Definition of bicycle touring
The term “cycle tourism” is defined simply by the Larousse dictionary as “tourism practiced by bicycle or tandem”.
This definition allows us to distinguish the leisure practice of bicycle touring from the utilitarian use of the bicycle as a daily mode of transportation, for example, and from its sports practices dedicated to competition or preparation for competitions.
Cycle tourism is practiced alone, with family, friends, or in groups, on the occasion of hikes or bicycle trips whose purpose is to discover sites, landscapes, places, and to meet territories and their populations using the bicycle.
The practice of bicycle touring can however take various forms. If you practice occasional or regular bike rides, around your home or on weekends, it is already a basic form of bike tourism. Our agency is specialized in another form of bicycle touring: the organization of bicycle tours or trips. The itineraries of these bike tours can take place over one or more days, form a loop or go from point A to point B.
Cycle touring can also be practiced over very long distances in a completely itinerant way. This is called bicycle trekking or cyclo-camping. It is thus declined according to the duration of the journey by bicycle, the distance covered and thus the type of embarked equipment.
The history of bicycle touring
The beginnings of bicycle touring follow the development of the use of bicycles (which existed in the 19th century in many forms) and are marked by certain tutelary figures such as the Olivier brothers who made the first great bicycle tour, 794 kilometers long in 8 days in 1865. The little history of bicycle touring especially remembers the personality of Velocio or Paul de Vivie, theorist and organizer of the first events and the first news of bicycle touring.
The foundation of the Touring Club de France in 1890, an association representing cycle tourism, is a symbolic step, but it is actually around the publication “Le Cycliste” of 1887 (by Vélocio), that a real cohesion and definition of cycle tourism is formed, the term of which then knows its first documented occurrence. As a sign of its democratization, the first tours were published in a specialized magazine in 1885.
Cycle touring gradually became a way of life in the 1930s, with philosophies such as the 7 commandments of Velocio, which promoted a strict lifestyle, at least according to the criteria of the time. Little by little, the practice of bicycle touring was associated with a certain quality of life, with a virtuous experience, healthy for the body and the mind.
In 1930, under the aegis of the French Cycling Federation, meetings were organized, the first of which were in honor of Velocio. With the paid vacations, cycle touring became a craze and since then has become an integral part of the habits of French and foreign tourists.
At the end of the twentieth century, the French government fully integrates the importance of the phenomenon in its tourism policy to finally set up in 1998 a first national scheme of cycle routes and greenways. The latter will be revisited in 2011.
Getting started in bicycle touring
Traveling by bicycle over varying distances and discovering fabulous places is the dream of every cyclotourist. This quest for adventure requires both physical and mental preparation. Beyond these physical aspects, a bicycle trip must be prepared. For any beginner as well as for an experienced cyclotourist, going through a travel agency specialized in cyclotourism allows you to optimally prepare your bike trip.
Not all the routes we propose have the same requirements and you will inevitably find an offer that corresponds to your profile in our catalog of bicycle trips. However, you should know that intensive training is not required for bicycle touring because it has no competitive ideology. It just requires a curious mind in search of discoveries, eager to see and meet new people.
If the first kilometers of your cycling tour often promise to be difficult, rest assured, you will quickly find your pedaling rhythm, the one you are comfortable with to enjoy your trip. We recommend using the smallest gear possible to help you reach that optimum, which on average is 80 pedal strokes per minute. Also, don’t neglect the fundamentals of any sport. Listen to your body, train your muscles to the effort and prepare it at the beginning of the day with stretching. Go gradually once you are in the saddle and avoid rushing the body machinery. When cycling, trust your body which will gradually adapt to the demands on your heart and muscles. Of course, remember to hydrate yourself during the effort.
Cycle tourism has a real economic impact
Cycle tourism is virtuous for the economy, in addition to being virtuous for the environment by limiting car travel, which is often costly in terms of greenhouse gas emissions. The local authorities and the State have understood this perfectly well by deploying a cycling network at the end of the last century, which has not stopped expanding since. The National Bicycle Plan, established in 1998, aims to create a network of major national bicycle routes. A little over 20 years after its creation, 68% of the 23,300 kilometers are open. The remaining 32% should be completed by 2030.
The same logic prevails on a European scale with the Eurovelo network of European cycle routes piloted by the European Cyclists Federation (ECF). The 15 Eurovelo routes currently cover 42 countries from Portugal to Russia and from Italy to Scandinavia. The 70000 kilometers of Eurovelo are 85% completed.
3 types of routes are identified as cycle routes and designed for cycle tourism:
Cycle touring routes in France
Finally, choose your equipment and your route carefully. In bicycle touring, the most important criterion for your bike is sturdiness. You will often opt for the famous randonneuse, a bike with proven reliability that is full of equipment to make your trip easier: mudguards, saddlebags, hubs with soft bearings, leather saddle, handlebar bag, etc. Cycling can also be done on a tandem, mountain bike or recumbent bike. The latter offers the best energy efficiency thanks to its aerodynamics and its center of gravity. In any case, it is your itinerary that should be taken into account when choosing your bike.
There are many famous routes in France: