Cycling in Nice and the French Riviera is a brilliant experience. The coastline is gorgeous, there are mountains on the doorstep, and you’ll find great food and culture in abundance.
You can find our tried and tested routes, downloads and everything else you might want to know about cycling Nice in our comprehensive ultimate guide.
Here are our best 15 tips to help you plan an amazing trip and have an unforgettable time for all the right reasons!
PREPARATION FOR CYCLING NICE, FRANCE
1. Choose the right gearing. The climbs around Nice are generally not that steep, but they do tend to be long, and it gets hot in the summer sun. A semi-compact 52-36 is probably okay if you’re fit and experienced in the mountains. However, most riders will prefer a compact 50-34 chainset with a 11-28t cassette. A cassette with a 30 or 32 tooth sprocket would give you even more flexibility.
2. Get some training in before your trip. Unless you stick to the coastline, roads around Nice and the French Riviera are rarely flat. Once you’ve left the coastline, roads start undulating and gradients start to rise. To get the most enjoyment from your trip, do some training before you arrive. Or set your expectations at a realistic level in terms of PBs and Strava records!
3. Bring enough spares and know how to use them: The area has a reasonable number of bike shops, but it’s best not to get caught short. Essentials include spare tubes, tyre levers, and a pump or CO2 canisters, plus a puncture repair kit and versatile multi-tool. You may even want to bring a toolkit for more serious repairs.
4. Fuelling: many of the larger villages you pass through will offer some sort of refuelling option, but it’s best to be self-sufficient as far as possible. Eat and drink before you start climbing and keep a gel or high-energy snack in your back pocket (these are some of our favourites).
5. Check your bike: if you’re taking your own bike, check it over and consider having it serviced before leaving home. If you’re renting a bike, take a look at our questions to ask before hiring a bike.
6. Plan your routes before you visit. Our ultimate guide to cycling Nice and the French Riviera contains loads of information on routes we love. We hope they mean you get to sample all the best bits of the area without having to spend ages researching. You can even use our free GPX downloads.
7. Familiarise yourself with the route before you ride it. Take a look at the maps and route profiles, so you know what to expect and what you’re letting yourself in for. Think about how long each climb should take, where you plan to refuel and any shortcuts you might take if things don’t go to plan.
8. Debris and obstacles. We found the roads to generally be in pretty decent condition, certainly compared to the UK! However, as is often the case, higher up in the mountains on the lesser known roads (e.g. top of Col de la Madone and Col de Turini) we found the road surface could be a bit bumpy and broken with lots of debris. On the road down to the River Var (on our Col de Vence ride), we came across enormous boulders in the road (see photo below)! Others report goats and cows on the roads too… Take care and check http://www.inforoutes06.fr/fr/ before you head out (it has details of road closures, diversions etc for the department).
Best time to cycle
9. Mountain weather. The French Riviera coast is well-known for its good weather. The mountains inland benefit from this but bear in mind that the temperature drops with altitude and distance from the sea. It’s perfectly possible to start a ride by the sea in the sunshine and then get caught in the clouds at 1,000m. Pack accordingly.
10. There may be snow. The highest mountain within a day’s ride of Nice is the Col de Turini. Its summit is at 1,600 m, and it can be bitterly cold up there even when it’s sunny on the coast. When we visited in early April, we were basking in the sunshine in Nice but found ourselves surrounded by banked up snow and people skiing at the Col de Turini pass. While the mountain roads generally remain open all year around, it’s important to have some cold weather gear in your back pocket.
11. Be aware of the French Highway Code and the rules for cycling in France before you go. This is a useful summary and these are the specific rules for cyclists. Also know that some equipment is obligatory for cyclists. The pictogram below summarises what you need to avoid being fined. We rarely see road cyclists in France with lights or bells, and we ourselves have never had any problems, but it's best to be aware of the rules and make your own decision.
12. Suncream and water. Take enough of both with you on the bike. And use them! Sunburn is horrible. Heatstroke can come on quickly and is very scary.
13. Cramp.We always take electrolyte tablets for our water bottle; we find they help stave off cramp.
14. Ride with a friend. It makes a long ride more fun, and if something goes wrong, there’s someone there to help you out.
15. Remember the essentials. Don’t forget the obvious stuff: money, ID and your phone. Lights are also sensible in case you come across an unexpected unlit tunnel or get caught in bad weather (not to mention the fact they're a legal requirement - more info in point 11 above!).
Been cycling around Nice and got some additional tips? Please comment below!