Bicycle routes, itineraries, paths and greenways in France: suggestions and recommendations

3 janvier 2017

 

You fancy visiting France on a Pino tandem bicycle, but you don’t know where the cycling routes are and which one to select for your holiday? This page is for you!

Long-distance cycling has become increasingly popular in France over the last 5-10 years and a large number of cycling routes have been developed. We’ve cycled most of these itineraries (usually with our kids) and we’re therefore in a position to advice you on which are the best routes, and more importantly, which is the best for your specific needs.

You’ll find below a list of the cycling routes we’ve been on and our evaluation for each of them. You’ll also find at the bottom of this page suggestions of itineraries for various durations. Finally, we’ve listed itineraries which are suited for children of all ages.

If you have any question regarding long-distance cycling on a Pino tandem bicycle, please do not hesitate to first visit our Q&A section.

 

Carte des principaux itinéraires rando vélo en France

Séparateur

– The Loire à Vélo –

 

Official web site: http://www.cycling-loire.com/

Distance: 1200 km (750 miles) for the French part. The Loire à Vélo is part of Eurovelo route #6 which crosses Europe from the Atlantic Ocean to the Black Sea (total distance: ca. 2500 km, 1500 miles).

Cities and country towns crossed (from east to west): Bâle, Kembs, Mulhouse, Heidwiller, Montreux, Montbéliard, L’Isle sur le Doubs, Baume les Dames, Deluz, Besançon, Saint Vit, Orchamps, Dole, Tavaux, Saint Jean de Losne, Seurre, Verdun sur le Doubs, Chalon, Saint Léger sur Dheune, Montchanin, Montceau les Mines, Palinges, Paray Le Monial, Digoin, Gilly, Bourbon-Lancy, Cronat, Decize, Fleury sur Loire, Nevers, Cuffy, Marseilles lès Aubigny, La Charité sur Loire, Couargues, Sancerre, Léré, Châtillon sur Loire, Gien, Sully sur Loire, Châteauneuf sur Loire, Jargeau, Orléans, Saint Hilaire Saint Mesmin, Meung sur Loire, Beaugency, Avaray, Saint Dyé sur Loire, Suèvres, Chambord, Blois, Chaumont sur Loire, Amboise, Montlouis sur Loire, Tours, Villandry, Ussé, Avoine, Candes Saint Martin, Saumur, Gennes, Saint Mathurin sur Loire, Les Ponts de Cé, La Daguenière, Trélazé, Angers, Bouchemaine, Chalonnes sur Loire, Ingrandes, Saint Florent le Vieil, Le Marillais, Ancenis, Champtoceaux, La Varenne, Mauves sur Loire, Nantes, Le Pellerin, Paimboeuf, Saint Brévin les Pins.

Rent-a-Pino.com opinion: A true classic. The Loire à Vélo is THE reference route for any cyclist who wants to discover France, its history and its art de vivre: the course runs in the UNESCO-listed Loire valley, is flat, suitable for families and benefits from numerous accommodation (hotels, B&Bs, camp sites) and equipment, including a very good signposting. Most importantly, there is plenty to see with splendid sceneries and landscapes, and its world-reknown Loire-Valley castles (a castle to visit every 20 km – 12 miles – in some parts!). We’ve cycled Loire à Vélo seven times to this day and are always struck by the beauty of the valley. Obviously, we’ve got plenty of tips and recommendations that we share with our clients, including unmissable stops for children. The course is particularly suited for families with children since the path is on dedicated routes or small roads with limited traffic. The overall course is typically split in two (from Bâle in Switzerland to Nevers, then from Nevers to the Atlantic Ocean). If you have limited time available, we recommend the section between Orléans and Nantes, or Blois and Angers.

Our best pick: The Fontevrault abbey, where history meets art. Worth the detour.

Example holiday: We come and pick you up at the Charles de Gaulle airport or the Orléans railway station and we bring you to the Loire. We hold a briefing on the Pino and you’re then off for your holiday. If you need anything during your trip, we’re there to help. Once your holiday is finished, we come to pick you up wherever you are (in Angers, in Nantes, on the Atlantic beaches) and then take you back to a railway station or an airport, depending on your travel preferences.

The guide we recommend: La Loire à Vélo de Nevers à l’Atlantique. Editions Chamina. ISBN : 978-2844663627.

Panneau indicateur de la Loire à Vélo à proximité de Villandry

Séparateur

– The Vélo Francette –

Official web site: https://cycling.lavelofrancette.com/

Distance: 630 km (400 miles).

Cities and country towns crossed (from south to north): La Rochelle, Marans, Damvix, Coulon, Niort, Champdeniers Saint Denis, Parthenay, Airvault, Thouars, Montreuil Bellay, Saumur, Saint Mathurin sur Loire, Angers, Le Lion d’Angers, Château Gontier, Laval, Mayenne, Domfront, Flers, Pont d’Ouilly, Thury-Harcourt, Caen, Ouistreham.

Rent-a-Pino.com opinion: A relatively novel route which is nicely signposted and which benefits from nice countryside views. We've done two thirds of the course, but clients who cycled the entire itinerary are really enthusiastic.

Our best pick: The cycling path alongside the river Mayenne, between Daon and Domfront. 80 km of quiet and beautiful nature.

Example holiday: We come and pick you up wherever you are and take you to La Rochelle. We come back to pick you up after 1 to 2 weeks in Caen and drop you at a railway station or take you back to your car.

The guide we recommend: La Vélo Francette de la Normandie à l’Atlantique. Editions Ouest-France. ISBN : 978-2737369100.

Petit matin sur le Chemin de Halage de la Mayenne, sur la Vélo Francette

 

Séparateur

– The Vélodyssée –

Official web site: https://www.velodyssey.com/

Distance: 1200 km (750 miles).

Cities and country towns crossed (from north to south): Roscoff, Saint Pol de Léon, Morlaix, Scrignac Gare, Carhaix-Plouguer, Glomel, Gouarec, Mûr de Bretagne, Pontivy, Rohan, Josselin, Malestroit, Saint Martin sur l’Oust, Redon, Guenrouët, Blain, Nort sur Erdre, La Chapelle sur Erdre, Nantes, Le Pellerin, Paimboeuf, Saint Brévin les Pins, Saint Michel Chef Chef, Pornic, Port des Champs, Notre Dame de Monts, Ile de Noirmoutier, Sion sur l’Océan, Saint Gilles Croix de Vie, Brem sur Mer, Les Sables d’Olonne, Saint Vincent sur Jard, La Tranche sur Mer, Saint Michel en L’Herm, Marans, Dompierre sur Mer, La Rochelle, Ile de Ré, Châtelaillon Plage, Yves, Rochefort, Pont de Saint Agnant, Marennes, Ile d’Oléron, La Palmyre, Royan, Pointe de Grave, Soulac sur Mer, Montalivet les Bains, Hourtin Plage, Carcans Océan, Maubuisson, Lacanau Océan, Le Porge Océan, Arès, Audenge, Biganos, La Teste de Buch, Biscarosse Plage, Gastes, Mimizan Plage, Contis les Bains, Saint Girons Plage, Léon, Vieux Boucau, Hossegor Capbreton, Bayonne, Saint Jean de Luz, Hendaye.

Rent-a-Pino.com opinion: This route is part of the Eurovelo #1 which crosses Europe from the north of Norway to the south of Portugal. In France, the route goes from Roscoff (northern Brittany) to Hendaye (border with Spain). The northern part is alongside the Nantes-to-Roscoff/Brest canal, a peaceful route in the countryside. From Nantes, the course goes south and follows the Atlantic Ocean coastline. Once you cross the river Garonne, the route crosses the Landes, a sandy heavily-wooded region. The quality of route is variable, with sections running a few hundreds meters inland instead of trying to stick to the coastline. What a shame!

Our best pick: The Ile des Machines in Nantes, with giant robotic animals.

The guide we recommend: La Bretagne à vélo (From Roscoff or Brest to Nantes). Editions Chamina. ISBN : 978-2844662293. + La côte atlantique à vélo (from Nantes to Hendaye). Editions Chamina. ISBN : 978-2844662293.

Vue des cabanes de pêche entre la Pointe Saint Gildas et Pornic, sur la Vélodyssée

Séparateur

– The Canal de Nantes à Brest / Canal de Nantes à Roscoff –

Non-official web site: https://en.francevelotourisme.com/base-1/destinations/bretagne

Distance: ca. 400 km (250 miles).

Cities and country towns crossed (from north to south): Roscoff, Saint Pol de Léon, Morlaix, Scrignac Gare, Carhaix-Plouguer, (Brest, Plougastel-Daoulas, Le Faou, Châteaulin, Pont Coblant, Châteauneuf du Faou, Port de Carhaix), Glomel, Gouarec, Mûr de Bretagne, Pontivy, Rohan, Josselin, Malestroit, Saint Martin sur l’Oust, Redon, Guenrouët, Blain, Nort sur Erdre, La Chapelle sur Erdre, Nantes

Rent-a-Pino.com opinion: a very nice and quiet route across Brittany which follows a canal most of the time. The route is adapted to children as it is flat. If you don't go for camping, beware since accommodations directly on the canal are limited and can be fully booked. If this happen, you'll then need to reach the nearest villages through steep roads.

Our best pick: The well-deserved stop at the Ecluse de la Tinidière after a first full day of cycling (when you start in Nantes), the view on the castle when you arrive in Josselin.

Example holiday: We are based close to Nantes. The easiest is for us to drop you in Nantes and to collect you a week later in Roscoff or Brest.

The guide we recommend: La Bretagne à vélo (From Roscoff or Brest to Nantes). Editions Chamina. ISBN : 978-2844663993.

Un tandem pino Hase et ses sacoches sur le canal de Nantes à Brest / Roscoff du côté de Nort sur Erdre

Séparateur

– Cycling Brittany –

Official web site: https://cycling.brittanytourism.com/

Distance: 1600 km (1000 miles).

Rent-a-Pino.com opinion: Brittany is heaven for the keen cyclists. It benefits from a mild climate and is criss-crossed with medium-distance itineraries such as The Canal de Nantes à Brest (see above), Eurovelo #4 which follows the northern shoreline or the canal between Rennes and Saint Malo.

Our best pick: the camp site in Carhaix where 3 cycle routes meet.

Example holiday: The choice is yours. We can drop and collect you anywhere in Brittany.

The guide we recommend: There is no official guide, but the official web site is loaded with information, maps and GPX files. You'll also find brochures in Tourist Information Centres when you get there.

Randonneurs à vélo en Bretagne sur l'Eurovélo 4, au dessus d'une plage

Séparateur

– The Vendée Vélo –

Official web site: http://www.vendeevelo.vendee.fr/ (in French only)

Distance: 1000 km (600 miles).

Rent-a-Pino.com opinion: The Vendée departement has done a great job in finding quiet routes which altogether make a rather dense cycling network for such a small territory. The signposting is excellent and landscapes are really diverse (countryside, marshland, seaside).

Our best pick: The passage du Goix, a 4-km road which is submerged at high tides and which connects the Island of Noirmoutier to the continent. Rather unusual.

Example holiday: Our HQ are on the route. Start at our place and we'll collect you wherever you are.

The guide we recommend: There is no official guide, but the web site and the app are useful resources.

Le spectacle du spectacle de Tiffauges, sur la Vendée Vélo

Séparateur

– The Châteaux à Vélo –

Official web site: http://www.chateauxavelo.co.uk/

Distance: 300 km (190 miles).

Country towns and villages crossed: Blois, Cheverny, Tour en Sologne, Bracieux, Chambord, Saint Laurent des Eaux, Suèvres, Vineuil.

Rent-a-Pino.com opinion: this is a collection of 12 loops which are designed to let you discover the Sologne region and some of the Loire valley castles around the city of Blois (Chambord, Villesavin, Beauregard, Cheverny, Troussay, Chaumont sur Loire, et Blois). Quiet small roads.

Example holiday: we deliver the Pino to you in Blois and come back to collect it a week later at the same place.

Our best pick: The Cheverny castle which was the inspiration for Hergé when he drew the Tintin comics, the Chaumont sur Loire castle which organises an international competition of gardens every year.

Example holiday: Le Pays des Châteaux (Chambord et ses environs). Editions Chamina. ISBN : 978-2844661227.

Le Château de Cheverny qui fait partie des boucles des Châteaux à vélo et qui présente une exposition sur Tintin (Moulinsart)

Séparateur

– The Tour de Bourgogne à vélo –

Official web site: http://www.burgundy-by-bike.com/

Distance: 700 km (450 miles).

Cities, country towns and villages crossed: Decize, Châtillon en Bazois, Bazolles, Clamecy, Cravant, Auxerre, Migennes, Flory la Chapelle, Montbard, Venarey les Laumes, Pouilly en Auxois, Dijon, Nuits Saint Georges, Beaune, Montceau-les-Mines, Palinges, Paray-le-Monial, Digoin, Gilly-sur-Loire, Cronat, Decize

Rent-a-Pino.com opinion: les deux tiers du parcours (le long du canal du Nivernais et le long du canal de Bourgogne) sont en site propre (pas de voitures) et avec peu de dénivelé, ce qui rend ce parcours adapté aux enfants. two thirds of the Tour de Bourgogne are on routes with no traffic at all and flattish. The rest of the course is in vineyards and are fairly steep. Less diverse than the neighboring Loire à Vélo, but it still deserves a good visit.

Our best pick: The hospices in Beaune, a very nice former charitable almshouse.

Example holiday: we deliver the Pino to you in Decize and we come back to collect it 2 weeks later at the same place.

The guide we recommend: Le Tour de Bourgogne à Vélo. Editions Chamina. ISBN : 978-2844661777.

Enfant endormi à l'avant du tandem Hase Pino lors du Tour de Bourgogne à vélo

Séparateur

– The Route des Grandes Alpes –

Official web site: http://www.moveyouralps.com/en/route-des-grandes-alpes

Distance: 720 km (450 miles). 17750 m uphill, 18275 m downhill.

The 19 cols to climb: Col des Gets, Col de la Colombière, Col des Aravis, Col des Saisies, Cormet de Roselan, Col de l’Iseran, Col de la Madeleine, Col du Télégraphe, Col du Galibier, Col du Lautaret, Col d’Izoard, Col de Vars, Cime de la Bonette ou Col de la Cayolle + Col de la Couillole, Col Saint Martin, Col de Turini, Col de Castillon, Col d’Eze

Rent-a-Pino.com opinion: do you feel strong enough to compete with the Tour de France riders? Then, the Route des Grandes Alpes is for you. This mythical route starts in Geneva and finishes in Nice. No flat at all over the 720 km of the course and the greatest of the cols of the French Alps. Very intense, but astonishing views on the French Alps all along. One of our Pinos has been specifically customized to handle the steepest uphills and downhills found on the route. Expect speeds of up to 80 km/h (50 miles/h)!

Our best pick: The climbs of the legendary Izoard and Galibier cols.

Example holiday: we will deliver the Pino to you at the start of the route in Thonon-les-Bains and collect it 10 days later on the beach in Nice. We strongly suggest you spend nights in hotels and B&Bs as you don't want to carry heavy camping gear!

The guide we recommend: No guide. The information featuring on the official web site and a good road map are enough.

Un tandem Hase Pino dans le Col du Galibier après le Col du Télégraphe

Séparateur

– The Traversée des Pyrénées –

Official web site: http://www.ccb-cyclo.fr/raid_pyreneen.html (in French only)

Distance: 720 km (450 miles). 18000 m uphill, 18000 m downhill. From Hendaye (Atlantic Ocean) To Cerbere (Mediterranean Sea).

The 18 cols to climb: Col de Saint Ignace, Col de Pinodieta, Col d’Osquich, Col d’Aubisque, Col du Soulor, Col du Tourmalet, Col d’Aspin, Col de Peyresourde, Col des Ares, Col du Portet d’Aspet, Col des Caougnous, Col de Port, Col du Puymorens, Col de Llous, Col Rigat, Col de la Perche, Col de Ternere.

Rent-a-Pino.com opinion: This is the equivalent of the Route des Grandes Alpes, but this time it's in the Pyrenees. Another route not for the faint hearted that we did in 2016. Lovely landscapes. Tough, as you would expect.

Our best pick: The climbs of the Aubisque and Tourmalet cols, the Route des Corniches.

Example holiday: we deliver the Pino to you on the beach in Hendaye and collect it 10-15 days later on the beach in Cerbere.

The guide we recommend: No guide. We will provide you with a GPX file which covers the whole of the 720-km route.

Vue du paysage dans le Col du Tourmalet lors d'une traversée des Pyrénées en vélo

Séparateur

– Other cycling routes in France –

Although we haven't cycled all routes in France, we can recommend the following trails based on discussions we've had with other cyclists:

  • The two Tour de Manche: two cross-border routes which allow you to discover France and the UK (450 and 1200 km, 300 and 750 miles).
  • The Veloscenic: 450 km (300 miles) between Paris and Le Mont Saint Michel in Normandy.
  • The Green Avenue: from Paris to London in 400 or 500 km depending on the route you select.

Most importantly, it is possible to combine all these different cycling routes to come up with long-distance journeys to visit different regions of France. Just email us with the number of days you want to cycle and we'll come up with relevant suggestions for you! Below are a few first suggestions:

A few suggestions if you want to discover France on a Pino for one week: the Loire à Vélo from Blois to Nantes (400 km, 250 miles), the Canal from Nantes to Roscoff (390 km, 240 miles), the Petit Tour de Manche (450 km, 280 miles), the Vendée Vélo, the Châteaux à vélo (300 km, 190 miles).

A few suggestions if you want to discover France on a Pino for two weeks: The entire Vélo Francette from La Rochelle to Ouistreham (630 km, 390 km), The Loire à Vélo from Nevers to Saint Brévin les Pins (680 km, 425 miles), a nice little loop in Brittany (740 km, 460 miles), the Route des Grandes Alpes (720 km, 450 miles), the Traversée des Pyrénées (720 km, 450 miles), the entire Tour de Bourgogne (700 km, 440 miles), the Vélodyssée from Pornic to Hendaye (730 km, 460 miles), the Loire à Vélo from Saumur to Saint Brévin les Pins coupled to the Vélodyssée from Saint Brévin les Pins to la Rochelle coupled to the Vélo Francette from La Rochelle to Saumur (730 km, 455 miles).

A few suggestions if you want to discover France on a Pino for three weeks: a nice big loop in Brittany (1060 km, 660 miles), the entire Loire à Vélo from Bâle to Saint Brévin les Pins (1200 km, 750 miles), the Grand Tour de Manche (1200 km, 750 miles), the Vélo Francette from Ouistreham to La Rochelle coupled to the Vélodyssée from La Rochelle to Hendaye (1160 km, 725 miles), the Vélo Francette from Angers to Domfront coupled to the Véloscénie from Domfront to Paris coupled to Paris-Orléans through the Seine valley, the Loing valley and the Orléans canal coupled to the Loire à Vélo from Orléans to Angers (1200 km, 750 miles).

A few suggestions if you want to discover France on a Pino for four weeks: same as three weeks, but at a slower pace.

A few suggestions if you want to discover France and the rest of Europe on a Pino for eight weeks: the entire Eurovelo #6, from the Atlantic Ocean to the Black Sea (2500 km, 1500 miles).

Carte des principaux grands itinéraires de randonnée à vélo en France

 

 

Séparateur

– Cycling France with children –

Going on a cycling adventure with children is unique and so much fun. Discovery and enthusiasm are at every corner and there is so much to discover in the real world (i.e. not that they see through a screen).

The Pino is particularly well adapted to traveling with children. Children can ride at the front of our Pinos from the age of 3 thanks to a special kids kit which adds an extra crank set to the front chain. If you need assistance to know which solution is best suited for your children, do not hesitate to contact us and just let us know his/her height and age.

Our preferred cycling route to travel with children is the Loire à Vélo. There is just so much to discover on this route with the Loire river, castles, amusement and animal parks, petrifying caves, magical gardens, museums, aquariums and other surprises (a giant moving elephant!). Also, it is really easy to find accommodation, in particular when you camp (there is a camp site every 20 km or so!) and there is very little car traffic. If you don't want to go for the Loire à Vélo, other itineraries you may want to consider for travelling with children are the Canal from Nantes to Brest/Roscoff, the Chemin du Petit Train in Central Brittany or le Tour de Bourgogne.

Enfants qui voyagent en itinérance vélo avec des sacoches