Cycling vacations in France
“I want to ride my bicycle; I want to ride my bike; I want to ride my bicycle; I want to ride it where I like…“ - Freddie Mercury, 1978
Gone are the days when the most popular type of vacation was focused around overindulgence and not moving from the pool or beachside for days on end. The concept of a cycling holiday was reserved only for the most committed to the sport, those training for events and of course the sports most elite athletes. With the success of the British cycling team rising over the last five years, more Britons now own a bike than ever before. People are now taking their cycling hobby to the next level, with both road biking and mountain biking holidays become more and more popular.
We have put together a comprehensive guide to cycling vacations in the hand-picked locations in which we offer luxury vacations. Including the most popular cycle routes, how to prepare for your trip, what to pack, and local cycling events.
Cycling in France
Euro Velo is a brilliant initiative for cyclists, a network of 14 long-distance cycle routes, known as Euro Velo routes, crisscrossing Europe. France is spoiled, with seven Euro Velo routes crossing the country, offering over 6,000km to explore. Discover more about these routes here.
Cycling in Chamonix
Whether you are looking for a couple of day rides to mix into your summer alpine vacation or are looking to complete a long distance endurance tour Chamonix and the surrounding areas have something for everyone. Attracting both road and mountain bike enthusiasts.
Our top pick road routes:
Col du Montets - 28KM / 400m - This is the trip that everyone does in Chamonix. Morning, afternoon, evening, you'll see lots of people on this famous Col (pass) of the Chamonix Valley. It's a good trip to start your vacation with. Not very long and only 400m of altitude gain. The route is hard to miss! Just follow the signs from Chamonix and enjoy the views!
Emosson Dam - 78km / 2010m - The ascent to the Emosson Dam is long and very steep, this is a great ride to finish your vacation with. You will leave with a real sense of achievement after conquering this climb. The road that takes you to the Emosson's Dam also has very little traffic! The route from Chamonix Mont-Blanc to the Emosson Dam (Switzerland) is remarkably beautiful with some breathtaking views of Mont-Blanc!
Many of the most famous road climbs in the Alps have days when they are closed to motor traffic, reserved for cyclists. Take a look at this blog post by cycle challenge for the dates each of the routes are closed.
Our top pick trail routes:
Petit Balcon Sud (1200m) - This trail runs all the way from Argentiere to Chamonix on the south-facing side of the valley. Start the trail in Argentiere and follow along the right side of the river heading towards Chamonix until meeting an intersection where you have two choices. Continue along by the riverside to Les Praz and then Chamonix (family friendly option). Or take the high route for better riding and no traffic. Stick to this route in one direction as it is very tough in reverse.
Le Tour to Trient - This is a tough ride from the restaurant at the Col du Balme. The trail winds around the left side of the Tete de Balme gradually heading towards Switzerland on a high traverse. Before dropping down into the village of Trient in Switzerland. You should only attempt this route with somebody who knows the way. The decent is hard to find and tough. It will take around 3hr 30mins to reach Trient. Don't worry you don't have to cycle back the most popular return route is via train to Chamonix!
Are you up for a challenge? The ultimate bike route in this region is the Tour du Mont Blanc. The complete tour covers seven valleys, 71 glaciers, and 400 summits. Covering 250km across all types of terrain in 8 days, with a total of 7,600m altitude gain. Find out more about a guided tour here.
Cycling in Sete
Popular with road cyclists the Languedoc region is fairly flat allowing for long distances under the Mediterranean sun. Cycling past endless vineyards and kilometres of beautiful beaches.
Sete is home to a fantastic array of cycling routes for all levels. Making Amazon Creek's luxury villa the perfect place to call home for your next cycle vacation. Just in front of Villa Frankie, there is access to 20km long beach promenade running which is great to get all the family involved.
Touring routes around Sete vary from 20km to 250km. Here are two routes we would recommend:
Tour d'etang de Thau and Mont St Clair - A trip around the Thau lagoon and taking in Mont St Clair. This ride is 68km. The Thau Lagoon is the most extensive and deepest of all the lagoons in Languedoc-Roussillon. It is a true inland sea, separated from the Mediterranean by nothing more than a narrow strip of sand known as the Lido. As a natural environment, the Thau Lagoon is unique in Europe. A ride around this beautiful landscape is truly breathtaking. And why not stop off for lunch at one of the many restaurants around the lagoon famous for its oyster beds.
Euro Velo - Route 8 - Utilising the EuroVelo 8 cycling route which runs from Monaco to Béziers. Starting in Sete with a return trip to Béziers. This route is 51km each way. Starting along the Mediterranean coast taking in the sites and sounds of the various beachside resorts before heading inland to Béziers, one of the oldest cities in France. You can find out more about this route here.
Cycle trip along the Canal du Midi, from Carcassonne to Sete - This has to be one of the most popular bike tours in the region. Starting in Carcassonne, a UNESCO world heritage site in the South of France. A medieval city restored by Viollet le Duc in the 19th century is most famous for its castle. A slow cycle along its narrow cobbled streets is a must before setting off on your 6 days 7 night trip to Sete. Leaving Carcassonne, you will embark on a relatively easy cycling trip along the famous Canal du Midi to finish on the Mediterranean coast at Sete. You can find more information, including rates and availability of this planned cycle route here.
Cycling in Corsica
Just like Chamonix, Corsica is popular with both road and mountain bike enthusiasts. Whether you're looking for a cycling tour of the island or a couple of day trip rides during your vacation the island of Corsica will not disappoint.
Road biking routes
Porto Vecchio to Bonifacio loop - 67km / 700m ascent. This route is the first 60km of the 2013 Tour du France. This route is undulating all the way and has some sections on the main road.
Col de L'Ospedale - 83km / 1,475m ascent. The landscape as you rise up from the coastal plain of Porto-Vecchio becomes a combination of pine forest, incredible sculptured granite and gigantic boulders. Just below the village of Ospedale, there is a panoramic viewpoint on your left surveying the bay of Porto-Vecchio. The Col comes after the village and is unremarkable. This ride included some quite sharp inclines between 8 and 12% between the 10-20km stage.
Take a look at Corsica cyclist for full details and further routes.
Mountain biking routes
There are numerous footpaths, woodland trails and over 1,900 kilometres of bridleways which will enable you to discover more of the island's natural beauty. The best of which are near Forêt de L'Ospédale, Bavella and the Coscione Plateau all in the south of Corsica.
The Coscoine Plateau is great for all the family. The plateau is a high area of lightly forested and open meadows with easily ridden tracks of smooth sloping rock. There is almost limitless potential and it is possible to undertake a longer trip staying overnight in huts.
L'Ospédale route - 17km / 558m ascent and descent - This mountain bike route begins on the paved roads before joining a dirt road and heading uphill and downhill through the Ospédale pine forest. The views of the Gulf of Porto-Vecchio are amazing. A winding path leads you uphill towards Monte Calva, before the downhill technical challenge! Ospédale forest has some great mountain bike tracks that can be enjoyed by all the family. Skip the long ascent, take the bikes on the car and drive into the forest. From here you can discover tracks that lead further into the forest, around lakes and to beautiful waterfalls.
Le Bike Park de Bavella offers mountain bike activities for any level. With 30 marked tracks for both descent and Enduro riding. As well as 150km of cross-country circuits. In order to perfect your style or to discover downhill or enduro mountain biking, Le Bike Park de Bavella offers a range of instructor lead sessions for all levels, from 2-hour sessions to 2-day courses. Or simply buy a pass and enjoy the routes under your own steam. Find out more here.
Adding an element of Luxury
Why not add an element of luxury to your cycle trip, with a stay in one of our Luxury Chamonix Chalets, or Luxury Villas. Whether you are looking for a base for the entire trip or some well-deserved respite at the end of your trip, Amazon Creek has the perfect solution to combine adventure and luxury on your next cycle vacation. With spa facilities, outdoor swimming pools and hot tubs you can sit back, relax and let us pamper you. Contact us here for more details!
Preparing for your cycling holiday
Cycling holidays can often include back to back days of long distances that can be challenging if you are not prepared. Preparation needs to include expectations, fitness and equipment. Here is a quick list of ways you can prepare both yourself and your bike for your next cycling break.
1. Up your distance
We know this might be difficult to fit around your day job. But if you can fit in some extra miles on the weekends and try a couple of back to back days, you will be both physically and mentally prepared. Start small by adding an extra 5 miles to your normal route and slowly build this up in 5-mile increments to increase your endurance. Try to fit in one or two long rides (6 hours) in the months prior to your holiday. Long distance riding requires reduced intensity, long days are taken a steady pace. And of course include stops for rest and to admire the view, so don't panic you wont be riding none stop for days on end.
2. Set your expectations
The reason you've chosen your holiday destination is most probably down to a particular route that includes long inclines and/or very long distances. It is therefore very important to set your expectations of the ride! If you are travelling with a group of riders you know well this is easier as you will already know each other's limits. It is however still important to get together and make a plan for each day or each ride you will take part in. There is nothing more frustrating than setting goals too high and feeling like your on the back foot or in the worst case scenario have to turn around and head back. Set achievable targets and distances that all members of your group can meet, and include recovery days where you can set out for a shorter, flatter ride giving your body time to recover.
3. Prepare your bike
There are few things worse than a week on a bike you don't trust. Not sure if your tyres are going to hold out, or if your brakes will slow you down quick enough to navigate a tricky switch-back. Your bike will see more wear and tear on your week away than normal and so it stands to reason that you should prepare your bike may be more than you would for your weekly outing with the cycling club. The demanding climbs and fast descents mean you really should give your bike a good service before you travel and consider replacing brakes pads and cables.
One thing you might want to consider for a cycle vacation is saddle comfort. Take a saddle that you know is comfortable, especially if you're hiring a bike. Taking your own saddle with you is a must! And don't forget your padded shorts. If you have any discomfort at all when riding, imagine what it will be like after 200km. Be well prepared to avoid discomfort.
Lastly, always make sure you have the correct travel insurance!
What you'll need in your day to day pack
Kit for assorted weathers
It goes without saying that for a cycle vacation in Europe you need to be prepared for all weather, including rain and wind. Along with your summer cycle attire, you should consider packing removable layers. Arm warmers, leg warmers, packable lightweight waterproof jacket, gilet, and base layers. Don't forget your temperature will fluctuate on long climbs or descents so it is important to be well prepared.
Nutrition & Hydration
The number one piece of advice for cyclists taking on long rides is always stay fueled! Drinking and eating along the way is vital to keep your energy stores replenished. If you usually use energy drink, bars, gels or recovery drinks, then take them with you, you may not be able to purchase them along the route. And it goes without saying that you will need plenty of water to stay hydrated. Make sure your bottle is attached to your bike and easily accessible!
Remember to fuel your body in the evenings with plenty of carbohydrates to keep you going on multiple day rides.
Essential bike repair kit items
You will need to have with you the following as a minimum.
- Puncture repair kit - We recommend Weldtite kits.
- Instant stick patches
- Strong tyre levers
- Multi-tool - We recommend Park Premium Rescue Tool
- Mini pump
- Cassette Remover
- Spares including - A range of stainless steel nuts, bolts, and washers, spare inner tube, spokes, replacement chain ‘quick link’, spare chain link, brake inner cable (rear), gear inner cable (rear), replacement brake pads, cable end caps
Take a look at this comprehensive guide for a more in-depth look at what you should be taking with you for longer trips.