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France route suggestions/questions

Old 03-20-09, 05:23 PM
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France route suggestions/questions


General route on Google Maps


That's the general route we're planning on taking, starting in Lyon, we're going to take the train to paris at the end of the tour too. This is probalby happening at the start of July.

It's currently ~1300k, which is a bit long (~2 week trip), but a bit shorter might be nicer (more days to look at stuff). I'm not worrying too much about that because we might be able to take >2weeks, or cover part of the trip with a train ride.

The route is based around the general regions that i found sound cool based on googling, with a few specific places to visit.
The main sites that it's based on are:
-The grenoble area
-A bit of riding in the alps
-Pont du Gard
-riding by/along the river tarn
-visiting to Carcassonne
-Checking out various towns in the Montaubon area
-Riding by the atlantic

With that general route, are there any "must-see" places along the way that i'm missing?
Or are any of my "places to see" not that great, and my time would be better spent somewhere else? (Carcassonne is sort of out of the way, but looks so cool)

A few other specific questions:
-How hard is riding places like Alp D'huez? (fully loaded touring). I don't have much mountain riding experience, so I don't know if it's silly to even attempt it.
-There's a road that follows the river tarn fairly closely, is it good for riding?
-The route completely skips the very south coast, which i've heard isn't great for riding because it's overbuilt, although it does sound nice to visit. Are there any sections that aren't overbuilt? Is it worth swinging by a city like Nice or Marseille for a day even if it is crappy riding?
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Old 03-20-09, 05:44 PM
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Look like a nice route, some parts are similar to what I want to do in September. I have no idea how hard it is to ride the Alps, but it is something I want to try one day. My route is going to start in Ardennes, or maybe Lyon, and continue to Claremont-Ferrand through the volcanoes of Auvergne and then on south through Massif Central towards the Gorge du Tarn. After that I am open, likely going to go towards Bordeuax also. Of course, I have a little more time than you, although I may have to take a break halfway to look for an apartment.

The riding along the Tarn seems good. See my thread here https://www.bikeforums.net/touring/514701-touring-france-atlas-route-questions.html

I have also heard the south is really built up. Also, the tourist traffic is heavy in that area. I have a large map of all of france that show which areas have heavy traffic during the tourist season, it's nice information. For example, no one takes their holiday in Ardennes, so it is dead traffic wise all throughout the holiday season.
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Old 03-20-09, 06:16 PM
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I've got quite a few comments.

I don't think the ride from Lyon to Grenoble will be particularly interesting. Why do you want to go to Grenoble? It's not a quaint mountain town. It's a large city at the base of the Alps. Although the "vieille ville" (old city) portion of town is nice, I wouldn't go out of my way to visit it.

If you don't have much mountain experience, you would probably find Alpe d'Huez exhausting. BTW, I've biked over the Col du Lauteret from Briancon to Grenoble. It's a fairly easy pass (at least in that direction) and has great scenery and a fantastic descent from the col west to Grenoble because it's not too steep and you can coast without having to brake. Just sit back and enjoy the scenery. As you get closer to Grenoble, however, it flattens out and even gets somewhat industrial near Grenoble.

The portion from Avignon to Carcassone is all nice. The Pont du Gard is very much worth seeing. I biked across it, but I have a feeling they don't allow traffic on it anymore. The river was nice for swimming at that time, too, and you could swim under the aqueduct.

The road along the Tarn is great for cycling, though traffic will be an issue in July. You'll have a serious climb to get from the Pont du Gard across the Cevennes mountains to the Tarn gorge. A route like the Corniche des Cevennes (Anduze to Florac, I believe) would be as much of a challenge as an average alpine pass, but it's a beautiful ride. You can avoid it by going slightly south along the southern base of the Cevennes toward Millau, but you would miss both the fine scenery of the Cevennes as well as the Tarn gorge.

A must-see would be the stunning new bridge high over the Tarn a bit west of Millau. It's part of an autoroute so it's closed to cyclists, but you can still see it. If you do cross the Cevennes and find yourself near a cave called Aven Armand as you approach the Tarn gorge, it's very much worth visiting that spectacular and enormous cavern.

Carcassonne is worthwhile though somewhat touristy. Castres and Albi are both pleasant towns. If you like the paintings and drawings of Toulouse-Lautrec, don't miss the museum in Albi.

The French Riviera is to be avoided by bikes in the summer. Tons of traffic and overly built up.

Toulouse is a fairly nice city but it will be hot in July. Bordeaux is pretty dull, IMO.

What's the attraction of Montauban? I'm unfamiliar with the Garonne valley west of Toulouse. I've biked north of there, as well as south of there in the Pyrenees. Both of those regions are wonderful.

Twice I have biked from Lyon west across Auvergne and the Massif Central to the Dordogne & Lot valleys, though my routes were different each time. Auvergne is great for touring. Nice scenery of ancient volcanoes and very quiet roads. When you leave it and enter the Dordogne valley, the contrast in scenery is amazing. I've got to admit that I've got a bias for the Dordogne/Lot region. It's my absolute favorite place anywhere for touring. Delightful scenery, lots of different things to see (e.g. caves, castles, medieval villages), and a great network of quiet roads if you can read a map well. Also some of the best food in France. It's a nice ride down the Dordogne valley to Bordeaux, going through some of the best-known vineyards as you approach Bordeaux.

Would you consider taking a train to cover some ground? It's often very easy to take bikes on regional trains in France. For example, it you wanted to do your ride as far as Toulouse, you could then take a train north to Cahors (in the Lot valley) or Souillac (in the Dordogne valley) and have a great route to Bordeaux. Alternatively, if you don't want to take a train and can live without visiting Carcassonne & Toulouse, I can give you a fantastic route from Albi to Bordeaux (I did it in the other direction).
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Old 03-20-09, 06:36 PM
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I did some of your route only in the opposite direction. I went from West to East, through the Dordogne and Lot valleys and then along your route through the Tarn Gorge. Instead of heading down the road from there, I turned along the Jonte Gorge and then up and over on the Corniche du Cevannes, which was a hard day's ride.

It looked to me that once you got past La Rozier and headed down, you needed to be careful to stay clear of the main roads as they are frequented by tourist buses taking to/from the Gorges du Tarn. I happened to go down the gorge in the later afternoon (around 4pm) after all the tourist buses were done for the day. But, this meant that I didn't spend the night in St. Enimie, which I'd recommend. Then, you could get out an on the highway early enough in the day to miss the buses. Buses and other traffic on the road in the Tarn Gorge would greatly "tarn"ish the experience.

Here is a link to my journal for the French trip I took in May, 2008: https://www.biketouringtips.com/showJ...=threadEntries

Have a great trip!

Ray

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Old 03-20-09, 08:23 PM
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Great info, thanks.

I had read that there was old towns and castles around montobaun, but now it sounds like they're north in the Dordogne area. There isn't anything specific in bordeaux that we were looking forward to besides biking by the atlantic, so it looks like it's worth cutting, and going straight north to the Dordogne area, and if we cut out Carcassonne, could make it to Auvergne.

We don't have a problem taking a train to cut part of the trip, we were originally thinking of biking to Nice, then taking a train west to get out of the built up area. I'm still considering visiting the Nice area just for a day, walking around, and then leaving by train. (maybe flying into france through Nice)

We were originally planning on starting in Lyon because the flights there were cheaper than other towns, but they're so much cheaper to Paris we could just fly there, and take a train to wherever. (We'll be flying to france from Helsinki, then out to Toronto).

We do want to see the alps, but I happen to be the weakest climber of all of us going because i'm heavier (3 of us going), and i'm the only one with a full touring bike/4 panniers, so I might end up carrying the most . It sounds like they're doable, just hard, so maybe it's better to do the tour in reverse and finish with the alps, so I don't get rocked right off the bat.


New general route
~1000k, would be ~1200k if we dipped south to Carcassonne.

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Old 03-20-09, 09:07 PM
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Biking to Nice through the Maritime Alps would be fine. However, it would not be easy, especially to start with. You'd have to cross several passes. Nice is a very pleasant city with several interesting things to see. However, traffic is awful as soon as you leave if you try to bike along the coast. Taking a train from Nice toward Avignon (possibly getting off east of Avignon to ride through the Luberon region) would be a very good idea.

Rather than go up to Limoges then east to Clermont-Ferrand, I would urge you to bike down the Dordogne valley toward Bordeaux as you originally talked about. (I've biked from the Dordogne valley north to Limoges. The scenery is nothing special, nor is Limoges) Despite what I said about Auvergne, you would only be in it a couple of days as you approach Clermont-Ferrand, and the route in the Dordogne valley is even better than what you'd get in Auvergne. Your new route has you simply crossing the Lot and Dordogne valleys, rather than biking down the valleys. One of the great things about the Lot & Dordogne valleys is that you can bike through some very pretty gorges in very hilly areas, but the roads in the valleys themselves are virtually flat. The Dordogne valley broadens around Bergerac as you leave the gorge area, but remains fairly pretty as the vineyards start to appear. I didn't mean to scare you away from Bordeaux. It's not a bad town at all. There simply aren't a lot of things to see in the city itself, though some of the architecture reminded me of Paris.

Have you considered starting in Bordeaux and ending in Nice/Grenoble/Avignon? That way you wouldn't be starting out with your most difficult terrain.
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Old 03-20-09, 10:16 PM
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Not sure if you were just asking about climbing in general fully loaded and using Alp d'Huez as an example, but there would be no reason to carry all your gear up the climb. It's a dead end. Just leave your stuff at the base and ride up in "comfort".
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Old 03-20-09, 10:38 PM
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edit: I guess i was more using Alp d'Huez as an example, but at the same time I don't know if it's one of the worst climbs or not.


Yeah, going the opposite way is starting to sound like a better idea.

I think my original route went south of the lot & dodogne vallies, so I've changed the route to go more north. Does this make sense or do I have my geography wrong?

It' still backwards, and I put carcassonne back in, because it's 1000k with it. It would be ~200k more to dip a bit further and get near the pyranees, which sounds tempting.
new route

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Old 03-21-09, 07:09 AM
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With your latest route, you would only be in the Dordogne valley from Bergerac to Bordeaux. That is not the most impressive part of the valley though it's pleasant enough. The prettiest portion, the gorge, is upriver from Bergerac. If you can find Figeac on a map of France, the gorgeous landscape of the region starts roughly around there. Figeac is on the Célé river, a tributary of the Lot, which is in turn, a tributary of the Dordogne. The stretch from Figeac west to Cahors is magnificent. Then, if you go north from Cahors to Rocamadour and then to the Dordogne and head down that river, you'll encounter more magnificent scenery. www.viamichelin.com is useful for route planning in France.
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Old 03-21-09, 05:24 PM
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Going more north to Figeac looks like it will work, we'll just need to decide on whether not it's worth going south to carcassonne (which would now add ~200k). Thanks a lot for all your help



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Old 03-21-09, 05:51 PM
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mmmm an improvement on the route

I did L'Orange, Avignon, Nimes, Monpellier, Narbonne, Canal du Midi, Bordeaux a few years back - about 600 miles in about 12 days

I'd start on the flat for the first couple of days, so an west to east route makes the most sense

Whilst Carcasonne is worth a visit, it is a bit full of tourists

The south coast was not very memorable, lot of people and cars, and I remember a spectacular crash caused by one of my fellow riders being unable to watch the road due to the number of semi naked young women on the beaches

Get hold of the 'bikeline' books by Esterbauer for the area, very very good maps, and tell you what to see/avoid however probably only available in German (but still worth getting even if you don't speak a word)
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Old 03-21-09, 05:54 PM
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Here you go

https://www.esterbauer.com/

Takes a bit of exploring, but there is a Provence book
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Old 03-26-09, 12:18 PM
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Where did you get those bikeline books? did you buy them once in france? (or in the UK?)


The south coast was not very memorable
semi naked young women on the beaches
Does not compute.




Sorry for the late post, been distracted the past little while... burnt down part of my kitchen...
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Old 03-26-09, 02:16 PM
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I bought bikeline books in a specalist map shop in the UK, but they are widly available on the web, even if you have to go to a german web site to buy them (amazon.de ??)
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Old 03-29-09, 08:52 PM
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I'm guessing you already have too much information, but...
you really should try and fit a bit of the canal du midi into the ride. It's car free, shaded, impossibly beautiful (esp between Carcassone and Beziers) easy to ride, and a UNESCO world heritage site.

The Midi passes through some fantastic places (Toulouse, Castelnaudry, Carcassone, Beziers) and a whole bunch of gorgeous towns and villages. With plenty of tourists on boats, there's good insfrastructure too, and no-one will mind of you discreetly free camp.

If you're interested, see https://www.sn-sud-ouest.developpement-durable.gouv.fr/
In french but pretty easy to follow. Try the "Se balader à vélo..." button on the left hand side.
Bonne Route - Jeff
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Old 03-30-09, 07:34 AM
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Thanks, that looks pretty awsome. I love riding in car free areas, it feels so relaxing knowing there's no cars.
It looks like it shouldn't be too hard to fit that into our route, we'd just need to go a bit south west from figeac to Toulouse, and could follow it a bit past Carcassonne.

Does anybody know where the best scenery is on the Tarn river? Would we miss much if we only saw what was east of Millau?
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Old 03-30-09, 10:49 AM
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The Tarn gorge (the part of the Tarn river with the finest scenery) is between Millau upriver to Florac to the northeast. It's about a 76 km stretch.

The Canal du Midi would be a good way to get from Toulouse to Carcassonne or vice versa, but the Dordogne & Lot valleys have far more dramatic scenery for going eastward from Bordeaux, IMO.
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Old 03-31-09, 08:44 AM
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Awsome, thanks.
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Old 03-31-09, 09:41 AM
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France greenways and bicycle routes:
https://240plan.ovh.net/~afv/indexAng.php

FYI, The map is only clickable when you are in the French version of the site.
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Old 03-31-09, 02:16 PM
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Let me chip in with another question. Are you planning to camp or stay in hotels, b&b or such like? I am planning a similar trip in 2010 so I'm reading this with great interest.
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Old 04-06-09, 06:33 AM
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Sweet, thanks.


Are you planning to camp or stay in hotels, b&b or such like?
Planning on predominantly camping, with maybe a B&B/Hotel here and there. We have hammocks, but since there's 3 of us (and what i've heard from campsites in france), I think we're going to use a tent instead.
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Old 04-06-09, 07:34 AM
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I live in Lyon, and I agree with axoloti that the ride from Lyon to Grenoble would be rather boring. However, you might be able to find cheaper flights into Geneva... that way, you could ride the Alps and pre-Alps... I highly recommend Annecy and Aix-les-Bains and their lakes. (French regional trains run from Geneva as well as Lyon, and it is extremely easy and free to take your bikes on board if you want to fast-forward through some segments or in case of bad weather.)

Around Grenoble, the Vercors region has impressive canyons (with roads barely clinging to the sides). The D531 and village of Pont-en-Rayans at the end of it are fantastic.

BTW, I don't think I know anybody who would enjoy going up the Alpe d'Huez on a loaded bike, even if it were possible for them to do so. It's also quite a bit out of the way of your planned route. But, you could leave your load at your hotel/campsite for the day if you really want to do it. (Even unloaded, it's still a rather significant challenge for most people.)

If you're not picky and want just classic Alpine scenery, you could take the train to St Jean de Maurienne and go over the Col de Croix de Fer. (BTW, Google Maps has "Street View" for this route! They must have followed last year's Tour de France route.)

Bonne courage!

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