Other routes in Central France

Dormant volcanoes and rolling hills make the central region well worth a visit for culture and cuisine

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There’s normally more rain on these trips than you see from the photos, as the camera only comes out when the sun’s shining. That means the fabulous roads we cross in the Velay and the foothills of the Massif Central go unrecorded, as drizzle dampens the tarmac but not our spirits. This is riding even an unseasonal summer shower can’t spoil. The roads are constantly twisting and rising and falling – not the steep climbs and hundreds of hairpins of the Pyrenees and the Alps, but gentler slopes and more forgiving bends through a quiet landscape of well-tended farmland and dense, dark forestry. Then as we leave Issoire, heading for the Auvergne volcanoes, the clouds part momentarily. “Quick, get the camera out,” I shout to photographer Weeble as we stop on a suitable corner. A frantic photoshoot follows… but in fact, there was no need to panic. As we head towards our overnight stop, we’re treated to a spectacular balmy evening with the cloudy sky streaked pink by the setting sun. It’s majestic, unexpected, and highly rewarding – just like the often-overlooked riding in the centre of France.

The middle of France is a big place, though. There’s great riding all over it, but in the following pages we pick out our favourite routes in four regions – plus some other not-to-be-missed rides.

LOIRET CHATEAUX
Start/finish: Sully-sur-Loire. Distance: 105 miles. Riding time: 3.5 hours
This sightseeing route passes the châteaux of Sully-sur-Loire, La Bussière, Blancafort, St Brisson and Gien. Hotel tip: Hostellerie du Grand Sully
Route map, Download the GPX


CATHEDRALS AND CASTLES
Start/finish: Chartres. Distance: 180 miles. Riding time: 6.5 hours
More focused on riding than sightseeing, this route from the cathedral city of Chartres passes the châteaux of Anet, La Roche-Guyon and Gaillard. Hotel tip: l’Hôtel
Route map,   Download the GPX


VINES OF SANCERRE
Start/finish: Pouilly-sur-Loire. Distance: 180 miles. Riding time: 5.5 hours
Fabulous riding through the rolling hills of the Sancerre wine region (handy for the Magny-Cours race track, too). Hotel tip: Le Coq Hardi
Route map,    Download the GPX


VELAY FUN
Start/finish: Lapalisse. Distance: 205 miles. Riding time: 6 hours
A belting ride through the rolling hills of the Velay into the Livardoise forests just north of Issoire. Hotel tip: Hotel Galland
Route map,    Download the GPX


COGNAC TO THE COAST
Start/finish: Cognac. Distance: 205 miles. Riding time: 6.5 hours
A laid-back coastal ride from the charming town of Cognac to the swanky Ile de Ré by La Rochelle. Hotel tip: Hotel l’Oliveraie
Route map,   Download the GPX


 

Please note: This page contains the route files for The RiDE Guide To France which came free with RiDE magazine in July 2017. These website page are not regularly updated, so please check all critical information before you travel. All route files are in .gpx format. Garmin and BMW users can download the main file, which contains all the routes and our recommended hotels as separate waypoints. TomTom users can download the individual routes and use the Tyre software to convert them. For many routes we also have Google Map links. However, as Google Maps will not plot routes over seasonally closed high Alpine passes when they’re shut, these may not work for every route all year round.