Cyclotourism in France: cycling for pleasure

Cyclotourism in France: cycling for pleasure

Cycling over long distances on country roads, taking your time and sharing the effort with friends: this very popular sport of "two-wheel trekking" completes the panoply of leisure sports on a bike (mountain biking, green routes), taking advantage of all that the regions of France have to offer.

Here is some information on the places and major events relating to cyclotourism, where you can fully enjoy the pleasure of going for a lovely ride in superb surroundings, at your own pace, with no notion of competition whatsoever.

French cyclotourism federation
Distinct from the FFC (the French cycling federation), the FFCT has been dedicated to the promotion of leisure cycling since 1977, and has kept close connections with mountain biking. This "cyclotourism" approach goes much further back however, as it is thought to have been invented (and baptised) in 1888 by a cycling enthusiast in the Touring Club de France: Paul de Vivie, nicknamed Vélocio. Today the FFCT has 120,000 members (20% of whom are women), in some 3,200 clubs, which host numerous activities: organised hikes or other types of cycling outings, and even a "federation week" in a different region each year. The FFCT also organises the National Cyclotourism Licence (or the Licence in the 36 French provinces): just check off the 6 checkpoints on your card that have been set up in each department.

A few example destinations...

The Hautes-Alpes: a magnificent department
Magnificent mountain landscapes and several passes which have made the reputation of the Tour de France attract many cyclotourists, eager to meet a personal challenge, but not wishing to race against the clock, just for the fun of managing to climb to the top. An added advantage is that the department offers several original and exclusive proposals, in July, with itineraries and one-day events specifically dedicated to cyclotourism.
- 5 mountain pass routes reserved for bikes on 5 mornings (no cars allowed!), including the famous passes at Izoard and Galibier. This event is not a passing fad as it has been taking place for the last 13 years!
- 20 shared itineraries make up the various landscapes and selected routes
- The Vauban Triangle is a festive event, a fun annual gathering on a 60 km circuit linking the Vauban sites in the Hautes-Alpes (Briançon, Mont-Dauphin and Château-Queyras): there is even a shuttle service for those who give up half way through, so don't be afraid to start!
- Cycling by night over the Izoard pass: a nocturnal climb (at full moon) took place on 7 July 2009 (at full moon!). In view of its success the event will almost certainly be repeated.

Cycling in Alsace
The Haut-Rhin departmental cycling board proposes a selection of 25 themed routes for a gentle cycle ride around Munster or Kaysesberg. The whole region, between the Vosges hillsides and the Rhine plain, offers plenty of superb opportunities.

Cycling in the Luberon
A 236km circuit connects the quiet little roads in and around the Massif du Luberon, a marked "regional nature reserve". There are plenty of opportunities for wandering in the pine forests, orchards and vineyards, in almost any season.

Ideas for walking and travelling in France
Fifty or so topographical guides provide ideas for cycling holidays.

Places to stay, along the routes

"Logis Vélo" hotels
Nearly 400 hotels which already have the "Logis de France" label (guaranteeing authenticity) offer a warm, considerate welcome, in compliance with a specific charter (luggage transport, special energy-providing meals, bicycle storage area, etc.): cyclotourists usually appreciate a friendly place to stop and eat after the effort of cycling!

"Rando Accueil" gites
Gites, bed and breakfasts, family hotels: a network of friendly, rustic accommodation, specifically adapted for hikers of all kinds, including cyclotourists.

Some specialised service providers, to start off (including loan of a bicycle)

La Bicyclette verte, (Green bicycle) in the Poitevin marshes and elsewhere
This experienced organisation schedules one-day rides, weekend treks and bike trips lasting a week, with a guide or organised as a holiday where all the logistics are taken care of. Based in the west of France, it is now extending to other regions.

France Randonnée
This organisation specialising in hiking also caters for cycling holidays in the Périgord, the Landes, etc.

Rando Vélo - Loire Valley Travel
This agency has 20 years of experience in organising cycle trips along the "Royal River": the region is particularly suitable for "cyclotourism".

For information

The "Eurovelo" network
As a prelude to the very ambitious project for 12 trans-European cycle routes (known as "euro-veloroutes", for a network covering 60,000 km, the Eurovélo 6 route (linking the Atlantic to the Black Sea) promises wonderful long cycling tours!

Some "ordinary" events: "save the date" for this coming June and July!

The "Vélocio" climb up the col de la République
This event (at the beginning of June) attracts thousands of cyclotourists but this time the race is against the clock, as a homage to the local hero Vélocio. This uphill race has been taking place since 1922, and consists in climbing up to the Col de la République (1,161m) on the northern slope, from the town of Saint-Etienne, with a climb of 560 metres over a distance of 12.7 km.

L'Ardéchoise: cycling for fun
This 4-day cycling event takes place in mid June, when nearly 4,000 amateur but enthusiastic cyclists gather to ride one of thirty routes (ranging from 50 to 400 km) throughout the beautiful department of the Ardèche.

La Marmotte: "save the date" from 3 July 2010"
This major event (in early July) is a challenge of endurance for no less than 7,000 seriously prepared and trained cyclotourists, over a distance of 174 km with a climb of 5,000 metres! Leaves from Bourg-d’Oisans (717 m) and arrives at Alpe-d’Huez (1,880 m), but it goes via the loop of the Glandon (1,918 m), Télégraphe (1,570 m), Galibier (2,642 m) and Lautaret (2,057 m) passes...

Things to see