There are some 28,000 km (17,500 miles) of marked cycling paths throughout France. Bicycles can be hired from many local tourist offices, and French Railways (SNCF) also offers bicycles for hire at some 30 stations. There is an extensive network of pistes cyclables (cycling paths) along the Atlantic coast, all the way down to the Spanish border.
This extensive network crosses through the different regions and offers restaurants, lodging and rentals that offer services that help organize your trip. From beaches to green forests, from the chateaux of the Loire and the castles of the Dordogne to the vineyards of Alsace and Burgundy, these routes invite you to discover France in a different way. There are good mountain routes around Annecy and Chambéry in the Alps, and in the Pyrenées.
Then there is the Véloroute européenne (European cycle route) concept, which aims to extend and connect the various networks, in order to offer much longer excursions, covering several hundred kilometers through France and Europe. The idea is to take smaller, less busy routes that have been carefully chosen and marked. This allows unrushed cycle-tourists to undertake regional tours, such as in the Luberon massif, covering 231 km or more, or making even a long trip, along the Loire for 800 km, and even go further than that!
When you are on a cycling tour, have a lunch break for at least an hour or two! Cafes and restaurants are everywhere, often offering great lunchtime deals including wine. Make full use of the French national train system, SNCF. Many trains are bike-friendly with those that have specific space reserved for bikes being indicated on printed timetables. The exception is the high-speed TGV services running to the west and south-west of Paris, towards the Atlantic and the Pyrenees; bikes are only allowed if they are dismantled (or foldable) and bagged. Avoid the period from mid-July to mid-September when the French take holidays en masse. Spring and autumn are good times to visit, missing the winter and summer climatic excesses and holiday crowds.