THE RIVER RHONE CYCLE ROUTE
By Mike Wells
Second Edition Published 2023 by Cicerone
Pages 256, including maps
Paperback gloss laminated fold-out
Reviewed by Steve Dyster
Progress in the development of international long distance cycle routes that rely on local government to implement plans is, inevitably, sporadic. Cicerone guides are linked to web-pages which give updates that are reported to them, but revised guides are a definite plus, too. As Mike Wells points out in this second edition of his guide to the River Rhone Cycle Route, a lot of progress has been made. That does not mean the route is complete yet, with some stages awaiting completion. whether these go according to plan or not is another matter. Not that it matters too much. Some elements of the planned route described in the first edition were revised during implementation. Thus parts of the first edition are now obsolete. In that sense, this is more than a revision - it is crucial to following the rout stands.
We can expect further modifications, so visit the books webpage for updates. We might even expect a finalised route at some stage. In the meantime, be sure that the second edition fulfils all the requirements a cycle tourist needs to plan and follow this fabulous route.
There are few cycle routes that start at a glacier and many that lead to the Mediterranean coast. It is hard to think of a greater contrast than that between the Swiss Alps, where snow may fall at any time of year, and the lush pastures of the Camargue (where the reviewer has experienced snow, though it soon disappeared in the February sun). So, this latest river route guide by the prolific Mike Wells, describes a fascinating - as he likes, largely downhill - signed route from the Furka Belvedere to Port St.-Louis-du-Rhone. In the months when the Furkapass is open, it is possible to book your bike on a post bus to reach the start. Outside of that it is a ride half-way up or over the pass - depending on direction of approach; console yourself by the thought of keeping warm by pedalling.
Getting to the start requires more than the average thought, so the guidance on getting there is very helpful. From there, the guide follows Mike’s usual formula. The 900 km route is divided into twenty sections of between 33 km and, a maximum of 64 km. Of course, these are not set in stone - the author suggests, indeed, that the average cyclist could easily complete the route in a fortnight at most. He offers an additional twelve-day schedule averaging 74 km per day. The choice is always the cyclist’s and a useful table of amenities within each section, with distances included, is very useful.
Route description is as thorough as one would expect and the route maps will assist both planning and route finding. Signage is complete in Switzerland, but, as is often the case, some French Departments are ahead of others, so keep the guide in your jersey pocket.
At one time, many touring cyclists would have been put-off by mileage through major cities. This is no longer the case, as urban touring becomes more popular and cycling infrastructure improves. In both Switzerland and France, the Rhone follows a way through the mountains shared by railways and roads linking the main settlements. Not only will you be guided through the sights and suburbs of Geneva and Lyon (France’s second city), there will be occasions when town follows town. Don’t let this put you off, main roads are only occasionally encountered and most of the towns have castles, museums, bakeries and cafes. Needless to say, details of some, along with tourist information centres, appear in the appendices.
Notes give outlines on flora, fauna, history, culture, cuisine, religion politics - and wine - as they alter with Rhone as it flows to the sea.
Having already published Mike’s guides to the Moselle, the Danube (two volumes) and the Rhine cycle routes, the Rhone makes an interesting addition to Cicerone’s catalogue. Maintaining the expected high standards and continuing the theme, this is, once again, the guide to carry as you roll down the river. Where next? Loire, Weser, Elbe, Vistula, Volga?
PUBLISHED NOVEMBER 2016
REVISED APRIL 2023