French End to End

Cycle-touring, Expeditions, Adventures, Major cycle routes NOT LeJoG (see other special board)
mullinsm
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Joined: 9 Sep 2011, 2:00pm

French End to End

Postby mullinsm » 2 Nov 2014, 4:49pm

I'm just starting to plan a tour for next June and I'm hoping to take a ferry to Dunkirk and then cycle from Bray Dunes to the southernmost tip if France which I believe is somewhere near the village of Lamanere in the Pyrenees. From there I'll bike back to Perpignan and grab a flight home. So far, so good.

However I've never cycled in the east of France and have no idea where to start with the route. It looks like the clever way would be to head towards Nimes and then follow the coast from there to south of Perpignan before heading inland, so as to avoid most of the mountains, but aside from that it's a blank canvas.

Anybody with any experience of this trip or a route from the north to the Med coast avoiding the worst of the bumpiness?

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RickH
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Location: Horwich, Lancs.

Re: French End to End

Postby RickH » 2 Nov 2014, 6:58pm

Heading towards Nimes and avoiding mountains are likely to be mutually exclusive.

On an organised trip I did from Calais to Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer (in the Carmargue) we had 2 days that topped out above 4,000 ft and another 2 that topped out above 3,500 ft, the highest point being around 4500ft somewhere north-west of Aurillac. There may well be flatter routes than we did but the fact that there are ski resorts in that part of France should give a clue.

If you want to avoid mountains (although I would say you are missing some spectacular scenery if you do) you are probably best heading more towards Toulouse and then cutting across south-east from there.

Rick.

mullinsm
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Re: French End to End

Postby mullinsm » 3 Nov 2014, 7:15am

Thanks for the reply. I know I'm not going to get all the way without a bit of climbing, but with a 75lb bike underneath me I'd like to keep it to a minimum if possible. It looks like following the Rhone valley from Lyon to the coast is the popular choice, but if anyone has any ideas as to the kindest way to get to Lyon in the first place, I'll be glad to hear it. Also, are there quiet roads or cycle paths along the Rhone valley? Finally, has anyone ever actually biked to the southernmost point? Is there even a road as it's not clear from any maps I've seen whether you can actually get there if you aren't a goat.

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RickH
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Re: French End to End

Postby RickH » 3 Nov 2014, 5:01pm

Some further thoughts. Lamanère is about 2,500ft up in the Pyrenees &, looking at Google Maps, it looks like there are some tracks of unknown quality that would take you to near the border - and up to nearly 4,000ft. But, as you'd have to come back the same way, you may be able to shed your luggage if you want to try that last bit. Wikipedia says Lamanère is the southernmost village in Continental France so has a logic to finishing there or thereabouts.

An alternative finish you could consider, and only 3 or 4 miles further north might be Cap Cerbere, on the Mediterranean coast right by the Spanish border, which does have proper road access.

Or do the diagonal & finish at the Spanish border past Saint-Jean-de-Luz, slightly further north but, probably, further away from Dunkirk.

Rick.

mullinsm
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Re: French End to End

Postby mullinsm » 5 Nov 2014, 6:31pm

I've see the tracks you mention but they seem to end before the border. Having said that, there is a place marker on Mt. Comanegra so there must be some way of getting to it....might be a walking job, but that would count, wouldn't it?

I think the med coast alternative would be a bit of a cop-out. If I'm doing that I may as well just stop at Perpignan and call it a day there. The North East to South West idea is a good one, but I did Santander to St. Malo last year via Poitiers and Tours so I'd be covering old ground for much of the way (all be it the other way around) and besides, I fancy seeing Burgundy from the saddle.

I must admit I'm surprised this isn't a well established route. Perhaps if they had a man with a sign and a camera like at JOG it might take off? Job for someone there........

wearwell
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Re: French End to End

Postby wearwell » 5 Nov 2014, 6:40pm

We tend to plan long ones like this as a straight line. Stick as near to it as you sensibly can. Hills no problem - every up has a down and the scenery is better.
There is an excellent bike path along the Rhone which we followed this year from Givors to Valence, though you can miss a turn in some of the towns.

mullinsm
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Re: French End to End

Postby mullinsm » 5 Nov 2014, 7:17pm

The straight line approach was one I tried on LEJOG a couple of years back, but after 2 days of climbing ridiculous gradients in Cornwall and Devon, I vowed to be more circumspect in future. On day three it took three and a half hours to cover 15 miles before I threw the planned route away and started following roads that ran in valleys! I don't mind a few hills, but all day going up and down ramps is soul-destroying on a heavy bike.

I know I'm going to hit some severe climbs after Perpignan into the mountains, but I should have ridden myself truly fit by then. It's the early part of the trip I'm more concerned about as the Massif central seems to extend all the way to the Belgian border and I can't see an obvious crossing point.

From the maps it looks like Dunkirk, Arras, St. Quentin, Reims is all OK, but then the easiest route looks like one that takes me east of Troyes and Dijon to Lyon. From there it should be fairly plain sailing (or even cycling) to Avignon, Nimes, Montpellier, Narbonne and Perpignan.

Now all I need is someone to tell me I have it all wrong and I've plotted the route from hell....

chocjohn9
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Location: Sunny Belgium

Re: French End to End

Postby chocjohn9 » 9 Nov 2014, 5:03pm

You could follow one of these routes...

http://cyclo-long-cours.fr/diagonales/

stewartpratt
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Re: French End to End

Postby stewartpratt » 9 Nov 2014, 7:50pm

I plotted this as a route a while ago on http://ridewithgps.com - which is a pretty powerful planner and will give you a route profile and total ascent. Probably worth dividing it into at least two/four sections for easier planning and editing, but a virtually straight line of about 1300km looked pretty viable, skirting just east of Paris. Bray-Dunes and Lamanère lie at almost exactly the same longitude, and sticking as close as possible to that for the whole way down appealed to my sense of whimsy :) Virtually flat for the first half, then gets unsurprisingly lumpy for the second, but you could probably tweak a fair amount of that out if you wanted to meander via river valleys.

I seem to recall failing to spot any obvious accommodation in Lamanère itself from a cursory Google; the nearest was in Prats-de-Mollo. Would be interested to hear if you find any.

albal1
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Re: French End to End

Postby albal1 » 9 Nov 2014, 8:14pm

At present am planning doing this end of May 2015 and back.

wearwell
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Re: French End to End

Postby wearwell » 14 Nov 2014, 3:18pm

mullinsm wrote:The straight line approach was one I tried on LEJOG a couple of years back, but after 2 days of climbing ridiculous gradients in Cornwall and Devon, I vowed to be more circumspect in future. On day three it took three and a half hours to cover 15 miles before I threw the planned route away and started following roads that ran in valleys! I don't mind a few hills, but all day going up and down ramps is soul-destroying on a heavy bike.........
French hills are higher but a lot easier than west country hills - mainly because they are well graded and you often get pay-back in terms of long freewheels down the other side. I'd definitely advise not to be put off - and you can work out some picturesque routes avoiding big towns - even minor roads have gentle gradients.
Come to think the west country is one of the hilliest places we've ever cycled and definitely the hardest part of LEJOG.

MrsHJ
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Re: French End to End

Postby MrsHJ » 15 Nov 2014, 6:45pm

Give me a nice french mountain any day compared to Devon and Cornwall. The Montagne Noir and around that area is very nice, a bit steep but long steady climbs. The Cevennes have some really interesting elevated limestone plateaus with flattish tops. There's also an argument for heading a smidge further east first and hopping over Ventoux. Conversely if you have a big issue with mountains head down the west coast and figure out a river route towards Perpignan.

johnjo
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Re: French End to End

Postby johnjo » 26 Nov 2014, 5:54pm

I've been doing some preliminary planning for a trip from Barcelona to |Paisley next March/April and came across this dutch site which has a route form Amsterdam to Barcelona. I would use part of this in reverse from Barca to Beziers then take the Canal du Midi north. You might be able to pick it up in Belgium and use it for most of your trip. here's the link: http://www.cyclingeurope.nl/cycling/rou ... /index.php
Good luck with the trip.

southerly
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Re: French End to End

Postby southerly » 29 Nov 2014, 1:34pm

mullinssm,
easiest route is via the SW - down through Normandy to Evreux, then down through the Perche, some hills but nothing serious. Keep heading west via maybe Le Mans then down through La Vendee (dead flat) / Charente Maritime (stopping at Cognac to sample the same) and then onto the Gironde, Bordeaux is well worth a visit on the way. From the Gironde head due south through Les Landes, flat as a pancake but be prepared for headwinds heading south.

If you plan to fly back from Perpignon then you will have some serious hill climbing to do going from the Atlantic coast all the way to the Med and you will have to zig zag your way as well, since most routes are from the big towns or cities aka Pau and Toulouse. Think about flying back from Biarritz or return via part of your route as you are very likely have the wind behind you, which with flat lands all the way to Nantes means you will cover a lot of ground each day. This way makes sense if you are prepared to return to the UK by a more westerly route.

The other route is head due south and take the Rhone route but then you will encounter hilly country heading west.

mullinsm
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Joined: 9 Sep 2011, 2:00pm

Re: French End to End

Postby mullinsm » 17 Jul 2015, 6:23pm

I'm setting off in two weeks but could do with some help getting home afterwards. I'm planning to cycle back to Perpignan and fly back to Stanstead. Does anyone know of any friendly, English speaking bike shops in Perpignan where I can maybe buy a box to pack the bike in? Failing that, where can I get a big polythene bag that I can take with me? Anyone?....