If there is “slow food,” then consider trying out “slow touring.” Touring Loire Valley by bike allows you to stop, ponder, photograph and enjoy while not missing a bit. Forget whizzing past to get to the next castle or winery. You’ll still get there. It’ll just be a bit slower and a whole lot more fun.
France knows how to join forces for a common good: Voilà, the beautifully organized, mapped and signed “Cycling the Loire” (“Loire à Vélo”) route, jointly promoted by a collective of several official regional tourist organizations. In its entirety, the bike route is 800 kilometers long, passes through two regions of France, six “departments” or areas, and six cities and numerous small towns. On western end is Saint-Nazaire on the Atlantic Ocean. So bring your swimsuit (just kidding).
Follow the green cyclist icon when touring Loire Valley by bike
If you stay on the route, there are special green-highlighted signs with an icon of a cyclist that show you where you are, where you are going and how far. The signs are designed for travel either eastward or westward. And there are other signs that will direct you onto offshoot explorations to villages, wineries or castles, such as the Villandry castle and gardens we visited on one outing.
Some of the route is traffic free, while some is on small roads with little traffic or, in some towns, you may be on marked bike routes along a road.
No matter where you go, signage is supreme.
Do-it-yourself touring Loire Valley by bike
Now, you don’t have to do it all at once. Short trips, long trips, area trips, family trips – the route can be what you want it to be:
- You can rent a bike for a day or weekend and just tootle about, visiting a site or two or just enjoying the landscape, then return the bike and drive (or train) onwards.
- You can bike it all but leapfrog between main areas, just jumping on many trains with your bike to skip from area to area since there are 20 stations directly in towns on the route. During the summer, the French train service SNCF operates special wagons for bike travelers along the route with staff to help you on and off, no reservation needed. Click here for more on the “Train Vèlo Loire” service.
- You can book package trips, hire guides or figure it out yourself by using the accommodation planner on the official cycling Loire website. The listed accommodations, from hotels to campsites, called “Accueil Vèlo” (loosely put, “Bike Hosts”) offer services for cyclist such as secure bike storage and repair kits.
Then get ready to get excited and plan your adventure to tour Loire Valley by bike, making time to see the cities, such as Tours and just enjoy the many town squares and markets in any direction.