Canal de Garonne by Bike
This route is slightly longer than the one along the Canal du Midi, but will take less time to complete, as the condition of the bike paths is much better. A cyclist of average fitness should have no problem riding from Bordeaux to Toulouse in five days. With the weather cooperating, you could accomplish the route in three days, but this pace won't allow you to take in much of the sights along the way. Agen and Moissac each merit a half-day stop, and you'll likely want to tack on a few days at the start and end of your tour to explore Bordeaux and Toulouse.
Most of the route follows dedicated bike paths. The first section leads you out of Bordeaux, along the river Garonne and through the region's vineyards. From Sauveterre-de-Guyenne to the point where you join the Canal de Garonne, you'll cycle along minor roads for about 20 km. This first part takes you through gentle rolling hills. The remainder of the route follows the Canal and is essentially flat, and only brief stretches require riding on roads.
You can cycle the route in either direction, but the wind blows predominantly from the west, off the Atlantic Ocean. Heading west-east (Bordeaux to Toulouse) raises the odds that you'll have tailwind.
Best time to go
April to October is the ideal period to cycle this route. In theory, nothing stops you from going in the winter, but the climate on the Atlantic side is considerably cooler and wetter, and snowfall is not uncommon. On the flip side, summers are less intense than on the hotter, drier Mediterranean side, but the region can experience thunderstorms during the height of summer.
Bordeaux and Toulouse are easily reached from other parts of France via high-speed trains. Public transit is sparse along the first 72 km, until you reach La Réole and join the Canal de Garonne. From that point, many towns and villages have train stations, with frequent connections to Bordeaux, Toulouse, and Agen.
Bikes travel for free on the local trains (TER), but you cannot bring them aboard during peak commuting hours (early morning and from 4pm to 6pm). The inter-city trains (intercités) require an advance reservation, as bike compartment space is limited, and payment of an extra fee (usually €10 per bike).
The local train lines that run along this route all stop in Agen, making a train change necessary. Platforms at the otherwise very modern station in Agen are not equipped with elevators (unlike those in the bigger cities), which means you'll have to lug your bike up and down the stairs. Keep this in mind if you take the train to Agen, and allow extra time to switch platforms.
An intercité train runs between Bordeaux and
Sète (the end point of the second part, the route along the Canal du Midi), a four-hour trip that stops at all major cities along the way.
Accommodations along this route aren't as numerous and varied as on the Canal du Midi, but you'll find plenty of options to allow you to break your trip into reasonable stages. We've uncovered several gems, in particular among the chambre d'hôtes in the wine country around Bordeaux, but bear in mind that these establishments have only a few rooms each, and the best ones will book up quickly. This is especially true in July and August.
Also be aware that many chambres d'hôtes close in November and won't open again until as late as April; most hotels are open year-round.
Some chambres d'hôtes will serve dinner, as well, often a multi-course meal of local dishes, which is generally a very good value. Make sure to reserve meals at least 24 hours ahead of time. The menu items are typically fixed, but your hosts will accommodate special dietary needs as best as they can. Try to be specific, and bear in mind that to many French, "vegetarian" includes fish.
As on the Canal du Midi, you'll find several chateaux offering luxurious accommodations, often at surprisingly reasonable prices — again, most of them located amidst the vineyards of Bordeaux.
For a great low-budget option, you can stay in gîtes d'etapes, which provide dormitory-style accommodations geared towards long-distance hikers/cyclists. There are also several campsites along the route.
Although we researched this guide diligently, we make no guarantees as to its accuracy. All information is provided without warranty of any kind, and we assume no liability for any damages resulting from its use. Pricing is illustrative only and does not constitute a binding offer. Traffic, weather, and other unforeseen conditions may make the proposed routes impracticable. Please use caution and common sense, and always follow the rules of the road and local laws.