France on a bike in the summer. Could anything be more perfect?
Few images can compare with that of a summer bike trip in France: picture riding between fields of sunflowers and lavender, past hillside vineyards, through charming villages and by impressive châteaux. It truly is France at its best, and biking is the best way to experience it.
Our trip lays out perfectly: we leave Chartres on flat roads through open farmlands, bike through the Loire châteaux country and start to feel a little bit of roll to the hills, then work hard to get to the Rhône River and are rewarded with rides through a string of Provençal villages.
With every turn of the pedals, every mile logged, every meal shared, every story told, every laugh and hug and shout, your trip will change you, inspire you and hurtle you forward. You’ll see France, for sure—but, perhaps more importantly, you’ll see yourself, and all you can accomplish.
The Côte d’Azur and the brilliant blue Mediterranean have been the goal all along. Getting to the coast, plunging into the sea, celebrating with your group—this is the stuff of lifelong memories.
I loved the biking challenge and meeting new people I'll be friends with forever.
- Audrey Mace, Springfield, Missouri
Day 1: Trip Start
We’ll meet in Paris and take a train to our campground in Chartres, a Gothic city west of the capital. In the afternoon, we’ll build our bikes and go for a practice ride in the countryside to prepare for the journey ahead.
Days 2-7: The Loire Valley
Riding south from Chartres through fields of sunflowers and expansive vineyards, we’ll head toward the Grand Châteaux of the Loire Valley. Averaging 30 miles on forgiving terrain, we will pedal south on quiet country roads. We’ll ride along gently winding rivers, through lush green forests and medieval villages. From Chartres to Fréteval and on to Chenonceaux, we’ll take time to enjoy the historic beauty of rural France. In the Loire countryside, we’ll visit two of France’s most beautiful châteaux, Chambord and Chenonceau.
Days 8-13: Central France
From Orléans, we’ll bike southeast through a region of small farms and pastoral villages with picturesque cobblestone streets. Crossing the heart of France from Orléans to Cordelle, we’ll ride around 45 miles per day over more challenging terrain.
Days 14-19: The Massif Central and Provence
We’ll climb up and over the hills of the Massif Central and enter the Rhône River Valley. After reaching Vals-les-Bains, we’ll cross the Rhône River and ride through the sunflower and lavender-laden fields of Provence.
Days 20-25: The Côte d’Azur and Nice
In Provence, we’ll ride through hilltop villages, past vineyards and above the Grand Canyon du Verdon. We’ll continue to average 45 miles per day and work up to a challenging 75-mile ride from Castellane to Nice. On our final day, we’ll bike to the Côte d’Azur for a celebratory swim in the Mediterranean.
Days 26 & 27: Trip End
In Nice, we’ll pack up our bikes, spend an afternoon on the beach and explore the city’s Promenade des Anglais, a favorite among locals and visitors. On our last night, we’ll enjoy a final dinner together and celebrate all we’ve accomplished over four weeks in France.
24 nights of frontcountry camping. Campground facilities will vary and may include flush toilets, showers and/or laundry.
2 nights in a hostel in Nice. The hostel is a dormitory style accommodation with showers. The rooms are divided by gender.
Things to know
- We travel light on Overland trips; please only bring items on your packing list.
- Your group will have access to laundry periodically.
- Please do not bring any electronics (including your cell phone). See FAQs for more information on our cell phone and electronics policy.
- Do not bring any type of knife or multi-tool (such as a Swiss Army knife or Leatherman tool).
- A high-visibility outer layer is required at all times while biking. See packing descriptions for more details.
- If you are flying to your trip start, pack your sleeping pad and bike shoes in your bike box or checked bag. Take your helmet and sleeping bag with you on the plane as carry-on items, in case your checked luggage fails to arrive on time. Pack all remaining items in your checked duffel bag or in your checked panniers. You can tape or strap your panniers together to check them as one piece of luggage; see luggage description for more details.
- There are no reimbursements for lost, damaged or stolen items.
- Please wear the navy Overland shirt that you will receive from the Overland office to your trip start location.
- Pair of Panniers (waterproof preferred)
Students should bring all belongings to the start of the trip in the panniers they will use this summer. Panniers are saddlebags sold in pairs that attach to either side of your rear rack. You will want large panniers, 2,400-3,000 cubic inches total (for the pair), designed for touring. One large pannier has internal dimensions of approximately 17" x 13" x 7". You should be able to fit all of your belongings, besides your sleeping bag and pad, into your two panniers and have some space for group gear. Consider compressibility of clothing while packing for your Overland bicycle tour.
- Navy Overland Shirt (1)
We will send students an Overland shirt prior to their trip, and we encourage students to wear their Overland shirt to trip start. We highly recommend this for students flying to their trip start location.
- Synthetic High-Visibility T-Shirts (3) & Vest (1)
A high-visibility outer layer, preferably a solid color, is required at all times while biking (high-visibility is a neon or fluorescent color, typically yellow, orange or pink). On warm days a high-visibility T-shirt will be sufficient. The vest should be large enough to wear over warm layers while riding on cooler days. Please visit the Overland Store if you need to purchase these items. High-visibility bike jerseys are acceptable but not necessary.
- Synthetic Long Underwear Top & Bottom (1)
- Fleece Pants (1)
Please do not bring cotton sweatpants (they are heavy and bulky and will not keep you warm if wet).
- Bike Shorts (2)
Biking-specific spandex shorts with a padded seat called a chamois. Bike shorts fit snugly in order to reduce chafing and discomfort from sitting on a bike seat for long distance rides.
- Shorts (1)
Comfortable shorts to wear around camp.
- Underwear (4)
- Athletic Socks (pair) (4)
- Wool and/or Synthetic Socks (1)
Boys should bring a Speedo for this trip as most pools require it.
- Fleece Jacket or Pullover (1)
Medium to heavyweight and reasonably compact.
- Waterproof Raincoat
Waterproof material required (not just water resistant). Choose high-visibility if available (a high-visibility outer layer is required at all times while riding; if your raincoat is not hi-vis then you'll have to wear a hi-vis vest over your raincoat when riding). Raincoats provide protection from wind and rain and serve as an extra warm layer. Your jacket should be large enough to allow layers underneath. We recommend hoods and breathable materials. Gore-Tex is a well-known waterproof and breathable fabric, but there are many other quality fabrics. Ponchos are not acceptable.
- Waterproof Rain Pants (optional)
Waterproof material required (not just water resistant). Rain pants provide protection from wind and rain and serve as an extra warm layer.
- Sleeping Bag
A lightweight, compact sleeping bag rated to 30 degrees Fahrenheit or less. We recommend either synthetic or treated down material. Your sleeping bag should compress into a stuff sack no larger than 20" in length.
- Sleeping Pad
Full- or ¾-length compact sleeping pad. We recommend closed cell foam that is thin and firm (e.g., RidgeRest) or self-inflating (e.g., Therm-a-Rest).
- Bowl, Mug & Utensils
6" to 8" plastic dish or bowl with top, insulated plastic mug, spoon, fork and knife. These don't need to be special camping utensils (a Tupperware dish and regular utensils are fine).
- Headlamp & Extra Batteries
- Water Bottle
A 24-ounce bike bottle is ideal (but a smaller size is acceptable). Overland will provide a second water bottle on arrival.
- Hydration System (optional)
A small backpack with a bladder inside (e.g., CamelBak) works well. If you bring a backpack, it must be high-visibility and it should be designed primarily to carry water (if it is too big or filled with other items, it will be uncomfortable to wear all day).
- Bicycle & Rear Rack
A touring bike or a hybrid will work well. Mountain bikes are not allowed. Please see the Right Bicycle for Your Overland Trip for more information about acceptable bikes and traveling with your bike. If you are considering doing the American Challenge, European Challenge or Canadian Rockies & Montana 2-week in the future, please see the below list for acceptable bikes: Trek 520, Surly Long Haul Trucker, Fuji Touring, Salsa Marrakesh, Novara Randonee.
- Bike Helmet
If you are flying to trip start, carry your helmet on the plane with you.
- Rear Bike Light
A rear bike light is required when riding in low light conditions. The light should be battery powered with a variety of mounting options (clipping on to a pannier or a rear rack, for example). The Portland Design Works Radbot 1000 and the Planet Bike LED Superflash turbo are two examples of bike taillights.
- Bungee Cords (4)
These should be 18-24" in length. Bungee cords are included with an Overland bike rental.
- Spare Bike Spokes (4)
Spare spokes that fit your wheels (two front and two rear) including the spoke nipple. Ask your local bike shop for guidance.
- Spare Bike Tubes (2)
Spare tube that matches your bike's tire size. All Overland rental bikes come with spare tubes.
- Set of Tire Levers (1)
- Spare Set of Brake Pads (1)
- Tire Patch Kit (1)
- Water Bottle Cages
Attached to the bike frame. Some smaller-sized bike frames cannot accommodate two cages. If this is the case, you will be able to strap additional water bottles to your rack with your other gear. All Overland rental bikes come with two water bottle cages.
- Bike Gloves (optional)
Well-padded for comfort
- Shoes for Biking (pair)
Bike touring or mountain biking shoes with bottom treads and "clipless" recessed cleats. A popular style of clipless shoes and pedals are SPDs. You may also ride in running shoes and bring toe cages to attach to your pedals. Please do not bring racing shoes as they have hard soles that are uncomfortable to walk in.
- Camp Shoes
Closed-toe shoes to wear around camp. Crocs or lightweight tennis shoes are ideal.
A passport that is valid until at least six months after your trip end date
- Passport Photocopies
Make at least four photocopies of your passport and visa (if applicable). Leave one copy with your family and put photocopies in both your checked luggage and carry-on luggage for the flight, separate from your original documents.
- Photo Identification
A current school or other kind of photo identification (if you have one).
- Synthetic Camping Towel (1)
A medium-size synthetic camping towel (synthetic camping towels dry much faster than regular towels).
- Gallon Sized Ziploc Bags (10)
To organize and waterproof your gear and small items.
- Large Trash Bags (5)
To waterproof your gear.
All items should be travel size (if necessary, you will be able to restock during the trip).
Polarized sunglasses that wrap around to protect from glare are ideal.
- Sunscreen (SPF 15+) & Chapstick (with SPF protection)
- Personal Journal or Book (optional)
- Camera, Charger & Extra Batteries (optional)
A digital or disposable camera and, if necessary, a charger and large enough memory card to accommodate your pictures (4 to 8 GB).
- Spending Money
$50 per week in local currency or a debit/ATM card (please notify your bank of international travel before trip start).
- Health Insurance Card
Please bring an original or copy of your health insurance card.
- What is the weather like on France?
The weather in France varies. The temperatures hover between the 70s and 80s. Closer to the Mediterranean Sea, the temperatures range between the 80s and 90s. It is usually sunny and warm with occassional rain. Our packing list takes these variables into consideration. Layering is the best strategy.
- What are the arrival and departure airports for my son or daughter’s trip?
You will need to arrange transportation for your son or daughter to Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport (CDG) at trip start and from Nice Côte d'Azur International Airport (NCE) at trip end. We will provide more specific travel information once we have placed your child on a program.
- How often will my son or daughter have access to showers and laundry?
While we have regular access to showers, most students will shower once or twice a week. Groups will do laundry once a week.
- Please tell me about safety at Overland.
Safety and risk management are at the forefront of our decision-making–from trip planning to leader training to supporting our groups in the field. We cannot guarantee absolute safety–no program can. All recreational activities include inherent and other risks. Therefore, we strive to manage the risks that we can, knowing we cannot eliminate them. We work hard to recruit, train and support our trip leaders so they can create the kind of trips that have made us successful for over 30 years. Please click here to read more about our approach to risk management and our accreditation by the American Camp Association.
- Does my child need to have previous experience?
While no previous experience is required, we have high expectations of our students. We expect your child–with your help–to select a trip that is appropriate for his or her interests and abilities. You should spend some time familiarizing yourself with the details of the specific program and help your child understand what to expect. We also expect our students to prepare ahead of time: to review the packing list, gather clothing and gear and complete whatever training the trip requires (for recommended training please see the Before You Go tab). Once the trip begins, your child should be ready–and excited–to contribute to a wholesome and enthusiastic group where each group member feels welcomed and valued.
- Please tell me about Overland’s admissions process.
For more information, and to access our application, please visit our Apply page.
When we receive child’s application, if the first choice is available, you will receive a phone call and an email containing a link to our Overland Portal where you will find our Admissions Review Forms. We will accept your deposit to hold your child’s place in the program pending a favorable Admissions Review. If the first choice is not available, we will call you to confirm that the second choice is acceptable. If neither the first choice nor second choice are available, we will call you to discuss options. For those students placed on our waitlist, we will notify you as soon as a spot becomes available.
We seek to admit students who have demonstrated that they possess the personal qualities and experience necessary to succeed on an Overland trip. While Overland is always supportive and nurturing, an Overland program is unlike a traditional camp in that our small groups–12 students and 2 leaders–travel, live and work as a group, making all of their own meals, helping each other and cooperating in ways big and small, and they do all of this far from home. As a result, every student must be able to thrive in an environment that places equal emphasis on:
1. Teamwork and Shared Responsibilities.
2. Independence and Self-Reliance.
3. Support of Others and Consideration for Others.
- What are Overland’s policies on phones, electronics and communication?
To maximize independence and self-reliance, we do not permit phone calls, emails or text messages to or from our campers (the exceptions to this are: your child will call home on arrival and departure with our phones and assistance, and in the case of an emergency). If your child brings a phone for use while en route to Overland, please do not send him or her with an expensive smartphone; instead bring an inexpensive prepaid cell phone. All phones will be collected on arrival and returned at departure. While we will take reasonable steps to prevent damage, theft or loss to phones, we take no responsibility for phones and we will not make any reimbursements for lost, damaged or stolen phones.
Cameras are welcome but please do not bring any other electronics (e.g., iPods, iPads, Kindles or other readers, GPS or similar devices). All electronics (except cameras) will be mailed home on arrival (at your risk and expense).
We are committed to providing extraordinary support to you and your child; to that end, the Overland office is staffed from 8:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. seven days a week during the summer (outside of office hours our answering service provides emergency coverage). Our leaders in the field are in touch with our office regularly; they carry cell phones (and in some cases satellite phones). Anytime a camper is treated for an injury or illness by a doctor or medical personnel, parents are notified by our office. A director will call the parents to explain the nature of the injury or illness, the sequence of events leading up to the injury and/or the steps leading to the treatment. Parents are typically able to speak with the medical personnel, with the leaders and with their child.
Bike from Paris to the Mediterranean and explore French culture.
Students going on France should prepare for:
- 21 days of biking with an average of 40 miles per day
- Travel to and from the trip
- An Overland experience
We expect you to arrive to your trip fully prepared for all activities.
Preparing for Biking
Daily rides on France average 40 miles over varying terrain. Eight days are over 50 miles and the longest day is approximately 70 miles (the exact mileage may vary by group). The terrain along the route starts out flat in the region around Paris and becomes more hilly and challenging as the trip progresses. As you enter southern France, the days become gradually hotter and you will spend more time on the bike each day. The France itinerary also includes three buffer days to allow for delays en route (most groups will find that they spend these buffer days partially or completely off of the bikes).
Overland bicycle tours are self-contained—there is no van support. You will carry all of your belongings, plus some group gear, on a sturdy rack mounted over the back wheel of your bike. You will hang panniers (these are saddlebags, pronounced “pan-yers”) off the rack and attach gear like your sleeping bag and sleeping pad to the top of the rack using bungee cords. On average, you will carry between 30 and 40 pounds of equipment on your bike.
While there is always a range of physical ability and fitness in each group, it's important that you follow our training schedule and that you take the time to gain confidence on a bike—mounting and dismounting, shifting gears, braking and making turns. We expect you to prepare adequately so you can keep up physically and participate in all of your group’s activities.
Responsible Riding Practices
In addition to building your fitness and familiarity with bicycling, preparation for France includes increasing your awareness of responsible riding practices. Your Overland leaders will review safety practices and reinforce responsible riding at trip start and each day of riding.
The following guidelines have been developed by the League of American Bicyclists to help manage the risks associated with biking on roads; however, managing risks does not eliminate them. We encourage you to follow these guidelines when training for your trip, and we also encourage you to consult with local bike shops for route and riding advice.
FOLLOW THE LAW
You have the same rights and responsibilities as drivers. Obey traffic signals and stop signs. Ride with traffic; use the rightmost lane headed in the direction you are going.
Make your intentions clear to everyone on the road. Ride in a straight line and don’t swerve between parked cars. Signal turns, and check behind you well before turning or changing lanes.
Ride where people can see you and wear bright clothing. Use a front white light, red rear light and reflectors when visibility is poor. Make eye contact with others and don’t ride on sidewalks. When possible, ride with others; do not ride alone.
Watch for turning vehicles and ride outside the door zone of parked cars. Look out for debris, potholes, and other road hazards. Cross railroad tracks at right angles.
Check that your tires are sufficiently inflated, brakes are working, chain runs smoothly, and quick release levers are closed. Carry tools and supplies that are appropriate for your ride. Wear a helmet.
Adapted from “Rules of the Road,” http://www.bikeleague.org/.
- 5 weeks before your trip: two rides of 8 to 12 miles.
- 4 weeks before your trip: one ride of 8 to 12 miles and a second ride of at least 20 miles.
- 3 weeks before your trip: two rides of at least 20 miles.
- 2 weeks before your trip: two rides fully loaded. One of 8 to 12 miles and a second of at least 20 miles.
- 1 weeks before your trip: two fully loaded rides of at least 20 miles. A good goal to work towards is 25 miles in one ride.
All training rides that are unloaded (i.e., without your panniers, sleeping bag, etc.) must be at an average speed of between 10 and 14 miles per hour (or greater); all loaded training rides must be at an average speed of between 8 and 12 miles per hour (or greater).
Groups typically average between 8 and 12 miles per hour while riding (although pace varies by group). You will take multiple breaks throughout the day—for water, snacks, lunch, to adjust panniers, etc..
Preparing for Travel to and from the Trip
Families are responsible for arranging flights to and from the designated airport during a specified window (please do not purchase flights until you have received an email confirming our review of your health forms and school reference). Overland staff will be at the airport to welcome you at the start of your trip and to assist with your departure. You may also be dropped off and picked up at the airport. If you are flying to and from your trip, we will have you call home upon arrival and before departure. We will provide more specific travel information once we have placed you on a program.
Preparing for an Overland Experience
Overland programs are wholesome, structured experiences with high expectations of each student’s behavior. You are expected to be supportive of your trip mates and your leaders, enthusiastic, positive and helpful. We ask that you leave your cell phone and electronics at home (cameras are always welcome), so you can fully engage with your group and your trip. You will have the opportunity to send letters and receive mail at designated mail stops, which are shared in the spring.
All trips have a range of challenges. You should come prepared and recognize that some days will be more difficult, more challenging and longer—both in terms of miles and hours on the bike—than others. Delays occur due to a wide range of variables beyond the control of you, your group or your leaders. Weather patterns change and road conditions vary. You, or someone in your group, might get a flat tire or encounter another issue that could delay your group. On some days your group will arrive in to camp in the early afternoon, with plenty of time to explore the area or go swimming, while on other days your group will spend more time on the bike.
Arriving ready for a challenge—and prepared to contribute to an enthusiastic group—will go a long way toward creating a successful trip.Please contact us if you’d like to discuss preparing for your Overland program.