Cycling on the Côte d’Azur and its back country is one of the most popular pastimes of both residents and visitors alike. It’s not a coincidence that many of the world’s top pro cyclists are based and train in the area. The geography and climate make it ideal cycling country.
However, cycling here is certainly not just for professionals and the super fit. If you enjoy cycling holidays, or just cycling on your holiday, you’ll love the varied terrain of the Côte d’Azur. With flat coastal routes through to steep mountain climbs there is something for every level of cyclist.
Cycling enthusiasts consider the Côte d’Azur, and Alpes-Maritimes département in general, as seriously good cycling land. Quiet, smooth, well paved roads with gob-smackingly beautiful views crisscross the mountains and line the coast offering an unrivalled choice of rides.
Because of our great climate – 300 days of sun per year – and southern latitude the mountain roads are open all seasons, meaning no matter what time of year you want to go for a ride, you have a large choice of routes. In the winter months, the coastal routes are ideal but when the temperature heats up in summer, head to the hills for a cooler ride.
Cycling holiday at Lou Messugo
Base yourself at Lou Messugo in Roquefort les Pins for your cycling holiday on the Côte d’Azur and you’ll be in the middle of some perfect cycling routes. We are ideally located between the sparkling azure Mediterranean sea and the Southern Alps, close to river gorges and mountain plateaux. Ideally located to explore this beautiful area, and that includes on 2 wheels.
A typical scenic loop from the door (28 km, 375m elevation gain, 1 hour) takes in winding mountain roads, a river gorge, a traditional sweet factory under a historic ruined bridge, a perched village and a ridge with a coastal view. It encompasses pretty much all that is great about cycling in this area. Of course there are plenty of other routes, the choice is pretty much endless.
If climbs are your thing this area has you covered. One popular local route takes you from Roquefort les Pins at 250m to the Col de l’Êcre near Caussols at 1118m altitude, a continual climb for about 20 km. Another col in the area is the Col de Vence at 963m.
If you prefer flatter routes it’s possible to cycle along the coast to Italy, taking in Nice, Villefranche sur Mer, Monaco and Menton. Or head the other direction via Cannes, Mandelieu, St Raphaël, Fréjus to St Tropez passing though the unusual red rocks of the Estérel massif. Both directions are stupendously scenic.
The coastal rides make up part of the long distance Eurovelo Route 8 which is supposed to go from Cadiz in southern Spain all the way to Athens, though parts of it aren’t yet completed.
Where to cycle on the Côte d’Azur
If you are a visitor to the Côte d’Azur and not sure where to ride, the Conseil Générale publishes some excellent guides both online and in paper form. Click to find them here.
At Lou Messugo we can also help with itineraries and provide maps. A tip from a cycling friend is to follow local cyclists on Strava. French pro cyclist Mikaël Cherel lives in Roquefort les Pins and trains from here. Other well-known professionals in the area include Rudy Molard and Romain Bardet.
Ride with a local club on the Côte d’Azur
How about riding with a local club? If you’re here for a while then joining a club is a great way to get insider knowledge and find the best rides. Some clubs accept visitors for occasional sorties. The Club AC Valbonne comes recommended by my cycling friends as an active local club. (They provided the photo below and the one of 2 women looking out over a gorge too, merci!)
Cyclosportives on the Côte d’Azur and region
Plan your holiday around a sportive, of which there are plenty during the year. Here is a selection that take place in the region.
March – the Paris-Nice Challenge (Nice), and the GranFondo Nice Côte d’Azur
April – the Granfondo Golfe de Saint Tropez
May – the Ladies GranFondo (Nice), La Vençoise (Vence)
June – Le Mercan’Tour Turini (near Nice), and le Mercan’Tour Bonette (Valberg)
July – Les Cimes des Mercantour (Breil sur Roya)
September – Le Cyclo Azur et Or (Hyères), le Mercan’Tour Madone Peille (near Nice)
Watching Cycling on the Côte d’Azur
For those who enjoy watching professional cycling races, every year in March the Paris-Nice “Race to the Sun” passes through the area, ending in Nice. One year recently it came right through Roquefort, literally at the end of our street. The Tour de France has also come through Roquefort once since I’ve lived here (photo of the main street waiting for the peleton below) and in the neighbouring village another year (photo of the peleton with yellow jersey above). It will start from Nice this year on 29 August. It’s always a fun atmosphere supporting the riders.
Mountain biking on the Côte d’Azur
So far I’ve been focusing on road cycling on the Côte d’Azur, but it is equally good for mountain biking (VTT). The forests and parks in the Alpes-Maritimes have well-marked VTT trails and the Conseil Générale produces some useful booklets on the various itineraries in the area.
Many of the local ski stations keep their chairlifts open in the summer. You can transport your mountain bike up the slopes avoiding the hard climb and enjoy the ride down. The nearest to Lou Messugo is at l’Audiberge, under an hour away.
Practical information for your cycling holiday at Lou Messugo
If you bring your own bikes you are welcome to store them in our locked garage.
If however you want to rent, there’s a bike shop in Roquefort les Pins with a large selection, particularly of electric bikes. They also have a repair service.
Another way to get around is to use a Vélo Bleu, Nice city’s bike share scheme. It extends as far as Cagnes sur Mer and Villeneuve-Loubet for rides along the seafront.
Family cycling on the Côte d’Azur
A final word on family cycling. The seafronts in Cagnes sur Mer, Villeneuve-Loubet and Nice have wide pavements with cycle lanes perfect for families with young kids. It’s possible to rent all sizes of bikes including family pedal carts. Find out more here.
Visiting the National Museum of Sport in Nice
The 100th Tour de France, in the Alpes-Maritimes
3 of the Best Adventure Activities in the Alpes-Maritimes
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Photo credits: Thanks to Julie at Vaucluse Dreamer for the photo of the 2 bikes on the seafront, thanks to AC Valbonne for the photo of the 2 women looking at the view and the photo of the club riding together. Thanks to local cycling friends for providing photos of your rides, you know who you are.
I love the sound of the coastal routes. The fact that they’re flatter and to be near the sea really appeals.
What a great blog. Unfortunately I can’t ride a bike, though my husband is a keen cyclist and would enjoy this enormously.
Excellent article which I am sharing! Thanks!
Thank you Patricia
Great article on cycling. Thank you for the tips.
Thank you Carole
We’ve got part of the Euro-Vélo 4 in Normandy which goes from Roscoff to Kiev. I am off now to see where the other Euro-Vélo routes are. Not that I am planning to cycle any of them, mind you!
I think you should make a plan to cycle to Kiev!