With luxury “Bike and Barge” cruises becoming a popular option for small groups of active travelers, enjoy this blog post on how to prepare and plan for France’s best recreational bicycling.
explore the European countryside on two wheels
For casual cyclists and outdoor enthusiasts who are keen to explore the European countryside on two wheels, recreational bicycling along France’s towpaths is one of barging’s most indelible pleasures. Built concurrently with the canals hundreds of years ago, France’s towpaths now serve as an extensive and inviting inland network of marvelously manicured adventure trails.
These preserved bicycle boulevards offer the perfect way for barge guests to relish the serenity of gentle morning pedals, explore charming villages with relaxing afternoon rides, and revel in scenic beauty during exhilarating sunset cycling.
Barge Lady Ellen says, “Because cycling opportunities vary from boat to boat and region to region, they are an element of the barging experience to carefully consider when choosing a cruise.”
All hotel barges in France carry an onboard collection of bicycles selected specifically for the towpaths and trails along the cruise route. Ranging from single-speed cruisers to all-terrain mountain bikes to “bicyclettes” for children, the bicycles are regularly maintained by the crew, ensuring that cyclists of all heights and ages are able enjoy the best of bicycling. For those who wish to wear them, helmets are also on offer.
personalized cycling expeditions along the towpath
As they make their through France’s inland waterways, many hotel barges are lifted or lowered through a series of “ecluses”, aka locks. Not only are locks an amazing aspect of the cruising experience, it is during these short stops when guests can comfortably disembark while crew members can offload their bicycles.
Barge Lady Cruise Correspondent Dana Freeman advises, “While cruising, the Captain must stop the barge at regular intervals in order to go through the locks. This is an ideal time to hop off the barge and use one of the ship’s bicycles to take a ride right beside the canal.”
Active guests can then set off for a personalized cycling expedition along the towpath! Options for adventures on two-wheels abound: zip up to the next lock and admire the scenery as you wait for the barge to catch up; follow a trail into a charming village to explore ancient churches and pedestrian avenues; or leisurely pedal to a town square and savor a cup of coffee from a small café.
the area’s best biking trails
For more dedicated enthusiasts who wish to cycle longer and further, the crew on some of our barges is happy to provide details maps of the area’s best biking trails. Chef will make sure a delightful day of self-guided cycling is also a delicious one, with a packed picnic lunch, cold drinks, and healthy snacks. Guests can feel comfortable exploring freely, as crew is always ready to respond to anyone who may become lost or require assistance.
“Guests are encouraged to enjoy a casual bike ride along the Canal de Bourgogne’s towpath or into the French countryside,” reports Rendez-Vous’ Barge Manager Spencer Hayes. “Bicycles are always onboard, always available, and always ready to go.”
Depending on if a barge is cruising or docked, returning to the boat means either meeting at a pre-determined lock, or heading back to where the vessel is moored. Upon your arrival, crew members will be there to greet and assist you, and just like magic you (and your bicycle) are once again on the barge. Of course, all barges offer bicycling opportunities when docked for the day, as guests can hop off and come back as they wish.
Bicycling in Burgundy is “Barge Lady Approved”
Barge Lady Caroline reveals, “Linked together by the Canal du Nivernais and the Canal de Bourgogne to form a magnificent network of traffic-free towpaths and canal side trails, bicycling in Burgundy seems to take its travelers to an experience outside of time.”
Boasting many locks scattered over 500 miles of easy-to-cycle adventure trails, Burgundy is a bicyclists paradise. Barge guests can ride through iconic vineyards and into lively towns, sometimes stopping along the way for a café in the village square or to take a peek into a nearby church. Best of all, everyone has a blast while mingling with the locals who are also bicycling Burgundy’s tranquil towpaths.
Other cruise regions to consider for cycling opportunities
Other cruise regions to consider for cycling opportunities are both established and emerging. The towpaths of Champagne entice cycling enthusiasts with lazy rides through vine-laced hills; the forested landscapes of the Alsace-Lorraine beckon bicyclers with woodland scenery and bracing Alpine air. Most excitingly, the Upper Loire has recently seen major restorations of the canal side towpaths, offering miles of manicured trails for leisurely two-wheeled exploring.
“The area in the Upper Loire between Briare and Sancerre is a true bikers’ paradise,” says Tour Guide Susan Kovalick of the barge Meanderer. “It is a part of the fabulous network of biking paths and trails known as La Loire à Vélo. Ask us to organize a guided biking tour of any length or duration!”
Ultimately, the Barge Ladies are delighted to suggest barge cruises with robust cycling opportunities as a popular option for groups of active guests. From spontaneous and leisurely rides along the canal’s towpath to advanced cycling routes in national parks, luxury barge cruises in France focusing on biking and barging are available in 2022 and 2023. Contact a Barge Lady today to chat about your “wheely” fun barge cruise!