As a second option a bit further afield from Paris than Hometown Gravier, Julien Sommier of PCR Gravier and Steel Cycle Coffee Shop introduces us to The Morvan : A small corner of paradise where time seems to have stopped.
The Morvan Regional Natural Park in mid-west France is best known for mountain biking. In the 90s, the Grande Traversée du Morvan ('GTM') was built into a route consisting of more than 400km of double and single track through huge fir forests and along many lakes. It's so good it's certified by the French cycling federation.
It may have been conceived for mountain bikers, but with bigger clearances and bigger tyres, the trail networks of the GTM are an ideal playground for the new wave of gravel bikes. Put on your knobblies (crampons as they're called in France), load the map into your gps and enjoy!
It's a three hour journey south of Paris towards Dijon so we drive out, camp out and then ride out early the next morning. Early to bed, early to shred as they say.
The course is rather rolling, with zero hike-a-bike, but plenty of playful technical passages. And it's important to bring water. Cemeteries can be found to supply water, but villages are quite rare on the route - that's actually a good thing.
Lake Settons offers all the comforts of a leisure centre, pedal boats, canoes, bike rentals. There is even a bike washing station. Other lakes are wilder. Leave the trails to try the ascent of Mont Beuvray, the highest point of the park where the view from the summit is breathtaking.
With the grande traversée done, there's nothing better, weather-permitting, than to arrive back at camp and go for a a swim whilst the sun sets.