Cycling holidays in France – How do you choose?
Cycling holidays in France are a great way to relax, explore, keep fit and meet new friends! As tourism slowly finds it’s feet after COVID-19 French cycling holidays may look very appealing. Spending time cycling through lightly populated areas and discovering quiet tourist attractions will be the perfect antidote to months of stress!
The choice of cycle tours in France is vast, so where do you begin?
- How do you choose a cycling holiday in France?
- What types of cycling holiday are there?
- Where can you cycle in France?
- How can you compare cycling Tour Operators?
Let’s begin – enjoy the ride!
How do you choose a cycling holiday in France?
First up and let’s be honest – you can turn any holiday in France into a cycling holiday! Rent a bike, cycle out and explore. If you’re familiar with France and speak some French this is a great option.
Self-catered cycling holidays in France – Do it yourself
The cheapest French cycling holiday is to rent self-catered accommodation and take your own bikes or rent once you arrive. Local tourist offices can provide you with marked cycle trails. You will have to put the effort into planning your routes but this approach is a cost effective route and ideal for families.
French Cycling Holidays – the packaged route
If you want less hassle you need to take advantage of the hundreds of cycling holidays that exist to make the most of your time and create a great cycling experience.
A cycle tour company blends all the ingredients together, creating a complete French cycle tour. The operators range from small family businesses to large international organisations.
You arrive at a designated location and everything is arranged – bikes, helmets, routes and your accommodation and food for the week.
Choosing your cycling holiday
Do you want to be led by a guide or are you happy to map read and guide your-self?
Self Guided cycling holidays in France
At the start of a self-guided cycling holiday you’ll be given an itinerary and a set of route instructions. You cycle at your own pace, stopping when you want and your only constraint is your evening meal time or when the sun sets!
Cycling holiday tour operators provide clear route instructions and you have the option of to download route maps to your smart phone. You may be provided with a satellite navigation system for your bike.
The best cycling tour operators will keep you cycling on the quietest roads and structure your itinerary so you make the most out of your day.
Advantages of self guided cycling holidays
- Cycle at your own pace
- Make up your own detours
Disadvantages of self guided cycling holidays
- Getting lost from time to time
- On road backup may be a phone call and some time away
Guided French cycling holidays
If studying route directions not a welcome part of your holiday then you’ll prefer guided cycle tours in France.
You’ll pay a premium for these cycling holidays and your pace will be determined by the group you are cycling with. So you could spend your days frustrated at constantly stopping or continually being out of breath trying to keep up! Easiest way to remove this problem is to hire an electric bike if available.
The itinerary will be fixed with stops at tourist highlights and there will be a timetable the guides adhere to. The only way to get flexibility is to have a private guide and this is much more expensive.
There is usually a support vehicle following the group. The vehicle can offer lifts to tired cyclists and has spare bikes in the event of technical failures.
Advantages of guided French cycling holidays
- Beyond keeping up with your group, you really don’t have to worry about anything.
- Support vehicle is on hand as are spare bikes and technical support
- Your guide can provide interesting commentary (hopefully!)
Disadvantages of guided French cycling holidays
- If you’re the weakest rider, you spend all day worrying about keeping up. Hint – Take the electric bike option if available – you’ll have so much more fun!
- Your itinerary is fixed and you are cycling to a schedule. This is not so relaxed – especially if you’ve seen enough Chateaux already
- Unless on a private tour, you will always be cycling with others, even when you want some me time
Types of cycle tour itineraries
So you’ve decided between a self guided cycling holiday or a guided cycling holiday. Now you have another decision to make – the type of itinerary.
Do you want to a single centre or point to point? What does that even mean!?
Point to point cycle tours in France
On a point to point itinerary your cycling holiday company provides you with hotel accommodation each night along a predetermined route that you cycle each day. The routes are designed to take you past the famous sites and someone moves your luggage to your next evening stop-over.
On a self guided cycling holiday you may only see your holiday representative at the start and end of your tour. At the beginning you’ll be taken through the maps and instructions, fitted with your equipment and then left to your own devices.
You will change hotel regularly as you follow your cycling tour and your baggage wll be transported for you.
Advantages of a point to point cycling tours in France
- You cover new ground every day
- Change of accommodation and restaurants during your holiday
- You feel that you are touring with a purpose
Disadvantages of a point to point cycling tours in France
- Unpacking and packing during your holiday
- Early starts
- Quality of accommodation can vary during the cycling tour
- On a self guided tour, you might be on your own all week if no other cyclists are booked on the same schedule
- Itineraries tend to be pretty unimaginative and follow well-trodden tourist paths
Single centre cycle tours in France
Single centre or fixed base cycle tours provide you with a base for your entire holiday. The itinerary is made up of either self-guided or fully guided day trips, always returning to the centre.
The routes may not always be circular. Some cycling tour companies provide a pick-up service at the end of rides to enable longer distances to be covered.
This is a novel approach to cycling holidays. You will find smaller independent operators providing this style of cycling holiday. Some of the larger companies have moved into this market and they will base you at one hotel for the entire cycle tour.
The smaller independents often own their accommodation and the owners will live and cycle in the area themselves. So you can benefit from great local knowledge, the inside track so to speak.
Advantages of single centre cycling holidays in France
- Unpack once and make yourself at home
- Sociable as there will usually be other cyclists at the same location
- No need to cycle every day
- Itineraries are usually more flexible and can be tailored to different abilities
- Companies offering single centre are experts in their area so you get the inside track
- A great approach to cycling holidays for beginners
Disadvantages of single centre cycling holidays in France
- Interest of the rides is dependent on the location of the holiday
- May cycle the same section of road more than once
- Usually provided by smaller companies and family run businesses not protected by travel company insurance bonds
Bike & Barge Cycle Tours in France
If you want to be more adventurous how about spending your cycling holiday in France on a barge cruising one of the French rivers or canals? In this cycling holiday your accommodation is a large river boat and you make daily excursions on bike from wherever the boat has moored up.
Follow an offically marked cycle route
France has a network of officially sponsored marked cycle routes. The bike routes criss-cross France and guide books and accommodation has sprung up to cater for cycle tourists. You’ll need to carry everything with you and it’s a real DIY cycling holiday in France. Many of the routes are part of the European wide Euro-Velo network. The most famous marked cycling routes in France are:
La Loire a Velo
Part of EuroVelo6, La Loire a Velo follows the Loire river from the Atlantic coast near Nantes all the way to its source north-west of Lyon – 600kms. As EuroVelo6 it then carries on to Budapest.
Velo Francette is a marked cycleway that lets you cycle from the English channel port at Ouistreham (famous for Pegasus Bridge and the D-Day beaches) all the way to La Rochelle on the Atlantic coast of France. Futhermore, it runs right through our Loire Valley, crossing the Loire a Velo cycle-way at Saumur.
La Vallée du Loir a Vélo
Not to be confused with La Loire a Velo, Le Loir is a tributary and the cycle path follows the smaller river for 320kms through 4 departments. www.vallee-du-loire.com
1290km of cycle trail along the Atlantic coastline and the longest cycle route in France. An amazing 72% of the cycle route is car free and there are 38 stages if you want to cycle the entire trail, which makes for a very long French cycling holiday! www.lavelodyssee.com
Where can I cycle in France?
In France cycling is one of the national past times. For that reason you could find a local cycle route anywhere in the country! The major areas of France covered by cycling tour operators are:
The Loire Valley
A sweet-spot 3 hours west of Paris. Fairy-tale Chateaux, vineyards, easy going terrain and the beautiful banks of the river Loire, the longest in river in France. Loire Valley Cycling
Comparing Cycling Holidays in France & Tour Operators
The is a huge number of cycling tour operators running French cycling holidays – it’s hard to compare and difficult to choose.
French Cycling Tours – What’s included and what isn’t?
Not all cycling holidays are the same. First of all, some holidays include all of your food and include attraction entries. Also, not all cycling tours include your bike hire as standard. Therefore, don’t just work off the price when deciding!
Historically, most french cycling holidays would have been provided by a large company buying hotel rooms along the route – running the entire operation from a distance through partners and representatives.
Today there is also a growing number of local cycling tour operators who own the accommodation, live in the area and design the cycling routes and supervise or personally run the holiday. What these businesses lack in marketing budgets they more than make up for in the authenticity of their product, so don’t overlook them. With these providers you can get under the skin of an area and see memorable sights that you’ll never find in guidebooks.
Pick the right cycling holiday in France for you!
Choose the right cycling holiday with the right tour operator and you’ll have a great cycling experience you will never forget!
Decide between a guided or self-guided cycling tour.
Next choose whether you want to be moving on each day or to stay in one place.
If you want to be part of a crowd then go for a guided or single centre self guided cycle tour. If you prefer time on your own, then go point to point self guided.
Check out your reviews for your tour provider and look at the payment terms and conditions.
When it comes to parting with your money, pay by credit card and you’ll have the protection of your card company if things go wrong.
Finally, train before you travel and tone up your bottom ready for time in a saddle. Take your own saddle with you and fit it to your hire bike – a top top tip!
Above all – have a great time cycling in France!
Useful Cycling & Holiday Links
Travel Sites & Directories
Cycling Holidays France is recommended by Voyagelinks.com
Cycling Tours and Holidays
Ibike Tours –
Mike’s Bike Tours Amsterdam –
Malaga Bike Tours –
All About Bikes & Cycling!
See our Loire Discovery Tour on FreewheelingFrance
Bicycles Network Australia –
As seen on Ride Advisor