Why Cycle in France?

The answer to this question should be obvious. You enjoy riding your bike . . . whether you’re a hard-core racer, recreational rider, or somewhere in between (like me). And if you’re also like me you love watching the Tour de France – as much for the beauty of the French mountains and countryside as the drama of the race.

As an aside, I first fell in love with “Le Tour” in the summer of 1987 when I was studying at Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland. It just so happened that an Irishman, Stephen Roche, won the Tour that year and so there was live coverage from start to finish. (Not to mention the victory parade in Dublin, where reportedly 1 million people showed up in his honor.)

If you’ve ever watched the Tour de France or seen any pictures you know that the French countryside is spectacular.  But what you may not realize is that cycling is the lifeblood of many of the towns near on and around the most famous mountains of the Tour de France.

Bourg d’Oisans is a good example. In this beautiful town at the base of Alpe d’Huez, there are cyclists everywhere – in the restaurants and shops, on the roads around town and, of course, there is a steady stream of cyclists on the 21 switchbacks of the mountain itself. This may be a more extreme example, but in my experience the same is true around most of the mountains in France – it’s difficult to find a road obscure enough during summer that there aren’t any other cyclists.

You may have heard that the French are not known for their patience, but that has not been my experience at all. In fact, I’ve had cars wait patiently behind me on narrow (single car width) roads for 20-30 minutes! When was the last time you had that experience in the States? And I can’t recall a single instance when a driver honked their horn at me in France – again, not my experience in riding throughout the US.

Last but certainly not least is the food. One of the real advantages of a cycling vacation is the ability to eat whatever you want, in just about whatever quantities you want. French food is amazing, and many restaurants in cycling areas have a “velo menu” for all the nutrition and energy your body needs. French sweets, breads, and cheeses in particular are incredible!

And if you like wine, France has some incredible wines, including the very reasonably priced Cote du Rhones from the region near Mt. Ventoux. Oftentimes you can buy a good bottle of wine with dinner for less than a bottle of water or soda! There are certainly more expensive options too, like phenomenal red wines from the Bordeaux and Chateauneuf-du-Pape regions.  (To learn more about French wines, visit one or more of the numerous online resources on French wines, including Wine Searcher at http://www.wine-searcher.com/regions-france.)

More detailed information is available in the Food and Wine section of each regional guide.