Published by Lyn on 22 January 2017
Safe bike storage doesn't always have to mean having your bike in your hotel room with you. I thought it might be useful to share some of the places we've parked our bikes at hotels and B&Bs over the years in France.
I had a guy contact me last week wanting info on hotels in France that would let him keep his bike in his room with him. This was non-negotiable – he did not want to use an external bike store or a garage. He was not happy with a laundry or utility room. The bike was staying with him.
This I can perfectly undserstand. My preference is always to keep my bike with me – I sleep much better that way.
However I do make exceptions and, in France, I think you have to otherwise on a long trip you will end up quite paranoid. I've found that by relaxing my rules a bit (especially outside main cities and towns), my sense of humanity and trust in people also returns.
I've posted before about what I think constitutes safe bike storage but I thought it might be useful to highlight some of the places we've stayed over the years in France that DO offer free and safe bicycle storage that's not always right beside your bed.
Self-catering accommodation is not as problematic as hotels/B&Bs as cottages, apartments, villas and houses usually have a laundry, barn/shed or utility room for bikes. Sometimes they'll let you keep clean bikes (or bikes rested on a towel) in a communal hallway, under the stairs or in a corner of the living room (like at this self-catering house on the River Vienne). And, key to it all, you have exclusive access.
Hotels and B&Bs are more hit and miss. Some hotels will let you keep your bike with you in your room, no problems. I did this in Le Mans, at a budget hotel.
In Paris, where decent bike storage is notoriously hard to find at mid-range hotels squashed into tight/old buildings, the manager offered to keep my bike tucked around the corner, out of sight, in reception. I figured this was OK, as it was tricky to get it in and out, and anyone stealing the bike would have had to first negotiate the manager. (The hotel review is here).
In Bordeaux I've stayed at several hotels with bike storage that didn't involve keeping the bike with me.
At Le Saint James, an upmarket hotel I stayed at for a mega-treat, there's a dedicated bike store (your bike sleeps with the hotel's fleet). Though the staff were completely unphased by us dragging my friend's bike bag through the hotel to our room (in fact they had a member of staff take it for us).
At the more affordable Ibis Styles near the Bordeaux train station, staff locked our bikes in a conference room. The room was locked and the key kept at reception. In a similar way, I've also found the Campanile chain of hotels generally very good for bike storage.
In other cities it's really depended on space and the layout of the B&B or hotel. In La Rochelle, my bike slept with the owner's bikes inside the entrance and behind a locked door of the Vue sur Cour B&B.
Down the road, the Best Western Masqhotel (full review here) has a dedicated bike parking area but the manager will also let you keep your bike in your room if you ask (just include it on the booking reservation). The manager is cyclist and I've found staying with owners who are also cyclists is always a safe bet. They understand your concerns and your bike generally sleeps with their bikes (and they wouldn't keep their bikes anywhere that wasn't safe).
That's the case at Andy and Caroline's B&B in the Pyrenees, where bikes are kept in the bike shed/workshop. In fact a good selection of accommodation in the Pyrenees, in the French Alps and also in areas like Provence (for Ventoux and the lavender routes) and along the Loire has bike storage as standard.
Some of this is in dedicated bike stores/sheds that can be accessed by other people (e.g. hotel staff and other cyclists). This is where I use my common sense.
In Cherbourg I stayed at the Hotel Le Louvre, which had a dedicated garage that only opened with a key from management. The receptionist guided me to and from the garage and watched me store/retreive my bike, so there was next to no chance that I could have taken someone else's bike, or that someone else could have taken mine. The only car in there looked like it rarely moved. (Full review here).
By comparison, the Hotel Le Charleston in Le Mans had an undercover, locked car park that was accessed by code, but it was also shared with guests' cars. This was one of the few times I felt it necessary to also use my bike lock.
In Angers, we stayed at the Hotel de Europe and it was probably the least acceptable of the places I left my bike overnight on my La Velo Francette trip. It was in a locked courtyard with a high fence and gate, so it would have been difficult to steal. However the bikes were not under cover.
Saumur was no problem at the Le Londres hotel as there was a locked, dedicated bike store and you first needed to use a code to get into the courtyard that contained the actual shed.
On the same trip, we stayed at Hotel La Marjolaine just off the on the Mayenne bike path, which had its own fleet of bikes stored in a massive expanse of a bike room, which was being set up for a bike maintenance course. Yes, other people had access, but the hotel is relatively remote and I had no qualms about security. There was also a cycle touring company staying there while we were there, so we were surrounded by cyclists.
In rural areas like this, theft rates are tiny, and my trust levels soar as a result.
At Hotel Parc in Chateau-Gontier, there was a dedicated, bicycle area/enclosure in the garden, and the garden itself was locked/gated.
In Arcais at Maison Flore we used a B&B with an undercover but open bike parking area that was also used for house bikes. The garden itself though was gated and only accessed by guests. I used my bike lock here.
In Niort at Maison La Porte Rouge we actually left our bikes outside the B&B but inside the walled garden, locked behind a gate and large fence. We could have moved them to the back of the building completely out of sight from people coming and going from the B&B but we felt they were safe where they were (plus we were the only guests that night).
On my travels in Normandy – one of my favourite French regions – I found some wonderful, bike-friendly places to stay. The region is home to so many long-distance routes (Francette, Avenue Verte, Veloscenie, Tour de Marche, Mont St-Michel to D-Day Beaches, etc etc) that owners here seem perfectly in tune with what cyclists want.
Further around the peninsula, Au Bon Accueil has a locked, bricked garden shed that's padlocked. "We're in the countryside and have never had any problems with theft," the owner, Jane, told me.
At Le Grand Hard near Utah Beach there's a dedicated bike store but I left my bike parked out in the racks, undercover, with the bike lock on. The hotel is up an isolated, private driveway with little or no chance of theft. (Full review here).
In Montebourg at Chambres d'hôtes les Clématites en Cotentin, I stored my bike just inside the door much as I would at my own house.
I could go on and list all the other hotels and B&Bs (and gites) we've reviewed over the last few years (you can scroll through them here).
I guess my point is that 'safe and secure bike storage' has lots of different guises and, after eight years in France, I'm a bit more flexible than I was when I arrived (especially outside the main cities).
My first preference is always still to keep my bike with me, or to park it in a locked, dedicated store that provides limited or no access to anyone else, but I'm willing to consider other options – and to trust my instincts.
Here are all the hotels, B&Bs and self-catered places in France that I've (so far) found to have what I consider to be acceptable and free bike storage ...