Sun, Sea and a Dedicated Bike Trail
The coast towns of Marseillan, Agde and Sete are holiday resorts with miles of sandy beaches and lots of attractions. It’s an area filled with camping sites which must get very busy in the summer. We stayed on the Marseillan Beach at the beginning of May, and the weather was perfect for cycling. I hadn’t heard anything about the beach bike trail between Agde and Sete, a distance of about 40km, but I was excited to ride along the Mediterranean and experience something completely different to my ride along Lake Annecy.
Cycling is Big Here
I like the fact that there are cycle lanes everywhere around this area, making it possible to ride from camping sites to shopping centres and all the resort facilities. The actual beach trail doesn’t start until you reach the outskirts of Marseillan, a beach resort a few miles from Agde. But there are plenty of dedicated cycle paths to explore before you join the path that runs right along the sea without any interrruption for about 30 kilometres.
The first time I rode along the beach trail was quite late in the day, and there was no one around at all. It was uplifting to hear the sound of the Mediterranean waves crashing in the near distance, often masked by dunes but still only about 30 metres to my right. I was aware that the main road was alongside the trail as I began the ride, but happily it stays close for less than a mile, before it moves more inland away from the beach. This means you can really cycle in peace, without hearing anything but the sea and the prevailing westerly wind.
Keep Your Wits About You
The concrete path is generally in good condition, the surface is smooth so you don’t even have to think about potholes. However, there is a danger that lurks on this path, often unseen, but one that is very threatening to racing bikes: sand. The wind drives the sand from the dunes across the trail so there are sections where you really do have to take care. I didn’t encounter any sand until about a mile into the ride, when suddenly I found myself doing 20mph in 4cm of the soft stuff, losing steering and hanging on while I slowed down enough to regain control. It scared the crap out of me, but from then on I made sure to steer around the sand that tends to build up on just the sea side of the trail.
The Sea, the Sea
It’s a beautiful ride. There are many points where you can get off the bike and walk onto the beach, which runs alongside the path for miles. There must be very few rides like this where you really are riding next to the sea for miles in warm sunshine. There are some camping sites along the trail, but that’s about all; there are no cafes or bars to cause congestion on the path, and at this time of year it was relatively quiet. Most people ride mountain bikes because of the sand that falls on the path, but I did see a few road bikes being ridden.
Why it’s Worth it
I loved this ride, and there’s something about riding along the Mediterranean on the south coast of France; it was a memorable experience and I would recommend it to anyone bringing their bike to the region. I imagine it does get crowded in the summer, but even then a early or morning or late evening ride would be perfect. At the end of the trail you have the nice seaside town of Sete to explore, or you could just bring a picnic and sit on the beach with your bike.