Rental bikes in Paris is the most inexpensive way to get around. The Vélib scheme costs as little as 1.70 euros a day. You just insert your credit card into the machine, pay a deposit, estimate how long you want the bike for, et voila!
The machines don’t accept all cards, Visa seemed to be the only one we could get to punch in. The bikes are everywhere. Even the Port de Clichy where we were staying at the Ibis Hotel, some 7km from the centre of the city (11 stops on the RER, it was faster on a bike), had a bike stand. You can leave your bike anywhere, which is a good system. If a user arrives with a rented bicycle at a station without open spots, the terminal grants another 15 minutes of free rental time. The rental terminals also display information about neighbouring Vélib stations, including location, number of available bicycles and open stands.
There are about 30,000 bikes available. They do get stolen though – at least 3,000 bicycles were stolen in the first year of operation in 2007. The Paris traffic made me nervous, and apart from adventurous Tom, we spent a lot of time riding off road. Good way to keep warm in the Paris winter!
Outside Paris, there are lots of bike trails.
La Loire by bike: A chance to discover the richness and diversity of the region by bike while following the river. From Cuffy, in the Cher region, to Saint-Brevin-les-Pins, in the Loire-Atlantique, the itinerary is created bit by bit. There are 700km of designated bike trails out of the 800km stretch. From 2012 there will be 800km of ‘Loire on a Bike’ to offer. Made for the family and easy to use, the itinerary includes the banks of the Loire, the delightful cities and castles, vineyards and all the protected natural areas. Info: www.loireavelo.fr
Mountainbike in the Mancelles Alpes: More than 550km of pisted routes on the Mancelles Alpes’ diverse landscape. A guide has just been published “Guide des randonnées VTT en Pays de la Haute Sarthe” (Mountainbike guide of trails in the Pays de la Haute Sarthe) which details 22 trails, with related gradients, maps, timings, distance, duration of the trails and the views and heritage facts for each. Info: Syndicat Mixte du Pays de la Haute Sarthe – +33 (0)2 43 33 70 96
Mountain biking tours in the Vendée:From the Atlantic Coast to the Vendéen Bocage (countryside) via the Marais Poitevin. Initiated in 1995 by the CG85, the bicycling area today extends to almost 800km. There are 1000km of secure and graded/prepared cycle paths. A summary of these circuits in a few words: Le circuit du littoral: (the Coastal circuit) 180km. Most of the routes cross the natural countryside of dunes, forests and marsh /wetlands which serve all the areas of the coast. Le circuit du Marais Poitevin: 140km. The paths start in the Bay de l’Aiguillon and cross the big canals of the wetlands, up to the Abbey of Maillezais, then the forest of Mervent-Vouvant. This circuit also calls at Luçon. Le circuit du Bocage: This circuitpromises a trip of over 275km that crosses the countryside, passing remarkable sites such as the Puy du Fou®, the Historial, the Logis de la Chabotterie, the Château de Tiffauges.
Info: Conseil Général de la Vendée – +33 (0)2 51 34 48 48 – www.vendee.fr