Cycling Around The French Countryside
Cycling in France for Fun and Fitness
With all the talk about being ecological, cycling is one of the best options to get from one place to another without contaminating the environment and spending money on fuel. On top of that, cycling is one of the best sports to keep yourself fit.
I learnt to cycle when I was a little girl but I hadn’t cycled for more than 20 years when I decided to start cycling in France a couple of years ago when I moved here. People tell you that once learnt you never forget how to cycle… well, they are right. It took me a few tries before I managed to feel safe on my bike but I did it. I started cycling again and I haven’t stopped since.
Me and My Bicycle
Cycling France (Travel Guide)
Cycling in France
I live in France, in an area where almost everybody practices some kind of sport. The most common sports are cycling, hiking, walking, hunting, fishing, horse riding and swimming. When I just moved to France my new friends were surprised that I didn’t practice any sport at all. They couldn’t believe it. My retired neighbours were touring the country on their tandem bike, my best friend went out every weekend on all day family rides carrying her baby in a security seat at the back of her bike and another friend with heart trouble went cycling with her professional cyclist husband as often as she could.
Eventually, out of shame I decided to start cycling, but as I was not familiar with the cycling tracks I decided to go along with a private tutor. That happened to be a great idea, as he taught me the rules of the road when cycling and made me discover the fabulous cycling routes around my area. On top of that, I had the incentive of going around with a professional who pushed me to keep going even at the hardest points.
As I grew more confident with my bike I started to wander around alone. I discovered the most beautiful sceneries. I could get lost in the countryside all day long just cycling and admiring the surroundings and the wildlife. Of course it helps that France has many cycle trails actually covering thousands of kilometers that are well marked, providing the perfect atmosphere to experience the country.
Cycling Is Better Than Shopping. Did I Say That?
Last year one of my best friends came to visit me in France. Usually every time she comes we go for a few days shopping spree to Paris and any other big city on the way. Last year however, when she arrived she was amazed to see me so radiant and fit. She asked me if I was dieting –which I wasn’t- or if I was going to the gym –which I wasn’t either. I told her all about my French cycling.
Two days later we were on our way out for a cycling tour of the surroundings. She liked it so much that we spend the whole week cycling. We would start in the morning, cycle to one of the farms around the area, buy some fresh goat’s cheese, homemade butter and local wine. Of course, that involved a long chat with the farmers and very often a visit to their cheese-making facilities and tasting their farm products. The next stop would be the baker for some freshly baked baguette. After that, we would just cycle around, circling mediaeval castles, sleepy villages and the lovely French countryside until we found an appropriate picnic site by the river where we ate, sunbathed and had a siesta before cycling back home.
We enjoyed it so much that we completely forgot about our Paris shopping or any other shopping. Later on, my friend wrote to me to tell me that this was her best ever holiday in France.
Some of the Sites we CycledClick thumbnail to view full-size
Cycling for health and fitness
- Cycling can burn between 300 to 700 calories per hour. The amount of calories used depend on different factors such as your weight and size, your speed and the difficulty of your cycling track among many other variables.
- Riding a bicycle is an excellent form of aerobic exercise.
- Minimizes the risk of coronary heart disease.
- It tones your muscles giving you a slimmer more defined look. There is a definite shaping, toning and firming of the thighs, calf muscles and the pelvis region.
- Cycling is claimed to be one of the few exercises that can help reduce cellulite from the thigh region.
- It builds up stamina. I personally feel energized all day long when I go for an early morning ride. You don’t need to cycle for a long time, a 20-30 minute ride would do the trick.
- Cycling can help you keep your weight down. Believe me, we were eating a pound of cheese and a whole baguette each for lunch with my friend and we never put on any weight.
- Cycling in the countryside alleviates stress, anxiety and depression. Whenever I am feeling low a good cycle makes me feel as good as new.
- It is claimed that cycling increases the body's protection against various forms of diabetes and high blood pressure
Everyone Can Cycle
Who can Cycle?
I am no expert, but for what I see around me there are no real age barriers to cycling. I have an 80 year old neighbour who had surgery on both knees and I see him cycling regularly every summer. Another 60 year old neighbour who had a mini heart attack was back on his tandem bike with his wife two months after he came out from hospital. I also see everyday in the village, old ladies taking their bikes as a mean of transport to come to the village and do their shopping. They ride slow but they get there!
Obviously anyone with heart disease or other conditions affecting their activity should, consult their doctor before starting any exercise programme.
Cycling with My little Boy in Royan
- You will need a bicycle to suit your needs. There are several types from road bikes, mountain bikes, tandems, vintage and even hybrid bikes. Keep in mind where are you going to use your bike and how often before you buy one.
- You might also want to wear a helmet.Currently, in France, there is no legislation which places any requirement on you to actually wear a helmet. Whether you wear a helmet or not is a matter of personal choice.
- Cycling gloves. I do recommend wearing cycling gloves otherwise, the rubbing of the handle will harden the skin in your hands.
- Bike racing gear. You don’t really need to wear special clothes for the odd cycling trip, but if you are going cycling seriously you will feel more comfortable if you are wearing appropriate cycling clothes.
Family Day Out
Cycling in France and Road Signs
Cyclists must obey traffic signs and signals in the same way as other road users; this includes respecting "no entry", "one way" and "stop" signs.
A last word: Dangers of Cycling
As with any other sport, cycling has its dangers. You take the risk of having a road accident if you are riding on the roads. At the end of the summer last year I had a cycling accident when I was run over by a car on a country road. As a result I ended with a broken wrist and ankle. Seven months later, my ankle has healed but I still have a sore wrist and probably will need surgery to fix it.
Did I go back on my bike after the accident? Of course I did! I was dead scared the first few times but I did. The boost and the health benefits that you get from cycling are for me worth the effort and the risk. I wouldn’t give up cycling in France.
Other sports I've tried:
- Skydiving my new passion
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- Skiing in France
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- I tried the Swiss ball
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© 2010 Wendy Iturrizaga
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