Ten Tips: How to Bike Through France

by Bert Maxwell / Nov 23, 2013 /
Bert Maxwell's picture

Is it your dream to bike through France? It can be an incredible, life-changing experience – if you’ve got the right bike, and a good plan. There's nothing worse than trying something (bucket-list worthy) and failing. Consider self-guided cycling holidays in France. Everything is provided – bikes (!), luggage transfers, accommodation, route information, etc. All you have to do is pedal, and enjoy yourself.With proper planning, you'll have a fantastic bike journey through France - one that you'll talk about so much that you'll have to go do it again. Pick your travel partners, save your money, and read on...

Here are ten tips on how to bike through France

Canal des Ardennes à Omicourt.

Canal des Ardennes à Omicourt. Wikimedia Commons: Havang(nl)

1.    Decide where to go. Instead of saying, Oh, we’ll bike France, pick a route and stick to it!  What do you want to see? What kind of terrain are you comfortable biking? Do you want to avoid cities?

2.    Decide how long you can bike every day. Do you need to go short distances each day, or are you a long haul kind of person? Learn the rules of the road!

3.    Decide when to go! The weather in different parts of France can be quite diverse, and then there’s the seasons. Do your due diligence in weather research before you commit.

Near Sancerre tandem bicycle riding a hill.

Near Sancerre tandem bicycle riding a hill. Wikimedia Commons: Cjp24

4.    Learn the language. Some basic French will get you far. And, in addition to learning the regular beginning words, learn some bike words, in case you need help with your bike. There’s a good guide here: http://about-france.com/tourism/cycling-holidays.htm

5.    Know the hours. Europe does not run 24/7 like in the USA. Shops are often closed in the afternoon, almost everything is closed on Sundays. Shop accordingly.

Mercury (Saône-et-Loire, Fr) church and war memorial.

Mercury (Saône-et-Loire, Fr) church and war memorial. Wikimedia Commons: Havang(nl)

6.    Use the right bikes. If you prefer to bike tandem, find one (or bring your own). Prefer the recumbent bike, or a mountain bike, or a road bike? Ascertain your terrain and your needs, then rent (or bring) the bikes you need.

7.    If you prefer to go it without help, you’ll need to figure out how to get your bikes to France, pack camping gear or ascertain lodging every x# of miles, etc.

8.    Prepare your body. Don’t expect to just bike 10, 15, 100 km a day without preparation. Your body will not last this way. Start biking in earnest, every day, a few months before you go. That way, the trip will be about the experience, not about your body hurting on the road.

9.    Pack the right clothes. Test them out beforehand – do the seams chafe? Does the fabric wick away moisture? Do you have lightweight rain gear, just in case?

10.    Learn how to do basic repairs on your bike (and pack a basic repair kit). From a flat tire to a chain falling off, you’ll need to know how to fix it, in case your bike has a problem on some rural road in the middle of nowhere (well, in the middle of nowhere in France). Be your own mechanic!

 

That’s it! Enjoy your time in France, following your nose to the best bistros and cafes, discovering local treasures, and meeting cool people along the way. Report back, will you? We'd love to share your bike journeys with our readers.

Bikes in Strasbourg

Bikes in Strasbourg. Wikimedia Commons: Ignaz Wiradi