Home to the Tour de France, the Alps and stunning countrysides, it’s no surprise that France is the second most popular cycling holiday destination in the world. The quality infrastructure in towns, cities and remote areas makes cycling not just a fun adventure, but a way of life for many locals. Our guide to cycling holidays in France will give you a thorough overview of what to expect, when and where to go, plus what hotels cater to cycling holidays.
Types of Cycling Holidays in France
France is a great country for a cycling holiday whatever your ability or goal. Whether you want to climb the same mountains the pros do, or if you want to cruise around as a family, there are many options.
1. Road Cycling/Touring
Home to the world’s most famous cycling race, France has an abundance of options that replicate the iconic tour. Roam the countryside from city to city, with clean roads and great scenery. There are maps and tours you can do that replicate the Tour de France.
2. Leisure Cycling
If you are a leisure or casual rider, you can make the most of France’s many wineries on two wheels, or ride down the many coastal bike paths.
3. Family Cycling
Safe infrastructure and well-organised and run bicycle tours have helped France become a leading and top destination for family cycling holidays. Indeed, there are many cycle paths that are separate from the main roads and traffic.
4. City Cycling
Many large cities, including Paris, have bike share stations. Popular with locals and travellers, this is a cheap and efficient way to explore.
5. Mountain Biking
When the snow melts, France’s epic ski resorts become a haven for mountain bikers. You can find trails that suit cross country and downhill riders.
Best French Regions for Cycling
France has cycling regions that cover the full spectrum. From casual coastal bike paths to the Pyrenees.
For families and casual cyclists, the Atlantic Coast and Cote d’Azur offer great cycling paths where you can mix riding with sun and sand.
The coastal areas tend to be flatter, allowing more time to enjoy the scenery and less challenging uphills.
However, the mountainous Mediterranean coastline as it travels towards northern Italy awaits those who want to get their legs pumping.
Rivers, Canals and smaller inland regions have memorable experiences for all styles of cycling.
The popular Les Canal des 2 Mers runs from the Atlantic Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea covering 800km. Follow beautiful canals past quaint French villages.
Also consider the Rhone River route, which runs over 1200km from Switzerland into the French countryside.
Inland, where the valleys are deep and the mountains soar, there is spectacular scenery waiting to be discovered.
The town of Provence comes with iconic perched villages, stunning farmland, and unforgettable rides.
The country roads will take you to the peak of Mont Ventoux, or you can ride the balcony roads in Gorges de la Nesque.
To get the heart racing, follow the cliffside roads through Vercors National Park just north of Provence. Few cycle breaks have ever come with such inviting views.
For some cycling history to go along with your ride, explore the cobblestone roads made famous in Paris’ Roubaix Cycling Race.
Otherwise known as the Hell of the North, discover the storied past of cycling in France as you explore one of the original cycling roads.
If you want to experience the best and hardest cycling holidays that France has to offer, then there are two regions just for you.
France is home to both the Pyrenees and the French Alps. The Pyrenees are in the southwest and the French Alps run through the south-east regions.
Both are home to two major trails along with sections made famous by the Tour de France. For the ultimate cycling holiday challenge, the Raid Pyrenees and the Raid Alpine will guide you through both ranges.
These major mountain ranges are home to the best mountain biking in France.
While there are several beginner and family-friendly trails, the vast majority will require moderate to expert skill levels.
Bicycle Hotels in France and Where to Stay
Located in the Tournon-sur-Rhône region of France, La Peniche Bed & Bicylce is set up specifically to accommodate cyclists.
Whether you want to stay in this local area and go on some local cycle routes, or if you are passing through, this is a very good bed and breakfast style place to stay but with plenty of space for your cycling equipment.
This is run by a couple who are keen cyclists and so, as you can imagine, this is a great option in terms of a place to stay, if you are cycling and biking the Pyrenees.
Located in Louvie Juzon, France, this is fantastic for trying different cycling routes locally and the hosts, Nick and Mireille, are extremely knowledgeable and will advise you on anything cycling related.
Other Places to Stay in France
Owing to the country’s large cycling culture, there are many hotels that cater to those on a cycling holiday. Although the vast majority of hotels, BnBs and motels are cyclist-friendly, these places are a step above.
Not only providing space for your gear, these accommodations understand the needs of cyclists, especially after a big day on the road.
Some hotels listed are run by those that enjoy cycling, with the added bonus of local insight that you won’t be able to find elsewhere.
Several hotels will also have bicycle maintenance areas along with the chance to hose down your bike.
Since these places cater to and are popular with cyclists, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to meet with like-minded travellers from around the world.
When Is the Best Time for a French Cycling Holiday?
The cycling season in France runs from May to October. The warmer months, beginning in mid-spring and finishing mid-autumn, bring consistent wonderful weather and better cycling conditions.
The best time to go on a cycling holiday in France is in May/June and September/October.
The shoulder months not only bring pleasant temperatures, but you will avoid heat waves that often sweep through the country at the height of summer.
Summer storms are also common through July and August.
With France being such a popular tourist destination, the shoulder seasons will be easier on your wallet and more rooms are available. For those that want to mix cycling with some culture, you’ll find fewer crowds at major attractions.
For a lot of cycling fans, visiting during the Tour de France may be the ultimate decider when determining when to visit.
How to Get to and around France
Flying into France is the likely option for those arriving from far-off locations. Paris has the most direct connections. In the summer, other cities like Marseille, Lyon and Nice provide a larger number of flights.
If you’re travelling from within Europe, the extensive road and rail network will be a simpler way of arriving and transporting your gear.
Within France, the TGV rail network will be your best bet if you have forgone car rental. The Regional network will help you connect to smaller towns and communities. The bonus of rail travel is avoiding the holiday traffic that is common during the summer.