Cor­sica

Bril­liant rid­ing des­ti­na­tions that will trans­form next sum­mer into a true mo­tor­cy­cling ex­pe­di­tion

Motorcycle News (UK) - - Escapes -

Aride to the shops can make you smile. A ride to the shops in France or South­ern Spain to pick up a bot­tle of top-notch vino will make you smile a whole lot more. There are hun­dreds of ac­ces­si­ble and stun­ning roads you can ex­plore with­out need­ing a de­gree in Mis­sion Plan­ning or a win on the Na­tional Lot­tery to make it hap­pen. One of the most beau­ti­ful things about Europe is… it’s on our doorstep!

We’ve picked out some sim­ply breath­tak­ing rides and routes in France, Lux­em­bourg, Spain, Italy and Sw­tiz­er­land. These routes should in­spire you to get plan­ning that lifechang­ing ad­ven­ture as all are within (pretty) easy reach.

COR­SICA

Many mo­tor­cy­clists tend to over­look Cor­sica. They shouldn’t! At more than 3000 square miles, it’s the fourth big­gest is­land in the Mediter­ranean. This means the roads of the in­te­rior are bliss­fully quiet – and as two-thirds of the is­land is moun­tains, it means those roads are su­per-twisty too.

Rolling off the ferry in Ajac­cio, head south over the Col de St Eus­tache to­wards Zonza. Then head to­wards the coast over the Col de Bavella – a road that could have come straight from the Dolomites, twist­ing down through fra­grant pine trees with grey rock spires ris­ing be­hind them. Ex­cept there’s no road in the Dolomites quite this de­serted.

From the west coast of the is­land, climb­ing back across the spine of Cor­sica on the N193 – a kind of high­alti­tude, souped-up Route Napoleon – head up the east coast to Porto. The views from the D81 are stag­ger­ing – blue water, dis­tant head­lands, the road ahead snaking round an­other cor­ner.

‘The road twists down through fra­grant pine trees with grey rock spires ris­ing be­hind them’

FRENCH ALPS

From Lake Geneva in the north to Men­ton on the Med, France’s Route des Gran­des Alpes bills it­self as the ul­ti­mate moun­tain-rid­ing route. Over France’s high­est pass, through beau­ti­ful val­leys and sleepy out-of-sea­son ski towns, it’s more than 400 miles of hair­pins and breath­tak­ing views.

If you’ve never rid­den in the moun­tains, it’s a real chal­lenge and it’s easy to mis­judge it. Af­ter all, 420 miles? That’s just a long day on the mo­tor­way… From the start­ing point at Thonon les Bains it takes two full days – or three re­laxed ones – to reach the south­ern end of the Route des Gran­des Alpes.

The route was cre­ated to at­tract vis­i­tors to the moun­tains and it was started in 1909 but didn’t fin­ish un­til the road over Col de l’is­eran was com­pleted in 1937. The clas­sic ver­sion links 17 great passes – though many rid­ers swap the Col de la Cay­olle and Col de la Couil­lole for the more fa­mous Col de la Bon­nette – rid­ing the loop above the pass that is France’s high­est paved road.

The land­scape changes along the fi­nal stretch – from Alpine to Mediter­ranean, cross­ing the epic Col de Turini. This re­ally is the ul­ti­mate moun­tain­rid­ing ad­ven­ture.

THE VOS­GES

From the Euro­tunel to St Die des Vos­ges is a whisker un­der 350 miles. You could be there tomorrow.

The Vos­ges sit on the west bank of the River Rhine, frown­ing across the wa­tery bor­der at Ger­many’s Black For­est. Like the Schwartzwald, the French moun­tains are high enough to have ski­ing in win­ter, their well­wooded slopes criss­crossed by a maze of su­perbly twisty roads. Un­like the Ger­man for­est, the Vos­ges are rel­a­tively quiet – you’ll see plenty of bikes, but there’s markedly less traf­fic.

The Black For­est has be­come fa­mous for one bik­ing road in par­tic­u­lar: the B500. But for our money the Route des Cretes that runs from St Marie aux Mines in the north of the Vos­ges to Cer­nay in the south is bet­ter. On top of which the Vos­ges has proper passes, hair­pins stacked on top of each other like the folded lay­ers of pas­try in the sweet lo­cal cakes.

But the re­ally good bit? This is just the south­ern end of the Vos­ges. Head north keep­ing the Rhine on your right and the Vos­ges con­tinue all the way to the quaint city of Sar­reguem­ines – de­liv­er­ing mile af­ter mile of su­perb rid­ing. All within easy reach of Calais.

PUERTO DE LAS PALOMAS

This area of south­ern Spain is packed full of amaz­ing roads.

The CA531 cuts through the Puerto de las Palomas in the Sierra de Graza­lema and is about two hours west of Malaga in An­dalu­cia.

An­dalu­cia may be a long way from the UK but it is easy to ride there. You don’t have to ride to Spain: you could take a ferry to San­tander. Eas­ier still is ship­ping your bike di­rect to Malaga and then get­ting a bud­get air­line flight out. Or you can just take a cheap flight and then hire a bike. That’s what we did when we first dis­cov­ered this road.

There’s the A397 from Mar­bella to Ronda, the A366 from Coin to Ronda and the in­cred­i­ble A2300 around Lake Za­hara. It’s a fairly short road – barely 10 miles long – but has more cor­ners than all of Hol­land and is one of the best roads ever rid­den.

That’s the real beauty of south­ern Spain. It isn’t the hand­ful of roads al­ready men­tioned that are worth rid­ing. From Car­bon­eras on the east coast to Cadiz in the west, there are bril­liant roads ev­ery­where. About two-thirds of the roads are bet­ter than any­thing you’ll find within half-a-day’s ride of Lon­don – and the gems are bet­ter than any­thing in the UK.

So for an un­ri­valled rid­ing ex­pe­ri­ence, you need to head to south­ern Spain. Fab­u­lous weather, spec­tac­u­lar scenery, im­mac­u­late road sur­faces and bril­liant cor­ners… the only thing they don’t have is traf­fic.

PYRE­NEES

You’ve heard all the ar­gu­ments– which are bet­ter, the Alps or Pyre­nees? Some favour the ex­treme na­ture of high Alpine passes, with huge drops and stacks of de­mand­ing hair­pins that re­ward with epic views. Oth­ers cher­ish the more laid-back Pyre­nees – they’re not so high, the roads are more flow­ing but the views are just as good.

The Pyre­nees – espe­cially the Span­ish side – of­fers a con­sis­tent qual­ity of rid­ing. There are so many bril­liant roads here: smooth, fresh tar­mac, cor­ners that feed beau­ti­fully into each other, towns well spaced out.

You can ride for days on the Span­ish side of the Pyre­nees with­out ever find­ing a bad or a bor­ing road. And that’s ex­actly what a tour­ing des­ti­na­tion should de­liver.

‘ Hair­pins are stacked on top of each other like the folded lay­ers of pas­try in the sweet lo­cal cakes’

Cor­sica O When to go: April to Oc­to­ber, but Au­gust will be busy with hol­i­day-mak­ers O Where to stay: Boni­fa­cio in the south, Porto on the east coast, St Florent in the north O How to get there: Ferry to Ajac­cio or Bas­tia from Toulon or Nice O How long: 6-9 days (2-3 days on Cor­sica it­self) O Bud­get: Bud­get £100-£130 a day (itõs pricier than the main­land) plus ferry costs

From tree-clad foothills to craggy heights, the rid­ing is stun­ning

O When to go: Late-june to mid-oc­to­ber O Where to stay: Thonon-les-bains, Val d’is­ere, Barcelonette and Men­ton for a three-day trip or Thonon-lesBains, Bri­ançon and Men­ton for a more de­mand­ing two-day ride O How to get there: It’s 1-2 days from Calais to Thonon O How

long: 6-9 days O Bud­get: Slightly cheaper than tour­ing in the UK. Bud­get £90-£120 a day

Pre­pare for some amaz­ing views as you cross Europe O When to go: May to Oc­to­ber O Where to stay: Ger­ard­mer, Bitche, Cer­nay or St Marie aux Mines O How long: 4-6 days O Bud­get: £90-£120 a day (plus cross­ings) but there are plenty of camp­sites to lower the costs Eastern France

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