Biking Your Way through the Loire Valley
Trains serve some towns, but the best way to see this relatively flat region is by car or bike. Ten years and several million euros later, the vast program called La Loire à Vélo (“The Loire on a Bike”; www.cycling-loire.com) has completed the 800km-long (496-mile) Loire à Vélo trail, so you can now safely pedal from Nevers to the sea on a dedicated bike path past châteaux, villages, and natural areas or easily bike from one château to another. The path was designed for low-key cycling and is linked to cycling-friendly hotels and bike-rental outfits along the way (look for the ACCUEIL VÉLO signs). More paths are added every year, and the trail will hook up to an even more massive project called EuroVelo 6, a cycling path that leads all the way to the Black Sea, at the far eastern edge of Europe.
La Loire à Vélo has partnered with various tourist offices and travel agencies to offer a range of bike-trip packages that include hotel, meals, bike rental, and baggage transport (very important if you don’t want to haul extra weight). For more information, visit the “Organise your stay” tab on www.cycling-loire.com. The website also has detailed information on dozens of bike-rental outfits along the route, as well as brochures and links to guidebooks on various sections of the path.
One of the better-known outfitters is Detours de Loire, 35, rue Charles Gille, Tours (www.locationdevelos.com; tel. 02-47-61-22-23), which has three other shops in Blois, Saumur, and Tours as well as 10 or so associated outlets up and down the Loire à Vélo circuit. This means that you can pick up your bike in one town and leave it in any partner outlet along the way without backtracking. If you are arriving in the Loire Valley by train, the four main shops are all located close to the town station. Prices for all-purpose bikes run from 15€ to 22€ per day, with discounts for multi-day rentals. A 300€ deposit (usually a credit card imprint) is required. Detours de Loire can also organize hotel-bike packages, deliver your bike to your hotel, and store your bags while you are pedaling. Note: Most outlets are open only from April/May to October, except for the outlet in Blois and Tours.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.