1 Vence

Vence

Take the piste cyclable west and then climb the side of the Var valley and over to the pretty artists’ town of Vence. Fill up with water at the fountain before tackling this climb that’s a favourite with locals. On the top of the Col de Vence there are beautiful views over all the coastal towns, but once you drop off the back (and climb ever so slightly higher), you’ve left civilisation behind, and you’re out in the wilderness. Bouyon is a good stop for water, and Le Broc has a boulangerie and café, and then you descend back down the Var. If you want to dial the difficulty down, keep on going on the piste cyclable to the coast; otherwise, take the mapped route up to Aspremont for one more climb and a back-roads descent into Nice.

See Vence Route

2 Gilette & Bonson

3 Cap d'Antibes

Gilette & Bonson

The cycle path on the western side of the Var river is an easy and flat route into the arrière pays, the deserted hinterland behind Nice; on each side, the climbs up to villages like Le Broc are challenging and fun, but this ride takes you right to the end of the cycle path, and into a short loop in the hills. Have a coke and an ice cream at a café in Gilette village square, high above the river while enjoying the views of snow-capped mountains, then carry on round to tiny Bonson.

In the afternoons, the sea wind can make the return journey along the Var hard work, so if you don't mind another climb, take the road to Castagniers and descend the other side of the ridge into Nice.

See Gilette & Bonson Route

Cap d'Antibes

The classic winter training route and a perfect recovery ride. Simply take the cycle path west along the sea front, keeping an eye out for rollerbladers and for cars filtering on and off the main road.

Just before a big apartment block that looks like an ocean liner the piste cyclable finishes, so take care crossing over to join the road.

Once in Antibes, you take the rampart road between the old town and the sea, before heading out on to the Cap. Surrounded by the calm Mediterranean, the pine trees hide huge grand villas, hotels and smooth quiet roads. You'll find a lot of local cyclists doing laps here.

Stay for as many circuits as you like, before having a coffee on the other side of the Cap in Juan les Pins and then retracing your route home

Rather than use the cycle path, some 'serious' cyclists stay on the road, since doing 30km/h on the path, especially through town, is bad form. Pick the route that suits your speed as you head back into Nice.

See Cap d'Antibes Route

4 The Esterel and Adrets

The Esterel and Adrets

This route takes you into the Esterel national park west of Cannes. Take a train to Cannes and ride out along the sandy beach – or, if you want a long (160km) ride, simply head out along the cycle path from Nice.

The Esterel coast road starting from Théoule-sur-Mer is beautiful, winding through secluded coves and up and down into pretty village ports. Just before Saint Raphaël head north and into the red-rocked hills, and then descend from Les Adrets, famous for its mimosa flowers in the winter, back towards Cannes.

See The Esterel and Adrets Route

5 Col Èze & Madone

6 Cols Braus & Turini

Col Èze & Madone

This is one of the classic rides of the region, which takes in two legendary climbs and hits you with a 10% slope right at the start while you're still in the middle of town. The Grande Corniche is the highest road heading east from Nice, and is the scene of the Col d'Èze Time Trial, a traditional finishing stage of Paris-Nice. Sean Kelly held the record for climbing this for years, until Bradley Wiggins beat him in 2012.

At the top, grab a coffee or refill your water bottle in La Turbie, then descend to Menton where the climb to the Col de la Madone begins. The Madone has been the training ground of Tony Rominger, Lance Armstrong and many others, and is a tough yet beautiful climb, quiet and never too steep, with great sea views into Italy. From the top of the Madone it’s a technical descent to the T junction near Peille and then a gentle downhill back to La Turbie where, after another coffee perhaps, you take the Moyenne Corniche back into town.

See Col Èze & Madone Route

Cols Braus & Turini

Two of the big boys of the Alps Maritimes – the beautiful Col de Braus and the imposing Turini. After warming up on the gentle Col de Nice, Braus takes you up sculpted switchbacks to 1,002m. Descend on the other side to Sospel, keeping an eye on the peaks over your left shoulder – if they’re obscured by dark clouds, it’s probably best you don’t head up.

Sospel is a good place to take stock, eat and refill your bottles before the 24km ride from 400 to 1,600m. It starts off gently, in a deep river gorge, and then gradually opens up, with some remarkable views of rock formations and forests to take your mind off the climb, as well as a chapel perched above the road. There are plenty of cafés at the top for more drinks and food, and then it’s an almost 50km descent down into Nice.

See Cols Braus & Turini Route

7 Mortola

Mortola

Pretend you're James Bond on a bike as you spin along the Basse Corniche out of Nice towards Monaco, cliffs to your left, sparkling sea to your right. Ride a portion of the famous F1 Grand Prix course in Monte Carlo, and then climb out towards Menton, the last town in France, and over the border into Italy. A short loop takes you off the main road, up a lush Italian valley and then home the way you came. Alternatively you can extend the ride to Dolceacqua for a proper Italian coffee in a picturesque riverside village. Either way, Monte Carlo can be congested during rush hour, so keep your eyes open.

See Mortola Route

8 Aspremont and Levens

9 Duranus & Saint Blaise

Aspremont and Levens

A lot of ups and downs in a short ride here, with the reward of great views over the Var valley, the Alpes Maritimes and the sea. This shows you some of the best roads in the hills closest to Nice, with two chunky climbs and a long descent after Levens, where you can stop in the village boulangerie for coffee and tarts – just turn left instead of right and it's 250m down on the left. These roads are pretty shady, so are a good choice for a summer's day, and the route takes you out along the Boulevard de la Madeleine and back down the Col de Bast - two of the best ways to climb out of town.

See Aspremont and Levens Route

Duranus & Saint Blaise

Take the cycle path from Nice and then at Saint Laurent du Var take up the Var valley cycle path. It climbs slowly to where the Var, Tinée and Vésubie river gorges meet. You’re heading up the Vésubie, a remote and beautiful deep river gorge with barely any traffic. At Utelle, take a sharp right and be astounded as you climb high above the road you were on up the valley side. At Duranus is the Saut des Français, where in the 18th century local resistance fighters from the County of Nice forced French soldiers to jump to their deaths. It’s over 200m down.

From Levens you take a right and head through the beautiful villages of Saint Blaise and Aspremont, before descending the Col de Bast into Nice.

Turn this into an epic ride by climbing to the Madone d’Utelle chapel, 900m above the village. The Alpine panorama is worth the effort!

See Duranus & Saint Blaise Route