Cycling in France: Everything you need to know

How to get there, where to stay, climbs to conquer, and sportives to take part in 

France is one of the world's most notable countries for cycling, making it a dream holiday destination for cyclistsWhether you’re eager to climb high into the sky in the Alps and the Pyrenees, emulating Tour de France legends, or would rather enjoy leisurely rides through the wine-drenched regions of Bordeaux and Burgundy, France’s diverse landscapes offer something for every cyclist. In this guide, Rouleur takes a look at how to get there, whether you should hire a bike or take your own, regions to explore, bucket list climbs to conquer, and famous sportives to take part in.

How to get to France

As one of the powerhouse nations of Europe, France boasts extensive international links, making access from around the world fairly straightforward. There are more than 30 international and domestic airports across the country, while trains are a very convenient way to get to France from within Europe, with Eurostar trains connecting London and Paris in just over two hours. Train travel around the country is also very good with many of the bigger regions connected by trains.

From the UK, it is also easy to travel to France via ferry, with ferry services such as Brittany Ferries offering cross-channel routes from the UK to France, departing from Portsmouth, Plymouth or Poole and arriving in Cherbourg, St Malo, Caen, Le Havre, or Roscoff. P&O Ferries also offer services from Dover to Calais, while DFDS offer services from Dover to Dunkirk. 

Hire or bring your own bike to France?

With France a very bike-friendly nation, the majority of regions across the country have shops and bike rental services available, making it is easy to hire a bike, with every brand and type of bike on offer for your choosing. However, hiring a bike for a period of time does come at a cost, especially for a top-of-the-range model, so make sure you factor this in when planning your trip. 

But there is nothing quite like riding your own bike, especially if you are wanting to challenge those iconic Strava segments in the Alps and the Pyrenees. Most airlines do allow you to bring your own bike for an additional fee, which will vary from airline to airline. It will need to be packed into a bike box and checked-in to the hold when you arrive at the airport. 

Train services such as Eurostar also enable you to bring your bike aboard with you if you book a space. This service is limited, and on the Eurostar website, states that in order to avoid disappointment when travelling between London, Paris and Brussels, make sure you book early. It also states that you can only bring a fully assembled bike onboard if travelling from London to Brussels. If you are travelling to Paris, your bike must be packed into a bike box or bag – folding bikes, folding electric bikes, and children's bike no longer than 85cm in length are allowed onboard, as long as they are inside a protective bag. 

All ferry services allow bikes on board – prices vary. 

Regions to stay

Côte d’Azur 

The Côte d’Azur is synonymous with glitz and glamour with towns and cities such as Cannes, Saint-Tropez, Monaco and Nice dotted along the shimmering Mediterranean coastline. But it is also a beautiful spot to cycle with a twisting road that runs parallel to the sparkling waters, as well as roads that snake up into the mountains. Plus, with over 300 days of sunshine each year, it is also the perfect climate for cycling all year round. It’s not surprising then that so many professional riders have made the French Riviera their home. 

The Côte d’Azur will host the finish of the Tour de France in Nice this year, the first time outside of Paris since 1905. But it is a region that features annually in Paris-Nice, each year riding the climbs that surround the city at the foot of the Alps. Notable climbs include Col d'Éze, Col de Vence, Col de Turini and the Col de la Madone, where often you'll find professional riders training for their next race. But it is far more than just a place excellent for cycling, the Côte d’Azur is beautiful and each town along the coast offers cafés, restaurants, galleries, shops, and green spaces, as well as pristine beaches. Beyond the big hitters like Nice, Cannes and Monaco, villages like Èze, characterised by blissful calmness, and Grasse, a village famous for being the world’s perfume capital, offer completely different landscapes.  

Cycling in France, the top of the Col du Eze where the 2024 Tour de France will finish

The 2024 edition of the Tour de France will conclude in Nice (Image by James Startt)


Provence is located in the southeast of France with Marseille as its capital city. Images of fragrant lavender fields in the brightest purple hue, backdropped by golden-stone villages and cypress trees come to mind when you think of the region. Other than beautiful scenery and quaint villages, the main reason cyclists make the trip to Provence is to climb the legendary Mont Ventoux, or the Giant of Provence, as it has come to be known. The mountain pass is 20.8km in length, climbs 1,594 metres of elevation and has an average gradient of 7.7% – earning its place on everyone’s list of must-do climbs. 


France's capital city is home to the iconic Tour de France grand finale on the Champs-Élysées, attracting thousands each year to come and watch the professional riders parade around the city circuit at the end of a gruelling three-week race. The 2024 edition, however, will be held in Nice due to the Paris Olympic Games being held across the city, the first time the ending of the race has been moved since 1975. Beyond the Tour de France, the city of Paris is also the starting point for the 450km cycle route that connects Notre-Dame de Paris to the island of Mont Saint-Michel.

Central Paris has much improved cycling infrastructure in recent years, but there calmer climes and quieter roads beyond the city limits plenty of beautiful countryside within reach for exploring.

The Pyrenees

The Pyrenees is a mountain range that borders France and Spain, spanning nearly 500km. The highest point is the Pico de Aneto, which sits 3,404 metres above sea level, high in the clouds. The mountain’s passes have become famous with many professional cycling races taking place here, including the Tour de France and Vuelta a España. In this mountain range, there are over 500 climbs over 1,000 metres with amazing roads that climb to the mountain's highest points – so it is the place to go if you love an uphill challenge. The most famous climbs are Col du Tourmalet, Col d’Aspin, Col d'Aubisque, and Col du Soulor. The roads in the region are also quiet and well-maintained, being resurfaced regularly due to harsh weather conditions at the top of some of the mountain passes. But despite the long climbs and steep gradients, the views are mesmerising, surrounded by snow-capped peaks, and on a clear day, you’ll be able to see for miles.

Cyclists riding a long a smooth road in the Pyrenees, France

Cycling in the Pyrenees (Image by Factor) 


France’s sixth-largest city and renowned around the world for the wine the region produces, Bordeaux is also a great area to explore on two wheels thanks to its 1,182 kilometres of cycle paths. The city itself is also worth a visit with beautiful architecture and plenty to do with galleries, restaurants, shopping and wide boulevards packing out the city centre. But beyond the city's walls, well-marked cycle paths weave along the Atlantic coast, connecting towns and sightseeing locations such as the Dune of Pilat – the tallest sand dune in Europe – and Soulac-sur-Mer. The most popular cycle path in the region is the Roger Lapébie bike path, a converted railway track, which offers smooth roads through scenic forests, vineyards, and villages, such as Créon and La Sauve. And when in the world’s most famous region for wine, it would be rude not to include a stop or two to sample some of the wines on offer. The Médoc region not only provides beautiful scenery, but passes through prestigious vineyards like Margaux and Pauillac. Bordeaux is a relatively flat region, so makes it a perfect destination for those who are looking for a more leisurely trip or are new to cycling and bikepacking. 

For wine lovers, Burgundy and Loire Valley are also must-visit locations in France for vineyards and scenic cycleways.

The French Alps 

If there is one region famous in France for not only its cycling heritage, but popularity with cyclists, it is the French Alps. The landscape is a mesmerising tapestry, where jagged peaks pierce the sky and roads snake all the way to the tops of mountains. Cyclists can tackle iconic climbs such as Alpe d'Huez, Col du Galibier, and Col de la Madeleine, famous for their appearances in the Tour de France. These routes offer stunning panoramic views, hairpin bends, and rewarding descents, attracting both amateur and seasoned cyclists seeking a test of endurance and skill. Beyond the high-altitude thrills, the region also features gentler paths around the mountains like one of the options on the Route des Grandes Alpes, which takes cyclists through picturesque alpine villages, lush valleys, and alongside pristine lakes. The area is rich in cultural heritage, with opportunities to explore charming towns like Annecy and Chamonix, known for their historic architecture and vibrant local markets. With well-maintained cycling infrastructure, a range of accommodation options, and a welcoming atmosphere, the French Alps is a bucket-list destination for any cyclist.

Senior Cyclist on the top of the Col de Joux Plane, the French Alps, France

Col de Joux Plane (Image by Getty Images) 


Brittany, a region in the northwest of France, has a distinctive landscape in comparison to other parts of the country. It boasts a dramatic coastline, shaped by the Atlantic ocean, with jagged cliffs, rocky outcrops and sandy beaches. Head inland and you’ll be greeted by an explosion of green from oak, beech, chestnut and pine trees that forest the region’s interior. Cycling here delivers the best of both worlds, and there are nine long-distance, flat cycling routes that are popular in the region for showcasing everything Brittany has to offer. The Canal de Nantes à Brest route offers a serene and picturesque ride through the heart of Brittany, with peaceful waterways, historic locks, and verdant countryside. Cyclists can explore the region's rich cultural heritage by visiting mediaeval towns like Dinan and Vannes, or the megalithic sites of Carnac. 

Famous climbs to conquer:

Col du Galibier 

  • From Saint Michel de Maurinne 
  • 34.8km 
  • 5.9% average gradient
  • 13.1% maximum gradient 
  • 2,069 metres climbed

Alpe d’Huez 

  • From Le Bourg d’Oisans
  • 13.9km 
  • 8% average gradient 
  • 15% maximum gradient
  • 1,118 metres climbed 

Col d’Iseran 

  • From Bourg-Saint-Maurice
  • 47.7km
  • 4.1% average gradient
  • 15% maximum gradient
  • 2,763 metres climbed 

Mont Ventoux

  • From Bédoin 
  • 20.8km
  • 7.7% average gradient
  • 13.3% maximum gradient 
  • 1,594 metres climbed 

Col du Tourmalet 

  • From Sainte-Marie-de-Campan 
  • 17.1kmkm 
  • 7.5% average gradient 
  • 10% maximum gradient
  • 2,110 metres climbed 
Col du Galibier, France, Rouleur cycling guide

Col du Galibier from the north (Image by Daniel Hughes)

Cycle sportives in France 

Marmotte Granfondo Alpes 

The Marmotte Granfondo Alpes is one of Europe’s largest and longest running gran fondo events, having started in 1982, with 7,000 places sold out almost immediately each year. The famous sportive is 177 kilometres long and features over 5,000 metres of elevation gain with five of the sport’s most famed passes – Col de la Croix de Fer, Col du Télégraphe, Col du Galibier, Col du Lautaret, and Alpe d’Huez. Beyond the Tour de France, it is considered one of the country’s biggest cycling events. 

Learn more about Marmotte Granfondo Alpes 

Paris-Roubaix Challenge 

Paris-Roubaix is one of the most iconic one-day races in the WorldTour calendar. It’s brutal, exciting, and dramatic, and the rider who comes out on top after a Day in Hell is considered one of cycling’s legendary heroes. Want to join the legends of the sport? Well, you can with the Paris-Roubaix Challenge – a 170km route that includes all 29 of the race’s famous cobbled sections, including the savage Arenberg Forest. There are also two shorter routes availables, 70km and 145km, but all three routes finish off in the Roubaix Velodrome. 

Learn more about the Paris-Roubaix Challenge 

L’Etape du Tour 

The Tour de France is the world’s most famous cycling event, and L’Etape du Tour allows riders to tackle one of the race’s stages before the pros battle it out for stage victory. Organised by ASO, the same organisers as the Tour, it was first held in 1993 and takes place in July. Most often, the route selected is the queen stage of the Tour (the most difficult), and in 2024 riders conquered stage 20 from Nice to Col de la Couillole – a 138km-long route with more than 4,600 metres of elevation, including Col de Braus, Col de Turini and Col de la Colmiane. 

Learn more about L’Etape du Tour 

Haute Route Alpes 

Haute Routes is a multi-day sportive, making it one of the most challenging amateur cycling sportives in the world. Over the seven days, starting in Megève and finishing in Nice, the route takes in some of France’s most fabled cols over 714km, totalling almost 20,000 metres of elevation. There is also a three-day experience available, which covers 350km and totals 10,000 metres of elevation, finishing atop Alpe d’Huez. 

Learn more about Haute Routes

Shop now