We're often asked about buying bikes in France. How? Where from? How much? New or second-hand? Here are some tips.
For info on buying bike rack carriers for cars, see this page.
Buying a bike can work out financially cheaper than hiring a bike – particularly for longer cycling holidays in France (if you're not sure, we can help you gauge the costs of hiring via our bespoke bike hire service).
However, buying a bike in France is not without complications. Whether it's worth the hassle depends on a number of factors:
- Your budget and the type of bikes you want
- Whether you want to buy new or second-hand
- Your route – more populated areas obviously have more options
- Your time – do you have time before your trip to research and buy a bike?
- What will you do with the bike at the end of the trip?
Buying second-hand bikes in France
Facebook: We run a Facebook group that allows people to post items for sale/wanted to buy. Come and say hello.
Buying online: The go-to place for second-hand bikes (and everything else) is leboncoin.fr – it's the Craig's List or Gumtree of France. French people use it to sell anything and everything, it is very popular. If you're looking to buy a cheap all-rounder, then there could be some bargains to be had. Try also troc-velo.com – a leading market for bikes and bike accessories. You are more likely to find something more specialised there. Try also paruvendu.fr.
These sites are fairly easy to use, with the first step to simply select the region in which you wish to search. Then you can enter specific criteria i.e. velo, velo route (road bike), velo VTT (MTB), velo VTC (touring bike), remorque (trailer) etc. It does take time – you may need to wade through a lot of rubbish to find that golden nugget. You then email or call the seller and make arrangements to see to see/buy the bike. Bear in mind sellers will invariably be French and there is no guarantee they will speak English (Google Translate is your friend if the seller is happy to deal via email). Note if you are planning in advance, the seller may want to sell sooner than later and you need to be confident the bike will still be there when you arrive (paying in advance is a good idea).
You can use the same strategy in reverse to sell the bike at the end of your trip, but again bear in mind the extra hassle and time this may involve, and that most buyers will want to see the bike before agreeing to take it. Do you have time at the end of your trip to do this?
Buying in person: Brocantes and local markets are held in towns all over France every week. These are great places to pick up bargains, but obviously require you to be there to pick up a gem when you see it. Look also for a 'dépôt vente', which sell second-hand stuff on behalf of private sellers (kind of like an official/permanent garage sale). Watch out also for local signs advertising a "bourse aux velo", which is like a garage sale for bikes. They are great for buying as well as selling your bikes at the end of a trip. They are held locally and randomly, though, so you really do need to be lucky to see one advertised that coincides with your dates.
Local Decathlon stores (see below) sometimes have 'Trocathlon' sales where local people are allowed to bring their bikes in to sell second-hand (the shop takes a commission of the sale). These are advertised locally or check online for the store closest to your route.
Our local tip (déchetterie) runs its own recycling unit where people drop off bikes (and all sorts of other things) that are too good to throw out. We bought our daughter's latest bike from our 'recyclage' for €60 – we priced a similar new bike with similar specs at Decathlon (see below) a week later and prices started at €600. Finding these bargains can be hit and miss and rely on local knowledge (and, of course, luck and time).
Buying new bikes in France
Buying in France: Less hassle than buying second-hand would be to walk into a local Decathlon store, or buy online and have the bike sent to your first hotel in France. They have everything from bottom-of-the-range touring bikes and basic mountain bikes through to high-end road bikes. Decathlon is a massive chain and for basic holiday purposes, they usually have something for everyone. They are also ideal for children's bikes, basic trailers and car bike racks. They also have bike bags if you need to bag your bike for the train. They carry a full range of accessories from inner tubes and tyres through to baskets, helmets and cycling clothes. They also have a servicing section so if you buy a second-hand bike or need repairs during your ride then can be a useful stop. Our local Decathlon has basic touring bikes priced from around the €150 mark. We know many cyclists who have bought online at Decathlon and had their bikes and accessories waiting for them at their hotel when they arrived in France.
Other sports chains include GoSport and Intersport for basic bikes. Local supermarkets also usually stock a range of basic bikes. Look for Carrefour, e.leclerc, Super U and Intermarche stores. All sell bikes of varying quality (and weight) from upwards of €200.
And, of course, most towns of a reasonable size will have a bike shop. While we'd love to advocate supporting local shops, the reality in France is that buying bikes locally can be expensive. Almost always, a basic touring bike to get you through a 2-4-week trip in France will be cheaper at one of the above options than in a dedicated bike store. I hate typing that but that's our experience. Look for 'soldes' signs for sales.
If you do want to shop around and compare prices locally, some established bike shop chains include Veloland, Culture Velo, Velo Oxygen, Cyclable, and Velo Station.
For tandems, try Velo Tandem.
Buying online: Bearing in mind what I said above about price, many people coming to France buy online and have the bikes shipped to France (for free) to their first hotel.
Decathlon ship all over France if you don't have time to visit a store when you arrive – just have the bike sent to your hotel. Wiggle and Chain Reaction Cycles both have French depots and an enormous range and variety of bike stuff that they ship free to French addresses.
Halfords in the UK don't ship to France but it's easy enough to arrange for a bike to be shipped here direct and still save money (see this page for shipping advice). The Halfords range of Boardman bikes in particular is worth considering.
Buying electric bikes in France
Most of the advice above also applies to electric bikes. They are increasingly popular and easy to find, but, as with regular bikes, the quality does vary.
In France, in addition to regular bike shops and online retailers, car accessories shops and outdoor/garden shops are also increasingly stocking electric bikes – often at the lower-end of the market. Likewise, the supermarket chains listed above for regular bikes. These bikes may not be bikes for life and the quality, components and battery ranges vary, but they are often sufficient for an extended holiday in France. If you are staying for 4-6 weeks or more then buying a lower-end ebike like this can often work out cheaper than hiring.
For example, Norauto – a French chain that specialises in car tyres, batteries and all types of other motor accessories, in addition to repairs – stocks electric bikes. They stock touring/hybrid electrics, MTB electric bikes and folding (pliant) electric bikes. See this page or search "velo" in their search bar.
There are also dedicated/specialist electric bike retailers popping up all over the place, especially in large city centres. These shops, as specialists, tend to sell higher-end brands and models that, while amazing to ride, may not be as practical in terms of cost or resell value after a few weeks in France. Some, however, also stock second-hand bikes, so it's always worth a phone call or email. Chains include Cyclable, Ecox and Movebike but there are dozens, large and small. The best thing to do is to Google "vélo électrique" and your starting point/town in France.
NOTE: If you do buy an ebike, consider first the logistics of getting it home. If you are flying, this may be impossible (or extremely expensive) with the lithium battery. You will need to weigh up this cost, or leave time at the end of your trip to sell the bike to recover some of your costs. If this is too difficult, hiring a bike may be an easier option.
Buying car racks and carriers for bikes
We have a page here if you need to find a rack for a hire car.