France, Switzerland, and Italy are full of signed bike routes. And official/government tourist web sites can provide a wealth of information to cyclo-tourists, including free maps, route ideas, gpx files, lodging ideas, tour operators, etc.
Here is an incomplete list of links to official cycling web sites. Note, I am focusing on road biking here, although many of the below links will also lead to very useful mountain biking info. The map outlines the French Departments that I discuss (click on flags for links – or just keep reading below). I’ve also added a few links to Italian regions, as well as the excellent Swiss national site. Usually, but not always, these sites have an English version (but beware, often the English version contains significantly less info).
This is a work-in-progress. Please use the comments to offer other link ideas. And remember, when visiting a new region, it’s a great idea to walk into any tourist office and ask for cycling route information. Usually you’ll at least get a useful free map, and sometimes fantastic individual route cards.
Links and sites change all the time. Please let me know if some links aren’t working and/or you have something better than my proposal. Thanks.
The Savoie-Mont-Blanc tourist board represents the departments of Haute Savoie and Savoie – most of the north French Alps. We’re talking Annecy, Beaufort, the Maurienne Valley (Galibier, Iseran, Glandon, Madeleiene, Croix de Fer), etc.
- The region has 110 signed routes. You can search and find info on all the routes here. Gpx files also available – useful!
- You can also order a terrific free map with all 110 signed routes from the Tourist Board here.
- Savoie-Mont Blanc also have an excellent phone app.
- Often local regions have their own signed cycling network. For example, see the excellent Beaufort route cards below (eg. Cormet de Roselend, Col du Joly) – available at local tourist office.
Switzerland has a massive signed cycling network, including 9 national routes that cross the country in various directions (and 3 national MtB routes). The official site is truly excellent with a fully functional English version – here. It has everything: quality maps, rental locations, detailed stages for longer routes, etc. And more than any region I’ve tried in France, these routes are very well signed. Guide books for each of the national routes can also be ordered from the site.
And cycling in Switzerland is, of course, beyond beautiful.
Isère is also part of the north French Alps and includes great cycling regions like the Chartreuse Alps, the Vercors and of course l’Oisans (Alpe d’Huez, etc). The official site has 21 signed cycling routes – here. Maps, route descriptions and gpx files available. You can also download the brochure here.
Oisans also has a great site with 30 cycling routes. Maps, gpx files, etc, here.
The department of l’Ain, just west of Geneva, has some of the best and toughest French Jura mountain climbs (eg. Grand Colombier, Col de la Biche). It has a network of 33 signed cycling routes at all levels of difficulty.
The Hautes-Alpes department has many of the highest and most famous cycling climbs in France – Galibier (south), Col Agnel, Col d’Izoard, etc. There are 12 signed circuits and 21 signed climbs. Details of all the routes can be found here – along with a link to there excellent phone app.
Alpes de Haute-Provence
The department of Alpes de Haute-Provence is also full of some huge, famous climbs. Barcelonette is probably the best base town in the entire south Alps, surrounded by cols: Bonette, Allos, Cayolle, Parpaillon, etc. Further south one can also find the truly amazing Gorges du Verdon.
For €15 one can purchase a guide of 20 signed routes – here. But note, at the same link are online, free details of 17 of the routes, including gpx files. And here is a link to a brochure with details of the routes.
Up against the Mediterranean Sea, the Alpes-Maritime has an excellent network of cycling routes. I know this area less well than those to the north. But more famous climbs include, Col de la Madone, Col de la Lombarde, Col de la Bonette (south), and Col de Braus, and Col du Turini.
From the official web site, you can download 3 different brochures based on difficulty, each in French/English/Italian and full of routes. Sportive, Touristic, and Family. Link here. At the same link, you can see details of each individual route.
Focused mainly on Vaucluse, the official Provence cycling route site is excellent. Clear links to all the signed routes. One of the easier web sites to plan a trip. See here. At the same link you can download various brochures/maps.
The (partially) French speaking region of Italy touches the border of both Switzerland and France and is full of gigantic climbs – eg. Colle del Gran San Bernardo.
The official tourist site has details on a large collection of cycling routes here.
I can’t find a link online, but when I was in Aosta, at a tourist office they gave me a truly exceptional collection of route cards for every ride. Here is a link to my map with all the rides I have done in Aosta (and Piemonte).
The Alps along the border between France and Italy have some of the greatest climbs in the Alps. Huge, quiet, beautiful. Colle Fauniera, Colle del Nivolet, Colle dell’Agnello, Colle della Lombarda Colle di Sampeyre, etc. Details of my rides there.
Here is the official Piemonte site in English with various routes. I can’t find links to maps or brochures. Perhaps a disappointing site. I’ve sent an email asking if map is available.
The Tourist office in Alba had a great set of free Langhe cycling route cards — strangely only in French — but easy to follow if you don’t understand the language.
Alto Adige / South Tyrol
An amazing place to ride. The Dolomites, etc. But this official site is not too helpful, but some ideas. I believe there are three long cycling routes in the region. Here is a downloadable pdf map. My overview map of climbs I’ve done in the region. Anyone with a better link?
Alsace (Haut-Rhin/Bas Rhin)
Alsace is a cycling mecca with 2500 kms of cycling routes – the edge of the Vosges Mountains, vineyards, canals, this region has it all. The official web site is quite fancy, with all sorts of route ideas, a trip planner section, etc. There are plenty of maps to download and a quite good phone app. See here.
Definitely a place to visit for a week or longer.
The official Vosges department web site has a bunch of great routes – note: many of the biggest Vosges mountain climbs are in neighbouring departments to the east. Lots of detailed info easy to find. GPX files too. See here. And the link has a good phone app.
The historic region of Burgundy comprises 4 departments: la Saône-et-Loire, la Côte-d’Or, la Nièvre and l’Yonne. It has a huge network of signed cycling routes including several long Voies Vertes (dedicated, car-free routes), and Voies Bleues (converrted canal paths). An amazing region for touring.
The official website is full of route ideas, and downloadable content. See here.
The Region of Franche Comté has four departments and plenty of bike routes.
The regional web site here.
- Haute-Saône – 21 signed routes. Here.
- Territoire de Belfort – home of the Ballon d’Alsace and on the border: La Planche des Belles Filles. Official site here.
- Jura department here – (this is the department, and only a small part of the Jura mountains). Excellent brochure here.
The Rhône department includes signed routes in 5 sectors. le Beaujolais – 322 kms,
le Haut Beaujolais – 96 kms, le Beaujolais Vert – 362 kms, le Lyonnais “Monts et Coteaux” – 337 kms, le Pilat 119 kms. Official site here including a link to a great brochure with route cards for every itinerary.
A scenic spot for a flat tire in the Beaujolais:
I can’t find much offical info on the Loire department (not the same as the Loire valley).
But try this link. The region is home to some interesting cols:
The former Region of Auvergne (it just merged with Rhône-Alps Region) includes the following four departments: Allier, Puy-de-Dôme, Cantal and Haute-Loire. As far as mountains, we’re talking the Massive Centrale. I don’t know the area, so am pleased to see such an excellent official site here. It includes a link to a nice looking phone app that includes 200 cycling itineraries!
The department of l’Ardèche has 13 signed cycling routes through wonderful countryside including the magnificent Gorges de l’Ardèche. Official site here although I can’t find route information anywhere except on an interesting looking phone app here.
The region also hosts perhaps the best, social, multi-day cyclo-sportive anywhere. Details here.
I’ll go a little faster with some regions I don’t know. But again, plenty of great info. I’ve also added the below links to the map. Lots of places I’d love to visit.
- Bouches-du-Rhône – 13 signed cycling routes. Details here including links to details for each loop.
- Gard – Good site full of information here.
- Aveyron – 39 routes. One of the best organised sites. Overview map and details for each loop. Here.
- Hérault – here.
- Tarn-et-Garonne (this is a different department than both Tarn, and Haute-Garonne). Official site here. Brochure here.
- Tarn – with a little clicking, on this site you can get maps for each individual route in the department.
- Haute-Garonne – 190 kms of Voies Vertes and plenty of bike routes. Details here. Also see here.
- Gers – Lots of official routes with details here.
- Lot-et-Garonne – 30 cycling routes and a couple of long bike only canal routes. Very nice site, easy to download detailed ride details for every route. See here.
- Gironde – This was the best I could find. Easy to download several maps of bike routes in region.
- Landes – Confusing site. Anything better?
- Pyrénées-Atlantiques – detailed site with some basque cols too.
- Hautes-Pyrénées – despite being the home of Col du Tourmalet and many of the most famous climbs in the Pyrénées, the official site is truly hopeless. Instead see here and official site for the La Route des Cols that traverses the entire mountain range, or see my collection of climbs in the region here. Does anyone have a link to sign-posted routes here?
- Ariège – That’s better. Decent site with a decent list of cycling routes.
- Aude – Lousy site. Are there signed routes?
- Pyrénées-Orientales – Decent site here. Brochure here.
This is one of those posts that I mainly write for myself. Basically, a great way to start some route planning. It’s sometimes surprising what great resources are available, and how many signed bike routes and Voies Vertes exist. Again, feel free to suggest good or better links. If this becomes a useful post, I’ll likely keep expanding it geographically.