Brittany boasts thousands of kilometres of mapped out cycle routes, many off road. Local tourist boards have invested in cycling infrastructure which has opened up hundreds of kilometres of former railway lines and canal towpaths as clearly signposted, easy-to-follow cycle ways - and they are completely car free.hile Brittany has always had plenty to offer the more serious cycle tourist, many of these new routes are also family friendly and can be completed in a leisurely day or even half a day’s riding.
Mountain biking in particular has taken off all over Brittany and the northern department of Côtes-d’Armor alone can boast 4,000 kilometres of well-marked and graded off road circuits. The department is also home to five dedicated mountain bike centres - or stations VTT (Vélo Tout-Terrain) – that are affiliated to the national Fédération Francaise de Cyclisme.
St Malo makes a great beginning point for any type or length of cycling adventure with superb coastal routes east towards Mont St-Michel and west towards St Brieuc, plus the long-established inland route to the Breton capital of Rennes.
The ride to Rennes is around 100 kilometres (62 miles) but can be broken down into two or three easy stages, with an overnight stop in the beautiful medieval town of Dinan being highly recommended. From Dinan the traffic free towpath takes riders onto the charming little port of Evran on the Canal d’Ille-et-Rance and then to the village Hédé (famous for having 11 locks!). The green route to Rennes winds gently along until the commune of St-Grégoire on the outskirts. Here the cycle track follows the canal towpath right into the city centre.
The main coastal cycle routes out from St Malo are just as carefree and delightful. Heading east, the first stop is the charming fishing town of Cancale, famous for its oysters and mussels.
Another 20 kilometres of gentle riding, you’ll arrive at the tiny commune of Le Vivier-sur-Mer, where you may catch your first glimpse of the magnificent Mont St-Michel in the distance.
Go west from St Malo along the emerald coast is another great option. Put your bike on the water taxi to Dinard and start riding from there, or take the road crossing over the impressive Barrage de la Rance. Once over the river, it is an easy meandering ride through the Breton countryside before cruising along the quiet coastal roads that skirt the Golfe de St Malo. You can cycle along the rugged and exposed Cap Frehel to the lighthouse at the end of the peninsula or head straight to the charming port of Erquy, Brittany’s scallop fishing capital.
The beauty of cycling in Brittany is that you do not have to be an experienced Tour de France rider to appreciate its coastal charms and inland delights. You can take your bike off the rack on your car for the odd day’s gentle riding – or you can devote a fortnight to completing the 365 kilometres of the Nantes-Brest canal path that bisects Brittany east to west.
Even without a car, there are plenty of bicycle-friendly regional train services, and it’s worth remembering that Condor Ferries will transport your bicycle to France free of charge.