France’s Loire Valley is the perfect location for a week-long bicycle tour!
This 800 square kilometer valley along the shores of the Loire River in north-western France is the home to dozens of magnificent chateaus, hundreds of kilometers of well-built bicycle paths, and thousands of kind and welcoming people. The Loire Valley is known for its vineyards, gardens and small historic towns. But it’s also known for being the home of the Loire Valley 7N self-guided bicycle tour with Active4Adventures.
No matter what your cycling level may be, there is much to be enjoyed in France’s Loire Valley and Active4Adventures has designed a week-long adventure by bike that almost anyone can complete with both ease and enjoyment.
My friend Rob and I recently participated in the Loire Valley 7N bike tour… and this is my review of the overall experience. Be sure to scroll all the way to the end of the article to see my best photos from this amazing week-long bicycle tour!
What Is A Self-Guided Bicycle Tour?
Unlike so many other bicycle tours arranged by touring companies all around the world, the Loire Valley 7N (the “N” stands for “Night”) bike tour with Active4Adventures is not a “guided” tour. There is no professional cycle touring guide to escort you along your route each day and there is no group of strangers you will be spending your time with throughout the tour.
Instead, Active4Adventures specializes in “self-guided” bicycle tours – a type of bicycle tour that combines guided bicycle touring (where everything is taken care of for you each day (your route, food, lodging, etc.) and you are escorted along your route by a professional bicycle touring guide) and self-supported bicycle touring (which requires you to travel alone (without a guide) and carry all the clothing, tools, food and gear you need to survive on your bicycle for days, weeks or months on end). The self-guided bicycle tours that Active4Adventures offers are a combination of these two extremes.
How To Participate
Come to France and participate in a week-long bicycle touring adventure you will remember for the rest of your life!
Your first task is to decide which of the many bike tours Active4Adventures offers you want to participate in. The Loire Valley 7N tour is just one of many tours the company has made available. Dozens more can be found on the company’s official website at www.active4adventures.com.
After you have decided on your ideal bike tour, contact the company and tell them which dates would be ideal for you. The great part about a self-guided bicycle tour is that you get to choose which dates suit you best, rather than trying to adjust your schedule to that of the touring company.
Once you’ve picked out your specific tour and scheduled your ideal dates, your work is largely finished! Active4Adventures will do all the heavy lifting from this point forward. The company will reserve your hotel stays for you, arrange most of your meals, prepare your route information and a whole lot more! Your only job from this point forward is to get yourself to the start of the tour on the date you have arranged with the company.
And if you want to bring your own bicycle on the tour, you can! But if you want to make it super easy for yourself, Active4Adventures will provide you with a bike to use for the duration of your tour (at an additional cost). This is what my friend Rob and I did when we recently participated in the Loire Valley 7N bike tour. We simply flew into France and had the company provide us with two of their hybrid bicycles at the start of the tour. The bikes they gave us were in excellent condition and we were both very happy with them throughout the tour. (I’ll talk more about the bikes in just a moment.)
How Does A Self-Guided Bicycle Tour Function?
A self-guided bicycle tour is similar to a guided bicycle tour in that the route, hotels and meals have all been taken care of for you by an established bicycle touring company (in this case, Active4Adventures). The difference between this and a guided bicycle tour, however, is that on a self-guided tour, you will not be joined each day by an experienced bicycle touring guide. Instead, you will be given a route map and GPS that you must follow each day to get you to your destination… and your personal items (such as clothing, toiletries and electronics) will be transported from one hotel to the next by the touring company.
While a guided bicycle tour is typically conducted with a small group of people, self-guided bicycle tours can be done alone, with a friend or loved one, or with a group of almost any size.
One of the main benefits to a self-guided bike tour like the Loire Valley 7N is that while you not only have more freedom and get to choose your own travel companions, but you will ultimately end up spending less money because self-guided bike tours are typically far less expensive than guided bicycle tours (because you aren’t paying for a guide to accompany you).
The Loire Valley 7N, for example, costs only 970 Euros (approximately $1,250 USD – at the time of this review). This price includes seven nights lodging, all breakfasts, most dinners, a road/map book, GPS use throughout the tour, transportation of your personal belongings to and from your hotel each day, and a whole lot more!
If you are looking for an enjoyable bicycle touring experience without all the hassle of arranging accommodations each night, designing your own route, shipping a bicycle overseas, etc… but you’d like the freedom to choose your own travel companion(s) and decide on your own pace each day, then a self-guided bicycle tour like the Loire Valley 7N is just what you’ve been looking for you!
How Good Are The Bicycles, Maps and Gear?
As I mentioned previously, you can choose to ride your own bicycle on any of the Active4Adventures bike tours… or you can choose to have the company provide you with a bike. At the moment, the company offers three different types of bicycles: a hybrid, road or electric assist bicycle.
Due to the casual nature of the Loire Valley 7N bike tour, Rob and I both chose to use the company’s Scott Sportster X40 hybrid bicycle for our time in the Loire Valley (pictured below)… and we were both extremely pleased with the bicycle’s overall quality and performance. Each bicycle is equipped with a kickstand, rear rack and a small cycling computer, which we were instructed on how to use at the beginning of the tour and used each day to track our speed and overall distance.
Before our tour began, we were asked which type of pedals we preferred. We had the choice of bringing our own pedals with us, using the company’s regular flat pedals, or using a set of flat pedals with an attached set of toe clips. Both Rob and I chose to use the company’s flat pedals with toe clips, which were fine. If I had to do it again, however, I’d probably just use the company’s flat pedals (without the clips) instead. Neither of us felt that the toe clips helped very much.
In addition to the bicycles, the company also provided us with a Vaude handlebar bag, which I used throughout the tour to carry my camera and wallet. Inside the handlebar bag was also a bicycle multi-tool, two tire levers, and a patch kit (all of which was provided by Active4Adventures).
We were also given a single Vaude pannier, which we rode with on the rear rack of our bicycle and used to carry the included bike pump, lock and spare inner-tube. I also used this rear pannier to carry my rain jacket and whatever food and personal items I wanted to carry with me on the bike each day.
Finally, we were given a helmet and a Garmin GPS, which we used as our main source of navigation – to get us from our hotel in the morning to our hotel each night. The GPS was easy to use, waterproof, and simple to follow. Plus, the batteries in the device were surprisingly long lasting. The GPS was on almost all day long, every single day of the tour, and I only had to change the batteries twice! Luckily, Active4Adventures had provided us with a large stash of new batteries to use for exactly this purpose!
As far as the bicycles, helmets, GPS and the rest of the equipment needed for the tour goes, Active4Adventures had it all handled!
How Difficult Is The Cycling?
Active4Adventures has rated the Loire Valley 7N bike tour as a medium-level bike tour, meaning that almost anyone can complete it, but some people may struggle with a few, short uphill sections and a number of medium-length rides on crowded city streets.
The company has designed it so that each day of the tour you may choose between either a short or long route. If you choose the short route, you’ll be cycling on average about 40 kilometers (25 miles) per day. If you choose the long route, however, you’ll be cycling about 53 kilometers (33 miles) per day. Over the course of the tour, a cyclist who chooses to cycle the short route each day will cover approximately 240 kilometers (149 miles), while the cyclist riding the longer routes will cover a distance of 319 kilometers (198 miles).
If that sounds like a lot of cycling to you, don’t worry! It’s not nearly as difficult as you might think. The tour routes are designed in such a way that almost anyone can complete them. They are long enough to be enjoyable and make you feel as though you really accomplished something each day, yet not so long that you finish each day feeling worn out or fatigued. There are plenty of things to stop and explore along the tour routes, so the relatively low distances each day are ideal for a tour of this type.
If you are an experienced cyclist, you won’t have any trouble completing this tour. In fact, if your goal is to cycle long and hard each day, you might be disappointed with the Loire Valley 7N. The tour is designed for beginner to intermediate cyclists who are looking for a short cycling holiday where the bike riding experience is secondary to the sights and sounds along the way. If you want a long, challenging bike tour that leaves you tired, sweaty and sore at the end of it, this is not what you are looking for!
Another thing worth mentioning about the routes that have been designed for this tour is that even though you will be following a predesignated route each day, you always have the option of breaking away from the tour route at any time. This is one of the major benefits of participating in a self-guided bicycle tour – you get to decide where you will go, how fast you will travel, and a whole lot more! So, if you are an experienced cyclist and you’d like to experience the Loire Valley while at the same time covering more than 54 kilometers/33 miles each day, you can always choose to break away from the established Loire Valley bike tour route and go off on a bike ride of your own, only to return to the predesignated route later in the day.
What Are The Hotels/Accommodations Like?
As the title of the tour suggests, there are seven total nights on the Loire Valley 7N tour. The accommodations each night range from massive French Inns where five-course meals are served, to small romantic hotels with bike parks and English-speaking staff.
Overall, I’d rate the accommodations on this bike tour very high. Even the most discerning of travelers will be pleased with the choice of lodging each night.
That said, I did notice a very small downward trend in regards to the hotels over the course of the tour. What I mean by this is that while the first three hotels we stayed in each night were incredibly elegant and almost over the top in regard to their luxury and size (3 or 4 star hotels), the last few nights were not at quite the same level (2 or 3 star hotels). However, I enjoyed the last few nights of accommodation just as much as the first three and had no complaints overall. Every hotel was beautiful, clean and safe.
One of the best things about all of the hotels featured on the Loire Valley tour is that the staff at the hotels all spoke English. So if you’re coming to France for the first time and are worried about not knowing the language, there is nothing to be worried about.
How Good Is The Food?
Most (but not all) of the meals during the tour are included with the price of admission. Breakfast each day is served at the hotel where you are staying. Lunches are not provided and must be purchased somewhere along the way each day. And dinners each night are usually included (and served at the hotel where you are staying), although there are two nights on the tour where dinner is not provided.
Because some meals are not included in the overall price of the tour, you need to budged for this extra expense… and food is not exactly cheap in this part of France. Expect to spend an extra 15 or more Euros per day for lunch and snacks… and even more than that if you need to purchase your own dinner.
The food that is served throughout the tour is really, really good! The breakfasts are typically a buffet-style endeavor where cereal, pastries, fruit and meats are on offer along with coffee, tea, and a plethora of juices.
Dinners are a much fancier event. A three to five course meal is standard. Meat, vegetables and exquisite deserts. No matter what you fancy at the dinner table, you’ll be happy with the food on offer.
As a vegetarian, I was a little nervous about what food might be available, but I was pleasantly pleased to discover that I was catered to in the best of ways and not only never went hungry, but left the dinner table each night more than satisfied.
On the few nights when dinner was not included, Rob and I would walk to a nearby restaurant, sit outside with the locals at a small table and eat our meal while taking in the sights of the city and the people walking by.
Photos From The Active4Adventures Loire Valley 7N Bike Tour
Rather than give you a detailed summary of my experience on the Loire Valley 7N bike tour, I’d like to share some of my photos from the tour with you. While the lodging, food, bike paths and overall service on this week-long bicycle tour were beyond superb, I think the following 150+ photos say more about the experience than I could ever describe in words. Enjoy!
Upon arriving in Tours, France for the start of the tour, Rob and I were met by Sebastian from Active4Adventures, who fit us on our new bicycles, handed out our road-books (the map and itinerary paperwork we used to navigate our route and hotels each day), and showed us how to use our bicycle computers and GPS device.
That’s Sebastian, from Active4Adventures, on the left. I’m on the right in the photo above… and Rob is on the right in the photo below.
After being given our bicycles, maps, GPS and everything else we would need for our week-long bicycle tour, we were shown inside our hotel for the night. Wow! The place was amazing.
We ate in the hotel dining room that night and were served a lovely multi-course meal. What a great way to start the tour!
The next morning we woke up early and ate breakfast in the dining room before returning to our room, packing up our things and preparing our bikes for their first day on the road.
After a quick photo, we jumped on the bikes and waved goodbye to our first hotel. We were sad to go, but excited to see what lay ahead.
At several points during our tour of the Loire Valley, we cycled alongside massive fields of red poppies.
The cycling each day consisted on a mix of riding through lush green countryside and charming French towns.
We’d stop repeatedly throughout the tour to take photos, explore hilltop churches, and ride down colorful alleyways.
When we reached our hotel each night, we’d immediately secure our bicycles. Both Rob and I were pleasantly surprised to find that each of the hotels we stayed in had a special garage or storage place just for our bikes.
Once we made it to our hotel in the afternoon/evening, we’d each take a shower and then wander around the area surrounding the hotel. Sometimes our hotels were located in charming little towns with restaurants and nearby chateaus to explore, while other times we were more in the country and were able to enjoy quiet walks in the nearby woods.
We never knew what we’d be served for dinner, but the food was fantastic on each night of the tour! While Rob and I both enjoy different types of food, there was never a problem finding something good to eat.
Quiet narrow streets, stone architecture, and massive chateaus became our norm.
Occasionally, we’d meet other cyclists and travelers along our route and take a few minutes to sit down with them, hear their stories and tell them about the adventures we had had thus far in the Loire Valley.
No matter where we were, there seemed to always be something to see, do or explore. The photos you see here are just a few of the incredible sights you can expect to see while participating in the Loire Valley 7N bike tour.
The Domaine de Beauvois hotel in the city of Luynes was a favorite for both Rob and I. From the outside, the place was spectacularly gorgeous. Inside, the staff was welcoming, the rooms were impressive and food was to die for!
Our dinner at the Domaine de Beauvois was the best meal we had during the course of the entire tour.
We spent two nights in the lovely city of Amboise and we felt at home there after just a few short days. The cycling in this area was to die for, and the scenery along the way was unforgettable. Rob and I kept telling ourselves that the cycling was getting better and better, each and every day.
After a great day of cycling, we’d check into our hotel for the night, take a shower (and sometimes a short nap) before exploring the area nearby or going to dinner.
While a great majority of the tour is on paved roads or bicycle paths, there are a few small sections where you will be riding on dirt or grass-covered trails.
The Loire Valley is filled with cyclists of all different kinds. Below are two self-supported bicycle tourists conducting a different type of bicycle tour where they have chosen to camp each night and carry all of their own belongings on their bicycle.
One of the main activities on the Loire Valley 7N bike tour is to stop along the way and explore the massive gardens and even more massive chateaus that are scattered throughout the area. There are dozens of properties like this to explore throughout the tour.
When you aren’t cycling on a separated bicycle path in the countryside, you’ll be cycling through beautiful French villages.
Throughout the Loire Valley are homes, garages and storage units dug into the local stone. Below is a small house carved out of rock and surrounded by local plants.
In the countryside, farms are common, as are wonderful stretches of road, ideal for bicycle touring.
Below is the smallest hotel we stayed in during the course of our bike tour. It had a bike garage, English-speaking staff, a large dinning room and a large, clean room. The hotel was located just a short walk from the center of the city.
We got lucky with the weather… and only had one day of rain during the course of the tour.
Unfortunately, our bicycles didn’t have fenders/mud-guards on them, so we got a little dirty. But even when we were cold and muddy, we were still having a great time!
There are so many things to stop and see along the way in the Loire Valley. The place is designed for bicycle touring!
How To Book Your Tour With Active4Adventures
Booking a bicycle tour with Active4Adventures is easy!
1. First of all, visit their website at www.active4adventures.com and search through the dozens of different bicycle tours that they have on offer… and find the tour that looks most interesting to you.
2. Contact the company via phone (1-800-929-0152) or via email and let them know which bicycle tour you are interested in participating in… and what dates would best suit you.
3. After the company has checked to see if those dates can be secured for you, you’ll be asked about renting a bicycle for the course of the tour, what type of pedals you wish to use, what dietary restrictions you might have, and a whole host of similar question.
4. Finally, sit back and relax while Active4Adventures arranges your bicycle tour for you! Your only task now is to book travel arrangements to the start of the tour where you will be met by an Active4Adventures tour guide who will give you a brief orientation before the start of your memorable bicycle touring holiday.
For more information on Active4Adventures, visit the official company website at www.active4adventures.com.
Photos by Darren Alff and Roberto LoRusso.