Tracy Melass cycled the the Veloscenic Paris to Mont St-Michel bike route for us (read her full report here). She sent us this advice to help you plan a similar trip. Photos thanks to Chenél Ferreira.
How long is it?
Roughly 433km from Versailles (below) to Mont-Saint-Michel. We took a train to Versailles from Paris rather than cycling it, because of time constraints, but you can cycle all the way from Paris.
It’s a long way but broken down into smaller chunks, it’s achievable in a week or less. If you don't have time for the whole route, then it's nice, too, as a series of day rides.
If you are very short of time or have very young children, you could mix n match: do some of the journey by train and some by bike.
If you absolutely have to miss out on a few days — and it would be a great pity! — then make sure it's not the last part to Mont-Saint-Michel. I guarantee you it’ll be a life highlight.
How hard is it?
The sections mostly switch between easy and intermediate with a couple of stages labelled 'expert'. This simply means that there are some hills.
This is a signposted route but bear in mind it is still easy to get lost. There are times where there are insufficient signs, they point at an angle which is difficult to interpret, they run out, it is not clear if they are point towards Paris or Mont-Saint-Michel. We found signposting on our second day from Maintenon to Chartres, and the final day to Mont St Michel by far the best (the latter gives the end point and remaining number of kilometres).
What bike do I need?
We used mountain bike with slicks (road tyres); this is by far the best option. Traditional mountain bike treads would have been too thick for the road, and a road bike would not have suited some of the forest paths and voies vertes unless you had at least 28 tyres. A sturdy hybrid with wide tyres would also do the job. You can use Freewheelig France's bespoke service to find bike hire.
Where to stay
A good network of B&Bs and hotels line the route, as well as campsites. We stayed at the following places along the way:
Versailles: Hotel le Versailles (pictured below)
Maintenon: Aux Charmes de Maintenon
Chartres: City-Break Saint-Pierre
Nogent-le-Rotrou: Le Manoir Michelet
Alençon: Hotel des Ducs
Domfront: Hotel de France (see also the excellent Numero CINQ B&B)
Ducey: Le Moulin de Ducey
Mont-Saint-Michel: Camping Aux Pommiers
There are a number of excellent options (including some in Paris if you are starting there) in our bike-friendly accommodation section - you can browse the map below.
Where to eat
We ate at the following places in the evenings. En route we stopped for baguettes ot the 'menu du jour' at local restaurants. (Note we rode this route in August 2015 and these were the correct details as of then).
Versailles: Le Saint Julien – pictured below (6 rue Saint-Julien 78000 Versailles, +33 (0)1 39 50 00 97)
Maintenon: Aux Charmes de Maintenon
Chartres: Bistrot de la Cathedrale (Place de la Cathedrale, 28000, Chartres, +33 (0)2 37 36 59 60
Nogent-le-Rotrou: Brasserie de L’Hotel de Ville (30 Place Saint-Pol, 28400 Nogent-le-Rotrou, +33 (0)2 37 52 03 02
Alençon: Le 64 by Fano (22 rue Saint-Blaise, 61000, Alençon)
Domfront: Hotel de France
Ducey: Le Moulin de Ducey
Beauvoir/Mont-Saint-Michel: Hotel le Beauvoir (9 Route du Mont-Saint-Michel, 50170 Beauvoir, +33 (0)2 33 60 09 39)
Versailles (Palace of Versailles)
Vallee de Chevreuse
Rambouillet (forest and chateau)
Maintenon (chateau and aquaduct)
Illiers-Combray (Marcel Proust and Aunt Leonie’s House)
Nogent-le-Rotrou (Le Chateau Saint-Jean)
Chateau du Carrouges
Thermal Spa Resort at Bagnoles-de-L’Ornes
Lancelot du Lac’s Forest (Les Andaines forest)
Ducey (Château des Montgommery and 17th century bridge)
For more information about these attractions and others along the route, visit the following regional tourist board websites:
Paris and Ile de France: www.visitparisregion.com
Other bike route links
The Veloscenic also links to other long-distance bike routes — such as La Velo Francette Caen to La Rochelle route at Domfront (below), which opens up the Loire or Atlantic Coast to you. You’ll need to keep your eyes peeled, but you’ll see the crossover point with Francette — marked on a sign — as you get onto the voie verte leaving Domfront. From Mont-Saint-Michel you could ride the coast along the Tour de Manche route or across to the D-Day beaches. The excellent Sarthe à vélo network of routes also crosses with Veloscenic at Alençon.
How do I get back if I ride one way?
If you're not able to a round-trip and need to make your way back from Mont-Saint-Michel to Paris, the best — and easiest — way is by train from Gare de Pontorson (6km from Beauvoir) to Paris Montparnasse. We caught a 9.15am train, changed at Rennes at 10.35am and pulled into Paris just before 1.30pm.
You can take your bikes on the train with ease. There’s plenty of space, and on the TGV from Rennes, the conductor showed us to the bike carriage – and they even got their own safety belts. It was quick, easy and efficient. This does not apply to all trains though, so make sure you do some homework beforehand, especially to check if you need to reserve a space for your bike. See our full overview of taking bikes on French trains.
Luggage transfer services
No formal luggage transfer service exists along the route, though if your hotel or B&B is a member of the Accueil Velo network, then they should be able to help you arrange luggage transfer locally. Otherwise, ask in advance about local taxi services as these will often be able to carry your luggage ahead to your next hotel.
See our bike hire pages for links to rental outlets along the route.
Other top tips
- Pack lightly (heavy panniers are no fun on the hills and you really need very little)
- Take rain gear and sunblock
- Take a back-up power back for your smartphone (especially if you use it as a camera and/or GPS)
- Buy a copy of De Paris au Mont-Saint-Michel a velo. Ours became well-thumbed. Useful for overview maps, information on sights and regions and basic directions.
- Take a GPS and detailed map book. IGN and Michelin are both excellent and you can get maps in most local newsagents (tabacs), though you can also plan ahead and buy hard copy maps online from Stanfords Travel Bookshop (they deliver worldwide).
- A basic compass attached to your pannier is useful as the route is essentially east-west so you can always check the direction.
- Remember that the route goes both ways, so be aware of confusing signs.
- Allow extra time in case you DO get lost. Don’t be scared of getting lost, though. It can also be part of the fun and you will never get well and truly lost — perhaps just a little off course. Which is often where the interesting things happen.
- Unless you’re a competitive cyclist, don’t pack two stages into a day — it means you get to see fewer of the sites.
- Don’t rely on your smartphone GPS as this will simply point you to roads, and not the Veloscenic route. You can, however, download GPS files for the route from the official site.
- Prepare lunch packs the night before or order them from your hotel. You'll struggle to find anything open in the country at lunchtime unless you're in a town between noon and 2.30pm (ish). Take snacks and “trail mix” along.
- Fill up water bottles as often as you can / whenever you see a tap.
- Buy a gel saddle cover if you’re not used to hours in the saddle.
- Don’t pack a (heavy) book — you won’t have time to read!
- Take a webbed drying bag along; you can dry your washing as you ride.