Escaping Paris and going for a long ride starting from « intra-muros » (central Paris) remains an improbability for the majority of Parisians. Generally for the pretty good reason that cars reign supreme in Paris, for decades the town planning has been shaped to make the world’s most beautiful city a paradise for cars. Fighting your way through interlacing roads and suburbia is not an easy task.
But things are about to change. Cycling is booming and the recently elected green mayor, Anne Hidalgo has launched a vast program to transform Paris into one of the world’s finest cycling cities. Until these changes are made, Strava Local is here to help with a selection of verified routes that avoid busy main roads whenever possible. These routes are based on the most popular Strava cycling activities in the region.
Culturally there is some sort of tough love between central Paris and its suburb. Many Parisians avoid crossing the « périphérique » (the express way circling the city) unless they really have to. Many see it as an urban sprawl lacking character, this is not always the case. The outskirts are so diverse, they can be very green, hilly, picturesque and are full of architectural curiosities.
The Bicycle Store is a cycling shop in Paris with a difference, they are actively helping with the modern revival of cycling in Paris. We joined their team to test one of the Parisian Strava Local routes. They picked a long ride in the Chevreuse Valley, the well known playground for cyclists in the Paris region.
There are many different ways to reach the valley, and this specific route gets you out of Paris through the south west via the neighbouring suburb town of Boulogne-Billancourt.
But firstly, you have to cross Paris which is beautifully calm early in the morning on the week-ends.
When you head through Western Paris you know that at some point you will face some climbs and this particular itinerary crosses Sèvres, this is where the first uphill challenge starts.
You quickly reach Versailles which is certainly a must stop for tourists but not really a must for cyclists, visiting the Hall of Mirrors in lycra and cycling cleats is not necessarily advised!
Of course it’s not that the historic city isn’t of interest, it actually represents a marker when aiming for the Chevreuse, it indicates that you have left the sprawling city behind and have some climbing ahead of you…
After around 45km you really hit the countryside, cruising on a plateau in open country with fields stretched as far as the eye can see, where the legends such as Jacques Anquetil or Laurent Fignon used to train in the hard cold winters. The area is no doubt a good terrain for Time Trial training. This is where you can test your resistance to intense efforts at hight speed before reaching the first descent in a really charming valley.
When in the valley, it’s all about riding 60km at nice pace on hilly and sinuous roads crossing woods and charming villages. Here you’ll have numerous opportunities to refill your bottle and stop in a boulangerie before climbing back on the plateau through the iconic 17 Tournants (17 Turns), often featured on the final stage of the Tour de France leading to the Champs-Élysées.
The final challenge leads the team to the highest point of the ride in the forest of Meudon, a great spot to enjoy a vista of southern Paris and a fitting reward after several hours in the saddle. Finally it’s a steady roll back into Paris.
Need some help finding a route in a city you don’t know, or some inspiration in one you do? Strava Local pages can help, and the Strava Route Builder and Heat Maps can help you create a ride to suit your needs wherever you are in the world.
Photos: Antton Miettinen