What are Eurovelo routes and are they worth riding?

Eurovelo routes are official long distance cycling routes which can be found in Europe. At the moment there are 17 routes in 38 countries which traverse the continent of Europe. The entire network spans over 90,000kms and each year more route sections are added. This means there are so many different Eurovelo itineraries to explore and choose from.

So what is it like to ride on the Eurovelo routes and do we recommend them for cycle touring? We have completed four cycle tours where we have spent some time on several Eurovelo routes – in Ireland, Switzerland and France. Here are some of our key takeaways from our own experiences.

When researching long distance cycling route options in Europe, the Eurovelo routes are some of the first which will appear. These are especially appealing as they can often take out some of the stress of route planning for your own trip. Instead of spending hours working out how to get from one place to another, you can just choose to cycle along the Eurovelo route. It also stands to reason that the chances of meeting other like-minded cycle tourists whilst riding will increase when riding on some of these official long distance routes. This can also be quite appealing.

Depending on the particular Eurovelo Route you ride, you may also find there is a portion of your travel which will be on separated cycling infrastructure. Indeed, when we first came across these routes in our research, we actually assumed the entire route would be on separated cycle paths. This is certainly not the case so and is something to be aware of. At times you may be on cycle paths, at others canal or tow paths and some routes will see you riding on the road itself. For example when we were riding the Eurovelo 1 route from La Rochelle we had the surface change from a gravel road, to canal path to cycle path and then a tarmac road all within a few short kilometres.

How developed are Eurovelo routes?

The latest Eurovelo development status report was released in July 2022. It provides a great overview into the current state of these long distance routes. It also highlights which routes themselves are well developed and signposted, and those which are still to be completed or are in planning stage.

Eurovelo themselves also have a certification system they use when auditing their routes. At present just 3 of the 17 routes are classified as being 100% fully certified. Certification status takes into account whether a route is planned, under development or completed. Eurovelo has indicated that over the entire network two thirds of the routes are completed. They state that at present over 56,000km are ready for use by cycle tourists.

In our experience we have found the development status of a particular Eurovelo route will often change not just from one country to the next, but also within different regions inside an individual country. A lot of this will come down to planning budgets. Since Covid many countries have prioritised cycling routes as part of their budgets and so there is hope that this will lead to an increase in development of Eurovelo routes.

The 2022 Eurovelo Development report gives a great example of this with the country of Ireland. Due to dedicated budgets for cycle tourism the entire development and signage for Eurovelo 1 on the Atlantic Way is now fully complete. With more focus being put on climate change and more environmentally conscious travel, we hope to see the amount of development in cycling routes tin other countries throughout Europe will continue to grow over the coming years.

What is it like to ride on Eurovelo routes?

We have incorporated the Eurovelo routes into several of our cycle-tours with the bulk of our experience being those routes located within France. Whilst many of the sections we have ridden on were on sealed surfaces, there are also longer sections which are unpaved. As all of our tours have been undertaken on our touring/gravel bikes this didn’t pose a huge problem for us, but it did mean at times our travelling speeds were less than we had initially thought. This in turn meant it would take a longer time to cover a set distance and so more time spent on the bike riding between destinations.

This hasn’t put us off incorporating Eurovelo routes into our tours, but it is important to keep this in mind when planning each of your daily itineraries. A bit of forward planning and scanning of the route in more detail can leave you better prepared and also mean for a lot less stress when you are out on the route itself.

You will find the information available for each of the routes will differ from country to country. Eurovelo has recently just announced that the GPS files for the developed sections of their routes will now be available for you to download onto a device. This is really positive and will also assist with your planning.

Which bike is the best to use for cycling on Eurovelo routes?

When you are first planning the route for your cycle tour one of the things to consider is the type of road surface you will be riding on. The last thing you want is to be touring on a bike which isn’t best equipped for the terrain you are on. We have certainly had the experience of worrying about puncturing on skinny road bike tyres whilst navigating on dirt trails.

In our experience we have also found the Eurovelo routes can range from fully separated paved cycle ways, dirt canal paths and sometimes even single-track dirt trails in just a short distance. With this in mind a little prior research will make it easy to determine what the road surface will be like on the route you want to ride on.

Eurovelo do provide a broad indication for each route on the type of road surface you can expect to encounter. However, with such a large network it is safer to assume that there can be a mix of road surfaces Therefore, from our personal experience, we believe the best bike for touring on Eurovelo routes are those which can be fitted with wider tyres. These will provide you with not just extra comfort but also will be more suitable for use on these routes.

Are the navigation signs for Eurovelo routes easy to follow?

Each year there are improvements to the navigation signage installed on Eurovelo routes. However, with such a vast network it should come as no surprise that the signage can at times be lacking. Once again this is really dependant on the specific Eurovelo route you choose to ride and this can change from country to country within the same route. In the 2022 development status report, Eurovelo have stated that 40% of the network is now signposted.

Our personal experience with Eurovelo route signage has been mixed. For example when we were riding on the Eurovelo 8 in France we were on sections which were signposted very clearly, only to all of a sudden not see any signs at all. This was especially confusing for us as we were approaching into a more busy area. Sometimes the confusion was due to our own error of just not seeing the sign, as it was obscured and not ideally located, but at other times the signs simply didn’t exist.

In this instance we were fortunate to be able to navigate via other means with our smartphone and GPS devices, but it did nonetheless cause some issues for us. Having had this experience, if we were to set out to ride on the Eurovelo routes now, we would take some extra time to review the itinerary in more detail beforehand.

ViaRhona Lyon cycling distance signs

In complete contrast to this was our experience riding on Eurovelo 17 in Switzerland. We joined the route in Martigny and followed it all the way to the city of Montreaux. This section of the route tracked alongside the Rhone river and was very well signposted. This made for a really pleasant experience where navigation wasn’t something we needed to be concerned about as it was all marked clearly. We have also had positive experiences on Eurovelo 1 travelling between La Rochelle and Rocheforte, where clear signage made it very easy to navigate.

How family friendly are Eurovelo routes?

Many families are choosing to incorporate some form of activities into their holidays and cycling is a great way to do this. While the Eurovelo routes cover some very long distances, the great thing about them is they are also broken down into smaller sections. Coupled with this is the fact there are many sections which are completely on separated cycling infrastructure, making them a safe option – especially for those with younger children.

Often the areas of a Eurovelo route which are the best developed are those situated next to larger towns. These are often also the most popular and well utilised sections as well. Again this lends the routes to being a great family friendly cycling option, as you can plan short excursions on the Eurovelo route and couple this with other activities in the neighbouring towns and cities. Eurovelo routes are a great family friendly cycling holiday option regardless of whether you intend to cycle a handful of kilometres or plan a more adventurous multi day excursion.

Photo courtesy of Eurovelo.com

Often the areas of a Eurovelo route which are the best developed are those situated next to larger towns. These are often also the most popular and well utilised sections as well. Again this lends the routes to being a great family friendly cycling option, as you can plan short excursions on the Eurovelo route and couple this with other activities in the neighbouring towns and cities. Eurovelo routes are a great family friendly cycling holiday option regardless of whether you intend to cycle a handful of kilometres or plan a more adventurous multi day excursion.

How scenic are Eurovelo routes?

A question you may be wondering is whether the Eurovelo routes will make for a very scenic cycle tour. Indeed when you are travelling on a route which covers such a large expanse of distance, beautiful scenery is something you can expect to encounter. Often the Eurovelo routes will also look to incorporate popular tourist attractions and destinations into the itinerary. This makes Eurovelo routes a great way to learn and explore more about the area you are cycling through.

However, one thing we have taken away from our time cycling on Eurovelo routes is that not every part of the route is super scenic. Often the routes are formed by looking at the best way to link multiple towns and cities. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you will be taken on the most scenic route to get there.

For example, in January 2022 we were travelling along the Eurovelo 8 route between Narbonne and La Grande Motte in France. A scan of the map showed that we would be travelling alongside the Mediterranean Sea for a good portion of the day. We were both quite looking forward to looking out at the sea. Unfortunately, this was not the case at all. Whilst we were close to the sea, we couldn’t actually see it for the majority of the ride. For the most part we were on quiet roads or separated cycling infrastructure which tracked just inland of the coast itself.

Be sure to check out the Eurovelo website If you are interested to explore the Eurovelo route network in more detail

Interested in long distance cycling routes in France? Then be sure to check out our article where we highlight 10 to choose from.