Author Topic: Riding in France  (Read 5293 times)

quixoticgeek

  • Mostly Harmless
Riding in France
« on: 23 December, 2020, 08:09:42 pm »

All being well, I'll be going for a bike ride in France next summer. My route covers quite a lot of France, from Brest to Roubaix and down to near Grenoble.

Am I right in thinking I can ride on N roads? How suicidal is that likely to be? Any other tips for route planning for a ride in France?

J
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LittleWheelsandBig

  • Whimsy Rider
Re: Riding in France
« Reply #1 on: 23 December, 2020, 08:13:57 pm »
You can but you don’t want to. You want D roads. Yellow D are bigger (like English A roads), white D are B road equivalents.

Take note of D roads that are parallel to autoroutes and were formerly RN. You will find they have a lot of long-distance trucks avoiding tolls.

Not route planning as such - there are chunks of France where cafes and village shops virtually don’t exist any more. Most 24hr petrol stations are unmanned.
Wheel meet again, don't know where, don't know when...

Re: Riding in France
« Reply #2 on: 23 December, 2020, 09:49:27 pm »
Yes - if you pick your time of day it will be fine.  I have used N roads at 6 or 7 a.m. to be able to get away quickly.  Generally I am on tour, so I probably would not want to.  Most of my riding is on smaller D roads, and the R, C and V roads as well - proper back lane touring.  There is a story that cyclists are banned from dual carriageways but nobody I've spoken to (or on here) have been able to point to the legislation.  Not that I'd want to anyway, but sometimes it is all that is on offer - e.g over in Jura I came out of a lane one day onto a main road for 1/2 mile until the lane continued on the other side - it was a dual carriageway and the lorry drivers did not like me much.   The other ones to think about are the D roads that run in a dead straight line between towns, they seem to be almost to the level of N roads for traffic.

LW&B is right that in the last 15 years or so France has changed.  It used to be that if a hamlet had 5 houses, one would be a bar and another a shop or boulangerie.  That is no longer the case and I have found some areas where I've had to divert into larger places to find sustenance.

Cudzoziemiec

  • Eating all the pies and drinking all the tea.
Re: Riding in France
« Reply #3 on: 24 December, 2020, 07:36:50 pm »
LW&B is right that in the last 15 years or so France has changed.  It used to be that if a hamlet had 5 houses, one would be a bar and another a shop or boulangerie.  That is no longer the case and I have found some areas where I've had to divert into larger places to find sustenance.
A few years ago a group (not me) from ACB flew to Italy and rode back via France. At one point, I think it was in north-central France, they fell foul of this; not even a shop for 100km or more of riding. No accommodation either, of course. They ended up shivering and hungry in a fortuitously unlocked church. Italy was much better from this point of view.
Riding a bike through a city is like navigating the collective neural pathways of a vast global mind.

Re: Riding in France
« Reply #4 on: 24 December, 2020, 07:40:41 pm »
In Northern France you will not have that much of problem for provisions, etc. Lots of new ALDI and LIDOLS popping up, which are great, going down from Roubaix across "prairie France" things might be spaced out a bit, but if some forward planning is done you will be fine.

Stay off N roads, not good.

Have a cracking trip.

Socks

  • Clennel Street on my touring bike
Re: Riding in France
« Reply #5 on: 24 December, 2020, 07:44:08 pm »
LW&B is right that in the last 15 years or so France has changed.  It used to be that if a hamlet had 5 houses, one would be a bar and another a shop or boulangerie.  That is no longer the case and I have found some areas where I've had to divert into larger places to find sustenance.

This, apparently, is progress based on the neo-liberal capitalist system.  More choice in multinational tax dodging supermarkets.  Fewer options if you aren't using a car and have to rely on local shops.  Give it a few years and France might have reached the level of the UK.

Cudzoziemiec

  • Eating all the pies and drinking all the tea.
Re: Riding in France
« Reply #6 on: 24 December, 2020, 08:21:53 pm »
I don't think it would be possible to ride all day across the UK, other than the Highlands of Scotland or a similarly sparsely inhabited area, without finding a corner shop, cafe or pub.

(Also: Socks, you've mixed up the quotes – all still clear though. And yes, I might well be mistaken about the region of France they were in.)
Riding a bike through a city is like navigating the collective neural pathways of a vast global mind.

Re: Riding in France
« Reply #7 on: 25 December, 2020, 01:08:26 am »
My first trips to France they didn't have supermarkets, unlike the UK.

When we bought our place in the Limousin, 2005, it was still redolent of old France. By 2019 when we left, the modern world was taking over in a big way. It softened the blow of selling up.

Booked to do an Alpine ride next year. But with a tour company and hire a bike. They'll do the route and I don't expect N roads!
Sic transit and all that..

Re: Riding in France
« Reply #8 on: 25 December, 2020, 09:31:17 am »
I last cycled in France - in the Limousin as it happens, whilst staying in Aigurande - about 6 years ago. Before that it had been 20 years earlier. The most marked thing for me was the (relative) lack of hotels. On my earlier trips it was never an issue rocking up at some small town, and finding a bed. I’d have struggled with that in 2014, with even quite large places having closed down establishments. There was also marked evidence of rural depopulation.
We are making a New World (Paul Nash, 1918)

Re: Riding in France
« Reply #9 on: 25 December, 2020, 11:07:32 am »
I too recall small hotels being common a couple of decades ago.  I have been told that new fire regulations etc were introduced for commercial lodgings.  So many of the village bars with rooms had to shut that part down, as did small hotels because it just wasn't practical to comply.

FifeingEejit

  • Not Small
Re: Riding in France
« Reply #10 on: 25 December, 2020, 11:56:00 am »
I found the advice dished out here on picking D roads prior to PBP (for getting to Rambouillet) to be quite helpful

Which was IIRC that lower numbered D roads are likely to be quiet, higher numbered ones are mostly declassified N roads so that the Departments have to pay rather than Macron.
GSV also exists.

I kept getting one way systems wrong using RWGPS but not sure if that's because OSM have the One-Way systems wrong or if I was using Walking mode or something.

T42

  • *** fool in a hurry
Re: Riding in France
« Reply #11 on: 25 December, 2020, 04:16:02 pm »
Don't blame Macron, it was Sarko that decentralized.  You now have to use devious means to find out if you're heading for a young motorway or a quiet back-road.  Good idea to use older maps, if you can get them.  I have a couple of pre-Sarko Michelin road atlases that are a big help.

Oh aye, as an added bonus the road numbers are liable to change as you go from one département to the next. It all adds to the fun.
I've dusted all those old bottles and set them up straight.

Re: Riding in France
« Reply #12 on: 25 December, 2020, 04:33:34 pm »
In France even the most minor roads seem to have the road number on the signs.  So navigation can be quite easy on the ground.

Re: Riding in France
« Reply #13 on: 25 December, 2020, 05:32:13 pm »
I tour using IGN 1:100,000 maps.  True, D roads are shown with identifying numbers but that is as far as they go.  R, C and V roads (back lanes, sometime with that strip of grass down the middle) are shown on the map but not identified by number.  Any roadside number is likely out of date anyway on such minor roads.  Using these roads is where map reading becomes important.   I recall a wet day in the Jura about 10 years ago when I got confused in a maze of such roads and had to think "keep the hill on the left, don't descend and it should be ok".

robgul

  • Cycle:End-to-End webmaster
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Re: Riding in France
« Reply #14 on: 25 December, 2020, 07:04:38 pm »
In France even the most minor roads seem to have the road number on the signs.  So navigation can be quite easy on the ground.

Indeed - France is probably the best sign-posted country I've ever been to, having travelled all over Europe - that's both in road-number terms and signs to hamlets/villages/towns/cities
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Re: Riding in France
« Reply #15 on: 25 December, 2020, 08:05:44 pm »
Which was IIRC that lower numbered D roads are likely to be quiet, higher numbered ones are mostly declassified N roads so that the Departments have to pay rather than Macron.

All D roads with 4 figures numbers are declassified N roads. You certainly wants to avoid cycling on them, and there is always an alternative road, albeit sometimes slightly longer.  D roads with 2 or 3 figures are better options for cycling.

+1 to all that have been said on the difficulties for finding food/drinks. Supermarkets in larger towns are normally open from 8am to 8 or 9 pm, but in rural areas, most of them are closed between 12 and 2pm.  You can be in real trouble if you are cold and hungry between 12 and 2pm. The only available source of drinkable water in small villages is often a tap in the cemetery, except when the gates are locked, which is getting more and more common!

A

Re: Riding in France
« Reply #16 on: 25 December, 2020, 08:41:26 pm »
Every small French town has at least one Coiffeur that from a distance looks like a regular shop where you can get your supplies. Your spirit will be crushed when you've been had for about the 10th time that day. Even if you fancied a haircut, you can forget it as it will be closed. If the same town does actually have a shop - that will also be closed.

If you find a shop that actually keeps the sort of hours shops in normal countries keep, that will also be closed for an unspecified reason on the day you visit. As will the restaurant you find.

In fact, if you find anywhere open at all, don't get your hopes up - they've probably just forgotten to turn the sign in the door around....

HTH  :P
Those wonderful norks are never far from my thoughts, oh yeah!

Re: Riding in France
« Reply #17 on: 25 December, 2020, 10:11:44 pm »
Modernity has added some interesting extra amenities which can help the touring cyclist at ungodly hours
Bread and pizza vending machines. Not always easy to find though.
While reccing the Bordeaux-Dordrecht audax route I was still 1-2 hours away from the cheap hotel on a drizzly cold evening. No open restaurant seen for hours. Then I spotted something illuminated on the forecourt of a closed supermarket. It was a pizza vending machine. Quickly ordered, paid (by card), and 10 minutes later I had a warm pizza to enjoy. Half of it then, the other half at the hotel. That's the best function of the tiny French style front racks, hold a pizza box.

Re: Riding in France
« Reply #18 on: 25 December, 2020, 11:33:39 pm »

All being well, I'll be going for a bike ride in France next summer. My route covers quite a lot of France, from Brest to Roubaix and down to near Grenoble.

Am I right in thinking I can ride on N roads? How suicidal is that likely to be? Any other tips for route planning for a ride in France?

J

There are N roads that you are allowed to use but would want to avoid. There are N roads that you would like to use but are not allowed to. The same goes for D roads. Knowing which ones are which is often hit and miss. If you are not allowed to use a road there will be a sign restricting its use to motor vehicles or banning bicycles, tractors and livestock. There are also compulsory cycle paths (which is not an indication of their fitness for the purpose) which will be indicated by signs (and non-compulsory ones also signed - but which typical piggorant french drivers may view as compulsory). There are big regional differences in all that. In the Limousin we avoid using main roads that any english (at least south-eastern) commuter would regard as perfectly safe and even quiet. They are not forbidden, we just have better routes available!

Some declassified nationales will be very quiet, some départementales will be real rat runs (usually due to new housing developments or industrial estates). If  a road runs parallel to a non-payage motorway it will often be a declassified nationale and frequently (even usually) be very quiet. The 80k speed limit helps to keep the cars off!

Chain hotels still are very frequent close to industrial or commercial zones and will usually have some sort of chain restauration nearby. Putting your bike in your F1 hotel room may be the safest way to keep it for the night. Checking on hotel zone locations and plugging the information into your route planning is not a bad plan, even if you are planning on bivvying or camping sauvage. Remember that a lot of apparent bivvy sites will have been used by passing truckers. Do you fancy bivvying in an uncleaned public loo? (Just like Kent really!) (More the case on nationales with lay-bys).

I have observed that Ivo is adept at finding the pizza van!

France is a big place and even now there are still a lot of regional variations (although it is a very different place to the country I moved to 30 years ago). For eating there are now a lot more bakeries (chain and individual) who are trying to diversify into sandwich lunches and hot and cold snacks, with menu options to keep the price reasonable. They seem to have compensated for the bar restos that have closed. All day opening is also a lot more common than it was, even in the rural south-west.


T42

  • *** fool in a hurry
Re: Riding in France
« Reply #19 on: 26 December, 2020, 09:27:47 am »
Modernity has added some interesting extra amenities which can help the touring cyclist at ungodly hours
Bread and pizza vending machines. Not always easy to find though.
While reccing the Bordeaux-Dordrecht audax route I was still 1-2 hours away from the cheap hotel on a drizzly cold evening. No open restaurant seen for hours. Then I spotted something illuminated on the forecourt of a closed supermarket. It was a pizza vending machine. Quickly ordered, paid (by card), and 10 minutes later I had a warm pizza to enjoy. Half of it then, the other half at the hotel. That's the best function of the tiny French style front racks, hold a pizza box.

Haven't had occasion to use one of those yet. On our Strasbourg-Brest diagonale in 2014 we stopped at a pizza kiosk in Montereaux-fault-Yonne and waited 10 minutes for it to open. When it did the bloke told us that it'd take 20 minutes to heat the oven and then he had other orders to deal with first, so better come back in an hour. Since we were riding against the clock that didn't really suit very well.  One of those machines would have been great.

Chum remarked as we rode away that he'd never had anything good out of Montereaux-fault-Yonne. I think it was our third time through the place, and from what I can remember he was right.
I've dusted all those old bottles and set them up straight.

Re: Riding in France
« Reply #20 on: 26 December, 2020, 09:57:18 am »
When I plot a route through France I always make sure to mark the Decathlons, F1 hotels and Hotels Premier Classe on or near the route (or even make sure the route passes them). You won't need all of them but it's good to know where they are since they all offer a fast service. In this way for example I can set out with a bit less spare kit since I know that at regular intervals I can stock up at a Decathlon.

quixoticgeek

  • Mostly Harmless
Re: Riding in France
« Reply #21 on: 26 December, 2020, 10:03:07 am »
When I plot a route through France I always make sure to mark the Decathlons, F1 hotels and Hotels Premier Classe on or near the route (or even make sure the route passes them). You won't need all of them but it's good to know where they are since they all offer a fast service. In this way for example I can set out with a bit less spare kit since I know that at regular intervals I can stock up at a Decathlon.

That's kinda my plan, hence the Accor hotel group thread as well...

J
--
Beer, bikes, and backpacking
http://b.42q.eu/

JStone

  • E=112
Re: Riding in France
« Reply #22 on: 26 December, 2020, 03:34:01 pm »
...
Am I right in thinking I can ride on N roads? How suicidal is that likely to be? Any other tips for route planning for a ride in France?
...

Not France-specific, but it's not been mentioned yet: don't overlook the huge potential of Google Street View in route planning, especially near major towns. For example, the N1 heading into St Denis in northern Paris might sound like a classic 'avoid at all costs', but a quick look online shows that it's got segregated bike lanes (at least, along the sections I used). Not guaranteed, obv, as it's just a snap-shot at given date / time, but can give a look & feel of a particular road or major junction. Also, a Street View perusal of quiet country lanes can build the 'wow, must go there' motivation.

IGN 1:100,000 maps are freely viewable at https://www.geoportail.gouv.fr/carte



Néophyte > 2007 > Ancien > 2011 > Récidiviste

Cudzoziemiec

  • Eating all the pies and drinking all the tea.
Re: Riding in France
« Reply #23 on: 26 December, 2020, 04:32:57 pm »
The 80k speed limit helps to keep the cars off!
Is it 80 on D roads, 90 on N roads, or is it defined in some other way? And how is observance and enforcement?
Riding a bike through a city is like navigating the collective neural pathways of a vast global mind.

Re: Riding in France
« Reply #24 on: 26 December, 2020, 06:16:37 pm »
Is it 80 on D roads, 90 on N roads, or is it defined in some other way?

No. It was 90 everywhere, until July 2018. Then the government decided it would be 80 everywhere, no matter how safe, or dangerous, a road actually is. A few months ago, the same government changed its mind. The basic rule is now 80 everywhere, except when the local authorities (the départements) decides that a specific road is safe enough to be turned back to 90.

And how is observance and enforcement?

It really depends on where you are. In my local trips around Nevers, whenever there is no traffic, I set the cruise control to 100 kph and relax my right foot. I have never been fined in 20 years. In other regions, it's another story.