Overview

static Google MapRhone Alpes coat of armsOur regular bike tours in France are in the Rhône-Alpes region in the southeast, spanning the départements of Drôme and Isère. Although our home base in the Royans-Vercors is a national heritage site visited by tourists, the area remains relatively unknown, even within France, and yet to be discovered by cyclists from English-speaking countries.

Since we design your week day-by-day while you’re here, as the week progresses, we don’t have a fixed itinerary to publish. Instead, in the Rides section below we summarize some of the many choices of destinations available to us, from gently rolling Côtes-du-Rhône wine country to cliff-hugging roads along spectacular gorges, to WWII Resistance memorials in the Vercors plateau, to almost-Mediterranean Drôme-Provençale to famous Alpine passes of the Tour de France.

You can read endorsements from some of our past guests on our home page.

Rides

We ride on quiet secondary and tertiary roads that have very little motor traffic. Even where there’s motor traffic, it feels much safer than in The Bay Area. Traffic regulations stipulate a 1.5 meter (5 foot) minimum distance for motor vehicles passing bicycles. Moreover, in a collision between a motor vehicle and a bicycle, the motorist is presumed to be at fault until proven otherwise. In addition, motorists accept bicyclists as legitimate fellow users of public roads, and cyclists are not ”invisible“ because motorists expect to see them on the road.

Refined daily for you. Because we stay at one home base the entire time, we aren’t obliged to conform to a predetermined cookie-cutter itinerary. Instead, we observe and listen to you, check the wind, weather and road conditions, take into account local events of interest, and each morning (or the previous evening), choose a route or destination of suitable interest, length and terrain. Here are some of the possible ride destinations and/or places along the way that we may visit, followed by a sample 1-week itinerary for those who insist on one—keep in mind your week will almost certainly be different!

L’Hermitage — very gentle rollers
l'Hermitage collage

Côtes du Rhône vineyards, castle town of Tournon-sur-Rhône, Valrhôna chocolate factory & Chapoutier wine-tasting room in Tain l’Hermitage, scenic Routes des Belvédères & Corniche du Rhône.

Drôme des Collines — modest hills
Drome des Collines collage

St. Antoine l’Abbaye, early Gothic abbey, pilgrimage site for sufferers of ergot (wheat fungus) poisoning, also known as St. Anthony’s fire. Along the way, visit a remarkable outdoor model Railway Garden in Chatte. Or, ride through walnut groves to Vinay to visit the museum of walnut agriculture, featuring the local AOC (protected name) ”Grenoble walnut“.

Gorges — dramatic, but gentle
Combe Laval collage

Spectacular, but the roads follow gradual grades. Combe Laval. Grands Goulets. Gorges de la Bourne & Choranche Grottoes (15% grade for the first km after the turnoff from the D531 road). Gorges du Nan.

Upper Gorges de la Bourne

Combe Laval


Vercors high plateau — varied
Vercors high plateau collage

Memorial to the Resistance at Col de Lachau. Museum of Prehistory, Resistance Memorial at Vassieux en Vercors.

Climbs in the Royans-Vercors — challenging
Col de…Elev. (m)Col de…Elev. (m)Col de…Elev. (m)Col de…Elev. (m)
* = On the 2005 Tour de France Stage 15 route
la Baume1,475la Croix1,029Lachau1,337Proncel1,100
la Bataille1,312l’Echarasson*1,146la Machine1,053St. Alexis1,222
Carri*1,202l’Herbouilly*1,352la Portette1,175Tourniol1,145
Chalimont*1,374

Classic Tour de France Climbs — challenging
Tour de France collage

Alpe d’Huez, Col du Glandon & Col de la Croix de Fer: Rides up these classic Tour de France ascents start about a 1½ hour drive away.

Drôme Provençal — varied
Drome Provencal collage

Just south of the Vercors plateau and bordering Provence are lavender fields, olive groves, oak groves hiding black truffles, the tower at Crest – said to be the tallest in France, Clairette de Die sparkling white wine made in the Drôme river valley … all just a short drive away.

Sample 1-week itinerary

While every week is different and designed to suit your abilities and aspirations, here’s an example of how one particular week might go…

Saturday: We meet you at the St. Marcellin or Valence TGV train station to transfer you to Pont-en-Royans. Assemble/fit bikes in the afternoon to take a short spin in the vicinity of the town.

Sunday: Ride the gentle rollers south to the charming village of Chabeuil for lunch, then back via a slightly different route closer to the foothills of the Vercors plateau.

Monday: Ride along the Gorges de la Bourne to Villard de Lans for lunch. Option to climb to Saint-Julien-en-Vercors to do Col d’Herbouilly, which was on a Tour de France stage in 2005. Return the easy way back down the gorge.

Tuesday: Climb from Saint-Laurent-en-Royans to Col de la Machine for lunch. Descend the spectacular Cirque de Combe Laval down to Saint-Jean-en-Royans to return to home base. Optional climb to Col d’Echarasson, which was on a Tour de France stage in 2005.

Wednesday: Mid week rest-day. We can transport you to the train station in St. Marcellin in the morning if you wish to go farther afield. Otherwise, visit the Water Museum (Musee de l’Eau), swim in the Bourne river below and/or enjoy the wading pool on the opposite bank. Hike on any of the many nearby trails, go spelunking (caving), canyoning, rock climbing, or zip-lining. Or go on a self-guided bike ride: we’ll supply maps and cue sheets.

Thursday: We start from La-Chapelle-en-Vercors in the high plateau to ride to the WWII Resistance Memorial at Vassieux-en-Vercors, then complete the loop via Col de Rousset to La Chapelle for lunch. Descend via the Grands Goulets and Petits Goulets back to home base.

Friday: Visit an artisan walnut oil press in Chatte, then on to St. Antoine l’Abbaye, one of the “most beautiful villages” in France and a medieval pilgrimmage site with a gorgeous gothic abbey complex. Disassemble/pack bikes after we return to home base.

Saturday: We transfer you to the St. Marcellin or Valence TGV train station in the morning.

Once more, we emphasize that this is just one possible scenario from an endless palette we mix and match for a week uniquely adapted to you.

Rhône-Alpes topography

We’re between the Rhone river valley and the Alps, near the base of the Vercors high plateau. There are easy rollers to the southwest and in the middle of the plateau, smaller challenging hills to the northwest, spectacular gorges to the immediate east and southeast, and lots of cols to climb in the Vercors. The map image below indicates where we ride. Note that we’ve ridden Alpe d’Huez and Col du Glandon (extreme right of the map).

heat map of Rhone-Alpes rides

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