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Thread: UPDATED - French bike tour June/July 2024

  1. #1

    UPDATED - French bike tour June/July 2024

    My friend Ade (Spareparts) had been trying to tempt me on a big motorbike tour for some time and my retirement provided the perfect opportunity.
    I was going to go on my M1000R but when my wife said I could get a GS, I didn’t need a second invitation.

    Ade was tour leader & had done all the planning. He’s a very fast rider and has had GS’s for years. His mate Allan is a ex-racer, who has also had GS’s for years. Add me – the GS virgin and this was the team.
    Day 1 started early on Friday the 28th of June, with a run to Portsmouth to catch the Ferry to Caen. We then had a lovely ride down to Tours with a stop off at a beautiful little village of Saint Ceneri le Gertie for a mid-afternoon drink.




    It was then on to Tours via La Chatre sur le Lori for a photo outside the Hotel de France/



    Day 2. We left Tours and headed to Chinnon on the banks of the river Loir for breakfast. It was overcast and as we finished breakfast it started to rain lightly so water proof tops went on. As we neared Limoges it got pretty warm, so we stopped to get out of the waterproofs. Lunch was great in the centre of Limoges and then we headed for Clermont-Ferrand via some twisty, pretty challenging roads. After a while it started to rain lightly so we again stopped to put the waterproof tops on. Allan was taking a bit of time and I was getting hot, so I set off fairly slowly on the understanding Ade and Allan would soon catch me up. Well that didn’t happen, because I took a wrong turn and got lost. The rain, turned biblical and before long my bottom half, feet included, were soaked. I couldn’t have been any wetter. Trying to find the others was problematic to say the least. My visor kept misting up and visibility was really poor. I had a big wheel spin moment under acceleration, so put the bike in rain mode, only to have another a few miles later. By the time in did join the others at a cafe in Royere de Vassiviere, I was mentally frazzled. After a couple of coffees, I’d regained my composure somewhat and we set off for Clermont-Ferrand. The very heavy rain did eventually subside and parts of the road was actually dry, giving very enjoyable riding. On arrival at out hotel, my fears were confirmed - I’d foolishly mounted my soft bag zip forward and pretty well all my clothes were wet, so they were hung up all over the room to dry out. Dinner was on me (at my insistence) for making the others wait.

    Day 3 (Sunday 30th June) was overcast and the forecast was for rain at some point in the day. We did a circular route, combining fast flowing roads, with tight twisting sections, returning to Clermont-Ferrand via the mountains in the Massif Central. It was dry to start but as we climbed we were riding in the clouds and the temperature dropped considerably. One section of road had recently been tarred and chipped and with the wet surface it was extremely slippery for a good few miles. A stop for coffee in a tiny mountain village was the opportunity to put on the waterproofs. We walked into the cafe and were immediately hit by the smell of the lady owner’s cigarette smoke. The terrain was mostly rolling hills, just very big ones and we reached over 5,000 ft above sea level at times. We came across the scene of an accident where a fuel tanker had left the road and partially turned over. The emergency services were in attendance including a mobile pollution control unit. It didn’t look like anyone got hurt thankfully. Going through one of the many small county villages, a sheepdog decided to attack Ade’s bike and very nearly got hit. He let me through, but then had a go at Allan’s bike without making contact. Lunch was the best salad ever - more like a deconstructed pizza with lumps of blue cheese on bits of toasted bread, with a side order of fries to share. Some of the sections where we were flowing through numerous left, and right hairpin bends were just fantastic. You get into this almost hypnotic rhythm, the GS finding incredible grip even on the damp roads and just soaking up the surface imperfections. As I got more miles under my belt, I was starting to get to grips with the bike, the particular way it has to be ridden to get the best from it and enjoying riding it even more.

    Day 4 - What a day we had! 334 miles taking in some incredibly challenging roads with more tight up and downhill hairpin bends than you could count through some simply stunning scenery, on mostly perfect tarmac. The fact that it took us 8 hours 41 minutes of riding time to cover 334 miles in perfect conditions says a lot. Our max altitude was 4,704 ft above sea level and we saw a high temperature of 27 deg C and a low of 15. The highlights - We had a superb lunch in a beautiful little restaurant (Auberge de la Fontaine) in the village of Desaignes.

    The stunning view of the bridge at Saint Nazaire en Royans warranted a photo stop.



    The road up to, over and down from Combe Laval looked like a picture of someone’s intestines on the Nav. The views of the magnificent limestone cliffs were breathtaking and driving through the tunnels and under natural limestone arches I’d seen so often in films is something that I’ll never forget.










    The D518 up to and over the Col du Rousset was wickedly twisty. The D7 over the Col de Menee got my vote as road of the day. Fast and flowing with some lovely bends. We rode on part of the N85 Route Napoleon, through fabulous scenery, but the low sun was problematic for me on several of the bends. To finish we rode round, then over the enormous Lake le Lac, before arriving at our hotel in Embrun, absolutely done for. I didn’t know what Ade had in store for us the next day, but I certainly wanted an easy one.
    Day 5 was supposed to be a relatively easy day after yesterday’s monster. Allan wanted a rest day, so it was just Ade and I. The plan was to go to the Col du Galibier, but the road was blocked due to the Tour de France. We headed instead for Col De L’Iseran via Briancon (lots of people waiting for the TDF to pass through) and a scenic lunch stop at Val-Cenis.

    On the way to the Col we saw a Marmot and countless cyclists. We also overtook all the other traffic - loads of motorcycles and a couple of nicely driven Elise’s.









    We descended the other side of the Col, passing through Val d Iser, stopping at the Le Chevril to get photos of the dam and reservoir.
















    We popped up to have quick look at Tignes before heading back towards Seez. To climb out of Seez we took the D1090. This road is crazy. Soooo many tight uphill hairpins. The road finally straightened out a bit for the rest of the run to Albertville, where we got fuel and a drink.
    The next approx 20 miles along what seemed like the longest high street in the world, with loads of traffic islands, traffic lights and roundabouts was pretty nasty. We then joined the N85 (Route Napoleon) again and headed back to Embrun.

    In the end we did 316 miles and rode for 8 hours, but it was nothing like the hard day we had yesterday. We reached 9,077 ft above sea level and experienced a temperature range between 28 degrees C and 8.

    I’ve never ridden among such stunning scenery. Another superb day.

    Day 6 - From the mountains to the sea.
    We left Embrun under clear blue skies and headed up to the Col du Galibier. The scenery was stunning on the way and at the top. At the Col it was very busy and I struggled to get parked anywhere remotely level, so need a bit of help getting the bike off the stand before setting off.









    Next we headed for the Col de la Bonette, one of (if not the) highest road in Europe. The Col was in partial cloud, so the views were not perfect, but what we could see was great.



    We descended at a fairly leisurely pace and headed for Nice on some lovely fast flowing roads initially through slate and then some very imposing limestone canyons as we neared the coast. Ade and Allan did some very non-scientific roll on acceleration tests, which suggested there is very little in it between a 1250 and a 1300 GS. The traffic in Nice was heavy and the weather very hot, so by the time we got off the bikes for a cold beer on the promenade we were hot and sweaty. The short run to Antibes was in very heavy traffic, but it flowed pretty well. The days ride was just 220 miles. We climbed to 9,208 ft above sea level and got gone to 8 ft. We saw our biggest temperature range of 29 deg C to 6 deg C. Antibes was buzzing in the evening. After a beer in a very lively bar we ate late in a fantastic Thai restaurant and then had a night cap in another lively bar before heading for bed just after midnight.

    Day 7 - Antibes to Chateauneuf-du-Pape
    Ade and I were up before Al, so Ade went for a run and I had a stroll round Antibes Marina. Some of the amazing yachts were obscene.



    Ade saw the King of Bahrain’s $250m Superyacht complete with security detail. I brought coffees back to our studio apartment and then we went for breakfast in a lovely square. We ended up talking to a very well-travelled lady for a while, before realising we really should get going. It took a while to get the keys returned and it was 10:50 before we set off.



    We all needed fuel, particularly Al and it took a while to get some as we drove up through the high-class residential area on our way out of Antibes.
    We were soon back on the Route Napoleon and starting to ”make progress”. The start of the Gorge du Verdon was pretty impressive, but we’d seen nothing yet. As we descended into the beautiful village of Entrevaux, we saw what looked like an impossibly steep, jagged road up to the monastery perched high above the town. I made it VERY clear there was no way I was going to try to ride up that! It turned out it was a pedestrian / donkey path.
    We shared a couple of delicious Pizzas and it was quite special when the chef came out to ask if we’d enjoyed the food. I changed out of my normal underpants (don’t even know why I set off wearing them) into some padded motorbike riding pants and to say the riding was more comfortable afterwards is a gross understatement.







    The scenery got ever more impressive electric blue lakes including the huge Le Riou and soaring limestone cliffs either side of us.







    After a while I noticed Al was riding less quickly than usual and was about to ask if he was OK, when he said for Ade and I to press on. We had a bit of fun with a guy on a Ducati Street Fighter, before pulling in for a cold drink and to let Al catch up. Whilst we had our drinks, Al said he was really tired and was going to take a more direct route to the hotel.
    As we got deeper into Provance the lavender fields became more frequent, often unbelievably deep purple and giving off a really strong smell.
    As we climbed the Du Mont-Ventoux mountain the temperature dropped from 32deg C to about 15. We stopped at the south side, just before the summit and took in the huge views. Unfortunately, it was a little hazy. On the north side however, it was crystal clear and we could see the snow-capped Alps over 100 miles away. It was so windy I was nearly blown off my bike and started to briefly regret not long before, having re-soaked my cool vest, but as we descended, the temperature soon climbed.







    It was only another half hours ride to the hotel. After much needed showers we had a superb meal on the terrace overlooking the pool, with naturally, some delicious Chateauneuf-Du-Pape.

    We talked crap again for about an hour after dinner and then retired to our much needed beds.
    The stats were 243 miles, 6 hours 18 mins riding time, 32 to 14deg C temp range and a max altitude of 6,220 ft.
    Yet another awesome day.
    Tomorrow the Viaduct de Millau awaits.

    Day 8 Chateauneuf du Pape to Figeac
    We left our hotel under clear blue skies again. It was already 28deg C. As we neared Mont Aigoyal we again had to cope with loads of loose chippings on winding mountain roads - far from ideal! Mont Aigoual had a weather observatory and a cafe. Cold drinks all round.





    As we descended, more loose chippings including one really deep patch that gave us all a brief scare.

    Lunch was at Roquefort. Ade did the caves tour, while Al and I tried to stay cool.

    The final leg took us over the magnificent Millau viaduct and in to Figeac.





    Our accommodation was in a stunning 600 year old house and Figeac is a lovely place.





    We did 245 miles in 5 hours 25 minutes. Saw 17 to 32deg C and 5,129 ft of elevation.

    Despite it being a relatively easy day of riding we were all very tired at the end of it.

    Day 9 - Figeac to Angers
    Well and truly on the return leg now, we left Figeac under cloudy skies with rain forecast along our route, so I put my waterproof top on and the others took similar precautions, but it soon brightened up.
    An unscheduled stop to have a “chat” with a couple of motorcycle Gendarmes allowed us to lose our waterproofs as well as €90 each for making a bit too much progress. They were all right and as we were clearly, “not delinquents let us off lightly. We talked about their bikes and Ade tried one for size.



    Once we got into the Dordogne the roads were excellent and we rode past stunning cliffs, many with ancient cave dwellings carved into them.
    Our lunch stop was in Perigueux. Ade and I had pizza with a bit of Foie Gras topping. When in Rome and all that. Whilst we ate the rain came down heavily, so before leaving the full waterproofs went on.



    Thankfully we started seeing blue skies in the distance and when we stopped for a coffee in a lovely village on the banks of la Vienne the waterproofs came off and stayed off for the rest of the day. As we had our coffees we were joined by a proper Essex Geezer who looked like a low rent villain evading the UK Police. The ease with which he insulted us all, but in a very funny way was brilliant.



    The rest of the ride to Angers was very pleasant. Mostly fast flowing roads with plenty of interest.



    We crossed the impressively wide Loire again and then ran beside it for the last few miles.




    For our last night we managed to get a table in a classy Thai restaurant. Very nice food and with an extensive choice of whisky at remarkably reasonable prices, so we each had one to finish off the meal.



    Again, as it was our last night and the final day’s riding was shorter, we had a couple of drinks in a bar before hitting the sack.
    The ride was 327 miles, but only took 6hrs 21 minutes. It was the least tiring of the tour thus far.

    Day 10 - Homeward bound.
    We left Angers after breakfast of bagels and headed for Le Mans. After the compulsory photos at the Porsche Curves and the main entrance to the 24 hours circuit we went into the old town looking for a quick bite to eat but didn’t find what we were after so we pressed on and shared a Pizza at Sees before the final run to our ferry.







    I had the shortest run home and was back by about 10:00pm.

    It had been a fabulous trip. Thanks to Ade for all the organisation and the both Ade and Al for their help and advice.

    My door to door mileage was 2,595.

    Can’t wait to do something similar again.
    Last edited by andy tims; 13th July 2024 at 05:48.
    Andy

    Wanted - Damasko DC57

  2. #2
    Looks brilliant. Excellent post. Thanks

  3. #3
    Master
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    Great write up Andy... I enjoyed the read.

    Myself and five others were there a couple of weeks earlier for the D Day anniversary... managed to tick a few boxes for the Normandy sites.

    I'd be interested if you had a GPX that you could share of your trip... We've skiied a few times at Bourge San Maurice and wouldnt mind visiting when its green instead of white!

    Thanks

    Mike

  4. #4
    Master
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    A really good record of a fantastic looking trip :)

  5. #5
    Grand Master Saint-Just's Avatar
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    Good post, thank you. Probably quite tiring at times but your itinerary covered many of the must-see sites that were within your reach
    'Against stupidity, the gods themselves struggle in vain' - Schiller.

  6. #6
    Master
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    Great experience had by the looks of it! Did something similar last year and had a blast (no pun intendedÖ)
    Can I ask who was on the 1300 and how does it compare to the 1250ís (Iím assuming theyíre 1250ís anyways)?

  7. #7
    Master
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    Thanks for sharing. Would love to do something like this but need to wait until the remaining son has left home.

    Am already thinking about what I might do on my next sabbatical, due 2029...

    Sent from my SM-A202F using TZ-UK mobile app

  8. #8
    Master
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    Great post. Iíve been to most of those sites on a bicycle. Great touring in the mountains.

    Which GS did you buy? On our cycle tours we often chat to the bikers and some of us fancy that now we are getting older.

  9. #9
    Grand Master
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    What a great trip and thank you very much for sharing.
    Cheers,

    Ben



    ..... for I have become the Jedi of flippers


    " an extravagance is anything you buy that is of no earthly use to your wife "

  10. #10
    I will fix up the broken picture links, on Thursday when Iím back home in front of the computer.

    Quote Originally Posted by sweetpea View Post
    Great write up Andy... I enjoyed the read.

    Myself and five others were there a couple of weeks earlier for the D Day anniversary... managed to tick a few boxes for the Normandy sites.

    I'd be interested if you had a GPX that you could share of your trip... We've skiied a few times at Bourge San Maurice and wouldnt mind visiting when its green instead of white!

    Thanks

    Mike
    No GPX Iím afraid. Iíll try to post the Google maps links.

    Quote Originally Posted by Saint-Just View Post
    Good post, thank you. Probably quite tiring at times but your itinerary covered many of the must-see sites that were within your reach
    A few of the days were very tiring. Itís very dependent on the roads but circa 7 hours riding would have been just about perfect.

    Quote Originally Posted by gmt 16750 View Post
    Great experience had by the looks of it! Did something similar last year and had a blast (no pun intendedÖ)
    Can I ask who was on the 1300 and how does it compare to the 1250ís (Iím assuming theyíre 1250ís anyways)?
    Allan was on the 1300. Ade rode it. The summary is the 1300 is smaller and lighter, is less torquey, makes its power further up the rev range and has a worse gearbox. The ride height adjustment works really well. Not just for getting on the bike, but also for putting it on its centre stand. If your 1250 GS has done lots of miles and you genuinely need a new bike, then you could do a lot worse than the 1300. But if your GS still has relatively low mileage, it doesnít make a lot of sense to change.

    Quote Originally Posted by Montello View Post
    Great post. Iíve been to most of those sites on a bicycle. Great touring in the mountains.

    Which GS did you buy?
    I got a 2021 1250 GS TE Triple Black
    Andy

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  11. #11
    Master
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    Quote Originally Posted by andy tims View Post
    I got a 2021 1250 GS TE Triple Black
    That is a pretty big beast from what I have seen.

    Do they make a smaller / lighter version?

  12. #12
    Master
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    Andy now imagine doing that on the M1000rr. Little rucsac on your back. You could have knocked at least two days off . ;)

  13. #13
    Amazing trip Andy, looks great. France is such a great place for bike trips. The gateway to everywhere else in europe too. Brilliant pics, thanks for sharing.

  14. #14
    Quote Originally Posted by Montello View Post
    That is a pretty big beast from what I have seen.

    Do they make a smaller / lighter version?
    They do smaller engined versions that are lighter but I donít think any less tall and they wonít have the huge torque of the 1250.

    Quote Originally Posted by higham5 View Post
    Andy now imagine doing that on the M1000rr. Little rucsac on your back. You could have knocked at least two days off . ;)
    I was going on the M with a pair of small panniers and a bag strapped to the rear ďseatĒ. Would have been faster on some of the roads for sure, but not so much when the surface is not perfect. Shorter range too. Would have annoyed the other 2 after a while I guess and Iíd have been even more knackered being battered by the wind for that long.
    Andy

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  15. #15
    Master Tony-GB's Avatar
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    That was superb, thank you.

  16. #16
    Broken picture links updated.
    Andy

    Wanted - Damasko DC57

  17. #17
    What a great way to start retirement, super locations and stunning scenary, very jealous

  18. #18
    Grand Master Rod's Avatar
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    Great to read and look at the lovely scenery. I had rather a nice French/Italian girlfriend based in Toulon and had some great driving trips to some of the areas you visited which brought back some fond memories. Thanks.

  19. #19
    Master
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    Quote Originally Posted by andy tims View Post
    They do smaller engined versions that are lighter but I donít think any less tall and they wonít have the huge torque of the 1250.



    I
    Noted. Is that necessary or does it means you just donít need to change gear as much making riding a bit easier?

  20. #20
    Fabulous trip, VERY envious.

  21. #21
    Master
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    Andy,

    Thanks for being such a good riding buddy! Would be glad to ride with you again. Glad we all arrived home safe and sound. Thanks also for capturing the day-by-day events... it really helps me remember(!)

    Tbh I'm still decompressing from the trip, and will try to sort the photos and vids. Hope to do some of that this weekend. Am already thinking about the next adventure... Eastern Dolomites are epic, Eastern Europe, and farther afield. A goal remains - hoping to get to Constantinople, East meets West, Turkey, Moldovia, then onto Baku and recreate the TopGear drag race :-) You will love riding the A8 between Split and Dubrov: 100km+ of constant radius bends overlooking the Adriatic. Have some Albanian friends who have been giving me tips and someone I know from Macedonia too near Ohrid. Recce at Benson with Al for a debrief?

    Ade

  22. #22
    Grand Master Saint-Just's Avatar
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    My auntís mother was Greek, born in Constantinople and whose family left just after WW1 for obvious reasons. But itís been Istanbul now for the best part of a century :)
    'Against stupidity, the gods themselves struggle in vain' - Schiller.

  23. #23
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    Used to spend a fair few Summers at my friend farmhouse when the Kids were little, it was between Laval and Chateau Gontier beautiful part of France. Looks like a fantastic trip.

  24. #24
    Master
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    Looks an amazing trip, thanks for sharing

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