Cycling in Languedoc, south France
Avid cycler and cycling expert Helen Bevis has scoured the region to bring you the very best of Languedoc's cycling opportunities:
The Languedoc is a cyclist’s paradise. From flat canal banks to undulating vineyards and steep mountain roads; whatever your style there is something here for you.
Hearty road cyclists can follow the tyre tracks of the Languedoc sections of the Tour de France. Mountain bikers can get off the beaten track and into trails through the vineyards, garrigue or mountains. Family cyclists can also enjoy the splendours of the area with well kept Voie Verte trails along quiet tracks or canal banks. The 240km path alongside the Canal du Midi is the most famous cycleway in the region, but that shouldn’t stop you exploring the endless possibilities elsewhere.
With so many choices let us make things a little easier with our guide to the where, what and how of cycling in the Languedoc. Independent souls will just pick up a map and choose a route or may even be tempted to take a look at some of the companies that operate tours in the area and let them plan the routes and hotels. Don’t want to bring your bike along? Then you can use our guide to find a bike hire venue.
Where to cycle in Languedoc
This is the best way to discover the Languedoc. You aren’t aiming to go fast or get muddy zooming downhill, you just want to explore the highways and byways; whether on or off the tarmac.
There are a number of classic rides in the Languedoc that are easy to follow and right at the top of the list is the magnificent Canal du Midi. This is the 240km trail that links Toulouse to the charming little port of Marseillan on the Mediterranean coast. You don’t have to cycle all of it, just choose the parts that you think you’d like to see. It’s a delightful way of seeing life in the slow lane; even on the bike you’ll be speedy compared to the gently chugging canal boats. Check out www.canalmidi.com, written by the author of Le Canal du Midi a vélo (N.B the hire shop Velos-Midi Cycle are no longer operating).
If you want to look beyond canals and lockgates the Languedoc- Roussillion has 8 Voies Verte (a national green cyclepaths scheme). These are specially developed cycleways in beautiful parts of the region; for full route details have a look at www.af3v.org.
|Voie Verte Name
|1: de l'Agly
|2: de la Vaunage
||RD40 fin provisoire (Calvisson)
|3: de Toulouges à Thuir
|4: du canal de la Robine
|5: du canal du Midi Carcassonne-Trèbes
|6: du canal du Midi de Béziers à Portiragnes-Plage
|7: du Jaur de Courniou à Olargues
|8: du Martinet
||Hameau d'Alcéa (Beaucaire)
||Route de l'abbaye de Saint-Roman (Beaucaire)
City Biking is easy in Languedoc
For town touring Montpellier has been inspired by the bicycle rental scheme at Lyon to develop its own version. Bikes can be hired from the TAM office on rue de Maguelone in Montpellier, or through a system called Vélomagg, where you can hire a bike for a period up to 24 hours from one of 49 stations throughout the city by credit card. Visit our bike rental page for more information.
Montpellier is a short hop from the beach and the road is almost completely flat! As you whizz there on your bike you’ll enjoy the sights and smells of the etangs as you approach the shores.
Montpellier Agglo claims to have over 250km of cycle paths. Some of these may only be a green line painted on the pavement, but still, this is better than nothing. In the centre of the city watch your speed as cyclists are obliged to pedal at walking pace only!
Why not try an organised 'cycling holiday' in Languedoc
There are two approaches to touring the Languedoc on your bicycle. Either you work out the route yourself or you take the truly lazy/luxury option of letting someone else does all the work of carrying your bags, planning the route and finding the restaurant for lunch. A cycling holiday doesn’t mean that you have to slum it in low grade accommodation and live off bread alone. There are companies who will organise a wine-tasting tour, a tour where each night your luggage has been transported to a different but equally good hotel and the food is as comforting as the beds. I liked the following for their convivial approach to saddle sore travels!
Try www.roughtrack.com (road and mountain bikes) or www.frenchcyclingholidays.com (road bikes) with the adage ‘all you have to do is pedal’ for interesting two-wheeled breaks in the Languedoc-Roussillion. Slightly further afield are www.veloloco.com (road bikes) who offer a range of services from bike rental to a full comprehensive tour. They are based in the Pyrenees but are willing to work with you to create a tour in the Languedoc.