Best cycling places in France

Ease of access over the English Channel makes coastal cycling in the northwest regions of Normandy and Brittany extremely attractive, with rural roads leading east to riverside routes around the Centre-Val de Loire. The southwest boasts the largest of France’s 12 regions, Nouvelle-Aquitaine, which features the Dordogne, as well as the start of a challenging coast-to-coast route through the Midi-Pyrénées. Rolling fields of lavender paint perfection in Provence, or you could head north to the highs of the French Alps and the lowland lakes of Geneva and Annecy. The region of Alsace, in the northeast, is considered one of France’s friendliest for cycling, whilst Burgundy needs no introduction for those looking to cycle through vineyards, villages and verdant canal paths within central France.
Cycling in Alsace, France

1. Cycling in Alsace, France

As France’s friendliest region for cyclists, Alsace’s extensive network of traffic-free bike lanes, towpaths and wine routes is said to top 4,000km which all adds up to an exceptional cycling itinerary stretching from Strasbourg on the German border all the way to Switzerland in the south. Follow a route around Le Rhône, Le Grand Ballon and one of the ride's most ravishing villages, Riquewihr.
Cycling in Beaujolais, France

2. Cycling in Beaujolais, France

Although synonymous with the Beaujolais Nouveau Runs of the 90s, this beautiful central eastern area, overlapping both Burgundy and Rhône-Alpes, is becoming increasingly popular with cyclists thanks to a variety of terrain to test and enchant in equal measures. Beaujolais is an ideal region to practise for the Alps or pause for picnics amongst the vineyards of Julienas, Saint-Amour or Fleurie.
Cycling in Brittany, France

3. Cycling in Brittany, France

Don your Breton stripes, stow a galette and cycle from Saint-Malo to Mont Saint-Michel. Head north into Normandy before riding east and inland, along peaceful country lanes and gentle hillsides, en-route to Dinan set on the beautiful banks of the River Rance. The calming coastal and country contrasts, around Saint-Jouan-des-Guérets, especially, are simply sublime for cyclists.
Cycling in Burgundy, France

4. Cycling in Burgundy, France

Bulging with possibilities like a ripe Pinot Noir, Burgundy is impossible to ignore for cyclists hoping to sample the good life from Auxerre to Chablis, Nitry to Vezelay, with waves of vineyards and wooded banks along the Serein offering endless opportunities to taste the essence of central France. Burgundy is bursting with canals and riverside routes to timeless towns, such as Noyers-sur-Serein.
Cycling in Dordogne, France

5. Cycling in Dordogne, France

Laid back, low cost and featuring more than 1,500 châteaux, the Dordogne area of Nouvelle-Aquitaine deserves all the plaudits. Here, characterful cycle routes past limestone cliffs, indigenous forests and tree lined river banks ensure a peaceful pedal far from the madding crowd. Start in Souillac and pedal past Périgord and Quercy as you prepare for 55km rides en-route to Rocamadour.
Cycling in the French Alps, France

6. Cycling in the French Alps, France

Hey, the Alps can be extremely challenging; however, don’t be put off if you’re a casual cyclist as there are great riverside routes linking the lakes of Geneva, Bourget, and Annecy. Of course, settle into a chalet in Samoens village and you’re immersed in ‘col country’, with as many ups and downs as you wish, as well as a hot tub and local pool in which to soothe aching limbs.
Cycling in Loire Valley, France

7. Cycling in Loire Valley, France

One of the finest regions of central France also features cycle routes for those who aren’t in a rush; cyclists who place gastronomy as high on the agenda as low gears. The Loire also offers wildlife watching in Autreche, lunching on a château terrace or soaking up some sun on the banks of the Cher. You can’t say Loire without relaxing, so here’s to the finer things in life to be enjoyed on and off the saddle.
Cycling in Normandy, France

8. Cycling in Normandy, France

Begin in Bayeux and head south past the beaches and cemeteries before continuing to Carentan, Regnéville and Granville where bird-filled marshlands, Camembert cows and sleepy seaside villages align routes within one of France’s foremost westerly regions. Normandy knows no bounds with roads from Avranches to Mont-Saint-Michel capturing a laid back coastline, marked by monuments to WWII.
Cycling in Nouvelle-Aquitaine, France

9. Cycling in Nouvelle-Aquitaine, France

This fairly remote region has often appealed more to surfers than cyclists; however, thanks to Eurostar, TGV and road links from ferry terminals, it's easily accessible to all. On arrival you’ll discover mile upon mile of surfaced country lanes, ideal for circular cycling from a rustic guesthouse with heated pool. Prepare to pack padded shorts and stretchy waistbands for lengthy ascents and lots of eating.
Cycling in Provence, France

10. Cycling in Provence, France

Who wouldn’t love to cycle through a Cézanne, Renoir or Picasso? Tucked between mountains and Med, seas of sunflowers, wheat and lavender give way to pale blue skies under which endless country lanes provide perfect passage for pedalling. Just the right balance of gentle, rolling hills and flat agricultural patches offers every excuse to indulge in regional cheese, truffles and sparkling Clairette de Dié.
Cycling in the Pyrénées, France

11. Cycling in the Pyrénées, France

Tackle some of the Tour de France’s classic cols as you embark on a cycling challenge from the high rollers of the Atlantic to the warm waves of the Mediterranean. A gentle ascent up Col d'Osquich collides with the challenges of Col d'Aubisque, Col du Tourmalet and Col de Peyresourde before Bagnères-de-Luchon, Biert and beaches beyond offer ample respite after a week of pushing over the Pyrénées.
Cycling in Midi-Pyrénées, France

12. Cycling in Midi-Pyrénées, France

Although famed for sausages, rugby and the world’s tallest bridge (Millau Viaduct) the Midi-Pyrénées also registers roads that wouldn’t look out of place on the Tour with vineyards on Vére Valley and the captivating climbs of Causses de Quercy just a couple of reasons for cyclists to get serious about the South. Reset your Strava by cycling around Tarn-et-Garonne and Aveyron.

Travel Team
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Written by Chris Owen
Photo credits: [Page banner: Thirsty South] [Alsace: Pug Girl] [Beaujolais: Renaud Camus] [Brittany: Jeanne Menjoulet] [Burgundy: Thirsty South] [Dordogne: Pug Girl] [French Alps: Guillaume Baviere] [Loire Valley: Sachitha Obeysekara] [Normandy: Nicolas Raymond] [Nouvelle-Aquitaine: Vanessa_F] [Provence: Léonard Cotte] [Pyrénées: Justin Clements] [Midi-Pyrénées : Pauzies]