It is hardly surprising in the land that gave us 'The Tour de France' that cycling is so popular and ranks alongside football as a national sport. On any fine day you will see lycra clad cyclists on the roads and France caters so well for cyclists and there is generally a greater appreciation of cyclists by motorists. This does not mean that you do not need to exercise the normal care and attention that is necessary when on two wheels.
Not only are French motorists generally more sympathetic to cyclists so are local authorities who are much better than the UK in providing urban cycle paths. Additionally in many places, designated cycle routes have been established, either following quiet roads or offtrack routes or a combination of the two. A prime example is the 'Loire a Velo' and its cousin 'Chateaux a Velo' which offers a very extensive cycle network.
Additionally France has an extensive canal and river network and in many cases cycle paths follow these and add in the superb network of 'voie vertes', literally 'greenways' which offer additional safe off road cycling and you can see why we wax lyrical about cycling in France.
We would add that we are not lycra clad cyclists, not in any way that I am denigrating these guys, but the reality with our motorhome is that we do not go anywhere without our bikes, not only for practical purposes, i.e the visit to the local boulangerie but also as a source of pleasure.
Part of our lifestyle is to use our motorhome as a base for our walking or cycling but with regard to the latter we do tend to fall into the cycling for softies category so you will not see in this website an article on us tackling the Alpe D' Huez. Walking is perhaps a slightly different matter but cycling often involves a leisurely lunch.
As far as bikes are concerned, ours are ATB's (all terrain bikes) though in most cases a hybrid type bike would be sufficient and in many cases a 'town' bike would be ok but our routes are generally not geared to road cyclists, that is the ones with the skinny tyres, they are a different breed. What you do not want to buy is the full suspension mountain bikes, these are ok if you are going to tackle off road uphill rough tracks. If you just use them in town, you will spend all your energy just bouncing along the road. I put them on par with all the town folk who buy 4 wheel drives to do the school run.
A bike with a suspension saddle and front forks is the most that you will need and one made of alloy reduces the weight but do not spend a fortune it will only get nicked. Expensive bikes on the back of motorhomes are too tempting.
What is essential is a good gel saddle and also make sure you know how to mend a puncture or have a spare inner tube and a basic tool kit.
I recall being 15 miles out on the Canal du Midi when I had a major problem with my back gear hanger, luckily with the tools I had I was able to effect a temporary fix.
With regard to gears, most are now of the derailleur type with a front 3 chain rings and a 7 back cassette giving you 21 gears but some only have 2 front and 5 rear giving 10 and other combinations do exist. Do not worry unless you are going to do serious offroad stuff, you will never use the lower gears. When you do, you expend so much energy you sometimes wonder why you bothered.
Finally get a good lock and if you are in a high risk area make sure that the front wheel is included. It is too easy to remove the front wheel and for the same reason do not lock your bike by the front wheel only. In these areas I will use a cable and a D lock.