Reader Q&A: Canal du Midi Bike Rental

Published by Lyn on 3 March 2014

Andy wrote in to ask for advice about bike hire on the Canal du Midi. Should he bring his own bike or hire one there?

Canal du Midi by Marcel Musil

One of France's iconic bike rides. Photo: Marcel Musil

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Hi Lyn,

A group of friends and myself are looking into cycling along the Canal du Midi from Toulouse to Béziers (or vice versa) this summer and I'm trying to work out logistics of doing this. Taking bikes out there seems like a bit of a faff, and not all that cheap, but then I would quite like to be on my own bike...
Is it easy enough to rent a bike in one place and drop it off in another, and would you recommend it? Also, is the cost of renting a semi-decent bike that much cheaper than the cost of taking bikes out there? I'm sure I could rent for cheaper, but I don't want to end up with a bike on its last legs!
Many thanks for any advice you can give,
Lyn writes:
Hi Andy

Thanks for your email - I hope you're finding my site useful.

Re the costs of bring a bike, it really depends on how you're getting here. (Assuming you're in the UK), if you take the train then it'd be free in a bike bag, but the overall cost of a train ticket may work out more expensive than a cheap budget flight (apologies if you're not in the UK but you've not mentioned where you're coming from!) If you're flying, it really is (an annoying) matter of comparing airlines and their bike carriage policies/charges to see what stacks up. You could also consider shipping your bike to France.
It also depends on the type of bike you have as the Canal du Midi is best suited to hybrid and mountain bikes - it can be rough in parts, so if you have a road bike, I wouldn't recommend bringing it.

The bike rental market in the south of France is quite competitive, particularly along the Canal du Midi. Picking a bike up in one place and dropping it off somewhere else shouldn't be a problem because most of the leading bike hire firms deliver anyway and many people only cycle one way.
On my bike delivery page, see Relax Rentals, which specialises in bike hire on the canal.

Canl du Midi by Yishac - Isaac Alvarez i Brugada

Useful South African-themed signage near the Canal du Midi. Photo: Isaac Alvarez Brugada

In short, it shouldn't be hard to find a quality bike that you'll enjoy riding and that won't fall apart on you! Beware, though, that you should book both accommodation and bikes early if you're riding in summer as the Canal du Midi can get busy. 

You can also zoom into the map, on whch I've highlighted accommodation in the Midi-Pyrenees and Languedoc for the Toulouse-Béziers stretch.
You might also find this Canal du Midi overview of use (see the comments on this one, too, for some useful feedback from other riders).
And see also this article in case you have time for any extra rides from Toulouse.
My planning section has info on getting to France, including an article on taking bikes on French trains, in case you choose this.
I hope that all helps - please shout if I can help further. It would be great to hear what you decide.

Andy writes back:
Hi Lyn,
Thanks for such a prompt and detailed response! I will get some quotes from rental places and take it from there, although I would be interested to know if you think that the Canal du Midi will be uncomfortably busy during early August (when we are planning to go).
I will let you know what happens.
Thank you very much for your help!
Lyn writes back:
Hi Andy,
Lots of people obviously do ride the Canal in August. I've emailed a few people who work with bikes along or near the canal to get their feedback, but my thoughts are that it's manageable with some planning (especially booking ahead with bike hire and accommodation) and patience.
If it's a huge concern, you could always look at alternatives such as the Burgundy canal or the Nantes-Brest Canal, though it would seem a shame to miss the Midi. Plus remember that pretty much everywhere in France gets busy in August as the whole conutry is essentially on holidays.
Will pass on any local feedback as it comes in.

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