“The thing about France is that the French aren’t great at building bike routes, but they don’t need to be because there are endless stunning roads with no traffic – and what little traffic there is, is considerate towards cyclists.”
Peter, Owner of Le Cheval Blanc
France is a dream for cycling, after all, it is where the Tour De France was born. With its wealth of virtually car-less backroads, the option of a challenging climb for the sports enthusiasts or a gentle pootle between pretty villages for the more laid-back, freewheeling in France is a joy.
Purpose-built routes allow you to cycle the length of the Loire all the way to the Atlantic, making it irresistibly tempting to hop on a bike and discover a different perspective to this beautiful country. But it’s the locals that really know how to work this wonderful landscape and create epic cycle-routes that show off historical sites and jaw-dropping views. We asked four of our Owners to share with us their favourite routes leaving straight from their front door.
Rhône Valley – Alps, France
With Col de la Madeleine (which has appeared in the Tour De France 24-times) literally on the doorstep, Chalet Savoie Faire attracts cyclists from all over the world. Guests keep coming back for more and it’s easy to see why Nikki and Hugh’s huge farmhouse is full of warmth and delight. Hugh is a keen cyclist and regularly takes guests out on long rides with stunning mountain views and Nikki is a hugely experienced and talented chef, running cookery classes from her vast kitchen.
The ride: A small climb to warm up the legs of 4 km, then it’s down the mountain for 15km and 17 hairpin bends until you reach La Lechere. From here you take a small back road for 24km, winding in and out of rustic alpine villages until you reach Albertville. Pedal over the main carriageway and start to make your way back on a different road to la Lechere, then, saving the best until last – climbing back up to Chalet Savoie Faire.
Bike hire: Yes, if longer than five days
Bike storage: Yes, along with a bike maintenance garage and pressure washer
“It’s a great circuit empty of cars and full of stunning mountain views, cows, flowers, alpine smells and fresh air. The ride isn’t too difficult, but enough to know you don’t mess with the ‘Big Cols’ until you are fully ready.”
Hugh, Owner of Chalet Savoie-Faire
Midi – Pyrénées, France
A super B&B in the heart of a beautiful medieval town and more than just a place to stay. You’ll meet Peter (a self-confessed bike fanatic who runs local cycling holidays) and Natalie, a passionate cook who runs workshops and gives you sociable breakfasts around the dining room table. Based on the veloroute gorges de l’aveyron, Le Cheval Blanc is perfectly placed to explore this part of France by bike.
Start out by crossing the Aveyron River and heading down the valley, where the level roads warm you up for the hills ahead while giving you spectacular views along the gorge. The road burrows through the cliff face of the Cirque de Bone, but you can turn left and inch up the gorge wall on a the old road carved out of the sheer rock face before plunging down into the sleepy cliff-top village of Brousses. When the ruins of the Chateau de Penne come in to view you’re about to leave the valley floor and start the big climb up out of the valley. The last bit of the climb to the Pas de Cabal is very gentle and leads to winding but level roads from which you can see the snow-capped peaks of the Pyrenees on a very clear day. Finish off with an exhilarating descent down to the valley floor and another medieval village; Milhars. From here it’s a gentle ride along the valley back to St Antonin along the wooded banks of the Aveyron.
Bike storage: Yes
Bike hire: Yes, Peter runs a company that can arrange bike hire
“We’re spoilt for great cycling around St Antonin with incredible scenery and quiet roads in all directions, but that has nothing to do with luck, it’s partly why we came here. It’s tough to pick a favourite ride, but this is one I do when I have a couple of hours spare and fancy a workout.”
Peter, Owner of Le Cheval Blanc
Provence – Alps, France
Amidst narrow streets, step through an ancient wooden door into Agnes and Eric’s lovingly renovated home. Up the handsome stone staircase to bright bedrooms with garden and village views, furnished with an eclectic mix of antiques. Cycle quiet country lanes, visit vineyards, or head for the Sault lavender fields and Luberon villages.
The ride: One of the best bike routes is The Nesque River Canyons, a 22km progressive climb in the heart of a remarkable landscape. Pass by wild canyons with magnificent rock formations, taking the time to drink in one of the most unspoilt sites of Provence. Enjoy a panoramic view over lavender fields and vineyard landscapes characteristic of the Terrasses du Ventoux.
Bike hire: Yes, can be arranged via a local cycle company
Bike storage: Yes
“Our region is the paradise for cyclists with the Mont Ventoux climb, notorious for being one of the most gruelling stages in the Tour de France. In summer about 2000 cyclists tackle the steep incline from Bedoin Malaucene or Sault.”
Eric, Owner of Le Jardin de Mazan
This traditional 18th-century Breton farmhouse has stacks of character and sits in rolling countryside, just minutes from fine beaches. Steve and Lisa, your friendly enthusiastic hosts, decamped from London to set up snug bedrooms under the eaves in nautical blue and white. Over the years Steve has arranged charity cycles all over the world and can offer advice on hundreds of routes from the front door, along with cycle hire and bike maintenance.
The ride: A 45km circuit that takes you along some fun roads and bike paths which are a dream for those with a racing bike – don’t cycle too fast though as you’ll miss some picture-perfect sights along the route. First up you’ll cycle through the small town of La Roche Bernard with clues to its maritime history everywhere. Next up is the castle of Ranrouët, a medieval fortress built in the 12th century, then it’s on to the Arzal Dam which was constructed in 1970 to allow navigation of the river at all tides.
Bike storage: Yes, along with maintenance tools
Bike hire: Can be arranged
“Whilst the Alps are a great destination for the hardcore, Brittany is a fantastic alternative as it has undulating hills plus the flats if that’s what you desire. I liken the area myself to the Downs, without the traffic!”
Steve, Owner of La Chaumine