du Sancy
Cross the Vosges massif on a mountain bike
In the Alps: Les Chemins du Soleil
Setting off from Thonon, this itinerary finishes in Nice via the Prealps. It’s a stunning route offering a diverse range of landscapes and requiring good physical fitness. It is divided into 3 main sections:
From Léman to Vercors (340 kilometres): a fairly accessible section, perfect for a gentle start to proceedings. A number of lake-side stopping points are available (Léman, Aiguebelette, Bourget), as well as pretty viewing points from which to admire the Alpine mountain chain.
From Vercors to Provence (330km): the second section is more challenging in terms of difficulty but offers a whole range of eclectic colours and landscapes. From wild, mineral Vercors, past La Drôme du Sud’s vines and sandy stretches, finishing up with a flower-studded path through Provence’s fragrant lavender, bay and olive trees.
From Provence to the Mediterranean Sea (300 kilometres): before arriving in Nice’s Promenade des Anglais, this final section of the Chemins du Soleil is the least known. Hidden away and enclosed in the southern Prealps, the route plunges into the Haut-Verdon Valley, and follows the Route des Clues, famous for its mountainside villages and spectacular gorges, before giving you a glimpse of the Mediterranean.
Further information (in french)
Photo credits: Clo & Clem / J-Baptiste Bazzarini - La Baze / Fotoli