Biking Loire Valley, Stay in Amboise?

Oct 20th, 2013, 06:44 PM
  #1  
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Biking Loire Valley, Stay in Amboise?

I'm planning a week long self-contained bike vacation of the Loire Valley for DH and I for early next fall. We plan to stay in an apartment in one central location and do loop rides rather than point to point rides that require frequent accommodation changes. We'll take some loop rides from our base and on other days I think we'll take the train to Blois or Tours to start riding from there. At home, we ride about 55-75 miles a day on similar terrain as the Loire. Amboise seems to be central to some of the most popular chateaus and is between Blois and Tours. Am I on the right track in choosing to stay in Amboise? Would Tours be a better option? Any other suggestions for a base town?
Ann Marie
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Oct 20th, 2013, 07:24 PM
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I'm not a biker, but I think Amboise would be a far better base than Tours, where you'd have to battle city traffic going out and in every day. But you might also look at Chinon and Loches, depending on exactly where in the Loire you want to bike.
StCirq is offline  
Oct 20th, 2013, 07:49 PM
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I had the same thoughts regarding Tours. I'll check out your other suggestions. Thanks!
Ann Marie
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Oct 20th, 2013, 10:00 PM
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DH and I spent three weeks driving around the back roads of the Loire Valley, going from west (Angers) to east (Bourges). We stayed in Amboise for the central part of the trip and it was the part we liked least. Amboise did not appeal to us at all.

As we were driving around the central part of the LV, we spent some time in Cour Cheverny, the little town/village surrounding Cheverny castle. We were kicking ourselves for not staying there. IMO, it would be a perfect base for a biking trip -- it's located between Amboise and Chambord. It would be beautiful in autumn.

http://www.tripadvisor.com/Tourism-g...Vacations.html
WeisserTee is offline  
Oct 21st, 2013, 12:12 AM
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I suggest you may like to have access to a number of "side" rivers or canals as well as the Loire to give you pleasant rides away from the Loire. Amboise is as good as anywhere but Chinon would also be pleasant. I assume you've found the Loire bike path website?
bilboburgler is online now  
Oct 21st, 2013, 05:16 AM
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I suggest you include the Indre for at least one day's biking route. It's a really pretty river, prettier than the Loire in my opinion. Between Loches and Usse there are about 40 watermills along the river, though not all of them are visible from the road.

http://moulindre.pagesperso-orange.fr/html/cartes.htm

There are chateaux to be seen, not the big-name chateaux, but still, pretty snazzy.

It must be a law that each bridge over the Indre be lined with flowers. Lovely!

Maybe you could arrange each day out to coincide with market day in a town.

Loches is a very nice town with a great Saturday market and a smaller market on Wednesday. Montresor would be a nice ride from here.

We've driven a stretch along the Cher several times that we love, starting west of Blere and winding up near Athee-sur-Cher. It's right along the Cher and you see nothing but the river, very nice homes, and little weekend cottages.

However, this assumes you have a car to get you to a starting point and since you mention taking the train, these suggestions may not work for you.

It sounds like fun.

Oh, Chedigny! You have to go there if you can manage it.
Coquelicot is online now  
Oct 21st, 2013, 06:27 AM
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I've done similar staying in Onzain, but I think Amboise is a great choice
bigtyke is online now  
Oct 21st, 2013, 07:11 AM
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Aboise (or nearby Onzain) for sure by bike is a great central location - I have biked up and down this part of the Loire many many times and Amboise is the perfect base, from a location standpoint and also a very nice town with its own famous chateau - do not miss the Sound and Light Show (English seances too) at the cheateau at night with zillions of locals dressed in Renaissance garb - don't miss the Chateloup Pagoda just outside of Amboise - could do on the way by bike to Chenonceau - BTW a very nice ride through for national forest most of the way!
PalenQ is offline  
Oct 21st, 2013, 09:32 AM
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Thanks for all of the suggestions. Adding to my notes. We are likely to be without a car so we want to be in a town large enough to have train service. Its easier for us to jump on the train with our bikes to get to a long distance starting point rather than deal with the logistics of loading bikes on a car then parking it remotely and having to get back to it later in the day. We plan to be on our bikes, including sightseeing and breaks, for 4-6 hours each day. We tend to take a siesta in the late afternoons then want to be able to walk to dinner.
Ann Marie
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Oct 21st, 2013, 10:20 AM
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Not all trains may take bikes - look for trains on schedules with a V in a circle - meaning Velos accepted in special Velo cars marked on the outside.

Are you bringing your own bikes - if so that could be a hassle and expensive, according to various airlines.

I would strongly consider renting bikes once there - there is a network of chateaus and bed-and-breakast (chambres d'hotes) and hotels that provide bikes to folks staying there.

Getting the bike from say CDG Airport to Amboise could be a pain - you have to get to Austerlitz station which will have trains that accept Velos on them at no charge - the TGV route via St-Pierre-des-Corps may have few if any trains that take bikes.
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Oct 21st, 2013, 12:00 PM
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Thanks for the tip regarding trains on bikes. We took our road bikes for two weeks of chasing the Tour de France in the Alps and Pyrenees with a group tour once but won't ever do that again. Big hassle. We'll bring our own pedals and bike seats to use with rentals. From everything I've read, it appears a hybrid is best for the Loire, Indre, Cher region as the Loire a Velo and other paths may not be fully paved.
Ann Marie
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Oct 21st, 2013, 01:15 PM
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In years of biking the Loire I've never come across a dirt path I had to take or even rarely seen any - get a Michelin map and stick to the D Roads - yellow colored as they are virtually wide bike paths as they have, outside cities, virtually little car traffic at many places (but in and around big cities like Tours such roads can be very crowded - but in the contryside stick to D (Departmental sp?) roads and these are well paved though tending to be hilly at times - IME of biking all over France there are very few flat areas - at least rolling hills so gearing for mild hills may be in order.

I am not familiar with the Loire a Velo path - I have not biked there is several years.
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Oct 21st, 2013, 03:04 PM
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Just a clarification on trains. All the TER trains in the Loire allows bikes. Some Intercités trains may as well. You should look at the train websites to see for sure what trains will allow bikes. Use www.voyages-sncf.com and when you look at the individual details for each journey you'll know if bikes are allowed if you see a little bike logo icon. I take my bike on the TER trains from Paris all the time and some TER trains that allow bikes don't have designated bike cars and there will be no bike logo on any of the train cars. Haven't taken the TER trains in the Loire so don't know about those.

Here's a map that shows where all the trains run in the Loire:

http://www.ter-sncf.com/Regions/cent...rte_Flash.aspx

You don't have to stick to the Loire à Vélo trails and as PalenQ pointed out, you can use the Michelin maps and stick to the white roads and sometimes the yellow roads but avoid the red roads. I use the Michelin maps to bike all the time.

Here is what I always post in regards to Michelin maps:

You want the ones of the scale 1:200,000 (regional maps) or 1:150,000 (departmental maps, more detailed, cover slightly less area) for whatever regions you visit. A nice feature of the 1:150,000 maps is they show the starred attractions in the corresponding Michelin Green guidebooks. The Michelin maps have icons for all kinds of historically/touristically interesting things such as châteaux, ruins, churches, abbeys, scenic view points, caves, Roman sites, megaliths, designated scenic roads and many other things. Usually when I'm exploring various regions in France I just look at the map and I am able to plan interesting and scenic drives/rides just reading the map. For instance, I usually look for a designated scenic road, which are highlighted in green, and I especially look for towns with the historic church and/or château icon. I also try to make sure the route goes through as many small villages as possible. Usually putting all these things together I find interesting and scenic drives/rides without even knowing where I am going and with no assistance from a guide book. Often these places are never mentioned in guidebooks and remain completely unknown to many tourists.

You can buy the Michelin maps from their website and here is a link to the page that shows you the 1:200,000 scale maps of France: http://tinyurl.com/4bt96ev

And here is a link to the page that shows you the 1:150,000 scale maps of France:
http://tinyurl.com/6mt4n64

Here are some tips on how to read the Michelin maps for biking. I generally stay on the small white roads and sometimes the yellow roads while generally trying to avoid the red roads (which carry the most traffic). You will find that the small white roads (country roads) are remarkably traffic free in the countryside. If a road has a hill with greater than a 5% gradient you will notice that such a road will have a gradient arrow superimposed on the road. One arrow means a gradient of 5%-9%, two arrows means a gradient from 9%-13% and three arrows means a gradient of over 13%. Just because a road has no gradient arrows doesn't mean there are no hills but whatever hills there are should not be too strenuous. Twisty roads often mean hilly as well. Areas shaded in white are generally non-forested terrain while areas shaded in green generally mean forested terrain.

You may find this thread useful as there are links to all the major tourist office websites in the Loire. If you didn't know, tourist office websites are on the best travel planning resources:

http://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic....html#45429132
FrenchMystiqueTours is offline  
Oct 21st, 2013, 03:50 PM
  #14  
J62
 
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Not familiar with that part of France but I am an avid biker. Love the plan to have a single base and take a morning train out and then riding back. I've done that a few times here at home.

Have a great time!!
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Oct 21st, 2013, 04:05 PM
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I just drove by a ghost bike on my way to a meeting. It brought to mind the thread we had in the lounge recently about cycling and cars. I know the French are very respectful of cyclists but I hope you'll pick safe routes too.
colduphere is offline  
Oct 21st, 2013, 04:37 PM
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Thanks for all the detailed info. The Loire a Velo is a €52 million bike trail that includes some roads and extends from Orleans west to the Atlantic covering 800k. We will likely use parts of it some days when traveling in the area between Tours and Blois. Although road bikes are available for rent, most available rentals are hybrids and the explanation keeps coming back that hybrids are best for the trail. The video on the trail website does show some dirt sections of the path. We'd much rather ride road bikes similar to our own and one company does rent Trek bikes so maybe we will rent those and stick to the D roads... Delicious decisions.
Ann Marie
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Oct 21st, 2013, 04:45 PM
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J62
 
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At 4-6 hrs per day I think you'll be much happier on a true road bike, BYO pedals. As you know you can go twice as far, twice as fast, with half the effort.

I've rented hybrid bikes and there's not comparison to rolling along at your usual speed.
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Oct 21st, 2013, 04:54 PM
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At 4-6 hrs per day I think you'll be much happier on a true road bike, BYO pedals. As you know you can go twice as far, twice as fast, with half the effort.

I've rented hybrid bikes and there's not comparison to rolling along at your usual speed.
J62 is online now  
Oct 21st, 2013, 05:33 PM
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As a fellow cyclist and Francophile, your trip sounds outstanding. Please give a full report after the trip! Have a great time!
indyhiker is offline  
Oct 21st, 2013, 05:50 PM
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J62, my husband isn't thrilled at the idea of renting hybrids for the reasons you've mentioned. We're spoiled by good quality bikes at home and I think he may not be happy on something clunky. Sound DS like we can avoid poor road conditions and stick to pavement with the help of the Michelin maps.
Ann Marie
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