Cycling in France

Cycle-touring, Expeditions, Adventures, Major cycle routes NOT LeJoG (see other special board)
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Cycling in France

Postby JAP1981 » 12 Jul 2012, 12:39pm

I'm looking to cycle down through France in August and wondered if anyone had any recommended routes/ advice?

I'm thinking of going from Calais and seeing how far south I can get in a week - maybe then catch a train back up.

I'm thinking of camping on route so any campsites, places to visit ect would be appreciated.

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Re: Cycling in France

Postby largeallan » 12 Jul 2012, 12:40pm

The more I watch the T de F, the greater my urge is growing too!

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Re: Cycling in France

Postby Penfold » 12 Jul 2012, 2:49pm

Have driven lots of France and the roads are superb.

have only cycled from Cherbourgh to Caen to do the landing beaches and those roads were all great, best of all though I didnt have any bad experiences with French (or other nations) drivers at all. I know that Normandy is a massive holiday spot but had no probs at all with campsites, everyone we turned up at (there were 5 of us cycling) was able to accomodate us at about 5€ each per night.
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Re: Cycling in France

Postby Barrenfluffit » 12 Jul 2012, 7:28pm

Use the atlas ISBN 978-2-06-716962-3. Michelin 1:200,000 but in nice narrow sheets for e15.90 fpr the whole country. be aware that the train network is quite paris centric but with few through trains. It can be hard to make the connections work for a single day transit of paris; a similar situation to the uk. Regional train services seem quite infrequent.

It can be really hot down south, consider staying a bit north for nicer cycling conditions. Many town squares have a drinking water pump thing; its very handy for mid ride fillups. Municipal campsites are cheap and often located near the local sports stadium (which tend to be next to the local river) but signage is usually pretty good. Also most campsites seem to have some arrangement for bread / croissant in the morning; its a handy way of getting lunch.

The big red D roads can be ok if they have a shoulder / inner lane but the presence of heavy lorries and traffic generally makes using them less than pleasant (but sometimes ok to cover distance) but handy early in the morning before the trucks are on the road or at weekends etc.

Supermarket opening hours. Closed at 7pm Mon to Saturday. Closed at lunchtimes. Closed on Sundays (although since about april some are experimenting with opening on Sunday mornings). Many things are closed when you want to use them tbh! Bakers open 7 days per week. Swimming pools are very strict about what sort of swimwear is acceptable and showering beforehand is a must.

Its great!

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Re: Cycling in France

Postby bikes4two » 12 Jul 2012, 10:02pm

There are many posting on this forum about cycling and camping in France - give the search a go (I'm not a master of the search facility myself, but play around a little - you'll soon find plenty to read).

Routes - use Google Images to look for a relief map of France so that you can get an idea where the hilly bits are (and there are lots of those around). There are flat bits too such as Velo Route 6 and canal routes such as the Lateral and du Midi. There are so many routes that' it's impossible to be specific. Personally I just arm myself with a camping site guide and a Michelin road atlas, and plan my own routes.

This camping guide available from at a reasonable price, lists literally thousands of sites and gives you an ideal from it's maps showing the location of the sites, where the points of interest might be found. ... 062&sr=8-1

This guide can be found in the UK but usually at silly prices - I got this year's from Amazon France in under a week.

As an anternative to cycling from Calais and back by train (train travel with a bike cn be VERY confusing - lots of posting on this subject too), I take my bike on the car roof on the Dover ferry (very cheap and no extra for the bike), park up in an english run campsite I know (camping de courte vallee just south of the Loire River (I've no invested interest by the way) and do a circular tour commensurate with the allowed time. The site will charge you one euro per day for secure storage. I recently parked up with them for 6 weeks and they turned the engine over periodically and charged the battery for me, at no extra cost. I know of other sites that will happily store a car for a while and if your French is up to it, you can make enquiries a-plenty (I only have about 20 words of French, and in no particular order :oops: , but I get by)

Other forum members are happy it seems, to park up in a quiet street for a week or so.
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Re: Cycling in France

Postby slowpeddler » 13 Jul 2012, 9:49am

I met a guy on the ferry to France last week who reckons he does it in 3 days cycling from Dieppe. He cycles all day and at dusks bivvies for the night and off again early next morning.
So it is possible to do it in 4 if you are fit and young.

I am neither


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Re: Cycling in France

Postby REH » 13 Jul 2012, 4:53pm

Calais is a long way north, and perhaps too much in line with Paris. This link contains a map with some long distance cycle routes that may be of interest: There seem to be several combinations that would get you to the Med. I only have experience of the area fifty miles or so south of Roscoff, which was very pleasant and quiet in 1997.

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Re: Cycling in France

Postby ericonabike » 16 Jul 2012, 10:43am

I rode from St Malo to Montpellier in six days in 2010, returning via Bike Express. Not actually that hard, always following white and yellow roads on pages from the Michelin inch to 3.5 miles 'big scale' road atlas. Stayed at 2 star hotels or chambres d'hote so no camping kit, but campsite directional signs abounded! Planning is a good way to enjoy the holiday before it starts, but France is a superb country for cycling. Whatever you do I guarantee you'll enjoy it!
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Re: Cycling in France

Postby groberts » 16 Jul 2012, 11:47am

As a starting point, I can highly recommend going over from Newhaven to Dieppe and onwards south. It gets you straight into Normandy i.e. already further south in France, which is very nice and the cycling is great:



Of course it depends where you are starting from in the UK but if it is London or thereabouts, the ride to Newhaven is also very nice:

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Re: Cycling in France

Postby hazecellar » 18 Jul 2012, 6:52am

i want to do it in the first week of sept - carrying camping gear just ride till i'm tired - if you fancy company or want to know a little more just let me know

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Re: Cycling in France

Postby katandneala » 29 Jul 2012, 4:49pm

Me and my friend are looking are doing the cycle from calais to paris, do any of you know of any cheap campsites on route or have any information we should know about?
Thank you :)

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Re: Cycling in France

Postby nmnm » 29 Jul 2012, 6:50pm

bikes4two wrote: ... 062&sr=8-1

This guide can be found in the UK but usually at silly prices - I got this year's from Amazon France in under a week.

I got it at £9.71 incl super saver (free) delivery earlier in the year at amazon uk. At the moment, it's out of stock at UK Amazon and "Temporairement en rupture de stock" :) at French Amazon, though you can still get it from 3rd party sellers at the uk site. Not sure if they get more in or if they move on to the 2013 edition next. I think the 2011 or 2010 will have pretty similar content, myself.

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Re: Cycling in France

Postby BTP » 30 Jul 2012, 1:09am

JAP1981 wrote:I'm looking to cycle down through France in August and wondered if anyone had any recommended routes/ advice?

I'm thinking of going from Calais and seeing how far south I can get in a week - maybe then catch a train back up.

I'm thinking of camping on route so any campsites, places to visit ect would be appreciated.

There are loads of options. Any 1:200,000 Michelin map or Google Maps will show you a wealth of minor roads that criss-cross France - it's easy to come up with your own route. These back-roads are usually C roads that are (were) departmental country roads and usually lightly-trafficked. They take you few small villages - far nicer IMHO than the bigger cities.

And don't forget the voies vertes - French greenways. These are either very lightly trafficked routes or, more usually, motor traffic-free routes. Either dedicated cycle-ways or converted disused railway tracks and canal towpaths. See the interactive map at [url][/url]

A like the route from Roscoff (Plymouth - Roscoff ferry) - follow the cycle-path or back roads from Roscoff to Morlaix, then take Voies Verte V7 to Carhaix-Plouguer. From there pick up the Nantes-Brest Canal towpath to Suce-sur-Edre just North of Nantes. Then take the Loire valley cycleway to, say, Orleans. Then head north to Paris before picking up the Avenue Verte to Dieppe and back across to the UK.

Nice mix of quite roads and voies vertes. But there are so many other options in France.

Being close to France is the one thing I miss about not living in the UK!

Good luck

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Re: Cycling in France

Postby Audax67 » 30 Jul 2012, 7:52am

Re drinking water, two tips: A lot of towns have old horse-troughs kept full by permanently-running spouts. If these aren't specifically labelled "Not drinking water" (eau non potable) then the law says that they must be safe to drink. Secondly, the cemeteries always have water-taps and the water is always drinkable. I've filled up both at troughs and cemeteries on several occasions and never yet suffered.
Have we got time for another cuppa?

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Re: Cycling in France

Postby voiturebalai » 13 Aug 2012, 7:26pm

Bakers open 7 days per week

In fact, outside big cities, generally they don't. Most close all day on Mondays, to compensate for the fact that they open on Sunday mornings (and only Sunday mornings).

In fact it's worth bearing in mind that in small towns and villages throughout France, small, family-owned businesses all close on Mondays for the same reason - but that butchers, bakers and so on will all open on Sunday mornings (even on public holidays in the morning, so the locals can get the food in - which they've usually ordered in advance - for the family meals).

Also, depending on how far south you get (and how much the ambient temperature rises and forces people into a post-lunch "sieste") small shops can be closed from noon to anything up to 3:30 or 4 o'clock in the afternoon.

Plan your daily food purchases accordingly - there's nothing worse than arriving in a village at 12:15, hungry and thirsty, and finding the streets deserted and all the shops closed. Some stay open until 12:30 or so, but you can't rely on it. And if you hadn't budgeted for eating in a restaurant or bar, it can be really frustrating.

These general rules go out the window in a big town with a large supermarket, but even then it can depend on how much of a git the manager is*. One branch of Atac (equivalent of Waitrose) in a village near us closes for two hours at lunch; another in another town stays open. And you'll still find smaller branches of national chains (Carrefour Market, Petit Casino, Maximarché) and other mini-marts that close for at least two hours at mid-day.

(* As in, if they're a git, they stop their poor staff enjoying a proper 2-hour lunch and keep the place open.)
Last edited by voiturebalai on 13 Aug 2012, 9:25pm, edited 1 time in total.