Whether you’ve been inspired by the challenging climbs of the Tour de France, or just want somewhere flat and sunny to cycle with the kids, a cycling holiday in France is pretty much always a good idea!
This article will help you narrow down
Read on and start getting excited about your holiday!
1. What type of French cycling holiday do you want?
There are so many different kinds of cycling holidays in France. Choosing the right one will depend on who you’re cycling with, your fitness level and what you want to get out of your trip abroad.
Family cycling holidays
Taking the kids along on your cycling holiday is a fantastic way to enjoy time together. Whether you have teens who are confident cyclists and want to try some of the challenging climbs of the Tour de France, or a toddler in a bike trailer who’ll be happy to look at the scenery whilst munching on a French stick, cycling as a family can be great fun.
Alternatively, if the kids (or your partner!) are a bit more reluctant to get out and ride, it might be a question of fitting the cycling in around them: setting the alarm clock and getting your miles in before they’re properly up and ready for the day!
Point to point cycling through France
France has some fantastic long-distance cycle routes. The country is criss-crossed with signposted EuroVelo routes which also lead into other countries such as Spain, Italy and Belgium. With a guided point to point bike tour, your tour operator will make sure that your luggage in transported to each hotel along your route.
Another option you might want to consider, if you’re keen to cycle across France and prefer to stick to the roads, is a point-to-point road cycling trip. If you’ve got a few weeks, cycling down through the whole of France isn’t out of the question.
Cycling training camps are ideal for cyclists who want to improve their ability during the trip. Based from one central point in France, you’ll benefit from the advice of specialist guides who can offer coaching and technical tips to teach you how to ride like a pro. Whether you opt for a weekend intensive course or a two-week masterclass, the aim is to return home a more accomplished cyclist.
Tour de France bike tours
If you’re really passionate about the Tour de France, you might want to consider a Tour de France focused bike tour where you can tackle many of the most famous Tour de France climbs. Follow in the tracks of the pros as you experience what it’s like to cycle the famous mountain cols of the world’s most prestigious cycling event.
Sportive-focused bike trip
Are you ready to test yourself? Why not take part in a cyclo sportive. They often benefit from closed roads, food/water support and the buzz of riding in a peloton. We shared our pick of the best sportives in France and across Europe here.
2. Where to go for your France cycling holiday?
Once you’ve established the type of holiday that you want (as above!), the next question is where to go to get it!
For family cycling holidays go to...
Cycling families can’t go wrong with Île de Ré. This small island off the west coast of France offers the perfect cycling destination for families. Here, you’ll find miles and miles of flat, car-free dedicated cycle paths which are either sealed tarmac or smooth and stone-free dirt paths suitable for many different types of bikes.
Provence also has some fantastic cycling routes which are great for kids, such as the circular route through the vineyards of Chateauneuf du Pape.
Or, why not combine your family cycling holiday with a city break by a lake. Geneva would be a great choice for this - and there are some great family-friendly cycling paths too!
For point to point cycling through France go to...
France has several large mountain ranges - the Alps and the Pyrenees both offer great options for those looking for challenging road climbs over long distances. The Trans Pyrenees and Trans Alps are both definitely worth a look.
Alternatively, you can follow one of the international EuroVelo routes, either within France or right across Europe if you’re up for a longer adventure.
There are several Velo routes to choose from in France. EuroVelo 8, The Mediterranean Route, runs from Cadiz in Spain, all the way to Izmir in Turkey via the South of France along the Cote d’Azur.
EuroVelo 6, meanwhile, starts in Saint-Nazaire on France’s west coast and follows the Loire, the Saone and the Doubs through numerous historical cities until it reaches Switzerland at Basel, and then continues all the way to the Black Sea in Romania.
The EuroVelo website has lots more information on this.
For training camps go to...
If you’re attending a cycling training camp, you’ll ideally want to do this in the spring or autumn to tie in with your training and for the best weather in France that’s not too hot or too cold. You’ll also avoid the hustle and bustle that comes with the summer tourists.
We particularly like Nice as a training camp destination. The Côte d’Azur is a favourite with the pros and it’s easily accessible, just a 90-minute flight from London. It also offers some beautiful scenery to take your mind off the leg pain! The terrain is varied, with coastal rides as well as some steep climbs right out of the city.
For Tour de France bike tours go to...
Following the routes of the Tour de France, you can choose how much you want to do, from just one or two stages in a weekend, right up to the full 21 stages of the race over several weeks.
If you love a challenge, you’ll no doubt want to try the most famous Tour de France climbs such as Alpe d’Huez and Mont Ventoux. The Col de L’Iseran is another great option for Tour de France enthusiasts. Featured in the 2019 race, it’s the highest paved pass in the Alps and France’s longest climb.
A number of French cycling tours also include tickets to watch the Tour de France in their packages. Our article on how to plan a trip around France watching the Tour de France, might also be useful for you!
For sportive-focused bike trips go to...
France has some fantastic cyclo sportives to enter. One of the best is the Santini Gran Fondo Mont Venoux which takes you through the stunning vineyards of Provence as well as up to the top of the epic Mont Venoux.
Cycling enthusiasts will also be familiar with La Marmotte. One of the most challenging cycling events in Europe, this one-day event includes the Col du Glandon, Col du Telegraphe and Col du Galibier and finished with an ascent of the legendary Aple d’Huez.
3. Do you need a bike tour in France? If so, should you choose a supported or self-guided cycling holiday?
Once you’ve decided what kind of holiday you’re looking for, where to go to get it, you want to have a think about whether you’re going to go it alone or do it as part of an organised tour.
There are three main kinds of cycling holidays – DIY holidays, self-guided tours and guided tours. The right one for you will depends on how much support you want.
DIY cycling holidays
Doing it yourself involves being responsible for your own route planning, accommodation and all the little details. It’s the cheapest way to cycle through France, but also the no-frills option. If anything goes wrong, you’ll need to sort it out yourself.
Self-guided cycling holidays
With self-guided cycling holidays in France, you’ll usually be given maps or a GPS and a route to follow at your own pace, as well as a telephone number to call, should you need any assistance.
Guided cycling holidays
Guided cycling holidays include the services of expert local guides who cycle with you and you’ll often also have a support vehicle. Guided tours offer the peace of mind that should you need mechanical help or first aid, you’ll be well looked after.
You can read more about the different types of cycling tours here.
4. Which French cycling tour company should you use?
So you know what you want to do, where you want to go and how much support you want. You’re nearly there!
If you decided to go down the cycling tour route, you’ll want to think carefully about which company to choose.
Large vs. small companies
There’s a who spectrum of cycling tour operators in France, from one-person organisations focusing on a single area of France, to large multinational companies offering year-round cycling holidays across the globe.
There are pros and cons to each of these. Often price is a big differentiator, but also think about things like language, what level of service you expect, how much support you want with booking flights, whether you want the security of booking with an operator that’s accredited with the travel regulators in your own country (e.g. ABTA in the UK) and whether you’re happy to be in a group of people from all over the world or would rather be with people from your own country.
Whichever you choose, it’s a good idea to read as many reviews as you can.
Finding the right bike tour operator in the right destination
When it comes to France bike trips, some areas have more tour operators than others. Popular cycling routes across the Alps or in Provence have lots of choices, but in lesser-known areas of France such as Massif Central, you’ll find much more limited options.
If there’s a particular operator you like but they don’t have a trip to a destination you want to go to, then it’s always worth asking whether they could tailor make one for you. Just be aware that if it’s not a destination they’ve been to before, they may work with a local operator rather than one of their regular guides. There’s also the potential for a less seamless service.
Compare cycling tour options before you book
It’s important to compare at least two or three bike tour operators to make sure that they offer good value for money. For example, luxury cycling tour company Du Vine, offers a seven-day tour of the Alps for $4,695. However, those on a budget might prefer a similar seven-night Alpine tour with local specialist Alpine Velo for £595.
The price differences in cycling holidays with different tour operators can be substantial, so it’s important to know exactly what’s included and what will cost you extra.
More info on cycling tours in France
We’ve prepared this really useful list of questions to think about before choosing the best tour company for you – hopefully it helps narrow down the selection!
We hope you've found our article helpful? Have you got any additional tips for picking a cycling holiday in France? Or for picking a French bike tour? Let us know in the comments below!
If you want to spend more time browsing the cycling in different areas of France, head to our France destination page, where you'll find links to in-depth guides to loads of France's best cycling regions.
We've mentioned them above, but in case it's helpful, the following articles might be useful to you:
our (impartial) pick of the best Provence cycling tours
our (impartial) pick of the best Alps bike tours
An (unbiased) comparison of 10 top companies with cycling tours in France