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Have you ever wanted to do the Loire Cycle Route? Here is a very quick introduction to this delightful cycle tour through France.
The Loire Cycle Route follows France’s longest river from source to sea – 1052km in total and can be ridden in two to three weeks. Starting in the Massif Central mountains of central France, the route finishes at the Atlantic opposite St Nazaire. Following the river downstream in 26 stages, the route is generally downhill or level and often on dedicated traffic-free cycle tracks.
Perfect for chateau spotters or history fans, the Loire Cycle Route passes through historic cities like Orléans and Tours, continuing past Angers and France’s fourth largest city Nantes. In fact the Loire is known as ‘the royal river’ by the French as it is bounded by extravagant châteaux and vineyards. You will also cycle past extinct volcanoes, crater lakes and deep gorges on your journey through the heart of France.
The route has been broken into 26 stages, averaging 40km per stage. A fit cyclist, cycling an average of 80km/day should be able to complete the route in under a fortnight. Travelling at a gentler pace of 50km/day and allowing time for sightseeing, cycling the Loire to the Atlantic coast would take three weeks. There are many places to stay along the route, making it is easy to tailor daily distances to your requirements.
The most suitable type of cycle is either a touring cycle or a hybrid (a lightweight but strong cross between a touring cycle and a mountain bike with at least 21 gears). There is no advantage in using a mountain bike. Front suspension is beneficial as it absorbs much of the vibration. Straight handlebars, with bar-ends enabling you to vary your position regularly, are recommended. Make sure your cycle is serviced and lubricated before you start – particularly the brakes, gears and chain.
With the exception of Stage 1 in the Massif Central, where snow can remain on the ground until late April, the route is generally cycleable from April to October. If the source is inaccessible, an alternative would be to start from the beginning of Stage 3 in Le Puy-en-Velay, which can be reached directly by train.
There is, mostly, a wide choice of accommodation for all budgets, from B&Bs or chambres d’hôte to hotels. Helpfully, tourist information offices will often telephone for you and make local reservations. Booking ahead is seldom necessary, except on popular stages in high season, although it is advisable to start looking for accommodation after 1600. Most properties are cycle-friendly and will find you a secure overnight place for your pride and joy. Accueil Vélo is a national quality mark displayed by establishments within 5km of the route that welcome cyclists and provide facilities including overnight cycle storage.
There’s so much! There’s Mont Gerbier de Jonc and the volcanic hills of the Ardèche. Or the royal châteaux, such as Chambord, Blois, Chaumont, Villandry, Amboise. Or you could drink at some of the finest vineyards – Sancerre, Touraine, Chinon, Saumur, Anjou, Muscadet. On rainy days you could also choose to explore some of the historic cities of Orléans, Tours, Angers and Nantes of the Loire Valley.
The Loire Cycle Route guidebook by Mike Wells
Cycle Touring in France guidebook by Stephen Fox.
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