Like our road rides, our gravel routes take full advantage of the amazing variety of scenery on our doorstep. There’s the Aveyron gorge of course, which has gravel routes for most of its length. There are huge oak forests, which have the fire roads you’d expect, but also endless singletrack and medieval packhorse trails. We’re in an area of limestone plateaux which offer flatter but often very remote riding, cut by steep-sided, lost valleys. Often they’re filled with long-abandoned watermills and mines, although they look more like a scene from the Lord of the Rings than the industrial revolution.
Our gravel offer came about by accident. I fancied a gravel bike so that I could explore the tantalising looking trails I could see while out on my road bike. I’ve done a lot of mountain biking over the years and have always loved getting off road, but was always less keen on mountain bikes – the new gravel machines looked like they’d suit me very well. It was not intended to be anything more than a new toy, but I soon found that the gravel riding in this part of France is so good that I reckoned others would like it too.
Discover hidden tracks and trails
Of course, gravel riding originated in the US where there’s a huge network of unsurfaced public roads, so traditionally, a gravel ride follows a route you could do in your car. Around here, we have unsurfaced roads, but not that many. What we do have in abundance are centuries-old walking and packhorse trails which are ideal for a gravel bike. They’re too narrow to get your car along, but you don’t need suspension, dropper seat posts or any of the other technology mountain bikes use to cope with extreme terrain. So while we can’t offer you a US-style gravel holiday, we can offer you really fun, scenic rides which work perfectly on a gravel bike. Some say that adventure cycling would be a better description of what we do, and maybe they’re right.
The Best Gravel Routes for You
Like our road holidays, everything we do is bespoke. I’ll talk to you about your fitness, your technical skills and what you’d like to get from your holiday. I can include challenging (but rideable) climbs, but if that’s not your thing, I can design routes where most of the climbing is done on road. Distances can vary from an easy 20km meander in the woods above town to a 150km epic which is a challenge for even the fittest riders. I aim to keep everything rideable, but sometimes an otherwise brilliant trail has a short unrideable section – I won’t send you on a ride like that without telling you first, but I reckon everything I use is more than 99% rideable. Most of the riding here is on gravel or other smooth surfaces, but there are rocky sections and a few trails which are quite eroded. To get the best from our routes you’ll need to have some experience riding off road on rough trails.
Find your own way – or follow us
Nearly all of our road-based holidays are self-guided using a GPS. You can do the same with our gravel holidays but be aware that navigation is much more difficult off-road, and you’ll be riding in some very remote areas. For that reason, I recommend that most rides are guided (by me!), and since I charge by the day, that’s much more affordable if you come in a group. This isn’t a cycling theme park with signed, graded trails, this is the real French countryside which you can enjoy by tapping into my local knowledge. However, if you’re experienced at navigating, there’s no reason why you can’t self-guide.
You’ll get the best out of riding here if you’re fit enough for a long day in the hills. That’s not to say all the riding is hard, it isn’t, but to really get under the skin of this stunning place, fitness is a big plus!
Hire a Gravel Bike or Bring your Own
If you own a gravel bike, it’ll be fine around here. My preference is for 40c tubeless tyres (or bigger), but if you already ride gravel, you’ll know what you like. The climbs here mean that the 1:1 bottom gear most gravel bikes have is a little on the high side. I use a 1x transmission with a 32T chainring and an 11-42 cassette, which I think is just about perfect.
Hiring a gravel bike is still pretty difficult. I have a supplier I use, but she’s not particularly near so the delivery charge is significant. For a group staying for a week, that’s fine, but if you fancy coming on your own for a weekend, the delivery would be expensive. So, if you can bring your own bike, please do! What you can get easily is a hardtail mountain bike. It wouldn’t be my first choice of machine, but it will certainly work, especially if you’re happy riding flat bars.
OUR CALENDAR OF GRAVEL CYCLING HOLIDAYS
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