SEVEN DAY CYCLIST
CYCLING, BUT NOT USUALLY RACING
LATEST UPDATE: MAY 30th
CYCLING THE LOIRE CYCLE ROUTE
By Mike Wells
First published 2013 by Cicerone
Third edition 2022
Pages 256, including maps
Paperback gloss laminated
Softback £16.95 e.book £16.95 Both £25.43
Serial cyclo-fluvialist, Mike Wells, takes you down France’s Royal River, in his latest Cicerone guidebook. From the Massif Central to the Atlantic Ocean, the River Loire is, perhaps the most French of rivers; perfect for cyclists with a taste for good food and fine wine in the heart of France. Steve Dyster reviews “Cycling the Loire Cycle Route.” Now there's a third, fully updated edition.
France’s most popular cycle route, Loire á Vélo (which coincides with Eurovélo 6), runs along the Loire Valley form its estuary to Nevers. This is the Loire of chateaux and gentle landscapes. Perhaps one or both explain its popularity. Above Nevers things get harder, with the rivers source high in the Cevennes in the remote Auvergne. As ever, Mike prefers to roll down the valley. This guide covers the complete length of the river.
This, the third edition, offers a complete update fo information. Mike points out that there are several improvements to the route in the Upper Loire Valley, where more use is now made of old railway trackbeds and canal towpaths to provide more traffic-free cycling - and doubtless gentler gradients. Even better, Mike Well's looks to the future, too, giving directions for a planned route which is not yet definitive own the ground. Given the drive many Department governments have for developing cycle tourism, his faith is unlikely to be misplaced.
Getting to the start is covered in detail, with advice on using public transport - though you’ll have a good stretch of the legs to reach the source whichever route you chose. Lucky folk might get someone to drive them there, but as Mike points out, if hills really are not your bag, try an E.Bike.
Envisaging a long lunch on a sun-drenched riverside terrace, half-bottle of Pouilly-Fumé on the table, one should remember that the Loire rises at about the same height as Ben Nevis amongst spectacular mountain scenery. The author gives good advice about equipment and much else. All this is contained in the introductory pages. There you will also find an outline of flora, fauna and history. This gave me a real flavour of why the Loire is a river that flows through the heart of France - not just geographically but its culture and history. Mike signals many of the most important elements of this; Auvergnat depopulation and cuisine, richer Burgundy of coq-au-vin and boeuf Bourguignon, the aristocratic Pays de Loire. Great cities, such as Tours (resting place of France’s patron saint) and Orleans (home of its once saviour) are en route. The guide to a river route conveys the sense of a greater journey.
Details of facilities and accommodation along the route are tabulated and listed in six appendices, together with distance charts. Useful contacts are, of course, given in the introduction and, by stage, in the appendices.
In all his guides, Mike has aimed at a stage length of about 80 kilometres (fifty miles). It is entirely possible to put together your own itinerary, depending on how long you have and what you wan to see along the way - and, as ever, there is plenty. Mike suggests that a three week schedule at around 50km - around 26 miles - a day should allow lots of sight-seeing.
Updates on the route will be available on the Cicerone website. .gpx files are available from the website, however, the maps and route description are more than adequate tools for navigation. With a bit of luck, you may well be able to fit the guide atop a bar bag. True, you might break the spine, but that serves to show that you are well-travelled. Equally, it will fit into a cycling jersey rear pocket.
As is usual for cycle routes in France, it is the responsibility of each Department to build and sign. As ever with cycle routes that coincide with others, signage will vary. For each section, Mike very helpfully points out how the route will be signed. In any case, as well as .gpx files there are now numerous 'cycle route' websites with downloadable routes and recommendations for diversions and alternatives. These were nascent in 2013, but are now well-established, with some referred to in the text.
However you navigate, you’ll end up - after 1061km - provided you have done so accurately, on the where the Loire meets the sea. Mike Wells will have guided you from source to sea. Sounds good to me, and this book contains all you need to know, as well as a sense of the spirit of the river and life along it to inspire you.
REVIEW FIRST PUBLISHED MAY 2017
UPDATED AND AMENDED DECEMBER 2022
BUILDER OF STEEL CYCLE FRAMES
Ryton On Dunsmore
Coventry CV8 3FH