Spain Guide

France Guide

Cycling in France French Holidays

Cycling in France French Holidays

Bicycles (vélos) are very popular in France and cyclists get a lot of respect. Cycling in France is made easy by the 28,000km of pistes cyclables (cycle paths) and the many good small roads which, although they don't always have verges or shoulders, are a good way of seeing the beautiful French countryside.

Cycling has become more important in France in recent years as the government aims to improve the country's fitness levels. In Paris some of the main roads are only open to bikes and rollerbladers on Sundays to encourage sporting activity.

The most high profile cycling event in France is the Tour de France that takes place over three weeks in July. It celebrated its 100th year in 2003 and involves cyclists taking part in an endurance race over 3500km. Every day the times are added up and the rider with the fastest time get to wear the coveted maillot jaune (yellow jersey). The French, however, have not won since 1985.

Whether you fancy creating your own Tour de France or just want to explore the local area by bike, there are a number of options. You can hire bikes on your arrival from campsites and hostels, or from dedicated bike hire shops in most towns. They may require a deposit to cover loss or damage to the bike, and daily rental usually costs between €10 and €15. If you prefer to bring your own bike but don't have a car of your own, all is not lost. Planes will be happy to let you take a bike, either taken apart and kept in a bike bag or wheeled to the desk and checked in as normal luggage. Be sure to check weight limits before you buy your ticket to avoid disappointment. Ferries often let you take your bike free of charge or for a small fee of £5 to £10 but do phone ahead to let them know.

Once in France you can take bikes on trains free of charge if it is packed into a bike cover (housse) of 120cm by 90cm and put in the luggage rack, or you may be able to wheel it into the luggage van if there is room. The Guide du Train et du Vélo is a useful source of information about trains and bikes in France and is available at most stations.

You will also need a decent map such as the IGN 1:100,000 series which are the maps with the smallest scale that still shows contours.