Two English-language guidebooks for road-cycling tours in France have come out with second editions:
* Cycling France, by Ethan Gelber (Lonely Planet, 2009)
* Cycling in the French Alps, by Paul Henderson (Cicerone, 2008)
Lonely Planet Cycling France
The first edition was Sharon + my introduction to bicycling in Europe -- and we're glad for it -- our copy is torn up and dog-eared from serious use -- I've already put one of their routes into GPS format in prepartion for our next trip. Then for several years after it was very difficult to find this book for purchase, so now I'm happy to see that Lonely Planet has revived it. Though I have not yet purchased the second edition (since I didn't see any major new tours in the table of contents, and because for my riding purposes some minor improvements don't matter much). So my comments are about the first edition . . .
* Main focus is on traditional multi-day tours (mostly on-road) -- though it does have some single-day routes.
* I rarely do multi-day tours, so mostly I would use one stage day of their tour as half of my single-day loop ride -- and made up the other half of the loop from a Michelin 1:200000 paper road map.
* The guide samples a wide variety of regions in France, and each time their route (combined with my half) make a good introduction to the region.
Sometimes we afterward felt it wasn't the most enjoyable riding, but that was because we just weren't impressed with that region of France -- found out it didn't fit out style of riding -- wouldn't have known that if we hadn't tried their route.* the book also had lots of helpful ideas for mountain road riding other than the specific routes in the book -- which inspired me to do lots more research in other sources -- and led me to lots more days of interesting riding.
In our favorite regions that we've chosen to visit again, we've come up with some routes we like even better than in the book, because they fit our specific style of riding (which is not multi-day tours) even better.
regarding the new edition:
GPS: nothing in the publicity I've seen suggests that it has added anything to help GPS navigation - (though I can remember at least one time where some GPS waypoints could have helped me better follow one of the routes in the first edition). Not surprising for a print paper book.
Nevertheless, I note that the publicity for the new edition of Lonely Planet Cycling Italy does mention something about GPS. Maybe someday they'll add some helpful GPS supplements to the Lonely Planet web page for the book.French Alps - Henderson
I never owned the first edition, and only just purchased the second edition, so I have not yet tried using it. Paul Henderson also wrote a helpful guidebook for backcountry ski touring in the Savoie region of the French Alps, and I've benefited from using some of its ideas in my skiing.
* Main focus is on traditional multi-day tours (mostly on-road)
* Has some creative multi-day routes that I hadn't heard of before -- in addition to the obvious Lake Geneva to Mediterranean Sea traverse, and circuit around Mont Blanc.
* Some ideas for single-day tours - (buried in the descriptive text).
* Main focus is on climbing over things. Some mention in the prose descriptions about gentler riding available, but most of stages with turn-by-turn route descriptions include substantial climbs.
Even though there's some delightful moderate valley riding thru farms + vineyards in and around the Alps -- which some of us prize more highly than lots of the pass crossings. Of course you can't tour for a week in the Alps without some major climbs on some days, but I do think around some of the routes there were additional opportunities for gentler pretty riding. Perhaps most cycle tourists who chose to visit the Alps are not looking for that.* Looks like I could get some new ideas for single-day rides by using some of the stages in this guidebook as ideas for half of my ride. I already noticed a new idea for a section one famous loop which I'd ridden before.
* not so much additional sections (as Lonely Planet) about riding other than the routes in the book - e.g. no list of cyclosportif events + routes in the Alps (e.g. Marmottes), or Top 10 hardest climbs (better yet Top 10 prettiest climbs).
* I did enjoy learning different cultural-historical details in the descriptions -- new to me despite having spent lots of days around the French Alps.
* lots of details about riding in and out of airports, lodging for each stage of multi-day tour (not my thing)
* although the tours are described as around a week long. Looked to me on the overview maps like there would be ways to "short cut" to make a tour only half as long. (Or anyway very athletic riders could combine two stages into a single day).
* mostly no maps for the route for a single day's riding -- though each multi-day tour has an overview map. (unlike Lonely Planet which has both multi-day overview and single-day maps). My feeling is that it's easy to purchase paper maps, and that most mountain road routes have fewer choices for turns, and I've navigated all over the Alps without special guidebook map pages. Anyway there's way better technology for that nowadays . . .
* GPS: I didn't notice anything to help GPS navigation. Not surprising for a print paper book.
I'd also say this is generally not critical for riding in the Alps -- but there might be some sections (especially going thru towns) where some key GPS latitude-longitude waypoints might be pretty helpful. Maybe someday they'll add some helpful GPS supplements to the Cicerone web page for the book.Ken