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