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  1. #1
    KingoftheMountain wannabe Savagewolf's Avatar
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    Where to cycle in France in winter?

    The Miss and I are planning a trip to France next winter. Well, she is and wants me to go along. I would much rather go in summertime so I can enjoy some of the famous French climbs but that isn't a possibility in the near future due to various circumstances.

    My question is this: Are there decent places to cycle near Paris or easily traveled to in the dead of winter? Ideally, I'd love to climb some of the places I only get to see on tv during the tour, but I can't imagine that's a possibility with snow and the like.

    Thank you for your help.

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    Not sure why you're so focused on the climbs, since most of the better road-cycling in France is not the big climbs.

    Sharon and I found some of nice riding in the region around Paris [ report ]. There's a map of bicycling routes, something like "l'Ile de France a Velo".
    You could also try riding in the city of Paris itself [ our story ] - (least traffic on Sunday morning). Not my favorite city for riding -- I like it better for walking or skating.
    That was in July. I'm sure there are days in winter when the region around Paris is ridable if you bring warm cycling clothing (like you can buy in serious USA cycling shops and websites). But France is a big place, so when we go there closer to winter, we've enjoyed doing rides in its warmer regions around . . .

    Marseille + Nice.
    See this report about some pretty + interesting riding in the mountains around Nice.

    Ken
    Last edited by Ken Roberts; 12-13-07 at 07:40 AM. Reason: add a link

  3. #3
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    I should never ride in France in winter, the weather is too unpredictable.
    For climbing: take the Eiffel Tower.
    But if you insist: go to the Tours-Loches-Romarantin area. Visit Amboise and Blois if you like historical sites. And so on.

  4. #4
    Member grkeller's Avatar
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    vallee de chevreuse

    hello,
    the best place to ride close to Paris is the Vallee de Chevreuse - southwest of Paris
    beyond Versailles. Sunday mornings every biker from the area is out there. Beautiful
    countryside and a few decent, short climbs.
    Lemond Croix de Fer
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  5. #5
    Junior Member pmanley's Avatar
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    Paris is a big city and like most big cities it has plenty of traffic and is probably best avoided for winter cycling. However, it shouldn't be difficult to get your bikes on a train and get out into the counrtyside. Sorry but there are no Tour de France mountains close to Paris. However, France has plenty of quiet roads for cycling and the weather can be very mild in winter. I live in the foothills of the Pyrenees 60km south of Toulouse. Although the weather here can be wet and cold in the winter, we do have many long dry spells with plenty of afternoon sunshine. Temperatures are mild and some of the more hardy cyclists brave it in shorts. Check out my website for more details on the area where I live. Good luck with the holiday.
    Regards
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    Petites Pyrenees Couladere
    http://www.petitespyrenees.net

  6. #6
    Gios
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    Europe

    I live in Europe, but spent a week in Normandie last December - not too cold, and fabulous riding.

    It depends on the weather, but if it's not too cold, you could just about go anywhere in France for fabulous riding. Obviously, the further south the warmer/better, and perhaps avoid Bretagne ...

    As for the climbs .. if there's no snow/ice, even some of those are possible. I've done things like Ballon d'Alsace (OK, not a mega climb!) in the middle of winter. Even Mt Ventoux in November was doable on days when the wind wasn't too ferocious - rug up for the descent though!

    Alternatively, come visit us in Belgium - all the classic rides/climbs are doable year-round!

    B

  7. #7
    Senior Member cyclezealot's Avatar
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    Savage. We live in Roussillon . Much of France is unpredictable. Roussillon in mid winter offers the best climate for all of France. We do grow oranges here, so can't be all that bad. They say we get a snow about every fifth year. Pretty much our weather is like Barcelona's , which is about a two hour drive. / October is actually the wettest month. The biggest winter hassle is the Tremont winds. They can blow at 60 mph and in winter maybe they get pretty bad like 6 times a month and can last for as long as three days. A prediction. I'd say in January you can cycle 20 days out of 30. Average day temperature about 50-55. I am told there have been Christmas' where it is possible to eat outside. Rarely does it get below 35.
    The Riverra, further to the east is similiar , but the winds are the Mistals, and they blow far more often than the 'Tremonts,' and are colder.

  8. #8
    Rather be touring
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    It's not close to Paris, but if you can get away for a few days, Corsica is second to none. You can find plenty of climbing and fantastic scenery there in a lovely Mediterranean climate (just right in the winter). The people are a little, well, insular, and the local food is fresh from the farm. Otherwise the south-eastern coast (outside of Nice) gets another vote from me. I have toured both places in the winter. Nice is nice, but Corsica is fantastic!

  9. #9
    Senior Member cyclezealot's Avatar
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    I have never been to the area about Nice in winter. But, in Summer it is ridicilously congested and expensive. Maybe winter is different. The Riviera climate is pretty tame, unless the Misterals are blowing. you normally will get by with a good base layer,arm & leg warmers, and a wind jacket. Winter cycling garb not normally needed.

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    Winter Cycling in South France

    Further down the Pyrenees does not get snow. I suggest the Aude region of South France. You can fly into Carcassonne and Perpignan Airport on low cost Ryan Air. The Aude region is not only famous for the Tour de France but also the Tour de Aude which is the Ladies International Championship. Cols by the dozen including less hard rides. During winter the days are sunny and at night it gets cold. A quick search on Google revealed several Cycle routes and further information that may be of interest for winter cycling in the South of France http://www.southfrancehols.com/cycling/Cycle-Routes

  11. #11
    Senior Member cyclezealot's Avatar
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    Stephan . Your link won't open..A am anxious to see it.. At least for the Winter, Ryan air has discontinued flight to Perpignan.. Here in Roussillon. It's rare we even get a frost , but winter's strong winds can be more of a problem than the cold temperatures..
    I find if you leave slightly later in the AM, normally you won't even need a winter jackets.. A good base layer and arm warmers will do, because mid day temps' are usually no lower than the mid 50's..
    Pray for the Dead and Fight like Hell for the Living






    ^ Since January 1, 2012

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    Yes, Sharon + I found some nice riding around Roussillon a couple years ago. We've also enjoyed riding on the island of Corsica / Corse in November -- but seems like they're running fewer winter ferries now. And riding the hills just north of Nice in November is something I'd gladly repeat (along with skating along the beach and the old city at night).

    Next time in November, I think Sharon and I are planning to focus more around Aix + Marseille because we think there's more range of different kinds of riding (and hiking) than around Nice - (that is, not just good hilly rides). I just ordered a detailed 1:25000 map for around Aix so we do better at finding little roads with less traffic. And we'll also drive with our bike to other areas ranging from flat to moderate hilliness. I think one of the nice things about Aix is that it's got good car roads for getting us and our bike quickly to a wide variety of interesting cycling + hiking.

    Ken

  13. #13
    Gios
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken Roberts View Post
    Next time in November, I think Sharon and I are planning to focus more around Aix + Marseille because we think there's more range of different kinds of riding (and hiking) than around Nice - (that is, not just good hilly rides). I just ordered a detailed 1:25000 map for around Aix so we do better at finding little roads with less traffic. And we'll also drive with our bike to other areas ranging from flat to moderate hilliness. I think one of the nice things about Aix is that it's got good car roads for getting us and our bike quickly to a wide variety of interesting cycling + hiking.Ken
    I've spent quite a bit of time in/around Aix, as my wife often works there. Wonderful place to visit/be, but I don't know that I'd put the riding on the same level. There aren't that many possibilities I found, the roads are pretty rough, and it's pretty built-up traffic-wise (especially south and west). It depends though on what you're looking for.

    My 2 cents!

    B

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    Quote Originally Posted by bing181 View Post
    I've spent quite a bit of time in/around Aix, as my wife often works there. Wonderful place to visit/be, but I don't know that I'd put the riding on the same level. There aren't that many possibilities I found, the roads are pretty rough, and it's pretty built-up traffic-wise (especially south and west). It depends though on what you're looking for.
    Thanks for the assessment: so maybe I won't look too hard right near Aix itself.
    (Last time we did ride a loop east around Mt Ste-Victoire which seemed decent: considering it was cloudy drizzly day and we couldn't see much.)
    So instead we'll start more of our rides by first driving somewhere, and take advantage Aix being intersected by some fast autoroutes: flat riding to SW on the Camargue, moderate hills with villages in various areas to the north to the E of Avignon + Orange, or even Mont Ventoux for a big + great climb. And some amazing hiking S in the Calanques.
    My problem with being based instead around Nice is that most of the good riding seems to be on substantial hills -- even if I drive somewhere first. Sharon and I do like riding hills, but also like riding rolling farmland + vineyards -- and we like to have choice.

    Ken

  15. #15
    Senior Member cyclezealot's Avatar
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    Riding the Coasts of Provence won't be so bad this time of year. The tourists have thinned out..
    But, for the best hilly rides in the countryside.I'd research the area from Aix to Apt and Avignon to Vaison le Romaine and everything in between.
    ...The book, "A Year in Provence " was not centered in this region without cause.. Specifically in the town of Bonnieux. Bonnieux. Quite cycling friendly. Pass through Bonnieux, you soon understand why it was chosen..
    Pray for the Dead and Fight like Hell for the Living






    ^ Since January 1, 2012

  16. #16
    Gios
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken Roberts View Post
    Thanks for the assessment: so maybe I won't look too hard right near Aix itself.
    (Last time we did ride a loop east around Mt Ste-Victoire which seemed decent: considering it was cloudy drizzly day and we couldn't see much.)
    So instead we'll start more of our rides by first driving somewhere, and take advantage Aix being intersected by some fast autoroutes: flat riding to SW on the Camargue, moderate hills with villages in various areas to the north to the E of Avignon + Orange, or even Mont Ventoux for a big + great climb. And some amazing hiking S in the Calanques.
    My problem with being based instead around Nice is that most of the good riding seems to be on substantial hills -- even if I drive somewhere first. Sharon and I do like riding hills, but also like riding rolling farmland + vineyards -- and we like to have choice.
    Yes, done the Ste Victoire loop myself. Bumpy roads is what I mainly remember, but otherwise v. nice. As for driving .. also useful, and I've twice done Ventoux while staying in Aix. But as has been pointed out, and you probably know already, there's a heap of riding there once you get more in the direction of Apt, Avignon etc. Carmargue, not so sure. Bloody windy is my main recollection of a week's stay down that way!

    Enjoy.

    B

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    Savagewolf--the issue will be darkness in the winter. It gets dark in Paris around 3pm, light around 9am in the winter.

    I love urban riding, and I have had delightful times riding in Paris itself and in the Bois de Vincennes and Bois de Boulogne. But bring lights if you are planning to ride at any other time than in the middle of the day.

  18. #18
    Senior Member cyclezealot's Avatar
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    Tulip. Can't speak for Paris.. Yes, I miss daylight savings time. All winter long.. I hate the long , dark nights.. In the south we apparently get a couple more hours of light than Paris..
    This graph shows we have light from approximately 8 am to 6 pm.. About the same amount of daylight one gets in the latitude of New York.. .
    Not enough for someone who has a hard time starting a ride before 9 AM..
    One benefit of being a late riser. By 11 AM, the winter temps are usually somewhere near 50 degrees or more.

    http://www.gaisma.com/en/location/perpignan.html
    Pray for the Dead and Fight like Hell for the Living






    ^ Since January 1, 2012

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    I just noticed this thread is about 2 years old. Oh well, it's always fun talking about riding in France.

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by cyclezealot View Post
    About the same amount of daylight one gets in the latitude of New York
    Actually a bit less daylight than New York. Interesting that no part of mainland France is as far south as New York City. (Marseille is north not just of NYC, but of Boston)
    And no part of mainland France is as far south as California, USA.
    If the southern coast of France were on the Pacific coast of North America, it would all be in Oregon.
    Paris is significantly farther north than Montreal Canada. But France has the warm Gulf Stream current to warm the air nearby.
    Sharon and I would not be going bicycling in southern France in late November if it were not for the Mediterranean Sea. One reason we're going to base near Aix instead of farther north where there's a larger concentration of nice road-bicycling, is to stay in range of the water, so we can hike + ride there (like this) on days when it's cold further inland.

    But while the warm water nearby does warm the air, it does not add hours of daylight for riding. So if we want to do longer rides in late November in France, we have to plan for how early to start, which can mean real warm clothing (and serious commitment) for early morning.

    Ken

  21. #21
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    Where to Cycle in France

    The link for cycle routes in South France
    http://www.cycling.southfrancehols.com/index.html
    just copy and paste it into your browse search box

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