500 Bicycles Rides in France

Sunday, 6 August 2017

And it’s in French! Lonely Planet France has just published a guide to 500 great bicycle rides in France. Rides suitable for people from 7 to 77 they claim, whether you want rides with friends or family, by yourself or with your lover – well it is French bicycle riding! The routes range from an hour, an afternoon, a week-end (that in English), a week, or even longer. Of course there are good food (and wine) rides and suggestions for rides for everything from mountain bikes to electric bikes. Later this week I’ll post on my recent electric bike experience, on the forthcoming electric Brompton.


500 Balades à Vélo en France even ventures out of France by crossing the Channel (La Manche en français) and riding north to London. A trip I talk about in my preface to the book. Here it is, in English:

I like bicycles. I own several of them including a fold-up British Brompton (very useful if you need to put it in the back of a car), a Taiwanese mountain bicycle (I’ve ridden it through Africa and across the mountains in Tahiti in French Polynesia) and recently an artistically minded friend in Australia has made a bicycle for me out of plywood. ‘Well,’ he explained, ‘it’s the original carbon-fibre.’

I live part of each year in London where my home is just two doors away from a very enthusiastic bicycle shop and bicycle racing training centre. The other part of the year, when I’m not cycling to interesting places, I live in Melbourne in Australia where two friends – Paul and Charlie Farren – have one of the best bicycle collections in the world, certainly the best south of the equator, with 200 bicycles almost all of them pre-1900.

So I am sure 500 balades à vélo en France will inspire me to come to France again for some more great bicycle rides. My most recent excursion in France started at my home in London. After breakfast I pedaled off, past the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben and down to Newhaven on the coast for the night. The next morning my bicycle and I were on the ferry from Newhaven to Dieppe and I started my riding in France with 50km of voies ferrés to hustle me along to Forges les Eaux for the night. Where I was reminded – yet again – that after a day of cycling, at dinner time you discover good food becomes magnificent food. The next day another 120km of beautiful countryside took me to Poissy on the outskirts of Paris. I could have ridden in to Paris that night, but it was getting dark, the traffic was heavy, it was better to wait for the morning I decided.

The morning brought one of those cycling moments that underline why this is the best form of travel. I’d only ridden a few km and had stopped at a roundabout to consult my map. ‘Where are you going,’ a cyclist enquired, on his morning commute into Paris. ‘Follow me,’ he orders a few minutes later, and I have an expert guide all the way to the Bois de Boulogne. So I ride in to Paris, past the Tour d’Eiffel, a short pause at my favourite Paris Museum, Quai Branly, lunch (my appetite still working overtime) at my favourite Paris café, L’Ebouillanté on rue des Barres near the Seine, and then my bicycle and I hurtled back to London on Eurostar.