Ken Roberts - - Bicycling

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isle de Corse / Corsica

We had a great time riding on this island in the Mediterranean Sea south of France -- see photos

what's here

overview

  • good road surface (except for some very remote areas), good direction signs

  • lots of great sea views

  • animals -- on the roads -- aslo sounds of domestic animals

  • lots of rock outcroppings

  • lots of deep gorges

Hilly?

  • Yes, it's hard to find a loop of any significance that does not have a substantial climb.

  • but very well graded, not super-steep.

  • not as hilly as the French Alps, and no more hilly than much of Provence.

Maps

  • Michelin 345 Local: Corse-du-Sud, Haute-Corse.

bases for riding

Worked well for us as a base:

  • l'Île Rousse :: Magnificent for riding. Right out of the hotel, the great mountain-sea loop thru Belgodere and Cateri -- plus lots of interesting roads interspersed (? and beyond to south or Speloncato, like Olmi-Cappela ?).

Plus quick car access to D81B southwest of Calvi, and west coast of Cap Corse, and to St Florent riding. Plus some ferry access, perhaps even a multi-day ride down to Porto and take the ferry back to l'Ile Rousse. Plus easy road access to Corte, Bastia, Calvi.

These towns look promising to as possible future bases (but we didn't try them as bases, nor have we checked most of the routes possibly accessed from them):

  • St Florent :: access to some interesting loops in the mountains (reports of nice riding in the hill villages around Murato). To ride the sea can do the big Cap Corse - Bastia loop (5+5km connection, then loop of 101 km or 122km, with 500+m and 400m cols), or just some of the west side of Cap Corse out-and-back.

  • Porto :: also good for hiking or serious diving. The riding is three (rather pretty) out-and-back bike rides each in a different direction -- or one 100km loop bike tour (which could also be done from Sagone, which for pure riding makes a better base).

Car-served bike descents from Col de Vergio (west or east sides) could be fun. If ferry is operating, could take ferry to Galeria and ride back one-way 51 km (includes over 11km of rough pavement as of 2004). Or even do a long one-way 81 km ride (overnight in Galeria?) (includes two sections total over 27 km of rough pavement as of 2004) by taking ferry up to Calvi. Piana and Cargese are nice sea-view villages nearby, and Evisa is a nice mountain village for more of a hiking focus (or up-and-back ride thru high evergreen forests to Col de Vergio)

  • Sagone :: three different loops, including 100km to Porto and Cargese. Plus easy access to Ajaccio for shopping and ferry.

  • Porto-Pollo :: (between Ajaccio and Propriano). Three different loops. Close to Filitosa pre-historic site. (perhaps Propriano as alternative lodging area).

  • Porto Vecchio :: several possible loops in each direction, including Bonifacio and Levie + Zonza, and a short loop to north. Or even a big hilly 120km over Col de Bavella?

Not promising as bases:

  • Ajaccio :: first 8 miles riding out of city in any direction not great. Perhaps try to get lodging to east side of town, like Pisciatello. Perhaps riding out to Sanguinaire and back could be worth trying. Make sure hotel has protected parking (Mercure was OK). (Seems like for riding, Sagone or Porto-Pollo are better bases.)

  • Bastia :: horrendous traffic and parking. Try to stay outside of town, or at least out on the edge (Best Western was reasonable). Not sure what the good riding is: perhaps the big Cap Corse loop (101 km or 122km, with 500+m and 400m cols), or flat around the south Etang, or the Murato hills? -- (but for riding most of those St Florent is a better base).

  • Bonifacio :: not obvious what the riding is, except a loop to Porto Vecchio (which for riding makes a better base).

rides we did

These are some rides we did on our tandem:

More details on each one . . .

 

l'Île Rousse - Belgodere - Cateni loop

One of the great medium-size loops (around 53 km / 33 miles) we've ever ridden anywhere.

Seaside views + city, several hill-villages, big views out across a large agricultural valley (with the sea beyond), animals visible along the road, lots of sounds of animals, and views of mountains.

Climb up to the D71 was rather gentle, and then the D71 took an amazingly gentle and well-graded course around the east and south and west rim of the valley. By riding clockwise, we stayed on outside of curves on D71 for views and photos.

We rode this clockwise loop:

  • We started riding directly from our hotel in l'Île Rousse, at first staying to the northeast side of town along the sea to reach the main highway.

  • N197 east along the sea with wide traffic lane and some nice sea views.

  • Turn right on old N197 with a moderate climb up to Belgodere (food option).

  • D71 southeast to Occhiatana.

  • We made a side trip to Speloncato by bearing left onto D63 (not too steep), and had lunch in the village, then explored some narrow streets on foot.

  • D663 west to rejoin D71.

  • D71 west (with 1-2km of coarse pavement) thru Feliceto and past Muro to Cateri, then

  • turned right onto D151 north with more great views past Aregno and Pigna and Corbara, then down to its end.

  • Right on N197 East, then immediate

  • quick left onto D513, down a long hill (with some speed bumps) to the port and city of l'Île Rousse.

future -- things to consider if we rode it again (but we didn't check them):  

  • side trips from D151 to St Antonino or Couvent de Corvar.

  • We'd gladly visit Speloncato again.

  • could possibly extend south of Speloncato on D63 and D963 thru Olmi-Cappela.

  • could continue D71 west to Lumio, but this leads to more distance on the main highway back to l'Île Rousse.

  • could possibly extend over Col de Salvi to Calenzana, but this would seem to lead to lots more distance riding on the main highway N197 between Calvi and l'Île Rousse.

Coti-Chiavari loop (south of Ajaccio)

Many pretty views of sea, near beaches, and Golfe d'Ajaccio. Great view of rocky beaches south toward Capo di Muro. Farm areas with sea view just west of Coti-Chiavari are very pretty. Rather pleasant riding with some views on D55 north from Coti-Chiavari to Col de Gradello. Fun long descent on D255A West (from intersection with 255).

One steep climb (on D155 between Portigliolo and Acqua Doria) -- at least 10% (one source suggested there is a 13% segment) -- we got off and walked much of it. Another mod-steep climb in the midst of run along beaches -- the thru there is gentle-moderate. Long climb from north of Acqua Doria on D155 South and D55A East up to Coti-Chiavari. D55 from Coti-Chiavari north to Col de Gradello is mostly gentle-to-moderate.

Food possible at Acqua Doria, Coti-Chiavari, Col de Gradello (D255-D55 intersection). the pizza shop in Coti-Chiavari is out-of-business.

We rode this counter-clockwise loop:

  • started near Agnarello (intersection of D55 + D255A).

  • D55 south, then

  • continue along coast on D155 south to Acqua Doria.

  • D55A northeast to Coti-Chiavari.

  • D55 north to Col de Gradello.

  • D255 north.

  • D255A west down to coast back to start.

Alternatives:

  • Wouldn't change anything about our route if we do it again.

  • Local riders seemed to just go out and back on the gentle-to-moderate part of the coastal road.

  • Lots of traffic in closer to Ajaccio -- so it wouldn't be as much fun to start from Ajaccio and ride out thru Porticcio.

Gorges du Prunelli (east of Ajaccio)

Pleasant riding, some nice views of rocky hills and a pretty lake and village of Tolla, fun descent on D27 west.

Roads were very well-graded. Nothing very steep. Food possible in Bastelica, perhaps some other places.

Summary of our route

  • started near Eccica, which we reached by descending a ways on D103 north (turning off the D27 a little west of Cauro).

  • Down D103 north to bridge over Prunelli stream, then climb to T-junction.

  • D3 east thru Ocana to Col de Mercujo (the northwest one), then down to Tolla village, then up to another rise with great views of the lake and village, down a ways, then climb to end at junction with D27.

  • We took D27 east: climb up to col where the "rough road with viewpoints" turns off southwest, then down a ways, and a last climb up to village of Bastelica.

  • Turn around and take D27 west over three minor cols, with fun descents, finally down thru Cauro, then

  • D103 north back to start.

Alternatives:

  • It's not necessary to ride all the way to Bastelica: We could have just headed back on D27 west after reaching end of D3 at D27.

  • The road with more views that starts 2 km east of D3 - D27 junction at Col looked rather rough. We didn't ride it.

  • We didn't see much point in riding the lower section further west in closer to Ajaccio, since that did not seem to be where the main part of gorge is.

Cap of the Cap loop (northeast tip of island)

Combines hills + hill-villages + sea views. Some goats on the road, but not much agriculture. Not much dramatic rock outcroppings. Key feature-set versus other hill+sea routes is that it's a true loop in a very remote setting.

(Might want to combine this ride with a second day of remote hiking on the famous hiking trail on the north end of Cap Corse.)

minimum 53 km, with two cols, but we would again add a little to visit some hill-village(s) around Rogliano, and the side-trip to Pino -- for a total of perhaps 60 km / 37 miles.

We rode this counter-clockwise loop:

  • We parked on D180 a couple of miles west of St Severa (Marine de Luri), after driving up from Bastia early that morning (a pretty drive).

  • D80 north to Macinaggio was pleasant, mostly smooth pavement. Pleasant village with boating.

  • Turned a ways east on D80, then

  • took the main road up to Rogliano (well-graded, decent pavement). Nice hill-village with big view east over Macinaggio and the sea.

  • We climbed further up to Vignale on steeper rougher roads to a ruined building and a bigger view.

(if do this route again, would definitely visit Rogliano again for the variety and view, but not all the way up to Vignale)

  • D53 northwest (somewhat rough) to rejoin D80.

  • D80 West across Col St Nicolas, ate some sweet red berries along the way. Then curve south, with nice views starting at Belvidere du Moulin Mattei. Felt pretty wild (and road had rough sections) down to junction with D180.

  • We made a little side-trip to Pino which had some food options and worthwhile views.

  • D180 across Col de St Lucie

(except that we had severe problems with our rear tire, so we left our bike just below the west side of col, and Ken jogged-walked down thru village of Luri to the car, then drove back and picked up Sharon and the bike.)

future -- things to consider if we rode it again (but we didn't check them):  

  • There's another 35.5 km loop south from Pino, but the inland side of this was marked as closed when we were there in Nov-2004.

  • if do it again, would keep the side trips to Rogliano and Pino.

  • side trips to Barcaggio or Tollare or Centuri-Port add substantial climbing to get back to the main route.

  • might consider visiting other hill-villages like say Cagnano or Tomino.

east Provence around Nice + Cannes

We had only a few days in this area, but it was pretty nice, and we'd be glad to go back -- see photos.

This was part of our trip to Corsica -- for more see that report above.

bases for riding:  for car-supported, worked well for us to stay near an exit of the A8 near Cannes and Nice.

some rides whose start-finish points could be considered within possible day-trip car-driving range from the hotel: (a) hills north of Nice -- if like hilly riding and visiting hill-villages -- like say around l'Escarene or Peillon or Tourrette-Levens; (b) Vence has at least a couple of loops; (c) Touet-sur-Var has a couple of big loops.

maps:  We used mostly Michelin 341 Local : Alpes-Maritimes.

These are some of the rides we did on our tandem:

and routes which Ken rode or checked solo:

More details on each . . .

Esterel Mountains + Sea (west of Cannes)

Overview:

  • special combination of pretty mountains with little vehicle traffic, then spectacular seaside riding.

  • We were glad to do it on a Saturday off-season, so we had less traffic on N98 -- and no tour buses.

  • minimum distance about 45 km, including one long climb with one or two steepish sections.

We rode this Counter-clockwise loop:

  • Start La Napoule (low point on route). We followed roads on west side of town. From the roundabout at east end of Corniche l'Esterel road (if were coming east from Theoule-sur-Mer, this roundabout would be before the bottom of the hill), we followed sign for "A8", which took us up a steep-ish climb (at least 8% grade?), then steep-ish down. At the next roundabout, we followed sign for "Frejus N7" on a road not real wide with lots of parked cars (fortunately not much traffic on a Saturday), to end of road.

  • N7 west which climbs steadily (reasonably wide traffic lane -- sometimes with shoulder, sometimes not -- possible visibility concerns a couple of curves). Look for left turns: first two possibilities are for Maure-Vieil hameau and tennis club -- private or dead-end roads which are not what we wanted.

  • Left at sign for Route Forestiere, "Les Trois Termes". Paved road climbs moderately, first past bus parking area on right side, then continues roughly south with some a couple of steeper sections, perhaps over 8%.

  • Turns about that although the forest roads from both sides north and south were mostly paved and open to cars when we were there, there was a short section in the middle that was closed to cars -- so cars could not drive all the across, which I think cuts down a lot on the traffic volume and speed and aggressiveness of vehicles.

  • Reaches a parking lot at a col (? Col des Trios Termes, 303m altitude ?). Straight ahead is marked as dead-end. Make left turn to road that goes roughly east (perhaps a sign for Pic de l'Ours). Dirt for 20 meters or so, then paved -- gentle perhaps a little up for a ways, then descends to another col (Col de la Cadière).  Then climbs again to third col (Col Notre-Dame 324m altitude), which has like a radio tower on a peak nearby.

  • Continue over this col on paved road (sign for "Agay") with views east to Cannes and the islands in the sea near Cannes. Road forks into two one-way roads, which rejoin into a two-way road further down. Some rough pavement, lots of pretty views of exposed rocks. Fun downhill roughly WSW direction, which ends at a major road.

  • We turned left on the D100 east (unsigned) (reasonable-width traffic lane) and soon reached the roundabout on the west side of Agay.

  • Then took the N98 East along the side of the sea thru some villages and lots more views of rocks in the sea and cliffs above. N98 here had reasonably wide traffic lanes with reasonably smooth pavement. Mostly gentle hills, but a couple of longer ones. Fun descent down to Theoule-sur-Mar.

future -- things to consider if we rode it again (but we didn't check them):  

  • could perhaps extend longer by going west on D100 toward St Raphael, and start on the N98 further west.

  • N7 from La Napoule to Frejus? This is the obvious way to complete the loop with the Corniche l'Esterel road -- but it gets lots of fast drivers avoiding paying the toll on the parallel A8, with lots of curves and dips, some with questionable visibility.  And it is nowhere near as pretty as the forest road.

  • We liked taking the N98 east-bound instead of west-bound because of better views and photography for the sea. And better visibility to cars coming around curves.

Gorges du Loup

Typical gorge ride -- long well-graded, mostly-decently-paved climb up to a village. The village of Gourdon is not large, but what's there is nicely decorated -- though the shops are more for perfumes than food snacks.

(I felt I'd want to add something more to this route to make it interesting enough: see Alternative below.)

We rode this Counter-clockwise loop:

  • Parked near Chateauneuf-Grasse (NE from Grasse).

  • Ride north on D2210 to Pont-du-Loup (starts with long downhill).

  • D6 north (long climb, not much traffic on Sat afternoon).

  • D3 south (long climb, not much traffic on Sat afternoon) to Gourdon.

  • D3 south (steep-ish descent with nice views, mostly well-paved) back to start.

future -- things to consider if we rode it again (but we didn't check them):  

  • Extend to Plateau de Caussois: D12 west, then turn left onto Chemin Les Claps road (thru Les Claps west), then north on D112, and D5 north over Col de la Sine. D2 east thru Greolieres, then D703 south to Cipieres, D603 south, D3 south to finish.

  • consider starting near Pont-du-Loup (to be at the lowest point)

  • could possibly also start with a connection from Vence.

Grand Corniche (D2564) by Nice

D2564 Nice - La Turbie - Roquebrune

Ken rode his bicycle from Nice up over Col de l'Eze to La Turbie and back, also drove the whole road west-bound in car. It had pretty views, and not much traffic on a mid-week afternoon.

Note that the Moyenne Corniche is the N7. There is also a "Deux Corniches" road which connects with the Grand Corniche during the steep hill near Nice.

Which Direction?

  • West-bound:  There are some visibility problems (cars seeing me around curves) going west-bound (not surprising since in this direction I'm riding on the side close to the hillside and away from the sea). But west-bound from La Turbie (D53) to Nice was not bad with reasonably wide traffic lanes. I doubt I'd want to take the climb west-bound up from Roquebrune to La Turbie. And there are some nice views looking west across bay to Antibes when going west-bound from Col de l'Eze.

  • East-bound:  The climb east-bound up from Nice is on the north side of the ridge, so there is at least one curve with visibility problems (cars seeing me around curves) going east-bound. But the traffic lanes are reasonably wide. I found that the bigger problem was a few parked cars lower down. And the climb up from Nice is steep in some parts.

Finding it:  The bottom of the west end this road in the city of Nice is called Blvd Bischoffsheim. It crosses west over the Blvd St.Roch (north-south, has other names), and becomes Av des Diables Bleus.

From the D19 south, after it Bears Right one-way south away from river, look for signs for Monaco + Menton and turn left to go east on bridges across river and railroad tracks, then turn south -- main street south becomes Blvd St.Roch, but there are various side streets (e.g. left on Blvd Braille parallel east) with less traffic. From Blvd St.Roch south, at traffic light left turn with signs for La Turbie + Grand Corniche. 

The bottom of the east end was easily found from the A8 Roquebrune exit -- look for signs for La Turbie.

southern Alpes Maritimes mountains

Nice mix of sea and mountains. I liked riding along the Mediterranean early on a weekend morning. I liked especially the D19 descent from Levens into Nice, and the D2565 along Vesubie was pleasant, so was north descent from Col de Castillon.

I did not like the descent west from Col de Turini: too precipitious with too many tight curves (perhaps the descent to Pierra and Luceram would have been more fun -- then turn north to get back to the St.Martin-Vesubie road).

2008 note: That descent was one of my first big downhills in the Alps. Since then I've gained a lot in experience and technique -- so it's possible that if I rode it again I'd be able to enjoy it more.

And the climb to Col de Turini went on for too long at the end without good views. Perhaps I'd like this col better in the south-bound direction?

I rode this Counter-clockwise loop:

  • started at Nice port on the sea very early on a Sunday morning.

  • I followed the obvious road signs east to Beaulieu and Monaco to Menton.

  • Then followed the obvious sign to Sospel, which took me up the D2566.

  • I went over Col de Castillon instead of taking the "direct" tunnel to Sospel.

  • Sospel had some old narrow streets, and two bakeries.

  • Climbed over Col de Turini (1604m), then

  • D70 west down thru La Bollene Vesubie, then

  • SSW on D2565 (and ?D173?) to St.Jean-la-Rivière.

  • D19 South thru Levens and Tourrette-Levens back to Nice,

  • then on the Nice city streets, followed signs for "Port".

future -- things to consider if I rode it again (but I didn't check them):  

Alternatives to avoid Col de Turini:  I noticed that several riders came from (or to) the Col de Braus. Perhaps that's another a way up from Nice. Or perhaps they come from Luceram by Col de l'Ablé.

  • alternate return to Nice:  from Col de Castillon, D54 west (nice + gentle), D2204 over Col de Braus (1002m) (climb on this East side is well-graded, though West side has some steep sections), D54 over Col de l'Ablé (to avoid steep sections on D2204), D21 south to Luceram.  Then thru l'Escarène + D21 + Peillon back to Nice. (D21 between l'Escarene and Peillon is closed for mining work on Tuesday + Thursday morning).  Or from Peillon take D53 to La Turbie, and Grand Corniche D2564 west down to Nice.

  • alternate D19 return to Nice:  From Luceram, D2566 south to l'Escarène, D2204 south to Col de Nice, D615 west to Contes, D15 south a little D815 west, D19 south to Tourrette-Levens and D19 south on down to Nice. (optional hilly side-trip from D815 is: D19 north to Levens, D14 south thru St Blaise and Castagniers or Apremont, D719 east to Tourrette-Levens).

Other alternatives I might possibly consider (but I didn't check them):

  • There might perhaps be an alternate route to that C____ village South or SE of Castillon which runs parallel and east of the D2566 down in the valley, goes under the A8, then meets the D2566 somewhere north of A8.

  • It might be less hilly to get to Sospel by first riding east along the seaside to Ventimiglia in Italy (but what about the tunnels? the one at the border was very good), then north toward Airole, and west thru Olivetta on D93 to D2204 to Sospel.

  • I might try to avoid Menton and go from Nice more directly to Sospel by perhaps taking D2204, D21 thru Peillon to l'Escarene. Then D21 north to Luceram, D54 SE over Col de l'Ablé (to avoid steep sections on D2204), to Col de Braus, D2204 NE down to Sospel. Or from Col de Braus, take D54 east to Col de Castillon for nice view, then D2566 north with nice descent, and at its end turn left to go into center of Sospel.

  • Early on a weekend morning, I might consider riding the seaside east from Nice to Monaco (including Cap Ferret), then return on the Grand Corniche (D2564). Though actually visibility (car seeing me around curves) on D2564 would be expected to be better east-bound. Though if I followed Lonely Planet's idea of D53 up from Monaco to La Turbie, the section from La Turbie west to Nice is OK. I think it's starting west-bound by climbing up from Roquebrune that's more problematic.

  • Perhaps connect D19 with some of the "perched villages": St Agnes, Peillon, Peille, Luceram, etc. From Menton, can somehow take D21 up to St Agnes. Or the D21A goes from the West-bound Entrance ramp for the A8 from Menton.

  • D53 at Cap Martin had a nice view of Menton, but did not go right alongside the water -- next time perhaps I could look for a lower longer road.

Gorges du Cians - Col de la Couillole loop

Dramatic rocks, red and white, in the Gorge. Pretty on the N202 West along the Var River. Pleasant thru Beuil and across Col de la Couillole. Good descent east from Col down to St.Sauveur-sur-Tinée. Pleasant riding down the Tinée river.

I rode this Clockwise loop:

  • Start at Pont-de-Clans on D2205 along Tinée river.

  • Drove west across bridge, parked on pull-out on D26.

  • Climb up D26 thru Massoins (decent-looking hill villages),

  • descend to Villars-sur-Var.

  • N202 West thru Touet-sur-Var.

  • D26 North up thru Gorges du Cians to Beuil. (three segments: white rock, red rock, green grass).

  • D30 West over Col de la Couillole (1678m), then

  • long descent to St.Sauveur-sur-Tinée -- with nice bakery stop.

  • Pleasant down D2205 South back to start.

Road Exploration driving west + south of Grasse

It was so windy that I felt I could not ride, so I explored some roads driving my rental car. I did not find any loops of good riding -- didn't look better than the Hudson valley, and lots of curvy roads that did not make me feel comfortable.

And the "cols" are so low and gentle that it does not have much of the charactor of the "Alps".

So this day made me decide to give up on trying to connect from St-Tropez, or even Mandelieu for my "Route des Grandes Alpes" -- and instead focus on connecting from Menton.

mountain passes of Alps around Briancon

Here's the rides I did in the Alps in September:

More details on each of those . . .

Col d'Izoard / Durance river loop

Overall: great loop with great variety and great views -- if have the legs for all the climbing. Perhaps the sections on West side of Durance River are prettier than much of the Izoard climb above the gorge and below the switchbacks.

I included the famous Col d'Izoard in this counter-clockwise loop: From the city of Briancon I rode south along mostly the west side of the Durance river, with lots of big views east and south across the valley and glimpses west into the snow-capped peaks of the Ecrins National Park (and one climb on the D38 steeper than anything on the famous Col). Then I crossed the river east to Guillestre, and climbed up thru the Queyras mountains, first thru a steep-walled river gorge, then up to the south "high desert" side of the Col d'Izoard. Finished down the north side back down into Briancon.

And I discovered that I could be guided thru most of that loop by yellow arrows painted on the road with label "EM" (? Embrun Man ?)

Details of my riding:

  • start in city of Briancon

  • Getting south out of Briancon: I avoided some of N94 by starting south on Rue Jean Moulin - Rue des Fontainiers

  • cross N94 to St.Blaise, then

  • a ways on N94 South.

  • bear Right on D4 for les Vigneaux or Vallouise where N94 curves left to cross the Durance River - nice views alongside big valley - les Vigneaux - l’Argentiere (but do not cross river) -

  • D38 South - substantial very-steep climb (harder than anything on Col d’Izoard, if in doubt walk up it to save strength for the long long Izoard climb) -

  • Pallon -

  • Champcella - nice views on descent (road surface a bit rough) to airport near St-Crepin -

  • south on D38 -

  • took turnoff for Mont-Dauphin ("EM" marks continued straight south to Reolier) - then

  • bear Right for Gare Mont Dauphin to its end.

  • T-Right on N94 south a short ways - then climb east up to

  • Guillestre (climb to center for nice bakery, but couldn’t find drinks to purchase in center) -

  • back down to main road into Queyras -

  • D902 pretty thru gorge of Combe du Queyras (nice river and big walls, but perhaps goes on for too long) - some tunnels.

  • Left turn toward Arvieux

villages on this climb could be prettier, perhaps a bit over-developed (climb got a bit boring here) - switchbacks for Izoard reasonable, not more than 1.5 km of coarse-stone pavement. Interesting how you first get to the “false summit” of Casse Deserte, in a stark landscape, then a little down, then the final switchbacks to the

  • Col d’Izoard

  • Descent of north side starts with switchbacks, then longer-straighter cruises. I thought it was fun, even the last few curves down into Briancon.

The whole loop (except where I shortcutted thru Mont Dauphin) had road-paint marks and arrows saying “EM” (? perhaps stands for “Embrun Man” ?)

Col du Montgenevre / Col de l'Echelle loop

I included Col du Montgenevre in a loop with the city of Briancon and with Col de l'Echelle.

Overall:  Worthwhile loop I would do again in the same direction. I saw several local riders climbing up the Vallee to Nevache, and several day-trippers going over Montgenevre, one party W-bound, and soloist E-bound.

Starting in Briancon, steep climb getting north out of town (Petsche - Republique - Liberation - Chemin du Barry), up well-designed switchbacks with big views back to the ancient fortress and mountains, over the Col de Montgenevre (? altitude 1854m ?) east-bound into Italy, with an exciting descent mostly on new smooth pavement with big views down to Cesana Torinese.

Then more moderate downhill on new pavement to Oulx. Moderate climb to Bardonecchia, then some steep switchbacks going west back into France and over Col de l'Echelle (? Italian = "Scala" ?) (? altitude 1750m ?), with 2 km thru rocky crags up high before a shorter descent to a gentle section of the Vallee de la Claree, and I enjoyed the low-key village of Nevache, then a long moderate descent south to the main road, and more views down back to Briancon.

Comments:

  • I took steepest way up out of main lower section of city of Briancon - (since I don’t like going up the N94 thru there: too narrow and steep and curvy) -- less steep might be Petsche - Republique and Left onto Lauteret.

  • The road up the West side of Montgenevre was comfortably wide, nice views from switchbacks back to Briancon and Ecrins peaks.

  • Fun descent of East side of Montgenevre to Cesana Torinese (two substantial tunnels, unlit but with side-windows mostly except at bottom of lower tunnel). Even though this is a major road, on a mid-week day in September I was only passed by one car (and one bike) on the whole descent to Cesana.

  • Cesana Torinese: Re-fueled with gelato on SouthEast side of town on East side of river.

  • Pleasant downhill to Oulx.

  • Comfortable low-traffic road from Oulx to Bardonnechia

  • some switchbacks on East side of Echelle were steep -- decent pavement but not great -- pretty 2km gentle around col with interesting cliffs beside -- moderate short descent to Vallee road.

  • Nevache was nice low-key mountain village in a mellow area (looked promising as nordic XC ski center: not just ski "up and down the valley").

  • Descent from Nevache starts fun with moderate curves, later gets straight.

  • Route National (RN road) to Briancon had slight visibility problems (car drivers seeing me around curves).

  • Then a fun descent to the other Route National (RN road) and made the turn off toward the main ski lift, down to bottom of city of Briancon.

Col du Mont Cenis over + back

I started from Susa, Italy and felt real good and strong climbing up this big one (something 1500 meters / 5000 ft), road well designed. Up high it was wonderful to ride along the big beautiful blue Lac du Mont Cenis and look north to snow in the Vanoise.

My intent was to do just the south side as an out-and-back day, but then at the top a French rider caught me -- and talked me into descending the other side into France for a snack with him in Lanslebourg. Then I had to climb up to the Col again and go back over it south-bound. Onerous until I had the joy of big high lake again -- then down thousands of vertical feet of wonderful smooth pavement on the Italian side back to my car parked in Susa.

Col du Mont Cenis loop with bus

I missed this opportunity to do Col du Mont Cenis in a loop route:

Over coffee, I think I understood the rider from St Jean de Maurienne to say (in my limited comprehension of French) that he was doing a loop tour: He had parked his car in Modane (north side in France), and taken his bike on the bus thru the big tunnel to Bardonecchia (south side in Italy), rode to Susa, and then climbed over the Col du Mont Cenis back to France.  Wish I could of thought of that.

Not sure which direction I'd want to ride it:  Although the French rider did it counter-clockwise, I'm leaning toward clockwise, to take the south side going downhill.

Colle della Finestre loop : Cesana Torinese + Sestriere + Susa

I'm not sure whether to call this a horrible road loop or a big "mountain bike" adventure challenge.

I decided to ride from Sestriere to Susa (all in Italy) as a loop, starting from Cesana and returning thru Oulx. Bad idea. 

I started with the climb up to Sestreire from Cesana Torinese. It has a long gentle traverse in its middle with great views -- I'd happily do that again sometime.

Next my map showed a "high route" to Susa across the Testa dell'Assiette and Colle delle Finestre. I figured it would have great views from along the top of the ridge. And it did have big views. But it was all a dirt road. With rocks. With climbs and descents. For a while it was an interesting challenge, trying it on my narrow-tire road bike with no suspension. But there was altogether too much of it -- like around 50 km / 30 miles on dirt. My arms and butt were hammered by the constant bouncing on the rocks. I'm glad I had only to fix one flat tire along the way.

Details on climbing up from Sestiere: dirt road (marked to "Assietta") up to Colle Basset, then and all the way East along the ridge and then below on its South side. Then climb up to Colle della Finestre (last climb not as long as expected).

I encountered a few motorcycles up there, and then to my surprise coming the other way another bicycle with panniers loaded for a multi-day tour. The rider spoke excellent English to me. He had started his randonnee from Geneva, and he thought he'd try this road because it looked more interesting, but it was very hard and he doubted I would make it to Susa that day. I thought I understand him to say that he had left Susa the day before. I did not ask him where or how he had spent the night out.

After I crossed the Colle delle Finestre and started down to Susa and understand how it had taken him more than a day. I could not believe how long I kept going down on dirt with rocks. Finally I reached pavement, but still an amazing number of tight switchbacks to Meana di Susa, and still more down on normal wide road to Susa. I'm very impressed that other rider was able to climb up all that with a loaded touring bike.

Comments: 

Pretty views from the dirt road, but it goes on much too long, and my arms and butt got vibrated too much from all the little rocks. The downhill from Finestre to Susa also goes on much too long.

About 0.5km W from the junction of the E-W ridge road with the road going N over Finestre, I saw a paved road with a sign that said Usseaux. So a possible alternative (which I have not checked) might be to descend the S23 East from Sestriere, then from Usseaux (or Finestrelle?) climb N up to Finestre.

Overall: I'm thinking that better than climbing over Finestre is to just ride the S24 from Cesana to Susa. The S24 was in good condition down to Oulx, and most (though not all) good to Susa -- and generally downhill. Then treat Sestriere as a pretty out-and-back spur side-trip. (Those who must experience the dirt can keep climbing up to Colle Basset, and return down the same way to Sestriere.)

Next time:  I think I would try to follow the idea of that French rider I talked with in Lanslebourg -- of using a bus ride thru Tunnel de Frejus to make a loop between the Lanslebourg and Modane in the Maurienne valley and Oulx and Susa in Italy - (which neatly overlaps with my Briancon - Montgenevre - Bardonecchia - Nevache loop).

Optionally add the beautiful climb from Cesana Torines to Sestriere as an out-and-back side trip.

Paris city ride

places + streets we rode on a Saturday:

  • started riding at Montparnasse station.

  • Eiffel tower

  • Arc de Triomphe (nice view, but riding around the circle was a bad idea)

  • Champs Elysee (rough pavement, traffic, not worth it)

  • Place de la Concorde

  • roads along Seine River

  • Notre Dame Cathedral

  • Place de la Bastille

  • lunch bought from Fauchon take-out.

  • N along Canal St Martin (Blvd Richard Lenoir, then bike path) continue way out NE on Canal de l’Ourco (nice, not always smooth). Turn around and come back.

  • W on Blvd de la Chapelle thru Pigalle / Montmartre (some tricky riding in dense traffic around street market).

  • Turned south: Opera - Jardin des Tuileries (but could not bring bike in) - one interior courtyard of Louvre

  • Notre Dame Cathedral and Ile St Louis again

  • W along Seine

  • S back to Montparnasse

comments:  There was lots of vehicle traffic on Saturday. We didn’t get to see much of the Seine River from the roads along it -- mostly saw the river by crossing it on bridges, or getting off the bike and walking to where we could see.

Places I liked:  Eiffel Tower and Arc de Triomphe photos, Notre Dame Cathedral and Ile St Louis, the canal area, the bridge with golden lions.

Overall, it seemed that the sites of Paris are more designed to be seen walking (or skating), and taking the Metro or taxi between them. Next time I think I might pick a few sites worth riding to, then lock the bike, take the bags+packs off the bike and carry with us, and walk around.

more . . .

see also

 

concept words: roberts Europe European visit trip vacation holiday American visitor report reports

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