Reader Q&A: Cycling from Caen to Avignon

Published by Lyn on 14 October 2013

Will emailed to ask about cycling in northern France and about routes from Caen to Avignon.

Pont Saint-Bénezet in Avignon. Photo: Muneaki

Pont Saint-Bénezet in Avignon, Will's destination. Photo: Muneaki

Hi Lyn

I really enjoy your website – most helpful.

I am planning a cycle trip through France in late May or early June 2014 from Normandy down to Avignon, where I will link up with my wife (who will fly in) and spend a week or two exploring Provence (by car).

I toured northern France by cycle back in 1983 on my own and enjoyed it a great deal. On that trip I camped and took my time, but now I am 71. My plan is to carry some gear but stay in hotels on the way and try to avoid very steep climbs and heavy goods vehicles. I plan to bring my own Cannondale touring cycle and I do lots of cycling in New Zealand, which is quite hilly.

I am hoping you can make some suggestions on a good cycling route through villages for me to follow. Really appreciate any advice or tips you can give me.

Thank you,
Will.

Answer:

Hi Will,

Thanks for your email. How lucky you are – but where to start? There are so many options!

Here are some starting points for northern France and Normandy.

Can I suggest you get hold of a copy of this new Northern France guidebook? It has excellent maps and a good overview of some really accessible routes.


I also have some routes highlighted here, as well as links to specific cycling information for Normandy:

You could start by exploring part of the fabulous Mont St Michel to Paris cycling route. (There is more on the Bay of Mont St Michel here). Or you could do a stretch of the London to Paris Avenue Verte cycleway.

You could also explore the coastal routes around the Normandy/Brittany border on the Tour de Manche bike route.

Remember that next year is the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings so it will be busy in Normandy May-August.
Maps and other info here and here.

Here are some accommodation options.



I hope that provides some useful starting points. It would be great to hear how you get on and where you decide to go.

Cheers
Lyn.

Will writes back:

Hi Lyn

Thanks for the fantastic web links – plenty of reading to do on that before I decide.

If I started around Caen and rode south via Le Mans, Tours, Limoges and on to Avignon sticking to the B roads, would I encounter a lot of HGV traffic and steep hills?

Thanks again

Will

Lyn writes back:

Hi Will,

I haven't ridden those bits myself so I asked Richard Peace, who has more experience of cycling in northern France.

Here is what he says:

"I think I would avoid Limoges altogether and head down the Loire from Tours – it's all signed and on minor roads or off-road as EuroVelo 6 (though I've heard reports bits get flooded in early spring along the official Loire route). I suppose it might be a bit slow and ponderous if he is a fast road cyclist, but French traffic-free trails are often much better, faster and wider than UK ones. You could follow EV6 to Paray-le-Monial then head off on roads to Lyon and pick up the Via Rhona all the way to Avignon.

In my experience, if you avoid the D roads that look bigger and go straight between towns you'll avoid most of the traffic - that's usually successful but not always!"

Also, here is a discussion on a UK cycling forum about your proposed route. Note the message about the hills around Clermont.

I hope that helps.

Please give me a shout if you have more questions.
Lyn.

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