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My tips for cycling in France

Discussion in 'Touring and Adventure Cycling' started by Jimmy Doug, 4 Jul 2011.

  1. Goggs

    Goggs Veteran

    One thing to watch out for is the new law where every second vehicle has to be driven by someone who's also on the phone. Every third they're on the phone & smoking a fag.
     
    Last edited: 11 Feb 2017
    uphillstruggler likes this.
  2. Shadow

    Shadow Über Member

    If you are now in St Remy (you lucky, lucky Goggs), you could take your custom elsewhere. There is an alternative to Intermarché, non?
     
    Goggs likes this.
  3. Goggs

    Goggs Veteran

    Actually I do. I tend to go to, the SuperU Graveson.
     
  4. briantrumpet

    briantrumpet Veteran

    Location:
    Devon & Die
    A first for me in France - I was given the finger - now I wouldn't have minded if I had been doing something stupid, but I merely held my hand out to a driver overtaking directly towards me, when I had no bike space to escape to. I suppose he thought that 50cm at a closing speed of 60mph was more than enough.

    To be fair, French drivers down in the south east aren't generally actively aggressive towards cyclists, but you do need to keep your wits about you on a few main roads, as many drivers don't expect to have to slow down and wait to pass you. I'd never risk 'taking the lane'.

    Incidentally, changing the subject, re nights and tents/camping, for the whole of August in my part of France, the temperature difference between night and day was about 20C this year, and I've known it to be 25C - the air holds little warmth, as it's not humid, generally, and once the sun sets the temperatures fall off noticeably from about 10pm.
     
    Goggs likes this.
  5. briantrumpet

    briantrumpet Veteran

    Location:
    Devon & Die
    I've more or less given up on Intermarché too, and similarly prefer U Express.
     
    Goggs likes this.
  6. Goggs

    Goggs Veteran

    Sorry :crazy:
     
  7. robing

    robing Well-Known Member

    I'm back now from my Bayonne to Blighty trip across France to Dieppe. (I managed to make myself ill in the process, I think because I was really pushing it and doing a lot of miles and not enough rest). Anyway, here are my thoughts on France:

    Pros -
    I love the French people. I like the whole politeness thing, we could learn a thing or two from that. I found them to be mainly friendly and hospitable, it helps having basic conversational French. I was able to get by and have reasonable conversations, but didn't always fully understand the replies when they spoke quickly!

    Cycle paths - mostly very good. Did quite a lot of the Velodyssey and other cycle ways in southwest France and generally good quality, easy navigation, separate from the roads.

    Boulangeries - wonderful array of pastries and often do coffees too.

    Camping - so many campsites, the municipals generally good and some cheap ones on the Velodyssey. Wild camped in the forests, was great! I did have a battery pack nicked from a campsite toliets which put a bit of a dampener on things. I realise this could have happened anywhere.

    Bayonne to Royan - I really enjoyed this section, lots of cycle paths, smaller roads, endless pine forests and the Dune du Pilat. Plus really liked Arcachon.

    Normandy - nice rolling countryside a bit like the Cotswolds.

    Budget hotels
    Though more pricey than countries like Spain, I found the F1s and Premiere Classe etc to be pretty good. You know what you are going to get and they don't question taking the bike in the room. Can work out quite cheap if there are 2-3 of you. Virtually every F1 stunk of cigarette smoke though. I didn't really mind the lack of en suite in F1s, there is a washbasin, not too bad if you are a bloke lol.

    Cons -
    the roads! I didn't really like cycling on French roads that much. Navigation was pretty tricky when I got away from the coast at Rochefort and headed inland via Thouars, Saumur, Le Mans, Normandy. France must have more miles of roads than any other European country I reckon, certainly more than Spain. You can take minor roads, but often this means checking your map/gps/phone etc every 5 minutes when you get to a crossroad. A lot of the main roads, even 'minor' D ones can be quite busy and narrow. There's often not a shoulder to cycle on, and when there is one, the surface may not be very good. I had 2 or three really close passes from lorries.

    Shops - there can be a lack of roadside shops in France. Petrol stations generally don't serve any refreshments (although more in the north seemed to), smaller supermarkets often close in the early-mid afternoon. Big supermarkets/hypermarkets are ok but a bit of a pain to wander around when you only want a quick stop. I found the roadside bars/tabaks a bit miserable. You can buy a fairly overpriced Coke, maybe a chocolate bar but not a lot else. There were a few times when I was really gagging for some refreshments and nowhere was open! Some towns were like ghost towns to cycle through.

    Rochefort to Le Mans was all pretty dull cycling, all fairly featureless. I guess the east of the country is probably a lot more scenic and mountainous.

    That's about it! The weather was fantastic. I didn't really come across any priorite a droite either,
     
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  8. briantrumpet

    briantrumpet Veteran

    Location:
    Devon & Die
    Re D roads - they do really come in all shapes and sizes - in my part, there are some, just a handful, which are fairly major transit routes, with lots of cars and lorries 'n' all, and then there are others where I can go 20 miles and not be passed by more than a couple of cars - the latter type is the more common. D roads ('Départementale') that go in a straight line between medium sized towns are likely to be busyish, but there are usually alternatives not far away (except in the case of really mountainous areas) - and you can get dream roads like this, which, I'd say, are in the majority:

    img_20160904_123620323_hdrblog.jpg

    Re PAD - yes, a disappearing phenomenon, and if you do come across one (marked by an X sign), you just treat it like any junction: with caution.
     
    robing likes this.
  9. OP
    OP
    Jimmy Doug

    Jimmy Doug If you know what's good for you ...

    Thanks for the write up - very interesting.
    Concerning the priorité à droite. As I've said elsewhere, I absolutely guarantee that you sailed past several - but didn't notice a single one. That's my problem with them! They really are everywhere, but rarely are they clearly marked. If you don't believe me, give me your route and I'll find them for you on Google Street View (semi-serious here!)
    I totally agree with you about the rest. The French are very polite and have a good sense of humour, but it helps if you make even a tiny effort to speak French. The roads can be very fast and busy - but I find them on the whole far less stressful than the UK ones. Garages? Yeah - not the best place to look for food generally speaking. You need to stop off in the supermarkets or boulangeries. Don't go to the big superstores on the edge of town unless you can lock all your bags and your bike. They can be HUGE - and by the time you've even found the section of the supermarket you're looking for, someone may have pinched your stuff. Far, far better to stop in a small corner supermarket, even if it does cost that little bit more.
     
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  10. OP
    OP
    Jimmy Doug

    Jimmy Doug If you know what's good for you ...

    They are not disappearing. It does depend to some extent where you are. Here, there are more and more of them. Several towns around here have recently added them, whereas before they were not priorité à droite.
     
  11. OP
    OP
    Jimmy Doug

    Jimmy Doug If you know what's good for you ...

    I love your photo by the way Brian. I absolutely agree. You find D roads like that everywhere in France outside the big towns - not necessarily with the Alps in the background though! It's one of the great pleasures of cycling in this wonderful country.
     
  12. briantrumpet

    briantrumpet Veteran

    Location:
    Devon & Die
    Shows how regional these decisions are - they are definitely disappearing in the Drôme, though it's quite funny to see white lines painted in the middle of the big spaces where some of them they used to be.
     
  13. OP
    OP
    Jimmy Doug

    Jimmy Doug If you know what's good for you ...

    Yes, indeed. In such a centralised country too. I lived in Rhône Alpes before coming here, and apart from the mountains, one of the things I loved about the region was that priorité à droite hardly existed. It was occasional in Nantes, everywhere in Le Havre, and it's sporadic here (I've moved around a bit!). It's part of the problem of the thing. There's no consistence whatsoever. Even in the same village there can be a normal-priority round, straight away followed by a priorité à droite road. In Paris, there are still the occasional roundabouts that are priorité à droite. How confusing is that? Isn't it time the French just abolished the damn things? They exist elsewhere in Europe too - but they're clearly marked. Not always the case here.
     
    Mort likes this.
  14. Mort

    Mort Interstellar Overalls

    They aren't marked at all in Belgium and NL. If you don't see a sign saying otherwise, always assume it's priority to the right.
     
  15. briantrumpet

    briantrumpet Veteran

    Location:
    Devon & Die
    Yes. There are all sorts of quirky things I love about France (or the bit I know, anyway), but this isn't one of them.

    Let's put it to the EU! Oh, hang on...
     
    Jimmy Doug likes this.