Reader Q&A: Advice for cycling the Canal des 2 Mers

Published by Lyn on 22 April 2015

After reading about the Canal des Deux Mers bike route in our newsletter, Eli sent me the following email to ask for more advice.

Roger Lapebie voie verte

The Roger Lapebie bike path between Bordeaux and Sauveterre-de-Guyenne. Photo: Helmut Schönberger

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Lyn,

Thank you very much for your beautiful and informative email.
 

I would like to ride the Canal des Deux Mers bike route in 2016 and will appreciate very much your suggestions, which maps to get, lodgings, springtime riding, wild flowers...

Thank you in advance for your reply,

Eli.

I wrote back:

Hi Eli

I'm glad you found the newsletter useful!

Springtime is a great time in the south of France as it's not yet too hot but still sunny. The grapevines will be shooting their fresh green leaves (just this week, in fact!) and the wysteria will be flowering.

I recommend the following links as starting points:

This is the route overview, which you will have already seen on the email newsletter (click the map for a larger version).

Canal des Deux Mers à Vélo

The official route starts north of Bordeaux on the coast at Royan and trails down through the Gironde estuary and the vineyards. However it's also possible to ride the Atlantic Coast EuroVelo 1 route down to Lacanau (or even start at Lacanau) and ride east to Bordeaux from there.

I would recommend staying overnight in Bordeaux as I am a big fan of the city. It is a beautiful city and the sweeping riverfront is a lovely place to potter about on a bike.

Cycling in Bordeaux

Beautiful Bordeaux. Photo: Erik Söderström

If you are looking for a B&B in this area, consider L'Autre Vie – it is a little more pricey than some B&Bs but the hosts are lovely and it's set among the vines just south of Sauveterre.

This is the link for our Canal de Garonne overview.

This is the link for the Canal du Midi.

There are several bike-friendly hotels in Toulouse, where the Garonne meets the Midi – see my Midi-Pyrenees accommodation section (also mapped below with Aquitaine, Midi-Pyrenees and Languedoc options all highlighted. You can zoom in and out to locate the canals).

Note that the eastern end of the Canal du Midi is by far the worse part of the route in so far as the quality of the towpath is appalling in sections. At the time of writing, there is considerable work being done on the eastern end of the towpath with the removal of some diseased trees and the encroachment of tree roots in other areas.

I do not know when the work on the towpath will be complete (these sections are currently marked as 'provisional/temporary' on the official website).

At the moment the eastern end of the towpath is only suitable for mountain bikes, though detours are certainly possible if you are on a hybrid or other bike.

Don't let this put you off the ride, but just add some extra planning in for the Languedoc sections and check with locals closer to the time re the condition of the route. By spring 2016 the situation may well have improved dramatically.

The accommodation providers listed in my Where to Stay section are used to hosting cyclists and will have the best available information for you. See here for accommodation options at the eastern Languedoc end.

There is further advice from cyclists in the 'comments' fields at the end of the articles above, as well as in the following links:
http://www.freewheelingfrance.com/blog/canal-du-midi-cycling-holiday.html
http://www.freewheelingfrance.com/where-to-go/tips-for-cycling-the-canal-du-midi-canal-de-garonne.html

For maps, I usually prefer IGN maps (the French equivalent of the UK Ordnance Survey; I'm not sure what the US equivalent is?), but Michelin maps are also excellent. IGN ones tend to be a little more detailed in some areas and can be broken down into communes in even more detail than outlined below. However, your route is fairly tried and tested.

At the time of writing, the route north of Bordeaux is still being signposted, but the route from Royan-Lacanau-Bordeaux is well-signposted almost impossible to get lost on.

The Bordeaux-Sauveterre route is also well-signposted (and just a super bike route; really peaceful and pretty with an even surface). Once you get onto the Canal de Garonne, it's pretty much a case of following the canal to Toulouse, likewise on the Midi (bearing in mind possible diversions as mentioned above for towpath inconsistencies).

The relevant regional IGN maps are:

These are 1:250,000 (1cm = 2.5km)

For more detailed maps, look to the IGN Top 100 maps (1:100,000):
Maps 145 (UK, US), 160 (UK, US), 168 (UK, US), 170 (UK, US), 174 (UK, US).

I'm afraid I'm not so well-versed on wildflowers, though I will put a note on our Facebook page to see if anyone else in our cycling community is.

I hope that all proves a useful starting point for your research. Please let me know if you need any further advice.

Cheers
Lyn.
PS I usually post reader queries on the blog (without contact info or any identifying info) so they can also help other cyclists. I hope that it OK.

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