Follow dedicated cycle paths and national routes past vineyards and olive groves leading from L’Isle sur la Sorgue into the Luberon Valley. It's smooth easy riding for most of the day with a little leg burner to finish off on the approach to Bonnieux.
Most of the day is spent on Provence’s excellent dedicated cycle paths, rolling through the entrance of the Luberon Valley, with clear signposts to keep you right. Heading into the valley, you’ll barely notice the subtle incline (which covers 100m ascent over 29km) until you reach the main road into Bonnieux, which is a noticeably steeper hill. The easy start to the ride allows you to soak up the sun (hopefully) and sights (definitely) that this beautiful part of France has to offer. The roads and cycle paths are well kept, however do beware of steep banks on the side of the main roads, and remember to be mindful of other road users.
Take a stop at Pont Julien for some great photo opportunites and to dip your toes in the river.
The route is largely on marked cycle routes, so when cycling on the road please beware of traffic and cycle on the right-hand side of the road if there is no cycle lane. Whilst drivers in France are respectful of the 'velo', please do be mindful of other road users at all times, obeying local road signs and any change in road conditions. Beware of traffic especially when entering and leaving the towns where the traffic flow tends to be highest.
Before starting your ride it’s always worth inspecting your bike for any damage. Check for any damage to the frame, components or wheels. Ensure there are no loose cables and that the tyres are inflated and the brakes are working. Always wear a helmet when cycling. If you are doubtful of the condition of your rental bike please call the office or the local bike hire on the number provided in your information pack.
Always be prepared to cycle through a change of weather conditions and do check for any local weather warnings before cycling. Make sure to bring a waterproof jacket and a warm layer. Most cyclists wear [fingerless] cycle gloves for some padding on the handlebars. Don't forget a spare battery pack for an emergency charge of any navigation unit you may decide to use, and pack your suncream!
Food & Drink
There is a fairly large store in the centre of L’Isle sur la Sorgue to stock up on water and fresh breads and cheeses before your first day’s cycle. Further out of the centre of L’Isle sur la Sorgue there are a couple of larger supermarkets and a small shopping centre. Bonnieux is a small hilltop town with various restaurants scattered throughout and a small shop in the centre. As with most places in France, shops and restaurants often close midday for a few hours, so bear this in mind if you’ll be arriving between 12 & 3 as you may need to bring some food with you or wait until the shops open.
Points of interest
L’Isle sur la Sorgue
This ‘Island City’ is your starting point for the Pedalling Provence tour. On your first night, take the time to walk through its winding centre streets and exploring the historic architecture. There are markets each Thursday and Sunday, plus this town is well known for its antiques and art collections. Take a stroll along the canals and choose from one of the many restaurants along the river, enjoying a nice dinner before you set off on your ride the following day.
This Roman bridge was built in 3BC and served as an important road connecting Italy to Roman territories in France. It was used, uninterrupted, until 2005 when a replacement bridge was built to preserve the approximately 2000-year-old structure. When I visited in late October, the banks were dry, making it the perfect place to have some déjeuner. The bridge sits just before the turn off to Bonnieux and is a great spot for a rest before you make the final steady climb up to your hotel for the next couple of nights. There is also a public toilet here should you need it!
Once you’ve checked into your hotel in Bonnieux, take a walk up to the top of the town to see the 12th Century Church of St Saveur (or the Vielle Église as it’s now known). There is a viewpoint located just below the church, offering panoramic views of the Luberon Valley. The climb is well worth it for the view, even if your legs are a bit tired!