Thoughts on Cycling in France

Cycling in France is both amazing and overrated. I can feel the hate mail coming any moment now so please hear me out. France is amazing. The Tour de France reinforces that every year. As such, France is usually the first stop on any traveling cyclist’s list, as was the case for me. Just know that France isn’t the best, hardest, or most beautiful cycling. France is overrated because the Tour makes it seem like the best and perhaps only option to the general cycling enthusiast who watches just one race per year – le Tour. France is great but it’s not the best.

  • Language is more a challenge in France than most European countries unless you know French of course.
  • The food is generally iffy to poor. France food can be great but it generally isn’t great in the more remote cycling areas.
  • Same with coffee. A border with Italy doesn’t mean the coffee is good.
  • France is the most visited of all European countries so it can be crowded during summer.

All that said, you absolutely should ride in France. You have the Alps, Pyrenees, Jura, Vosges, Masif Central, and the not-to-be-missed Corsica. You have fields of wine and cobbles to cross.

I’ve visited France three times with the Ritchey Break-Away, from the Pyrenees to the Alps to the cobbles of the Arenberg Trench, to Corsica. There will be more adventures there yet. I’m particularly interested in the area north of Nice along the Italian border, though the Italian side interests me more. My planned 2020 visit to Turin and the Aosta valley was Covid-cancelled but is on the aspirational calendar for 2021.

Veloviewer infographic from my 2016 raid on the Pyrenees

Veloviewer of Ted's 2016 French Pyrenees trip.

Some of France’s Greatest Hits