France was, is and will probably always be the top holiday destination in the world, especially for cyclists. It offers picturesque towns, magnificent rivers, impressive châteaux, sprawling vineyards, traditional sleepy villages where time has stood still…
On top of this there is the world-famous French passion for cycling.This began with the development of the first 'pedal' cycle in the early 1860s in Paris and continues today with Le Tour de France capturing the imagination of cyclists around the world every year.If you love cycling, France is really the only place to go for your holidays.
Cycling gives you a unique opportunity to explore France in the most complete way. Cycling frees you from the confines of a vehicle and enables the whole family to enjoy a complete sensory experience of the country. You can see it, touch it, smell it, hear it and absorb it in a way that travelling by car does not allow. Cycle at your own pace and take the time to immerse yourselves in all that the land has to offer. Cycling gives you the opportunity to discover France your way.
The French passion for cycling means that France caters for its cyclists very well.
There are dedicated cycle paths all over the country supplementing the vast network of quiet back roads.
At the weekend in France, drivers of vehicles on country roads will know to beware of cyclists.
This may be groups of serious speed cyclists on sleek bicycles preparing for or taking part in local races or championships; or it may be individual cyclists or families out for an afternoon ride.
In Summer the local cyclists are joined on the roads and cycle-ways by a growing number of international cycle-tourists, making the most of the opportunities that France offers for long-distance rides or circuits.
TAKING CYCLES ON TRAINS
Bear in mind that cycles can be taken free of charge on many trains in France, notably on most "TERs", the regional express trains that cover the whole network. In theory bike space must be ordered when buying your ticket, but according to the French train company SNCF, this service is not available online. On rural routes, the most common practice is to buy your ticket at the station for the next train whilst indicating that you have a bicycle. TERs are not usually full, except for commuter services. Some intercity expresses and TGVs take bikes for free, others charge. It is worth checking into this carefully before you go ahead. The safest solution is perhaps to buy a lightweight bike bag in which you can carry your bike as hand luggage. Bike bags count as ordinary luggage and there is no charge and no reservation needed. This way you can safely buy all your tickets in advance from SNCF's online international ticketing website Rail Europe.
SECONDARY ROADS & COUNTRY LANES
The largest opportunity for relaxed cycle-tourism in France is provided by the country's vast network of secondary roads and country lanes. France has 880,000 km (550,000 miles) of roads (excluding motorways) and almost all this network is open to cyclists. The vast majority of this road network is composed of very minor byways, where vehicle traffic is very light, and lorries few and far between. Cycling conditions on these roads are generally safe to very safe, meaning that cycling holidays can be planned throughout the country.
DEDICATED & MARKED CYCLEWAYS
The safest way to cycle in France is to use the developing network of cycleways.
This offers a couple of thousand kilometres of dedicated tracks where the most serious hazards are likely to come in the form of pedestrian hikers or wandering wildlife.
This map shows the six most substantially complete long-distance cycle routes in France today along with a few other routes that connect with them.
It is possible to travel safely by bicycle using marked and often dedicated cycle routes from the Channel to the Mediterranean and from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean or to the German border.
THE SIX MAJOR LONG DISTANCE CYCLE ROUTES
- North-South Route (blue) The Atlantic Coast Cycle Route (EV1) An almost uninterrupted dedicated cycle way from La Baule, at the mouth of the Loire, to Biarritz. South of the Gironde, in the region of Aquitaine. The route is almost entirely a tarred veloroute and is the most complete long-distance cycle route in France.
- East-West Route (red) The Loire-Danube Cycle Route (EV6) Almost complete cycle-way from La Baule at the mouth of the Loire to Orleans. Hard surface but some gaps in the Loire valley between Orleans and Digoin. Almost complete from Digoin to Strasbourg, via Besançon and Doubs valley. Following rivers and canals, much of the EV6 is on former towpaths or levees.
- East-West Route (violet) The Atlantic Mediterranean Route Tarred dedicated veloroutes from Arcachon or Lacanau on the Atlantic, almost to Langon s-e of Bordeaux. Then tarred veloroute - "Voie verte du Canal du Midi" to Montferrand, 49 km southeast of Toulouse. After that the route follows the largely unsurfaced canal towpath to Sète, on the Mediterranean.
- North-West Route (green) The Normandy and Brittany Route Route: from Cherbourg via Coutances, Mont St. Michel, Dinan, Loudéac and the Nantes-Brest canal, to Roscoff or Brest. Over half of this is on dedicated hard-surface cycleways, the rest on tracks or minor roads. Connects with the north-south tarred veloroute from Mauron to Questembert, and via a mix of dedicated routes and byways with La Baule, for EV1 and EV6.
- North-South Route (orange) The Cherbourg to La Rochelle Route Route: Cherbourg, St Lo, Domfront, Laval, Angers, Saumur, Parthenay, Niort. About half of this is on dedicated hard-surface cycle routes, the rest - notably south of the Loire - on marked cycleways.
- Normandy (sky blue) The Channel Coast Cycle Route Route: From Fort-Mahon plage 50 miles southwest of Calais, via Dieppe and Fécamp to Le Havre. Marked cycleways mostly on small byways. Plenty of hills.
CYCLE ROUTES IN THE VIENNE
Cycling in the Vienne Département is an absolute pleasure and cyclists are extremely we catered for.
Every Tourist Information Office will be able to provide you with a cycling guide map called "La Vienne à Vélo" for a modest fee.There is also a copy in both properties.
This guide comprises 12 cycling routes with comprehensive maps enabling you to discover the very best of the Département along delightful country roads.
The routes included are:
- Circuit de l'Art Roman en Pays Montmorillonnais: around Montmorillon - this route lets you discover small paths along the River Gartempe, a route named "Fresco Valley" thanks to the numerous monuments decorated with mural paintings.
- Circuit de la Valléee de l'Envigne et de la Veude: around Lencloitre - this route shows you how each area of the Vienne retains its own regional specialities in fairs and traditional markets where you can sample the aromas and colours of the season.
- Circuit de la Vallée de la Gartempe: the Gartempe and Creuse valleys are home to magical little villages displaying a mosaic of tiled roofs. This route takes you through beautiful countryside speckled with castles and manor houses.
- Circuit de la Vallée de la Vienne: around Chauvigny - this route centres on Chauvigny, where you can find an abundance of fortresses constructed from local stone as you cycle along the majestic River Vienne meandering through the countryside.
- Circuit de la Vallée du Clain: this route includes some of the Haut Poitou abbeys and introduces you to the abbey in Ligugé, one of the oldest in Galicia, and the abbey in Fontaine Le Comte, founded in 1130 by Count Guillaume of Poitiers.
- Circuit des Abbayes: a route taking in some of the finest abbeys that the Vienne Département has to offer.
- Circuit des Boucles de l'Auxances: around Avanton - starting in Poitiers, this route shows you the best of this ancient city including the imposing Notre Dame and takes you through luscious green countrside around the capital following the meandering Auxances or crossing the Vouillé forest.
- Circuit des Six Vallées: you will see the rivers of the Boivre, Clain and Vonne, home to intriguing legends such as that of the fairy Melusine. The village of Jazeneuill on the Vonne with its charming roman church is a sleepy community under a myriad of tiled rooftops.
- Circuit du Haut Loudunais: around Loudun - the Loudun plain stretches between Touraine and Gâtine and this vineyard region has charming villages of white stone as well as cave villages that are thousands of years old.
- Circuit du Haut Poitou: around Monts sur Guesnes - this is the highest point of the Loudun area and its castle is testament to long years of occupation. Plains and forests offer routes past catles, windmills and towers, such as that at Montcontour from the 11th century.
- Circuit du Pays Mirebalais: around Mirebeau - rich in vineyards and fountains, this area is bordered to the north by lush green hills and to the south by large chalk plains. Visit the medieval city of Mirebeau, the Cherves Museum, the Tol Windmill and the Pigeonier at Vouzailles.
- Circuit entre Vienne et Creuse: around L'Isle Jourdain - this route covers granite, clay and chalk landscapes and takes in the beautiful villages of Availles-Limouzine, Mauprévoir, St Martin l'Ars, Millac, Moussac and Queaux. The Charlemagne Tower in Charroux is very impressive.
View Vienne Bike Routes in a larger map
|Cycle-way||marked bicycle route either on dedicated way or on minor byways|
|Veloroute/"Voie verte"||dedicated cycle route with smooth tarred surface|
|Hard surface||graded compacted hard surface - smooth cycling, not good for rollers|
usually a rural track or towpath with old gravel surface
HIGHWAY CODE FOR CYCLISTS
The information given below is valid at the time of writing. It is not an exhaustive list of all laws and rules governing riding a bicycle in France. You should make further enquiries before travelling to ascertain current legislation.
- To be roadworthy, bicycles must be equipped with a bell, fully functioning brakes, and after dark with reflectors and front and rear lights.
- The wearing of cyclists' crash helmets is not compulsory in France, but is strongly advised. Cyclists must also wear a high-visibility waistcoat if cycling after dark outside urban areas.
- In urban streets, cyclists must use the marked cycle lanes where these exist.
- Cyclists must obey traffic signs and signals in the same way as other road users; this includes respecting "no entry", "one way" and "stop" signs.
- Like cars, cyclists riding behind each other on a roadway are obliged to keep a safe distance between them. Cyclists may ride two-abreast, but only during hours of daylight. At night, single file cycling is obligatory.
- Drinking and cycling: cyclists are subject to the same alcohol limits as other road users. Cycling while under the influence of alcohol can lead to a hefty fine, the impounding of the cycle, and/or the withdrawal of the cyclist's vehicle licence if he/she has one.
CYCLE HIRE IN POITOU-CHARENTES
As you would expect, there is no shortage of specialist cycling establishments where you can rent all types of bikes suitable for the whole family. Please see our specialist cycling pages for Longère Louise and La Poste des Gardes for more information.
BIKE HIRE DIRECT
If you want the convenience of having your bikes delivered to and collected from your accommodation for no extra charge, Bike Hire Direct offers a comprehensive service throughout the Vienne region. Hiring from Bike Hire Direct before you travel means that you can enjoy the freedom of cycling without the time restrictions and the hassle of having to collect or return your bikes.
They can offer you the following services:
- Quality aluminium bikes for adults and children
- FREE delivery and collection to your holiday accommodation
- FREE helmets, lock and tool kit with every rental
- Delivery and collection offered seven days a week at a time to suit you
- Full French public liability insurance
- A range of great value hire packages or mix and match to suit your personal requirements
- Bikes available specifically for men, women and children in a variety of heights
- Baby seats, Tag a Long childrens bikes and toddler chariots available for children and babies from 3 months old
- A wide selection of accessories including baskets, pannier racks and car bike carriers
CHECK OUT THEIR SPECIAL OFFERS RIGHT HERE
ALL INFORMATION AND PHOTOS COURTESY OF ABOUT FRANCE
PLEASE VISIT THEIR SITES FOR MORE DETAILS ON CYCLING IN FRANCE