One of the best ways to enjoy the pleasures of the south of France is on a bike, and there are numerous companies that are happy to help you arrange this. A particular favourite is Cycling Holidays from Responsibletravel.com.
A fewÂ decisions are needed beforeÂ you organise your holiday, including:
Where do you want to go!
The most popular cycling destinations in southern France are in the Dordogne region of south-west France, and in the Luberon region of Provence. These two regions are especially popular because of the large number of very beautiful villages and sights in a relatively small area. Many other areas are also possible, with tours also available that focus on historic monuments, art works, cookery etc.
Another theme, if you are more experienced, is to take one of the tours that follows the classic climbs of the Pyrenees or Alps.
Do you want to go it alone?
With some cycling holidays you will cycle in a group andÂ eat together etc, while others your accommodation will be booked for each night and you will be left to your own devices to reach the next destination (with a map provided). Some tours you will carry your own baggage on your bike, with others a minibus will take it to the next hotel for you while you are cycling. Neither type is better or worse, it simply depends on what you are looking for in your holiday.
Note thatÂ many tours also provide follow-up vehicles and assistance in case you have a break down on your bike. Some tours include the cost of the bike hire, while for others you will need to bring your own bike along. For some cycling holidays a decent road bike will be indispensable, whereas for others a mountain bike or hybrid type bike will be perfectly adequate. Indeed some holidays are focussed specifically at mountain-bike riders (known as VTT in France).
Your level of experience
Most tours are reasonably straightforward and open to anyone who cycles occasionally and has a reasonable level of fitness. Others might be more strenuous. Just as an inexperienced cyclist is advisied not to set off to cross the Pyrenees, an experienced hill climbing cyclist might find the easier routes insufficiently demanding. A typical tour includes 25-35 miles of reasonably easy terrain each day, but these do vary a great deal. Also some will allow for days off in between the ride days, while others are more intensive.
The main other option is simply to book your gite or holiday accommodation in France, find a local bike hire shop (these are usually easily found in the regions more popular with tourists), ask in the local tourist office about recommended routes, and get on with it yourself. This option will usually be cheaper. A portable phone and the phone number of the bike hire shop or gite owner where you are staying are useful to have in case of emergencies. From many centrally placed locations it will be easy to find several different cycle routes starting in the same place but avoiding the need to cycle the same roads every day. If doing this option, remember – scenic roads are often marked on a map with a green line, and small roads are better than great fast roads with lorries on!