In all languages there are 'false friends', words that mean one thing in one language and another thing in another language. In French "panier" describes the basket (wire or straw) that fits on the front or rear of the bike to hold the odd book and bottle of wine. "Pannier" in English describes the large luggage bag one mounts (often in pairs) on the rear of a bike to allow you to travel between hotels. Be aware!
The choice of bike supplier (location de vélo) depends on availability of bikes (book early in high season), where you plan to be based and whether you need to leave the car somewhere. The island's main large carpark is in St Martin - we can't recommend you leave your car here unattended for a week but plenty of people do. The bus from La Rochelle eventually gets to every town and is good for getting around on the island if cycling should loses its appeal.
The main bike hire companies are:
- Yoo-Too based in St Martin.
- Cyclo-surf has 6 sites - St Martin, La Flotte, St Marie, Le Blois, La Couarde and La Noue.
- Cycland has 8 sites - St Martin, La Flotte, Rivedoux, La Couarde, Le Bois, Ars, St Clement and Les Portes.
- Cycles & Peche Neveur is based in Ars by the port.
- Tout a Velo has 3 sites -La Flotte, Le Bois and Rivedoux. We have rented from these guys and they were very efficient.
During your tour we hope you will not need this, but if you do the hire shops will provide a maintenance service (at a fee) even for each others' bikes. Check our puncture repair video on My Bike Guide just to be safe. We also recommend a couple of "how to repair a bike guides".
Paris Charles de Gaulle has relatively expensive luggage storage. La Rochelle has none.
Train and Bike
Information about departures and prices within France are available on the internet (in English) from SNCF.
Taxi and Bike
Taxis are thought of as pretty expensive by other visitors and this is exacerbated by the cost of the bridge and the wealth of the summer Parisian visitors. We have not found anyone offering taxi services for bikes.
Bus and Bike
The bus company RTCR runs bus route nos. 7 and 47 to get you to the Place Vaubin in La Rochelle from the airport. Once here it is possible to take line 50 or 51 on a "cycle bus" which has space for bikes but runs only in June to August and ends up at Sablanceaux, right on the most easterly point of the island next to the bridge. If you want to get further you need to take the Les Mouettes bus number 3 from Place Vaubin which is basically a bus for the school kids but keeps running through the day. This goes to the most westerly point of the island covering almost every village (so it bumbles along a bit) and a fair number of stops are request stops. No bikes are allowed on the bus.
There are little passenger ferries (which will take bikes if there is space) going from La Rochelle harbour to some of the towns on the island. Ars and St Martin look the most regular stops. Crossings will depend on weather and you need to go to the harbour to buy tickets and make enquiries.