The concept of a bike and barge holiday in France offers a delightful combination of slow travel and a little diversity, in the form of two-wheeling exploration. So many avid barge lovers, while enjoying the relaxing, steady pace of life onboard and the local trips to vineyards, castles and village markets, also revel in the opportunity to stretch the legs and raise the heart rate a little. After all, there’s nothing quite like the sheer joy of free-wheeling alongside the perfumed French fields, with the wind in your hair and only the occasional local as company. We offer many options that you can explore here.
France is an increasingly appealing destination for cyclo-tourism and in fact it has been reported that it is the second most visited country for cycling holidays in the world. Perhaps it’s because of the Tour de France and its indoctrination into French culture, but we think it may also be because of the ten long distance European cycling routes that cross through the country. The opportunities for cycling itineraries are endless – there are 16000km of waymarked routes and many of these are along towpaths.
Most of our barge holidays in France now carry bikes on board for the use of everyone, regardless of age, and your crew are always more than happy to offload the cycles so that you can ride on to the next village or lock.
Given that the towpaths that run alongside the waterways are flat and well kept, they are ideal for cycling. Bear in mind though that you can expect a very short and gentle climb when you’re approaching a lock – but seriously, that is all! Don’t forget that these paths are also forbidden to cars and motorbikes, making them very safe for riding along.
Cycling is so much a part of French culture that many of these routes have been transformed into cycle tour routes, known as ‘Voies Vertes’. Some have even been upgraded and are now asphalted for a more comfortable ride. Burgundy is particularly popular for its wonderful towpath-come-cycling paths. You can read more about two-wheeling in Burgundy in this blog post.
What Kind of Bike Can You Expect?
Our cruises carry hybrid bikes of excellent quality. They are designed to be ridden on all terrains and are well maintained by our onboard crews. Should you need any adjustments to your bike at any point, boat staff will be able to help. Children’s cycles are also available and, for any hopeless romantics, a tandem can be requested. The great thing about the towpaths is that they are always flat and so are ideal for families looking at a barge holiday in France. Helmets are provided.
Towpaths or Towns
Of course, you can just stick to the towpaths, but if you want to explore a little further and deviate into a local town or village, you can do that too. Bear in mind the boats are travelling at a sedate 3mph, so you can up your speed, take in a few sites and still be at the designated meeting point in time. Remember, the beauty of barging is its pace, which offers the opportunity to immerse yourself in the laid back life. The ability to gently meander through the heart of France’s rural idyll is what this is all about.
For the More Serious Cyclist…
We appreciate that the opportunity to get off the boat and explore on two-wheels is a prospect that is particularly appealing to the more serious cyclist who may want to venture a little further than the towpath. This is exactly why we offer biking charters that are slightly more focussed on cycling. These biking and barging holidays are designed for groups of guests and include half-day guided itineraries designed to make the most of the areas through which we travel. Some tours include a countryside picnic and the option to finish the day exploring on your own.
Our guests tell us that returning to the barge and enjoying a hot tub followed by a gastronomic four course feast is the perfect complement to a day in the saddle, and we believe them!
For the Independent Rider…
The ‘Biking Plus’ option has proved very popular with guests and many of our hotel barges now offer this. It is a concept that was designed to suit the more adventurous client, as it involves unguided exploration. This is actually what makes it so unique: groups of people made up of cyclists and non cyclists can still enjoy the same cruise and while some members of the gang are relaxing on deck or wandering the tow paths, the riders can be discovering the countryside on a carefully mapped out route, chosen for its interest and authenticity. Oh, and you can download the maps to your phone too, which makes for much more efficient navigating.
Rest assured you will be given well researched routes and clear maps so you won’t be wasting time getting lost. Should you go a little off course, however, your crew are always at the end of the phone to help you navigate your way back to the boat. Or if you really are lost, one of the gang will come out and drive you back. We’d advise you to take a backpack but otherwise you can travel light!
Any barge holiday in France that includes the ‘Biking Plus’ option is cleverly designed so that if you’re an adventurous cyclist you’ll never miss out on the other elements of the organised cruise. You will be riding while the barge is moving and, actually, you’ll get to see a bit more of the local life and landscape.
Biking Plus is available aboard so many of our vessels: Anjodi, Enchanté, Finesse, L’Art de Vivre, La Belle Epoque, L’Impressionniste, Renaissance & Panache.
If you like the idea of combining a biking and barge holiday in France, why not get in touch with us? We can advise on the best vessel and destination for you depending on what your holiday aspirations are.