Cycling and weather go hand in hand. What is the best time to cycle the Canal Du Midi? Which months should I avoid? Is it really hot in summer time, or really cold in winter? It all depends on what you are used to, according to Australian friend and contributor it is mild here in summer and she loves that there is such low humidity, while Norwegians in the village find it very hot here in summer. However, most people cycle the Canal Du Midi in the "better" months of summer. Your main worries should be RAIN and WIND!
Canal Du Midi Climate
The climate along the Canal Du Midi is Mediterranean. This climate is characterized long hot dry summers, warm springs and autumns, and clear mild winters.
In my ultra-frequent travels along the Canal Du midi delivering bikes and transporting luggage I have started to notice that there are actually two different weather patterns along the Canal Du Midi. Most of the time I start of with clear blue skies in Beziers. As I head to Carcassonne or Toulouse, I can see the clouds up ahead already. These clouds always start around Carcassonne and continue west to Toulouse. Temperatures are also lower between Carcassonne and Toulouse, due to this almost constant cloud cover. Rain is also more common here. On my return trip back to Beziers, as soon as I pass the castle of Carcassonne on the D61 highway I crest a hilltop and immediately see nice blue skies up ahead again, towards the Mediterranean Sea. I have mentioned this to some of the hotel owners in Carcassonne and they say that the actual border between cloud and sun is located at Capendu. Capendu is a tiny village a bit east of Carcassonne.
Rainfall along Canal Du Midi
As said before, the biggest concern for cyclists along the Canal Du Midi is precipitation. And this is mostly in the form of rain. Snow is very rare, and at most it will snow 1 day a year, at which time pictures are taken by the thousands. The most rainfall is in the spring and fall. If you plan to cycle the Canal Du Midi, and if possible, it would be best to avoid April and October.
The towpaths along the Canal Du Midi are for the most part unpaved. Thus if it rains, it becomes muddy. Some places the towpath can handle the rain just fine, as the quality of dirt varies significantly from one part to the other. Some parts might have a few puddles that are easily avoided. Some parts will have so many smaller puddles that you are going to have to bounce through them, or maybe try your changes in the tall grass right next to the path. And the other parts will be muddy tracks. Thus rain is your biggest enemy and the one the hardest to control. The second problem is wind, which we will discuss below. The mud is quite sticky, like clay, and it tends to accumulate around the wheels. Thus mudguards should be placed high above the wheels, if at all possible. Flat mudguards are best, as they will allow for easier removal of accumulated mud (clay) with a stick. Currently (2019) some parts of the towpaths are being redone with a sandy material.
It is for this reason that tires are an important part of your bicycles, and you should upgrade your tires to something wide and strong. Go with a tire with a good profile, something that can grab the dirt and hold on to it for a bit, to avoid sliding and falling. Puncture protection is also necessary as there is a spiny plant that grows along the Canal Du Midi towpaths that are the most often cause of punctures.
Wind along the Canal Du Midi
There is a wind here that the locals call the Tramontane. It can be windy at times. The tramontane blows from the West to the East. Also, the prevailing winds flow in this same direction. It is basically colder air coming in from the Atlantic Ocean and flowing to the Mediterranean. Thus the best way to prepare for this is to start your trip somewhere in the West and cycle towards the Sea. Of course, the wind does make exceptions as well, as sometimes the wind flows from the Mediterranean Sea to the Atlantic. Some people, tourists mainly, mistakenly call this wind the Mistral Wind. The Mistral wind does not blow in this area, but rather in the more famous Provence area. See map above.
Click image above to get a live view of the wind.
Average temperatures Canal Du Midi
The temperatures are generally mild with an extreme week in summer anywhere between June and August where temperatures will be over 30C for more than 6 days straight. During that week temperatures can even go as high as 38C. In winter the temperature never goes below freezing for most of the time. It probably snows as often as it freezes here at night, about 1 day a year.
The most pleasant temperatures are in September. This would also be a better month to cycle the Canal Du Midi if you want to avoid the summer crowds, which are most dense around the cities. Many of the locals will be cycling the Canal Du Midi, but usually for just 5 kilometers of so, a bit of fun in the afternoon that kind of cycling. However, as soon as you get a few kilometers away from the big cities the paths become quiet again. Birds can be heard chirping, you can enjoy the sunshine and just relax again. And as soon as you start to approach the next big city along the Canal Du Midi, you will start encountering more cyclists. Thus September has the added benefit of not only ideal temperatures, but also less traffic.
The temperatures are mild in winter, and it is a good time to ride the Canal Du Midi. Days are sunny and skies are clear in winter.
Historical Weather Calendar For the Canal Du Midi
The best way to see what the weather might be like when you are planning your bike tour along the Canal Du Midi is to simply check what the weather was like last year on your chosen date. This can be done very easily using weatherundergound's website.
Click on image above to open weather history for Canal Du Midi, France.
Climate Change Canal Du Midi
Unfortunately climate change is also happening in the south of France. What this means is that trees and plants start to flower and bud earlier and earlier each year.
January weather along the Canal Du Midi
January is relatively mild, especially when compared to the UK. It rains about 4-5 days, but the rain is very light and almost invisible. Dress in layers. Most places along the Canal Du Midi are still closed. Cyclists are few and far in between, especially during the week days. Sunny weekend days, which are plentiful in January, does see an increased amount of walkers and cyclists. Overall, January is an excellent month to go cycling the Canal Du Midi. You can be a tourist without the crowds in January!
February weather along the Canal Du Midi
February is when winter really starts. It is time to pull out the extra warm clothes: gloves, scarfs, long underwear, wool socks and wool pullovers. Temperatures are right below freezing at night. The days are getting longer again, which is a signal for the Mimosa trees to start blooming, with their beautiful large yellow flowers. The almond trees start blooming as well, with small pink flowers. Rain is rare. This is the coldest month of the year. In 2017 the first buds on plants started to appear around February 25th. Minuscule leaves are visible on March 1st already. And many fruit trees are in full bloom at the end of February 2017 as well. Weather is nice to cycle though, in February and March. A long sleeve shirt is all that is needed, and a t-shirt will be enough once you have been riding for 30 minutes or so in the full sun.
March weather along the Canal Du Midi
Small trees will get leaves at the start of the month, while the larger trees are still without leaves. Larger trees such as sycamores (plantane trees) and chestnuts start sprouting leaves towards the second half of the month. Weather is very nice most of the time, in the low 20's celcius. But cold fronts can come in making the next day suddenly 10 degrees cooler. It is daylight till around 7PM. Rain is rare. March is the start of the spring season. Many trees start sprouting their first leaves during the first half of the month already. The Plantane tree (sycamore) is not one of them though; it only starts to show hints of green on the last day of the month. The weather is getting nice again, and days with temperatures of 18 degrees celcius are possible. The weather does fluctuate a lot though, with temperatures reaching 0 degrees at night still possible as well. One day it is warm, the next day it is cold.
April weather along the Canal Du Midi
Everything is in bloom. Cherry trees are in full bloom on April 1st already. Fig trees now have leaves and small green figs appear. Grape stock in the vineyards are sprouting leaves as well in the first week of April. Sycamore trees have leaves, but their leaves are not yet full grown until the end of the month. Weather is mild, in the low 20's celcius. Evenings and nights are still a bit cold. Chestnut trees are in bloom. Fields are covered in red poppies. Weather is changing; April is the month of CHANGE. Some days it is warm, up to 28 degrees celcius. The next day it might rain and the maximum temperature might only be 18 degrees celcius. Cold and warm fronts are battling each other for dominance, so the weather is good one day, bad the next. Rain is frequent and at times very intense.
May Weather Along the Canal Du Midi
Fields are still covered in bright red poppies. Figs growing in the wild are producing large green fruits. Baby ducks are being born and start their new lives on the Canal Du Midi. Temperatures can get close to 30 degrees Celcius already, and beaches are becoming popular with sunbathers. The sea itself, however, is void of swimmers because the water is still very cold. Temperatures are excellent for cycling, as they are for the most part in the low to mid 20's Celcius. There is still a few days of rain that can be intense at times, which turns the bicycle path along the canal into mud. Mornings are cool and a light jacket is recommended. Personally I often start the morning wearing a T-shirt, a long sleeve button down shirt, a body warmer, and a wind breaker. In the afternoon the body warmer and wind breaker will have been taken off.
June Weather Along the Canal Du Midi
The first 30 degrees Celsius days have arrived. Temperatures can sometimes go as high as 35 degrees Celsius. The poppy fields are gone now. The snow on the Pyrenees has all melted. Rain is rare; brush fires more common now. (Please make sure to always put out any campfires and cigarettes!). Water temperatures in the sea are up to 22 degrees now. Sunflowers start to bloom in the second half of the month. Plane trees (sycamore) are shedding their bark, turning their trunks light yellow. Maybe this is because of the heat, as lighter colors absorb less heat.
July Weather Along the Canal Du Midi
July is not as hot as June. Rain is very rare. Sunshine is abundant. One of the best months to cycle the Canal Du Midi.
August Weather Along the Canal Du Midi
Temperatures start to cool down in the second half of the month, with nights and mornings being nice and cool. Temperatures climb steadily during the day and the afternoons can get humid. Sun is still plentiful and rain rare. Grapes start getting harvested towards the second half of the month. Sunflowers have finished blooming and are hanging with their heads down in the fields, allowing the seeds to dry. Figs are starting to ripen now; but many are still green until the next month. Some of the chestnut trees are shedding their leaves already. August is also the vacation month for the French population, so expect every place to be busy.
September Weather Along the Canal Du Midi
One can still wear shorts and t-shirt. Evenings and mornings are cool, and a light jacket is no longer a luxury. Sun is plentiful and rain still very rare. Birds such as storks start flocking in large groups preparing for their departure south. Olives on the trees are green and being harvested. The leaves on the sycamore trees are past their prime and start showing their first hints of brown around their edges.
October Weather Along the Canal Du Midi
Long pants and shirts are now required. Leaves continue to fall from the trees obscuring the towpath.
November Weather Along the Canal Du Midi
It is time to pull out the long underwear now. The trees have lost their leaves. Weather is still getting colder and colder. Low temperatures are still above freezing though, during the night time. Early morning might show a bit of frost on grass and car windows towards the last week of the month, but this is rare. Much depends on the wind. If there is no wind and the skies are blue, it is very pleasant outside. But if the wind starts to blow just a bit, it can become very unpleasant very quickly.
December Weather Along the Canal Du Midi
The weather is cold. A few days a month it rains. Sun is still plentiful, and it is pleasant if there is no wind. But as soon as it gets even a tiny bit windy, it gets cold. Dress in layers and bring something to cover your ears/head. A scarf is handy too. The mulberry trees are the only trees with leaves at this time of year. The Ginkgo looses their leaves in December; from one day to the next they suddenly drop all their yellow leaves! The canal is drained in many parts now in order to do maintenance work. Many restaurants and B&B along the canal are closed. Renovation work is being done at some hotels and B&B now, during the off season (not low season...OFF season!).