Cyclotouring in the Ardèche

After the Technical Trials, we spent a few days with our friend Richard Léon in the Ardèche region. It was fun to explore this area at a cyclotouring pace.
The region is criss-crossed by tiny roads, and Richard knows them all. It’s hilly, which makes for beautiful climbs where we can appreciate the scenery…
… and fast downhills to enjoy the winding roads.
Most roads were paved, but some were on gravel. All day, we saw just a handful of cars.
The landscape is amazing, with tiny villages dotting the volcanic terrain.
People seem to enjoy a lifestyle that combines the best of today with cherished traditions. There has been an effort to keep bakeries and cafés open in almost every town, and we even saw this lady in an old Citroën Mehari arrive for her shopping. “We bought it 32 years ago, and we really like it,” she told us. It’s nice to see that the France of my childhood still exists…
The lavender fields were in full bloom, adding amazing dots of color to the patchwork of small fields.
We leaned out bikes against ancient stone walls and ate lunch at small restaurants before continuing our rides. It was a most enjoyable visit.
Further viewing:

14 Responses to Cyclotouring in the Ardèche

  1. Alexander July 26, 2016 at 3:28 am #

    Those who would like to explore the area in an organised event might like:
    Lots of route options!

    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly July 26, 2016 at 6:06 am #

      The Ardèchoise is a famous ride – actually more like a race than a ride, but you can go at your own speed…

      • Alexander July 27, 2016 at 12:48 am #

        The multi (= 3) day version is very quiet and Brevet like. At least it wasin 2007 (except the last 70 km at the third day where it joins the “big” marathon…

        • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly July 27, 2016 at 4:09 am #

          That sounds really nice. An alternative is just getting a Michelin map and plotting courses along small roads. We did that in other regions with great success. That way, you can go when and where you want.

  2. Tom July 26, 2016 at 9:44 am #

    What is the bag on the bike in the last photo? Looks interesting. Great article.

    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly July 26, 2016 at 12:20 pm #

      It’s an old French bag. No longer available. I am not sure of the maker. The Gilles Berthoud Alex Singer bag we sell is similar.

  3. B. Carfree July 26, 2016 at 11:08 am #

    Lovely photos and inspiring write-up. It’s so fun to meet up with someone who knows the best roads to ride in an area and you seem to find these folks all over the globe.
    I wish I met more such folks in the flesh, but, sadly, so few people enjoy challenging climbs and a bit of gravel that at times these folks appear to be unicorns. I’m confident that your awesome writing and work is creating more of them each day, to our mutual pleasure. As always, thank you so much Mr. Heine.

    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly July 26, 2016 at 12:22 pm #

      I think there are more people out there who enjoy riding off the beaten path than we think. I am surprised by the many people who come to the Bicycle Quarterly Un-Meetings. And looking at people’s Instagram photos is fun, because I realize that they are doing the rides we have featured in BQ: Naches Pass, Babyshoe Pass or to the end of the road on Carbon Glacier.

    • Alex M July 27, 2016 at 9:45 am #

      Somebody must be buying all those All-Road/Adventure/Gravel bikes! Seems every maker has one this year. Very encouraging. Even if few (ish) use them on gravel, the trend towards bigger tires and clearances is encouraging for real-world riders.

      • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly July 27, 2016 at 10:52 am #

        I think the availability of bikes is key. Before I had wide tires, I occasionally rode on gravel roads when there was no alternative, but I didn’t actually seek them out. Now that more and more riders have bikes that are great for riding on gravel, they’ll start exploring those options when they present themselves.

  4. Peter Chesworth July 26, 2016 at 4:51 pm #

    Beautiful photographs, a region of France that is perhaps less travelled. As for the Mehari, it is a wonderful thing – how could Citroen have made an even more utilitarian 2CV?!

  5. Dale July 26, 2016 at 7:01 pm #


  6. Stefan Schmidpeter July 26, 2016 at 10:25 pm #

    Very beautiful bikes 😉

  7. Stéphane July 29, 2016 at 7:48 am #

    Jan, thank you for this extremely nice and interesting report. I’m fascinated by all your rides around the world and I enjoy reading France is represented too.
    By the way, if you are still around Paris during this last week end of July, let me know if you are looking for a ride 😉