A car, van or motorhome can be a convenient way of covering long distances, and they also offer the freedom to go where you want and the capacity to take bikes with you.
Driving in France can be a real treat, and combining driving with cycling can be a great way to see the country, especially for cyclists not conditioned to or interested in long-distance riding or touring.
France Magazine publishes a useful village drives book that includes road rule basics as well as suggested scenic routes that could easily be combined with cycling. DK Eyewitness also has a book entitled Back Roads France (UK, US).
Several of the cycling guidebooks we recommend on Freewheeling France offer advice on day rides and fixed-based cycling options, as well as longer tours. See also Cicerone’s Cycle Touring in France (UK, US) written by Freewheeling France contributor Stephen Fox, and Lonely Planet’s Cycling France guidebook, as well as Cycling Southern France (UK, US) by Richard Peace and Cycling Northern France (UK, US) by Richard Peace and Andrew Stevenson.
Bringing your own car
If you're bringing your own vehicle, see our ferry section as well as our train section for information on Eurotunnel. Note that to drive in France every car must have a kitty of emergency supplies that includes high-viz jackets and warning triangles that must be used in case of breakdown. The AA has a kit that covers all the basics, including beam converters.
Car hire in France
For a surcharge, it's usually possible to pick a car up in one location and return it to another.
Finding an affordable car or van that's large enough to accommodate bikes can be a challenge. Options include a wagon/estate car large enough to take dismantled bikes – people carriers are an option (eg Renault Espace), and attaching bike carriers/racks. Many bike rental outlets offer rack rental, though this is a more common service in more remote areas and in the mountains than in cities. See here for more information on bike racks for cars.
Maps and GPS
The AA's Big Road Atlas is excellent, as is the Michelin equivalent. Michelin also has a foldout road map. A GPS covering France can be indispensable, especially in cities or at the end of a long drive when all you want to do is get to your campsite or hotel. Some cycle computers – like those in the Garmin range – use the same road maps as car sat navs, so can double as car and bike GPS units.