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A ride in the woods

Our resident cycloanalysts test out the off-road cycling routes around Paris

Bois Léo Lagrange (© Céline Astorg)
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© Céline Astorg
Bois Léo Lagrange (© Time Out Paris)
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© Time Out Paris
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© Céline Astorg
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© Time Out Paris
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© Time Out Paris
Bois Léo Lagrange (© Céline Astorg)
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© Céline Astorg
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© Céline Astorg
Bois Léo Lagrange (© Céline Astorg)
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© Céline Astorg
Bois Léo Lagrange (© Time Out Paris)
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© Time Out Paris
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© Time Out Paris
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© Time Out Paris
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© Time Out Paris
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© Time Out Paris
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Bois Léo Lagrange (© Time Out Paris)
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© Time Out Paris

There are two schools of cyclist: tarmac enthusiasts and off-road fetishists. The former seek out the smoothest possible terrain in the singular pursuit of speed; the latter get their kicks from bumpy nature paths and muddy wheel guards. Only those belonging to the second category need read on...

The undulating terrain in this neck of the Crosne woods strikes just the right balance between wildness and accessibility. Natural roots couple with artificial ramps to give your calves a serious workout; if zig-zagging between trees and ploughing through undergrowth isn't your cup of tea, you can regain one of the large avenues that criss-cross the forest.

How to get there: Take the RER D to Montgeron-Crosne. The forest can be accessed from Rue Frédéric-Mistral.

This agreeable little park slopes gently down to the river Marne, affording an ideal setting for a spot of downhill – and indeed uphill – cycling. Paths are upkept for the benefit of novices and families, while the more adventurous can strike out into the loamy undergrowth.

How to get there: Take the RER A to Noisiel, then head up the Allée des Bois and take a left onto the Cours du Château. The park is inside the Champs-sur-Marne.

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Outdoor activities in Paris

Feeling adventurous in Paris? Scroll through the list below for the very best outdoor diversions the capital has to offer. Think we've missed any great days out in Paris? Let us know and leave a comment in the box below. The best things to do outdoors in Paris Les Vergers de Champlain Strawberry fields certainly aren’t forever in central Paris where the only fruit and veg you see (aside from wilting tomato plants and toasted rosemary on people’s balconies) are served in crates on market stands.  Luckily the Île de France has a surprising number of farms where you can pick your own rustic delights, including the Vergers de Champlain farm in La Queue-en-Brie (23km south-east of Paris), which rotates over 40 different types of fruit and vegetables according to the season. Carry your cutters for fresh apples and pears, flaunt your trowel in the lettuces and potato sections, and grab some gherkins for pickling when you get home. There are even areas where you can pick your own flowers: gladioli, lilies and a mix of wild flora. If it all sounds like backbreaking work, the boutique is on hand with readymade baskets. Or get it all delivered to your door (www.vergersdechamplain.com; order before Wednesday evening for Friday delivery). La Coulée verte In 1969, the steam engines on avenue Daumesnil’s viaduct whistled their last and the train-line between Bastille and Vincennes closed forever. While the Bastille station was eventually replaced by today’s Opera house, the viaduct was c

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Cycling in Paris

In 2007, the mayor launched a free bike scheme – Vélib (www.velib.paris.fr). There are now over 20,000 bicycles available 24 hours a day, at nearly 1500 ‘stations’ across the city. Just swipe your travel card to release the bikes from their stands. The mairie actively promotes cycling in the city and the Vélib scheme is complemented by the 372 km (231 miles) of bike lanes snaking their way around Paris.The Itinéraires Paris-Piétons-Vélos-Rollers – scenic strips of the city that are closed to cars on Sundays and holidays – continue to multiply; www.paris.fr can provide an up-to-date list of routes and a downloadable map of cycle lanes. A free Paris à Vélo map can be picked up at any mairie or from bike shops. Cycle lanes (pistes cyclables) run mostly N-S and E-W. N-S routes include rue de Rennes, av d’Italie, bd Sébastopol and av Marceau. E-W routes take in the rue de Rivoli, bd St-Germain, bd St-Jacques and av Daumesnil. You could be fined (€22) if you don’t use them. Cyclists are also entitled to use certain bus lanes (especially the new ones, set off by a strip of kerb stones); look out for traffic signs with a bike symbol.Don’t let the locals’ blasé attitude to helmets and lights convince you it’s not worth using them. Be confident and keep moving – and look out for scooter-mounted bag-snatchers. Cycles & scooters for hire Bike insurance may not cover theft.Freescoot 63 quai de la Tournelle, 5th (01.44.07.06.72, www.freescoot.com). Mº Maubert Mutualité or St-Michel. Open 9

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Tour de France

The grand finale of the bike race to rule them all returns to Paris again this year. The chance to watch last leg of the Tour powering up the Champs-Elysées after cycling 2,000 miles in 21 days draws crowds of thousands. But you don't just have to jostle elbows with the hoi polloi – sign up in advance and pay a €5 registration fee for the chance to don your yellow cycling togs to make a celebratory 6.9km loop along the same route as the pro cyclists, and then be in pole position to cheer them on as they arrive later in the day. All the info here.If you're inspired to eat out or sightsee around the Champs-Elysées, or to make your own tour of Paris by bike or scooter, check out our guides below. You can also get in the mood with no lycra involved between 27 March and 27 July, when the history of the tour will be illustrated with an exhibition of 80 photos on the railings of the Palais du Luxembourg – all the details here. Around the Champs-Elysées Champs-Elysées restaurants Our recommendations for the best restaurants near the Champs-Elysées Related Shopping on the Champs-Elysées In 1969, hoary French crooner Joe Dassin released 'Les Champs-Elysées', a perfect piece of cheesy French chanson with the lyrics 'in the sunshine, in the rain, in the dark or in the day, all you need's on the Champs-Elysées'. The song captured the role of the avenue at the time as one of the most fashionable and eclectic streets in Paris. But during the '90s the 'Champs' lost its magic, becoming smot

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Secret parks in Paris

Secret parks in Paris Jardin Naturel Directly adjoining the Père-Lachaise, the Jardin Naturel shares the cemetery’s tranquil ambience, with none of the morbidity. It’s sizeable for a Parisian neighbourhood park, and its marriage of playground and concealed location ensures that your company will consist mostly of local families and the occasional dog-walker. It also boasts an especially rich biodiversity for the city, with a focus on the wild flora of Île-de-France; but even if you can’t tell your apiaceae from your apocynaceae, the peaceful, secluded setting is enough reason to come and plonk yourself on a bench for an hour or three. Just across the Rue Lesseps is the park’s extension, the Jardin Lesseps... Jardin Alpin Nestling at the heart of the left bank’s Jardin des Plantes is this lush tribute to mountain flora. Around two thousand different species are arranged according to continent of provenance, surviving thanks to the microclimate created by the surrounding trees and the shallow valley in which the garden is situated. This also ensures that it remains somewhat hidden, overlooked by the families and joggers who populate the neighbouring gardens. The Jardin Alpin isn’t big – you can cover it in five minutes – but it compensates with its atmosphere of dense verdant calm. One to head to with a book and a long afternoon ahead of you. Albert Kahn Musée & Jardins The spectacular, ten-acre jardin alone makes a visit to the Albert Kahn Musée & Jardins in Boulogne-Billancou

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