France is a perfect country for riding bikes. There is a wide range of terrain types and diverse geographical regions that offer their individual experiences.
Riding on French Roads
The roads are safe – motorists are used to cyclists and share the road politely and sensibly. There is always a quiet country road to relax on which can be taken rather the the direct busy road used by people in a hurry.
There is a fantastic cameraderie between cyclists in France – with a “Bonjour” or “Bon route” being standard as you pass a fellow cyclist.
GPS and Phone
Often French bike tracks have GPS files you can download and use on your own GPX app – these can keep you on track to the metre. It is important to have a good attachment for your mobile on your handlebars – good visibility of the phone and map is invaluable when navigating.
Types of Roads and Traffic Rules
Roads in France are great for bike riding ….if you avoid the frenetic Auto Routes and busy busy National Roads. Smaller Departmental roads and Communal roads will usually offer the chance to ride from village to village with only a few cars (always travelling slowly) to encounter. Traffic Rules in France are very much the same as in all countries. Basically – don’t do stupid things. Below are two downloadable PDF files related to Cyclists on Road Rules and Signposting.
What Bike To Use ?
You will see cyclists utilising all the variation of bikes. Road bikes are widely used for touring, hybrid and mountain bikes less so. Increasingly more and more electric bikes are joining the experience. Road bikes make great tourers however, we prefer to use mountain bikes for our touring as the larger diameter tyres “should” have less susceptability to punctures and many of the marked bike tracks have sections of gravel or rocky paths which mountain bikes handle with ease while road bikes struggle.
A Gel Pad can be a welcome addition to the bike saddle especially if travelling long distances.
Helmets are compulsory for cyclists under 12 however, we would recommend that a helmet is worn… a comfy, well-fitted helmet is not a burden and are worth the slight discomfort. Some roads and gutters become very slippery when wet especially the pedestrian/bike only ones or roads with angled marble type gutters.
Maintenance of bikes
If your bike is well maintained before your trip, you should not need any work done on your bike for the duration of a short tour. However, you may need to make slight adjustments to spoke tightness, brake blocks/callipers or cables – or, if very unlucky, adjustments to the derailuers.
Handlebar and seat adjustment
Have your Allan Key tool handy during the first ride of the tour to make quick adjustments to the set-up of the handlebars, seat, etc as the settings made during the re-assembly are often slightly off. We usually factor in time on the first day of our holiday for a short “shake down” ride before setting off the next day.
Bike Shops – for repairs or equipment
There are Bike Shops in most major towns – a quick Google search will find them if you are unlucky enough to need major repairs.
Insurance for bikes
In our experience, insurance for your bike is often NOT worth the money. Most insurance companies will have a very small fine print clause which states that cover is void unless the bike is in your room and locked and you are watching over it 24 hrs. a day.
Spoiler Alert – We had our three bikes stolen from a locked post (where many bikes and scooters were parked) outside a 24 hr. hotel reception. Despite Police Reports and documents from the hotel detailing how the hotel and rooms were too small to allow bikes inside, the insurance company refused to honour the claim.
The overall pleasure of you tour will be enhanced if you start the tour healthy, fit and prepared. This doesn’t mean that only those who ride high k’s every day can get by… a few gentle rides a week should have you in good enough condition to ride 30-40 km a day. Because villages are so close, you CAN stop every so often to get a coffee or drink – so we’re not advocating busting a gut to get anywhere!
It is important to ensure your bike / bikes are correctly set-up for your body size as this directly impacts on the level of enjoyment while riding and your ability to maintain a reasonable speed over a longer ride. A few simple adjustments to saddle height, handlebar post height can make a world of difference. This link to the Physiopaedia site has an article by a physiotherapist about simple bike-fit set up.