Cycling Eurovelo 6 From Switzerland To France
Eurovelo 6 is a 4,000km long bicycle route that runs from the Atlantic Ocean in France to the Black Sea and follows 3 of the largest rivers in Europe: the Loire, Rhine and Danube.
David Piper recently returned from a ride along part of Eurovelo 6. In this guest post, he describes the route and offers tips in case you want to cycle the same path.
Photo by gregoriosz (Flickr).
Perhaps one of the most popular cycle routes in the world is that along the Danube river between Passau and Vienna. It’s so popular that the route now follows both sides of the river to ease the two-wheeled traffic congestion.
What isn’t always appreciated by the people cycling along the Danube is that this is just one section of the Eurovelo 6 (also known as EV6 or VR6) that stretches from the French Atlantic port of Nantes to Constanta on the Romanian Black Sea coast.
Image courtesy of the Eurovelo 6 website
This Easter we rode a 1,000 km section of Eurovelo 6. We started in Basel, Switzerland and rode to Orleans in France. Here are a few key facts from our trip:
1. The route follows inland waterways. It runs along the Rhine-Rhone Canal, The Doubs, The Saone, The Canal du Centre and the River Loire. This means it’s easy to pick up the trail no matter what your starting point.
2. Following the water also means the route is flat. Although you won’t get any mountain top vistas, it does pass through some fabulous countryside and even traverses the Jura foothills of the Alps without any appreciable climbing.
3. The route is well marked with signs. Still, it’s probably a good idea to invest in a map, such as the EV6 map sold by Sustrans.
4. About 70% of the route is on dedicated traffic free cycle paths. The remainder is on quiet country lanes and 95% of the surface is super-smooth asphalt so you won’t need anything other than a standard road or touring bike.
5. You’ll never be more than 10km from a town for food, accommodation and campsites. Usually there’s something to suit all budgets. Whilst France isn’t a cheap place to tour the larger towns on route will have the budget supermarkets such as Lidl and Aldi.
6. The French take their lunch-breaks and holidays seriously. Make sure to stock up on food outside these times. You can tour the route at any time of year as the climate is reasonably benign so it’s probably best to avoid August and the last two weeks of July as accommodation may be fully booked and the trail busy.
7. France is the spiritual home of le velo. Riding a bike is as much a way of life as it is a mode of transport or means of keeping fit. One thing is for sure; you won’t be seen as an eccentric hobo (as is the case in much of the world) when you roll into town clad in luminous spandex.
It’s hard to imagine a nicer ride really. We passed through thoughtfully preserved mediaeval villages, admired Gothic architecture, saw stunning chateaux and spotted swooping herons and romping otters. Large sections of the Loire valley are protected by UNESCO so are a haven for wildlife.
The food in France speaks for itself and you’ll be hard pressed to find a restaurant that doesn’t take care and pride in the presentation of its dishes. Then we have the wine, of course. The route flows through the wine regions of Alsace, Burgundy, Sancerre and Pouilly. We camped right next to some of the world’s most renowned vineyards on the Côte d’Or and overall, we were spoilt for choice when it came to wine.
As I was cruising along enjoying the traffic-free bliss it did occur to me that this would be an ideal ‘first time tour’ or perfect for anyone wanting to get their family or even a reluctant partner involved in cycle touring. Perhaps the only downside is that once you’ve ridden it anything else will seem second rate.
Thanks to David Piper for his report on Eurovelo 6, and for contributing the photos.
Need more information?
- Eurovelo 6 – The official website for the EV6 bike route
- Crossing Europe Via Eurovelo 6 – A bike touring journal
- From the Danube To the Black Sea – An account of touring along the eastern half of EV6
- The River Loire – A blog about a bike trip from the source of the Loire to the town of Saumur.