Reader Q&A: Bike routes for a family cycling holiday in Bordeaux

Published by Lyn on 2 February 2014

Clark wrote from the States to ask about routes for a family cycling holiday in Bordeaux. Here's our email exchange.

Bordeaux by Elodie RS

Bordeaux is a fabulous, bike-friendly city. Photo: Elodie-RS  

Hi Lyn,

Thanks for providing your contact info. I've got a question I've not seen otherwise covered.

My family of 5 plans to visit LaRochelle and Paris in late July 2014. The 3 kids are all fluent in French. They are 6, 7 and 10. All are skilled cyclists and competent to safely ride on city streets at home in New Orleans. I've ridden 15 miles in a morning with the little ones without a complaint. Keep in mind we have NO hills.

I have in mind riding along one of the canals in Bordeaux for 4 nights. Alsace is my motherland, but the hills would make a cycling trip too much of a chore with the kids.

There are so many questions:
1) Is it possible to rent bikes for the kids?
2) Can I rent a third wheel so I can carry all the gear and let them ride easy?
3) Is there a route that might not slay us flatlanders?
4) Is this notion completely absurd and should I come up with a different plan?

I'd be thrilled to hear the feedback from your readers, and all comments about the plan are most welcome.

Again, thank you for providing your email and in advance for your feedback.

Best Regards,

Lyn writes:

Hi Clark,

Quick question: will you have a car? ie how are you getting to/from La Rochelle from Bordeaux?
And which order are you doing it in? Bordeaux then La Rochelle and Paris or La Rochelle to Bordeaux and back to Paris?


Clark writes back:

Hi Lyn,

We have a friend with a car in La Rochelle. But we will not be driving as a rule. We are expecting to use public transportation predominantly.

I'm really not sure yet about the direction of our travel. Our hosts in La Rochelle are flexible in their timing. But of course they leave on holiday in August. Oh! And we've got a room in Paris from August 1st through August 7th, that being the end of our trip.

Thanks, Clark

Roger Lapebie bike path. Photo: Tourisme Gironde

A shady section of the Roger Lapebie bike path. Photo: Tourisme Gironde

Lyn writes back:

Hi Clark

You know what? I could have written this question for myself as it raises the very issues I've been pondering for our own family this season. I have a 6-year-old who also routinely rides 20km a day, and I've been pondering longer tours for this year.
You could look at doing the Roger Lapebie bike path, which leaves Bordeaux for Sauveterre – see link for route.

It's about 50km so you could go out and back in 4 days, and it's a lovely ride through some beautiful wine country. However, it is not entirely flat (again, see link above) – in fact can be a little hilly in parts (for little legs, at least).

However, depending how close in height/bike sizes your younger two are, you could consider hiring 2 kids' bikes and a tagalong. Your 10-year-old could ride solo, while your younger two could take it in turns on the other bike and the tagalong to save their legs on the hillier stretches.
My other caveat would be that this ride is quite unsheltered –  it's not a forest ride but largely open so may be quite hot in late July. However at just over 20km a day you should have plenty of time for breaks.
Another option would be to ride the La Velodyssey Atlantic Coast bike route north from Lacanau, however this might present more of a logistical challenge if you're relying on public transport.

You could take the bike path from Bordeaux to Lacanau, though this would eat into your 4 days, unless you wanted to make it a return ride (you'd need to research accommodation options mid-ride). It's essentially a straight (mosty) forest ride, with not a lot of variation in scenery.
Bordeaux to Lacanau bike path. Photo: vocivelo

Bordeaux to Lacanau bike path. Photo: vocivelo

There is a bus from Bordeaux-Lacanau (ligne 702, from memory only) This would get you to Lanacau, and from there you could pick up hire bikes and head north towards La Rochelle.

At your 20-25km a day you'd probably only make it as far as Royan (and across on the ferry) in 4 days, though it puts you within striking distance of La Rochelle and your friend with the car. (There may be public transprt options too, but I'm not so familiar with that area – Natasha at Bike Hire Direct (see contact below) may know more).

See the official La Velodyssey website for a break down of the individual stages and facilities en route.
If you choose to stay in Bordeaux and opt for day rides, there are some lovely routes out around Bordeaux Lac. The Medoc is lovely but also hilly – given how good the Roger Lapebie path is and that it also goes through some lovely countryside, I can't see the advantage of heading to the Medoc in preference with 3 little ones in tow.
For bike hire from Bordeaux right through to La Rochelle, check out Bike Hire Direct or email and let Natasha know I sent you on. She has cargo trailers, but I'm not sure about single wheels. You could use the trailer and still have the tagalong option on your second adult bike.  
For accommodation in Bordeaux and La Rochelle (and elsewhere in Aquitaine and Poitou-Charente), and in Paris, zoom into my bike-friendly map, or see here.
I hope that helps. Any other questions, please just shout.
PS For some great Paris rides, see here.
If you have any questions or queries about cycling in France, feel free to email me at and I'll try to help if I can.

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