bicycle touring in the loire valley

The Loire Valley and Jura Mountains

Bicycle Touring Across France

France has excellent cycling infrastructure and a wealth of well-signposted bicycle routes. We initially planned to ride the EuroVelo Route 6 (EV6) from Nantes all the way to the Black Sea, but wound up deviating from this in favor of linking local bike routes in eastern France. We chose this option because we wanted to journey further into Switzerland and the Alps during the summer while the weather was favorable.

bicycle touring france map
Overview of our route from Nantes to Geneva (red line), with our route from Paris in purple.

We came into Nantes via some wonderful cycling routes in Normandy and Brittany. These regions were a joy to explore by bike and there are many options for loops and customizable tours. Saint-Malo, Dinan, and Rennes all had spectacular old town centers brimming with history and magnificent architecture.

Download the GPX track for our ride along the Loire and through the Jura.

Section Stats:

Time Frame: July 25 – August 11, 2021

World Bicycle Tour Days: 82 – 99

Miles: ~690

EuroVelo Route 6

In Nantes we joined up with the EuroVelo Route 6, also known as “Atlantic to the Black Sea” or the “Rivers Route.” This route is a popular traverse of Europe that highlights many exceptional destinations. The cycle route starts in Nantes and ends in Constanta, Romania.

la loire a velo
Riding along a lane with luminescent stone houses in Saumur.
Cat on a hay bale.
Cat on a hay bale.

The EV6 primarily follows major rivers, as its name suggests, and thus is relatively flat. Through France, the route follows the Loire River and its tributary canals along pleasant towpaths and small country roads. The sound of pea gravel crunching below our tires became a soothing soundtrack to our ride.

bicycle touring in blois
Bike path with a great view of Blois.
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Overlooking Saumur and the Loire River.

The western section of the EV6 follows the same route as La Loire à Vélo, which is well traveled as a shorter bicycle tour in France. The route is regularly signposted, and navigation was a breeze. We use OSMand+ with cycling overlays for offline route navigation on all of our tours.

bicycle touring in france
Hay bales and a nuclear power plant.
bicycle touring france
The Briare Aqueduct above the Loire River.

La Loire à Vélo

The Loire Valley between Sully-sur-Loire and Chalonnes-sur-Loire is a UNESCO World Heritage site due to its cultural, architectural, and agricultural significance. The valley is chock-full of magnificent chateâux and well-preserved historic villages as well as vineyards, orchards, and spaces of wild nature.

la loire a velo
The magnificent troglodyte village near Saumur. This area was a highlight of our ride through the Loire Valley.
la loire a velo
Cool architecture built into the limestone caves. This was the entrance to an underground market street.
bicycle touring saumur
Narrow dirt path leading up from the caves.

The Loire Valley was a major highlight of our time in France and we would highly recommend the area to anyone planning a bike tour in the country. The sheer number of chateâux is unbelievable, and the medieval old towns are always a delight to wander through.

chateau de sully sur loire
Picking blackberries at the Chateau de Sully-sur-Loire.
bicycle touring france
Pretty half-timbered houses in Amboise.

We toured the Chateau de Blois, where the Duke of Guise was assassinated in 1588. The chateau also houses Catherine de Medici’s personal study, the walls of which are covered with intricately carved wooden cabinets that house secret compartments. Rumor has it that Catherine hid her poisons in these obscure chambers, but this fact has been disputed. All the same, it was an intriguing place to soak up some history.

castle with double helix staircase in blois, france
Courtyard of the Chateau de Blois, featuring the grand double helix staircase.
street performers in blois
Street performance we stumbled into in Blois. These guys were really entertaining, and they were employed by the city so they wouldn’t take any donations (except beer).

We saw more cycle tourists in the Loire Valley than anywhere else in Europe, and we were heartened to see so many people engaging in green tourism. We were particularly impressed by the number of families with small children loaded down with panniers and bike trailers!

tours cathedral stained glass
There were some pretty hilarious scenes going in if you looked closely.
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View of the cathedral in Blois towering over the rest of the city.

France has done an amazing job promoting bicycle tourism and creating new routes. We rode La Seine a Velo at the beginning of our European tour, which was newly completed in October of 2020.

amboise castle
The heavily fortified Chateau d’Amboise.
la loire a velo
Exploring the troglodyte village near Saumur.

Grande Traversée du Jura

In Chalon-sur-Saône, we decided that we wanted to head into the mountains rather than continuing on the EV6. As enjoyable as the canal towpaths were, we were ready for a change from the river valley farmland. We took a nice bike path called the Voie Bressany from Chalon-sur-Saône to Lons-le-Saunier and from there connected to the Grande Traversée du Jura (GTDJ).

bicycle touring jura mountains
Lush green scenery and a well-trodden cow path.
bicycle touring jura mountains
Bike path through an old railway tunnel near Lons-le-Saunier. Making our way toward the Jura Mountains.

We quickly began ascending into the mountains and were riding through quiet forests and past sheer rock outcrops. The riding was more demanding but we were happy to see a new part of France and experience the hilly terrain. This route felt like a good warm up to riding in the Alps, as the grades were fairly gradual but still challenging.

bicycle touring jura mountains
Biking during golden hour in the Juras. Getting close to Switzerland!

bicycle touring jura mountains

Loire Valley and Jura Mountains Video:

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4 thoughts on “The Loire Valley and Jura Mountains”

  1. Thank you for creating this website and sharing your travels. I have enjoyed reading the blog posts and watching the videos. There’s a lot of useful information, including the GPX files (thank you for sharing them), that will help me plan my own bike tour through France and Europe, hopefully this year. I have subscribed to your youtube channel and I will continue to come back to this website. Best of luck!!

    1. So glad you’re enjoying the website and videos! It’s great to hear that the blog posts are helpful for trip planning. Thank you for being here and hope you have a fantastic European tour!

      1. Thank you!
        By the way, I was wondering. What do you do with your bikes when you go in to a museum or a castle? Do your bikes (with panniers and all your stuff) sometimes get in the way of doing such things?

        1. Going into museums and such can be challenging when we have our bikes and all our stuff with us. We usually take turns – one person goes in while the other stays with the bikes to prevent theft. There have been a few cases, such as when we visited the gardens at Giverny, where we locked up our bikes and panniers with a U-lock and cable and felt pretty comfortable doing so. There were a bunch of other touring bikes in the parking area and lots of people around, so it seemed unlikely that anyone would start rummaging through our things. We took our camera gear and any loose valuables with us to be on the safe side. It is always somewhat of a risk/reward calculation though.

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