Biking on the canal from Nates to Brest canal, France

Short historical and geographical background.

As I investigated, Napoleon had the idea of uniting Nantes to Brest with a canal.

For your information, if you use Google Maps to know how far these two cities are from each other, Google will tell that you will take 3h 4m by car to cover the 295km / 183 mi in between them.

The locations of:

After many historical episodes, as you can imagine, the canal was finalized in 1842.

These waterways have 365Km, including parts of 8 rivers, and holds 236 navigation locks.

About the tour

As part of a tour to bike in France, I suggested a two days ride along this canal.

Naturally, whenever I suggest a tour, I have to take into consideration many aspects such as the kind of group, what I perceive they want to see and to do, and also what are the conflicts in the group, among other aspects.

By conflicts, I mean situations such as more kilometers riding the bicycle versus more time visiting sites or resting.

I’m not expecting everyone in a group to have the same physical abilities, and in this group was no exception.

So, all in all, there were found some compromises for:

        • the bike ride lengths,
        • the number of monuments to visit,
        • and the time spent in each place. 

I’m not saying it was an easy task.

The Nantes to Bres two days bike riding was comfortable to agree on because of many reasons:

        • most of the rides are on almost flat trails, considering always going along the canal;
        • the landscape is gorgeous, also thanks to the weather that was a great help;
        • there are many lovely places where you can rest;
        • the path is accessible by the support vehicle on several strategic spots.

The two days rides:

        • 1st day – From Châteaulin to Châteauneuf-du-Faou – 47Km
        • 2nd day – From Châteauneuf-du-Faou to Étang du Coronc – 65Km, including a detour to visit Carhaix-Plouguer.

The elevation gain for both bike rides was irrelevant.

Having done this is June is to expect good weather.

However, as you know, the meteo is crazy nowadays, and Britany is an area where it rains frequently.

Does Nantes belong to the region of the Loire Valley or Brittany?

Apparently, there are some strong feelings about this issue, please read: “Nantes appartient à la Bretagne, que cela vous plaise ou non” 

One thing for sure, Brest is well into the Brittany region.

No one in the group knew the area. I was the only one with some references for the canal because I was the one asked to organize the tour, and I came up with the suggestion to cycle there.

Please let me take this moment to thank the group for their trust in me, and, by their words, in the end, I think they really enjoyed the rides.

No one else cycling but us.

The first day, when accessing the trail, I was first surprised because there was no one biking there.

By the photos I had seen before, the place looked phenomenal, so I was expecting to see people using the trail, as we saw in the Loire Valley, for example.

In the beginning, while having the place all for us, I thought our luck couldn’t be that great, something was happening.

I wondered if when we reached the next village all was going to change and we would see more bikes.

Definitely, it didn’t happen, there weren’t many people at all anywhere.

Most of the time, we were the only group biking, we had it all for us, and that is an impressive luxury.

Occasionally we saw other bikers, and that was great.

River locks

The first important stop we did was by one of the locks to help a couple to open it to continue on their journey of going upstream.

That was a curious situation.

The couple ended up saying they knew for a fact that they were the first boat going through the lock that year. Please consider it was July.

All the process of closing the lock behind the boat and then opening the exit gate in front was done manually.

Cranking up here, pulling a lever there, was quite fun, and by this couple smiles, it was also helpful for them.

The interpretation center.

There was also another unexpected spot.

Unfortunately, I didn’t record the name of the place, but it was like a small interpretation center of the canal.

You can’t miss it if you see it because there are not that many houses along the trail, and it stands out with information’s outside.

Anyway, we went in, and this lady was explaining the backgrounds of the canal.

Listening to the lady’s explanations opened my appetite to learn more about the canal and to ride it all one day.

Food and water.

As on many other occasions, that day, during breakfast, I prepared one small sandwich, a piece of fruit, and filled in my water bottle.

Along the bike path, I realized although there were not many bars and restaurants – thank God for that – there was the right number of food places like they were strategically positioned.

In both days, more or less at lunchtime, we encounter some nice “sandwicherie”, “brasserie”, pizza place or bars.

IMPORTANT: I couldn’t find ways to refill my water bottle along the ride, and this I found quite odd.

At the end of the second day, at the Étang du Coronc, we celebrated by the pond (Étang) these two beautiful days cycling on Brittany.

This is one of the bike rides I would love to repeat and extend, and I might do it someday.

Who knows, you might join me on this.

Have fun.

David Monteiro

PS: Special thanks to my friend André Ataíde for helping me to tour this tour into a success.

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