The Lot is without doubt among France’s most scenic river valleys. The river begins high in the Cévennes and carves out a dramatic, looping course through steep-sided gorges in its slow descent to the Garonne.
The V86 bike route offers you the chance to tour the valley from Mende, near its source, to Aiguillon. Tiny lanes cling to the hillside as the river tumbles down from the mountains.
The first few kilometres from Mende follow a route nationale and are best reserved for experienced tourers. But before long, the traffic leaves for the autoroute, giving the cyclist near-exclusive possession of the gently descending, ever-curving road which opens out into new, breathtaking views at each corner. On occasion, and particularly at Lassouts and Campuac, the official route diverts from the valley to maximise sightseeing and minimise traffic – but you can choose to piece together a riverside route should you choose.
As you proceed downstream, the valley widens from the narrow mountain cleft, but the sharp sides are no less pronounced. You’ll circuit meanders full of vines and cross the river countless times on the long, languid route. Downstream of Cahors, in particular, traffic levels are very low, making it a suitable holiday for a less experienced cyclist.
The route is not yet the finished article. The disused railway along the valley from Capdenac to Cahors has been proposed for conversion to a greenway, and local campaigners have organised “militant rides” to press the case; we wish them luck. But even in its unfinished state, this is a truly spectacular ride.