Training advice

Andy Ross, cycling holidays manager at our supplier, Exodus:
“Do as much training as possible beforehand as the fitter you are the more you can relax during the trip and properly appreciate the experience and where you are cycling. That said, always avoid the temptation to be competitive on the trip, someone will always be the slowest rider and it really doesn’t matter if that is you. A good cycling holiday will have been designed to allow enough time for most people to complete the rides each day.”

Hill climbing advice

Although it’s tempting to tackle a 6 percent gradient in a high gear at home, in the Alps and Pyrénées, where gradients can continue over 20km, clicking into a lower gear than you might normally use will ensure you’re not wasting energy as you climb. Pacing yourself is another key component of improving hill climbing although sometimes it’s just a case of grinning and bearing it, especially when undertaking steep gradients or lengthier distances.

Eat and drink little and often when you’re cycling tougher climbs and distances and try to do so when you’re on a flattish section or cycling downhill so you can prepare your body for whatever climb might be waiting around the next bend.

Listen to your group leader as they’ll have cycled the route before and they’ll know when and where you’ll need to make the most of fuel reserves, and which gear is best suited for which climb.



Take out comprehensive travel insurance before departure and ensure this covers any activities you are planning to participate in. Travellers from most European countries can apply for a free European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) which demonstrates that you are entitles to healthcare free of charge. Always tell your cycling guide in advance if you have any health issues or require the use of particular medical equipment or medicines, such as asthma inhalers, diabetic injections etc. Carry and drink plenty of water whilst cycling no matter what the weather's like. Stowaway bike bottles or hydration backpacks with straws are both well worth investing in before you leave. Although it can be tempting to sup from alpine streams, please don't unless you really have no other choice. If you really feel the need to go glacial, always boil water first, for at least five minutes, or use water purification tablets. Investing in a filtration device, such as a LifeStraw, is another way to ensure access to clean water – and cuts down on the need for plastic bottles in the process. Padded cycling shorts and plenty of Vaseline, Sudacrem or cycling cream equivalent will alleviate the risk of friction and help to prevent the horrors of chaffing. If you're hiring a bike, make sure it's been adjusted to your height. Just a few minor tweaks can make all the difference between comfortable cycling or painful back and knee injuries, as well as helping to prevent irritating friction between the thighs. On self guided holidays, always carry a basic first aid kit including rehydration salts, plus medication for altitude sickness if you're cycling at elevation. Always wear sunscreen and sunglasses even if there's cloud cover. The sun, even outside of summer, can still be extremely strong, especially if you're cycling in the south of France or high up in the mountains.


Brush up on your French before you leave just in case you need to ask for directions. Also, think about learning the rules of the road in France to ensure you've got all bases covered. If you're on a self guided cycling holiday, carry maps and a compass as well as keeping emergency contact details close to hand, just in case. Also, always tell someone where you're going and what time you intend to arrive. And don't forget to charge your phone. Avoid wearing headphones or, worse yet, using a mobile phone when cycling. Seriously, there are more than enough scenic distractions without adding extras. Bring your own helmet for comfort and peace of mind. Don't cycle without a helmet, even if you're just heading off to the nearby shops. Waterproofs, front and rear lights, and high-vis gear should all be included as part of your daily kit, especially outside of the longer, lighter months of summer. Don't cycle too close to the person in front of you and keep to single file unless it's completely safe to cycle and chat next to each other. Check the local weather forecast, especially if heading into the Alps or Pyrénées. Electric storms and heavy rain can occur in an instant in the mountains so keep abreast of forecasts to ensure you're prepared for every eventuality. If lightening does strike then get off your bike and get below the tree line whilst avoiding bald summits and tall, isolated objects, including trees. Layers are the key to keeping warm if you're cycling in the mountains but try not to strip off if you're feeling too hot as it's very easy to lose heat in an instant and much harder to warm up. Avoid cycling during midday if you are here in summer. Do as the French do and take a lengthy lunch break, although try not to overdo it on the vin de table accompanying the plat de jour.
Travel Team
If you'd like to chat about France cycling or need help finding a holiday to suit you we're very happy to help.


At Responsible Travel, we think the best people to advise our travellers are often... other travellers. They always return from our tours with packing tips, weather reports, ideas about what to do – and opinions about what not to.

We have selected some of the most useful cycling in France travel tips that our guests have provided over the years to help you make the very most of your holiday – and the space inside your panniers.
My favourite memory was cycling up to Sancerre, laden with wine I had bought at a tasting but being rewarded for the hard climb with a fantastic view from the top and later drinking the wine at dinner.
– Joanna Moncrieff
“My favourite memories were built around successfully navigating our way in and out of beautiful little towns whilst being enthusiastically helped with directions and suggestions for great things to see and do by locals, even with our absolute lack of French. Local people were very accepting of us cyclists on their roads. I don't know if this was partly recognising that we do little damage to the environment on bikes.” – Jennifer Wright

“I completed 60k! I've never cycled 60k before!” – Belinda Perry

“If driving from Brittany to Nouvelle Aquitaine, allow 6/7 hours in the rural countryside via the excellent A and B roads, thereby avoiding the soulless motorways.” – Brian Flynn

“Be prepared to create as much activity or as little as you desire day-by-day. Having a car was helpful as the weather wasn't perfect so we were able to explore the area in greater depth with a vehicle on a couple of days. The suggestions for cycling as well as car touring during inclement weather days helped make it a diverse and well-rounded week.” – Christina Freeman

“The cycling was fantastic thanks to paved paths that were well-posted and not too crowded. Our route was well away from the highway and led through vineyards, small forests, along rivers and lovely quiet countryside. Take your time to enjoy the small cafés and beautiful towns. Arriving back at the B&B for 6:00 or 7:00pm still leaves time for a shower and then out to dinner.” – Karen Balter
Cycling up Mont Ventoux. Wow! It’s tough, very tough, but worth the effort. Particularly nice to have a really fabulous hotel at the bottom to relax afterwards.
– Jane Frank
“I was travelling on my own but never felt isolated as everyone in my group was very friendly even though they were all couples apart from myself and one other lady. The tour guide, Mario, was fantastic and he certainly made the cycling so enjoyable with his care and attention and humour at all times. The crew on the boat were equally great.” – Sally Walker

“The most memorable part was cycling down quiet roads through gorgeous countryside on a sunny spring afternoon – it was terrific – helped by good weather and fine accommodation. It was nice to know that if we had any problems with the bikes there was help at hand. As it was, it all went very smoothly. Happy, happy days!” – Diana Lloyd

“We stayed at comfortable, delightful hotels and friendly guest houses, ate local produce with helpful hosts and stopped in villages to sample the wine. We also had the pleasure of efficient trains to Beaune to start the tour. The hire bikes were excellent, sturdy machines and there was technical back-up if required.” – Neil Crawley

“I loved the freedom of riding a bicycle again for the first time in 45 years in beautiful countryside, fresh air and wonderful weather.” – Victor Coleman
Written by Chris Owen
Photo credits: [Page banner: Thirsty South] [Training advice: Graham of the Wheels] [Hill climbing advice: Ragnhild&Neil Crawford] [Health & Safety: Graham of the Wheels] [Joanna Moncrieff Quote: Wladyslaw] [Jane Frank Quote: Graham of the Wheels]