Whether you are new to the art of leisurely cycling or you are a hardcore fan with years of experience, not many things can beat the sheer exhilaration of cycling maniacally from point A to B. Although there are many beautiful cycling routes across the UK, just across the sea, a short train or ferry ride away, the country of France is well renowned for its long winding countryside and beautiful iconic scenery and is ideal for a long bike ride.
Although the whole of France is idyllic for cycling and is well known for the Tour De France, the South of France boasts some beautiful coastline cycle routes as well as mild climates and gorgeous Mediterranean weather during the summer months. We’ll have a look at some of the best places to go cycling in the South of France during the summer, whether you have booked a hotel for a weekend away, hopped over on a ferry or you have a regular holiday home in France.
Cycling Rules in France
It is important to be aware of the rules for cycling along various cycle routes and for off road cycling as your safety is important at all times. Cycling for leisure is a well loved pastime in France but it is not as easy to cycle as it once might have been, therefore it is important to make sure you’re familiar with the rules and the possible dangers of cycling.
In order to be ‘road legal’ in France a bike must be equipped with a bell and fully functioning breaks. Should you be travelling after dark the bike is required to have reflectors and front and rear lights. Although helmets are not mandatory when riding in France it is strongly advisable to use them for your safety.
Cyclists may only ride two abreast during the daylight hours and in urban areas cyclists must use the marked cycle lanes where available. If travelling during the evening or at night cyclists must wear a high-visibility waistcoat.
Cyclists must obey all traffic signs and signals including ‘stop’, ‘no entry’ and ‘one way’ signs in the same way as other road users. Likewise the restrictions for drinking alcohol and cycling also carry the same limits as other road users.
When it comes to taking your bike on the train there is some confusion as to whether or not there is a charge for taking a bike. To avoid having to pay a fee, take a lightweight bike bag where you can safely store your bicycle as this will count as ordinary luggage and therefore you will not be charged any extra fees.
Carcassonne for cyclists
Carcassonne is a fortified city located right in the South of France and although not a typical cycle route it makes for some great views if you want to explore the town by bike. The city is split into two areas, the older citadel part of Carcassonne, and the newer, slightly sleepy town that sits below the citadel.
Carcassonne citadel itself is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and it has a vast medieval defence system which has been restored by the renowned Gothic Revival architect Eugene Viollet le Duc as well as its ancient gothic cathedral and reinforced castle. The huge medieval citadel looming over the ‘new’ town makes it the second most visited tourist spot after the Eiffel Tower, and its narrow streets make cycling through the city a treat. If you want a place to take a break and enjoy some good food, take a trip into the new town, however the main sites are in the citadel.
If you’re in Carcassonne for more than a day why not visit some of the surrounding villages? Some of the local vineyards offer tasting sessions and further South lies the Corbieres region which is dotted with idyllic villages as well as beautiful medieval castles and abbeys.
Cycling in Arcachon
A beautiful coastal town, Arcachon boasts over 125 miles of cycle paths around the bay and throughout the countryside surrounding Arcachon. Bicycling provides an excellent alternative to a bus tour of the town so you can view it all at your own pace.
If you happen to have forgotten your bike, Arcachon has over 35 bike hire points available dotted throughout the town. You can cycle around the bay or enjoy the forest scenery by cycling through the Porge forest. Or how about a cycle ride through the Winter Town, where the iconic house designs and street layouts helped to prevent outbreaks of tuberculosis as a result of high winds back in the day.
Should you need to take a break from cycling, visit the Baltard Covered Market for a look into traditional French markets, with fish and grocery stall owners hawking their wares and a number of beautiful handmade souvenirs ready to be picked up by keen tourists!
Cycling across France, whether you are on your own, on a romantic getaway or planning on taking your children out for a trip, can be enthralling if you know where to go. With a great number of fantastic cycling routes across France and countless beautiful villages, stretches of countryside and castles and abbeys dotted around the country, you’ll be glad you hopped on the train with your bicycle, even if it is only for a day or two.