Other routes in south west France

This is touring heaven – from the amazing roads of the Pyrenees, the Tarn Gorges and the Cévennes to the ancient towns of Lot and the medieval marvel of Carcassonne

This is the Col du Tourmalet – one of the must-ride roads in the western Pyrenees

This is the Col du Tourmalet – one of the must-ride roads in the western Pyrenees

Everyone knows beauty is in the eye of the beholder. But I defy anyone to behold the Pyrenees on a sunny day and not be blown away by them. They are, quite simply, one of the most stunning sites in Europe.

Not that I can appreciate the views as Weeble and I load the bikes. The plan is to get a sunrise shot, which means getting from our hotel in St Jean-Pied-de-Port to the top of a pass before the sun was fully up. This is A Bad Idea – not only because it means getting up stupidly early, but also because riding east, in the dark, guarantees that any rays of the rising sun clearing the shadowed crown of mountains above us are beamed directly, blindingly, into our eyes. Not good on such insanely-twisty roads.

From the top of Col de Burdincurutcheta, the valleys ahead look almost black and white, so sharp is the contrast between the first kiss of the sun and the still-dominant shadows. Behind us, the land is still largely lost in the night. We give up on the idea of a dawn picture and head, instead, for breakfast. It takes a few more miles – and a few more passes – before we get to eat. The roads and villages are eerily quiet, but I don’t mind. These are demanding but rewarding roads, the difficult light conditions adding an extra challenge. But it’s so worth it – this is amazing riding. By the time we’ve eaten, the sun is fully up and I’m in heaven. The sky is blue, the mountains are green tipped with grey, and the road is black and grippy. We get back on the bikes – onwards and literally upwards.

We’re hitting big-name passes now, famous roads that regularly feature in the Tour de France. Col d’Aubisque is wild and lonely, Col du Soulor is busier and less dramatic but still packed with well-surfaced and involving corners, Col du Tourmalet has a lot of cyclists testing themselves on the Tour’s most famous climb, while Col d’Aspin is quiet and wooded. Each one is different but all are amazing.

Even the Col de Peyresourde is dramatic and brilliant – wide and empty, sweeping through immaculate fields and curling in generous hairpins over the mountain side. All day long, it’s brilliant roads in the most stunning setting. When we finally get off the bikes, I say to Weeble; “You know I always say, ‘You can’t beat the Alps’? Well, I think today’s ride just beat the Alps. It was… beautiful.”


Start/finish: Cahors. Distance: 145 miles. Riding time: 4 hours
From the historic heart of this sunny wine region, looping out to the magnificent village of Rocamadour, carved into a cliff. Hotel tip: Hotel Chartreuse
Route map, Download the GPX

Start/finish: Villeneuve-sur-Lot. Distance: 110 miles. Riding time: 3 hours
A sight-seeing spectacular, visiting the gorgeous historic villages of the Lot-et-Garonne region. The modest mileage allows plenty of time to explore. Hotel tip: Le Moulin de Madame
Route map,   Download the GPX

Start/finish: Dax. Distance: 210 miles. Riding time: 6 hours
A relaxed ride through the quaint villages and sleepy forests of Les Landes, to the sandy beaches of the Atlantic coast. Hotel tip: Hostellerie du Clos Pité, Pontonx-sur-l’Ardour
Route map,   Download the GPX

Start/finish: Auch. Distance: 180 miles. Riding time: 5 hours
Rolling hills, empty roads, charming old villages and crystal-clear air– this route shows off the Midi-Pyrenees at their laid-back best. Hotel tip: Le Domaine de Baulieu, Auch
Route map,   Download the GPX

Start/finish: Albi. Distance: 210 miles. Riding time: 6 hours
Between the high peaks of the Pyrenees and the deep gorges of the Tarn lies the Montagne Noire – and miles of mind-blowing riding on super-twisty roads. Hotel tip: Grand Hôtel d’Orléans, Albi
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.