October 26, 2010

Cévennes: Maps, Routes,Guidebooks

I love maps, read them for the fun of it, daydream with them in hand. In grammar school, I closed my eyes, spun my globe, stabbed at it with my finger and imagined going where it landed.
But I’m not going to give you a map. There are too many strong, easily used web resources.
I planned my route carefully (though not any short side rides.) Michelin 300-series maps were central for route finding during the ride and in the planning stages; I used mostly numbers 338 and 339. They are at a scale of 1cm = 1.5 km and they (roughly) indicate grades, name cols, mark particularly beautiful roads, point out cultural and historic sites. They are good maps. But, in ways that I do not understand at all, the French road numbers are changing, and the road number you see on the side of the road may not match that on the map you are looking at. I have never had this happen to me, but several French cyclists warned me of the phenomena, and it is a disquieting notion.
Generally, I tried to ride on the white roads when possible, yellow if it was not possible. That said, I avoided all roads with three chevrons, an indication of a 13+% grade. That’s a steep hill. I looked carefully for alternatives before riding on red roads; especially those with an “N”designation.
After I had a pretty good sense of my route, I used two web sites to confirm my ideas and fine-tune my plan. Both are valuable sites, and I am sure there are others that I don’t know about. Map My Ride indicates both distances and ascents/descents of trips, though I can’t vouch for how accurately. I used Google Earth to get a specific sense of roads, shoulders, etc.  and a sense of overall terrain and particularly like street view and photos. I remember avoiding one road because there was no shoulder, but instead had a stone retaining wall right at the edge of the road, with traffic that I imagined pretty fast and frequent.
I used several guide books, particularly enjoying the sections on history, botany, etc. Michelin and Rough Guides in English were on my shelf from my trip in 2009. I added two guides in French that I purchased in Toulouse. They were the Routard: Lot, Aveyron, Tarn and the e’vasion: Languedoc. It is not easy to find English language guides to the Aveyron area where I was, and the Routard was particularly helpful.
There are several web sites with bicycle journals, stories, guides. Two that I find particularly good are Trento Bike Pages and Crazy Guy on a Bike. A good part of the reason that I posted my trip was that I found other people’s stories both helpful and inspirational.
If you want to follow the main route on a map, I used these roads:
Route de Lodève to Juvignac
D 141 to Arboras
D9 to la Vacquerie-et-St. Martin-de-Castries
D25 to St. Maurice-Navacelles
D130 to Cirque de Navacelles
D713 – (N)D158
West on D 999 to Nant (turns at Sauclières)
D991 to Millau
D187 to LeRozier
N106 South
D907 S
D996 W. to LeRozier
D187 to Millau
D41 – D 73 – D 200 etc. to Albi



  1. Great journey and blog. i am planning a similar trip, following the Way of St james from Le Puy de Velay, and wonder about how easy it was to get in and out of the Toulouse airport with your bike.



    1. Thanks for reading, and how fun to be planning a trip. It's easy to get from Blagnac to Toulouse. There is a shuttle bus, or navette, for about 5euro. Your bike will need to be in a bike box, or bag. It stops, I think, 4 places downtown, and runs frequently.l

      Or you can ride. But you'll need specific directions. I did that once, found the directions on the internet. It is less than 10 miles, and very little traffic. My memory is that it was largely on bike paths.
      If you want to ride, let me know I'll try to find the link.

      Have fun! I'd love to hear about your trip!


My blog is out of date, and so comments are closed.

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.