Buying a bike can be less expensive than renting one, especially for long cycling trips in France.

Purchasing a bike in France, however, comes with complications. Whether it’s worth the trouble depends on several factors, including:

  • Your budget and the type of bicycles you desire
  • Whether you wish to buy used or new,
  • Your route, more populated areas have more options.
  • Your time – do you have enough time before your trip to look for and purchase a bike?
  • What is your plan for doing with the bike at the end of the trip?

Where To Buy A Bicycle In France?

In France, there are several options for purchasing a bicycle. Let us take a closer look at where to buy new bicycles in France and where to buy used or second-hand bicycles.

Buying Second-Hand Bikes In France

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Buying Online

Leboncoin.fr is Craig’s List or Gumtree of France, and it’s the place to go for used bikes (and everything else). The French widely use it to sell anything and everything. If you’re looking for a cheap all-rounder, some deals can be found for this. Try troc-velo.com as well, a leading market for bicycles and bicycle accessories. There is a better chance of finding something more specialised there. Paruvendu.fr is another option.

The first step in using these sites is selecting the region you want to search. Then you can enter specific criteria such as Velo, Velo route (road bike), Velo VTT (MTB), Velo VTC (trailer), and so on. It takes time, and you may have to sift through a lot of garbage to find that golden nugget. You then email or call the seller to arrange to see/purchase the bike. Keep in mind that sellers will almost always be French, and there is no guarantee that they will speak English. Remember that if you plan, the seller may want to sell sooner rather than later, and you must be confident that the bike will still be there when you arrive.

You can use the same strategy to sell the bike at the end of your trip. Keep in mind the additional hassle and time this may entail and the fact that most buyers will want to see the bike before agreeing to take it. Do you have time to do this at the end of your trip?

Buying In Person

Every week, brocantes and local markets are held in towns across France. These are great places to find bargains, but you must be present to take advantage of a hidden gem. Look for a ‘dépôt vente,’ which sells used items on behalf of private sellers (similar to an official/permanent garage sale).

Local Decathlon stores occasionally hold ‘Trocathlon’ sales, where locals can bring their bikes in to sell second-hand (the shop commissions the sale). These are advertised locally, or you can look for the store closest to your route online.

The local tip (déchetterie) has its recycling unit where people can drop off bikes and other items that are too good to throw away. We purchased our most recent bike from the ‘recyclage’ for €60; a week later, we priced a similar new bike with similar specs at Decathlon, and prices began at €600. Finding these deals can be difficult and reliant on local knowledge.

Buying New Bikes In France

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Buying In France

It would be less hassle than buying used to walking into a local Decathlon store or buying online and having the bike delivered to your first hotel in France. They have everything from entry-level touring and basic mountain and high-end road bikes. Decathlon is a massive chain that usually has something for everyone for basic holiday needs. They’re also great for kids’ bikes, car bike racks, and basic trailers. They also provide bike bags if you need to transport your bike by train. They stock many accessories, including inner tubes and tyres, baskets, helmets, and cycling clothing. 

They also have a servicing section, which is useful if you buy a used bike or need repairs while riding. Basic touring bikes start at around €150 at our local Decathlon. We know many cyclists who purchased their bikes and accessories online at Decathlon and had them waiting for them at their hotel when they arrived in France.

For basic bikes, other sports chains include GoSport and Intersport. Local supermarkets usually have a selection of basic bikes. Carrefour, e.leclerc, Intermarche stores and Super U can be found. They sell bikes of varying quality (and weight) starting at around €100.

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Of course, most reasonable-sized towns will have a bike shop. While we would like to advocate for supporting local businesses, the reality in France is that buying a bike locally can be costly. A basic touring bike to travel through a 2-4 week trip in France will almost always be cheaper at one of the above options than at a dedicated bike store. For sales, look for ‘soldes’ signs.

If you want to compare prices locally, some well-known bike shop chains include Veloland, Velo Oxygen, Culture Velo, Cyclable, and Velo Station.

If you want tandems, try Velo Tandem. 

Buying Online

If you can not go to a store when you arrive, Decathlon will deliver the bike to your hotel. Wiggle and Chain Reaction Cycles have French depots and a massive selection of bike gear that they ship free to French addresses.

Although Halfords does not ship to France, it is simple to arrange for a bike to be shipped here directly and save money. The Halfords Boardman bike range, in particular, is worth considering.

Do Bikes Get Stolen In France?

With around 400,000 bicycles stolen each year, France is one of the worst European countries for bicycle theft. Even if the police authorities find 100,000 units, figures show that barely 7,000 bikes are returned to their owners. Each year over 150 000 recovered bikes are not returned to their owners due to the lack of traceability. So give your bike a chance to find its way home. Register it!

How To Protect Your Bicycle In France

In France, an incredible 400,000 bikes are stolen each year. Learn how to reduce the likelihood of your bike being stolen and improve your chances of having it returned to you if it is stolen.

The police do an excellent job of recovering stolen bicycles. However, they cannot reunite 150,000 bicycles with their rightful owners yearly because they need identification or information about the owner.

Bike theft isn’t just a nuisance for bike owners; it also has a significant negative impact on the bike industry, with 80,000 cyclists abandoning the sport each year because they’re tired of losing money on valuable equipment. Those defeated owners account for 23% of the bicycle market lost to the industry due to theft and the loss of a good form of environmentally friendly exercise.

The data comes from Bicycode, a government-backed scheme that offers a simple way to label bicycles. The FUB (French Federation of Bicycle Users), in collaboration with the police and a network of local bike-marking operators, manages all numbers on a secure database. Since 2004, around 200,000 bikes have been engraved, but police want to significantly increase that number to combat bike crime and improve the rate of owners getting their bikes back.

How Do I Get My Bike Registered And Marked?

Consult the Bicycode interactive map (Où faire marquer son vélo?) to find your nearest bike-marking operator, where you can search by region using the dropdown menu (‘trier par’). Because there aren’t many operators, it’s best to look up your bike on the map before heading out. (Note: the service is also available in Switzerland, Geneva, where one Bicycode operator is located.)

Bring proof of ownership to the Bicycode operator, such as a receipt or a certificate of guarantee, or, if you bought the bike used and the previous owner did not share either document, a form of personal identification (i.e. passport or residency certificate).

The recommended operator will permanently and visibly engrave a unique, standardised 12-digit number within a Bicycode label on the bike frame. In the Bicycode “passport,” the Bicycode number and password are written. This document must be carefully maintained and passed on to the new owner if the bike is given away or sold.

After marking the bike, you must create an online user account by completing a form with the new Bicycode number, personal contact information (at least an email address) and password.

Remember, The Bicycode will be engraved on the seat tube before being protected by an anti-erosion sticker. It is not recommended to engrave carbon or titanium frames. Additionally, some frames with specialised geometry should not have their names engraved on the seat post. Before using the Bicycode, it is recommended that you consult with the operator.

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Is There A Charge?

The engraving costs about €5 or €10 on average, depending on the operator.

What Happens If My Bike Is Stolen?

If your bike is marked and then stolen, you must notify the nearest police station and provide the Bicycode number. Declare your bike as “stolen” on the www.bicycode.org website and provide the address of the police station where your report was made. If the bike is found, the police can locate you using the Bicycode database. 

Not Just A Code – A Lock Too!

Of course, simply marking a bicycle will only prevent theft if the bicycle is properly secured. The FUB suggests using a solid ‘U-shaped’ lock attached to the front wheel and bike frame before being attached to a permanent, fixed post or bike rack. Always lock your bike, especially in front of stores, even if you’re only going in for a few minutes. According to FUB, more bikes are stolen in front of stores – when shoppers believe they’ll only be there for a few minutes and don’t bother locking up – than in any other location. 

9 Essential Items for Cycling In France

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Grab your bikes and check out these nine essential items you won’t want to be without:

Waterproof, Windproof, Breathable Clothes

While the weather in France is generally pleasant, it is not always predictable, and rain and cycling are both unpleasant. Storms can appear out of nowhere, especially in Aquitaine. Bring waterproof clothing that won’t get too heavy while cycling and allows your skin to breathe to avoid chafing.

Comfortable Cycling Shoes

Whatever time of year you go, you’ll need comfortable shoes. Lightweight hiking boots are a good idea if you know you’ll be doing a lot of walking, such as in the Alps or Pyrenees. Regular comfortable cycling shoes should suffice if you visit the southern part of France this summer. Also, bring an extra pair of shoes.

A Helmet

While it is not compulsory to wear a cycling helmet in France, it is foolish to believe that accidents do not occur simply because you are on vacation; accidents are more common precisely because you are in a foreign country with unfamiliar roads. Take a helmet if you don’t want to get knocked off your bike in the busy streets of Paris and ruin your vacation.

Health Insurance And Important Documents

While cycling is good for your health and improves your cardiovascular fitness, keep in mind that accidents happen, and health insurance is essential when travelling abroad. Also, ensure your passport is valid for at least six months after it expires, and check the requirements if you intend to stay for an extended period. While Americans do not require a visa to enter France, you may be asked to meet additional requirements if you plan to stay for more than a few months.

Bright Colours

While France is extremely bike-friendly, roads are occasionally well-lit, particularly in rural areas. Bright colours will make you more visible and may save your life. If you don’t want to dress up, consider hanging a flag or a bright sign from your rear pannier instead.

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U-Lock

Unfortunately, thieves are a worldwide issue. While France is not known for its high crime rates, securing your bike when it is out of sight, especially in cities, is advisable. Don’t let thieves ruin your vacation. U-locks are typically available wherever bicycles are sold.

Map And Compass

Have you grown accustomed to relying on Google and your cell phone to get around? While you can set up international roaming before you leave, using the internet from your phone abroad is expensive, not to mention that you may not get a signal in rural areas. Bring a map with you. It may seem archaic, but it’s the best way to ensure you’re never lost and have something to point to if your French could be improved. Unlike GPS, a compass requires no power and can be used indoors or under the cover of trees.

Flashlight

You never know when a blackout will occur. If you’re camping, this will be essential as well. They’re lightweight and lifesavers, so make sure to pack a flashlight.

Phrasebook

It’s a myth that the whole world speaks English. They don’t. Remember that you’re in a foreign country and try to learn a few phrases, especially key ones, like asking for directions.

No matter what you end up taking, remember that France is well prepared for cycle tourism, so even if you forget something really important, you should be able to find it in larger towns and cities. Bon, voyage!

Alternative: Renting Your Bike In France

In the 1970s, La Rochelle pioneered public bike rental. Public bike share schemes are now popping up in towns and cities worldwide. 

Lyon’s Velo bike rental, which debuted in 2005, was a watershed moment in France because it was the first big-city scheme to capture the imagination of locals. Before Lyon’s Velo’v scheme, only 1.5% of trips in the city were made by bike. After the scheme was launched, bike traffic increased by around 500%, with bike sharing accounting for one-quarter of the increase.

Here is a list of public bike rental schemes in France. If you know of one we still need to include, please let us know, and we’ll add it.

ALSACE

movelo Alsace

Overview: Electric bikes are available for rent at dozens of regional stations.

AMIENS

Vélam

Overview: Subscriptions are available for one day (€1), seven days (€5), or a year (€25); the first half hour is free, the second half hour is €1, the third half hour is €2, and every other half hour is €4.

ANGERS

VéloCité

Overview: Residents can use a bike share program. After signing a rental agreement, bikes can be borrowed. Bikes can be rented for one week to four months, with the agreement renewing every two months.

AVIGNON

Vélopop’

Overview: The system, launched in collaboration with the French company Smoove in 2009, has 200 bikes available from 17 bike stations. Users can register with a credit card at any station (registration is also possible by calling 0810 456 456). The first half-hour is free, and each subsequent half-hour costs €1. There is a one-day (€1) or one-week (€3) subscription fee. Annual membership (€15) includes a half-hourly rate of €0.50.

A combination subscription, which allows users to combine bike use with other modes of public transportation, such as the local bus system, is also available.

BESANCON

Vélocité

Overview: The first half hour is free, with a maximum charge of €4 per day. An annual membership of €18 is also available. There is an English downloadable ‘Besançon by bicycle’ leaflet.

BORDEAUX

VCub

Overview: More than 1,545 bikes are available at 139 stations throughout the city and suburbs.

CALAIS

Vel’in

Overview: The first half hour is free; the next half hour is €1, and each hour after that is €2.

CERGY-PONTOISE

VélO2

Overview: The first half hour is free, and rates begin at €1 per hour; after that, daily, weekly, and annual tickets are available.

CLERMONT-FERRAND

C.vélo

Overview: Several tariffs are available, including long-term rentals of up to a year.

CRÉTEIL

Cristolib

Overview: The first half hour is free, with rates starting at €1 per half hour after that. Longer-term tickets are available, with discounts for students and seniors.

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DIJON

Velodi

Overview: There are 40 stations with 400 bikes. Annual or weekly passes are available, with half-hourly charges varying.

DUNKIRK/DUNKERQUE

dk.vélo

Overview: It is available at bus and train stations.

LA ROCHELLE

Yélo Vélo

Overview: The first public bike-sharing scheme in the world. The first half hour is free, and several passes are available at various prices.

LORIENT

CTRL

Overview: A bike-sharing programme aimed primarily at locals. Bikes are loaned out on a medium and long-term basis to students and adults.

LYON

Vélo’v

Overview: Lyon’s public bike rental system debuted in June 2005 and quickly became a model for other systems. There are 340 stations in Lyon and Villeurbanne that rent out 4,000 bikes.

MARSEILLE

Le Vélo

Overview: 7-day or 1-year passes; first half hour free, then €1 per half hour; 50c per half hour for annual subscribers.

MONTAUBAN

Monbee Cycle

Overview: Bikes start at €2 for half a day and €3 for a full day. Long-term-use electric bikes are available.

MONTPELLIER

Vélomagg’

Overview: Smoove, a French company specialising in designing products to aid bicycle sharing, launched its first project in 2007. The city has approximately 550 bikes at 60-odd pick-up locations. A total of 600 bikes are available for long-term rental. Subscriptions range from one day cost to one year cost. The website also shows how many bikes are available at each station in real-time.

MULHOUSE

Vélocité

Overview: Free for the first half hour, then €1 per hour afterwards. Tickets are available on a daily, weekly, and annual basis.

NANCY

VélOstan

Overview: 1-year passes (€15 or €5, depending on your plan) and weekly passes (€1) are available; the first half hour is free, the second is €1, the third is €2, the fourth is €3, and the half-hour after that is €1.

NANTES

Bicloo

Overview: Passes are available for one year (€15-€25 – various options), one week (€5), or one day (€1). The first half-hour is free; the next half-hour costs €0.50, the third half-hour costs €1.50, and half-hours after that cost €2.

NICE

Vélo Bleu

Overview: Annual subscriptions (€15 or €25, depending on your plan), monthly subscriptions (€10), weekly subscriptions (€5), and daily subscriptions (€1) are all available. The first half hour is free, and the second half hour is €1, €2 per hour after that.

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ORLÉANS

Vélo +

Overview: Subscription is €1 per day or €3 per week; the first half-hour is free, the second half-hour is €0.50, the second hour is €1, and each additional hour is €2.

PARIS

Vélib’ (in French, though the site also offers a downloadable brochure in English and Spanish)

Overview: Around 20,000 bikes are stationed at 300-m intervals. The system is funded by JCDecaux, which receives unlimited use of the city’s advertising billboards to fund the scheme. Rennes was the first to use this advertising-based sponsorship system. The first half-hour is free; the second half-hour is €1, the third half-hour is €2, and each additional half-hour is €4. Users must purchase a single-day ticket (€1), a weekly pass (€5), or an annual subscription (€29). A credit card is required. All machines have instructions in multiple languages, including English.

PERPIGNAN

BIP

Overview: Membership is available annually or daily, with half-hourly and hourly rates varying depending on your membership. There are 15 stations with a total of 150 bikes.

RENNES

LE vélo STAR

Overview: Passes are available for one year, week, or day; usage fees vary.

ROUEN

Cy’clic

Overview: The first half hour is free, the second half hour is €1, then €2 per half hour up to €4. Daily and weekly tickets, as well as 6- and 12-month plans, are available.

SAINT-ÉTIENNE

Vélivert’ (French only)

Overview: It was launched in 2010 in collaboration with Smoove and had 700 bikes (400 of which are for long-term use) available from 30 docking stations. Passes cost 1€ per day, 3€ per week, and 15€ per year; the first half-hour is free, and each half-hour after that costs €1.

STRASBOURG

Vélhop

Overview: Longer-term rentals are available for €1 per hour or €5 per day. Docking stations can be found throughout Strasbourg, as well as several fully staffed boutiques.

TOULOUSE

VélôToulouse (French only)

Overview: There are day passes (€1), weekly passes (€5), monthly passes (€10), and annual passes (€25) available. The first half hour is free, but the second half hour is €0.50, and each hour after that is €1, though day pass holders pay slightly more.

VALENCE

Libélo (French only)

Overview: It was launched in March 2010 and had 160 bikes in 20 stations, with another 200 bikes available for long-term hire for students and businesses.

VANNES

Vélocéa (French only)

Overview: There are 174 bikes at 20 stations. There are 1-year, 1-week, and 1-day passes available. The first half hour is free, but the second half hour costs €1, and each hour after that is €2.

Final Words

When buying a bike in France, consider your use case and previous bicycle experience, and then adjust the type of bike and where you buy it. In this scenario, the best thing to do is to visit a bicycle shop, have an expert consult you on bike type and size, and test drive several bikes until you find the one that feels the most comfortable.