FRENCH ALPS MOTORCYCLE TOUR
Every June / July Suggested Itinerary
Day 1, Ride down to Dover, meet up with guests arriving from Southern half of England and take midday crossing of the English Channel. In order to cover some ground, we ride predominantly on motorways for the first 250 miles to our hotel just south of Troyes. Enjoy excellent meal in fine restaurant.
Day 2, Ride south on the lovely D971 to Dijon, then onwards to Bourg St Maurice covering the 500 Km (350 miles) using mainly “N” & "D" roads rather than motorways. The final stage, after Bourg-en-Bresse, is particularly attractive and enjoyable. We arrive in Bourg St Maurice by the evening.
Over the next 7 or 8 days there are dozens of motorcycling or recreational possibilities. The Bike Tours representatives are regular visitors to this area & will be on hand to lead ride-outs, or suggest places of interest on most days. Here are merely some of the possibilities.
Day 3. Breakfast and a morning stroll around the town to get to know your surroundings. Short, guided ride up to the nearby ski resorts of Les Arcs or La Rosiere as an introduction to the local roads and spectacular views. One day we’ll show you a viewpoint near Les Suches, where we all pose for a team photo with Mont Blanc shimmering in the background.
Day 4 - Saturday is market day, so it's worth a morning stroll in town again before heading off for the day.
Then, in no particular order, and sometimes dictated by weather or preferences of the group, these are suggested rides for the week...
Circuit de la Grande Casse – a demanding 160 mile ride through the ski resort of Val D’Isere and over the 2770 metre high (9000 feet) Col de l’Iseran mountain pass. We take lunch by the lake on the Col du Mont Cenis near the Italian border, then drop back down to the valley, behind the Grande Casse mountain (3852m). Finally we tackle the final the ascent of the day, over the Col de la Madeleine (1993m) and complete our circular tour back to Bourg St Maurice. This ride is spectacular & challenging; if you don’t like heights, steep climbs and hairpin bends, then give it a miss! The first Col we cross is one of the highest in the whole of the Alps. Many people enjoy it so much, they go back and do it all again in the same week. I might do the route in reverse this year, just for a change.
A day off perhaps? Adventurous types may choose to ride, or take the bus up to Tignes and either do some summer skiing or snow boarding on the Grande Motte glacier, or if you are not a skier, just relax and sunbathe in the high altitude restaurant, followed by a dip in the open air pool. Highly recommended. The Grande Motte glacier begins at well over 3000 metres (nearly 11,000 feet) and the experience of being on it is literally breathtaking. RAF pilots use oxygen over 10,000 feet but we don’t have this luxury. If you leave the cable car and scramble up the final few metres to the summit, you will certainly feel the altitude! If you’ve never seen anything but British “molehills” you must see these real mountains!
Ride the Mont Blanc Circuit. Once again, a spectacular and challenging 250 mile ride around Europe’s highest mountain (Mont Blanc,4807 metres / 15,622 feet), taking in 3 different countries! We take some gnarly little mountain roads over the Cormet de Roselend (1968m) to Beaufort, then onto to Flumet for a morning coffee. We push on through Megeve, then to Chamonix where we gape in amazement at the tumbling glaciers to our right. A short cut back through the Mont Blanc Tunnel is an option if anyone is tired, but most will want to continue over the Swiss border after lunch to Martigny, where we ride for a while before entering Italy. We skirt round Aosta before slaying the magnificent Grand St Bernard Pass. The final Col of the day is Le Petit St Bernard, which takes us back into France. From La Rosiere we descend through a set of hairpins like nothing you’ve ever seen before, to arrive back in Bourg St Maurice for a well-earned cold beer. Bliss. Biking Heaven.
The street market in Bourg is on Saturday mornings, and gives you the opportunity to do a bit of shopping. In the afternoon grab a map and go off exploring in some of the more remote valleys we haven’t seen yet. Twisty & steep roads lead to high altitude communities some used as both winter and summer holiday resorts, but others, just sleepy traditional hamlets. It’s worth going up just for the ride and for the views. The established resorts of Les Arcs, La Plagne, Courchevel, Meribel and Val Thorens are all within easy reach. There are several tiny valleys and villages I haven’t explored yet, and would welcome your feedback on them.
Back Roads & Trails / Vallee des Glaciers. Take the tiny roads such as the Voie Romaine (Roman way) and tiny tracks to access a high valley of glaciers. Not ideal for Blades or R1s, but any all-rounder type of bike could do it. You can also visit villages that time has passed by, which still use very basic and traditional farming techniques. For a bit local flavour you could visit the cheese-makers at Beaufort, or go shopping for the area’s Gamay & Apremont wines.
Or, take a short but beautiful ride up beyond Peisey-Nancroix to the Parc Naturel de la Vanoise. Lock your bike at the entrance to this high mountain nature reserve and proceed on foot. No cars, bikes, cycles, or even hang gliders are allowed in, so stroll along to discover some of the most beautiful and peaceful surroundings you’ll ever come across. Take a short walk, or perhaps a more serious longer hike into the mountains – right up to the snowline if you have the energy.
If anyone is a climber (or wishes to enroll with a school in Bourg), there is a 1000 foot Via Ferrata here – a set of ladders bolted into the rock face which one can ascend safely, but scarily exposed, to gain the summit.
Go motorcycle riding again to a destination of your choice, or consider hiring a full suspension mountain bike to do some pedal cycling amongst the high peaks. The ski lifts operate at Les Arcs during the months of July and August. You and your bike are transported right to the summits by chair lifts, then you descend by marked trails graded according to difficulty. You can stop for lunch, then take a dip in the outdoor pool at Pre St Esprit. Bikes and cycle helmets can be hired in Bourg. You can of course use the cable cars and stroll around on foot either – one cable car runs right to the summit of L’Aiguille Rouge, at Arc 2000, 3226 metres above sea level.
However, you may prefer a lazy day instead; maybe relax at the open air pool as it’s going to be a long day in the saddle when we set off back to the UK.
Return Journey. Next to last day of tour. Full day’s riding (~400 miles) on mainly scenic, non-motorway routes, to a hotel near Soissons, thus breaking our journey home. In 2002 we used Le Griffon hotel with superb cuisine and separate en-suite rooms, and our hosts insisted we garage our bikes inside – in the hotel conference room!
Last Day. Ride to Calais using motorways, for mid-afternoon channel crossing & return journey to your home, or via Nottingham for those returning their rental bikes.
I’ve been visiting here for many years, and only once have we had enough rain to seriously dampen our trip. It’s usually hot & sunny, BUT, as with anywhere in Northern Europe, it could rain in the Summer. What falls as rain in the valleys, comes down as SNOW on the high altitude passes – yes, even in August! Therefore we won’t always follow the itinerary exactly as published. If we get bad weather, we can opt for lower altitude riding, and save the high passes for fine clear days. This kind of flexibility isn’t always possible with a conventional fixed touring itinerary.