8 Motorcycle Routes In France That Take Less Than A Week

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In biker circles, I’m known for two things. The first is that I’m decent in the twisties. And the second is that I have a fair bit of touring knowledge.

So if people want to get better at riding in the twisties, they come to me. And if they want advice on their first touring experience, they seek my suggestions.

But they always look at me like I’m stupid when I tell them to avoid places like the Alps, the Pyrenees, or the Dolomites.

See, that’s what did the first time I headed for European shores all those years ago. I made a beeline for the big Alpine passes.

And whilst I don’t regret it, it was a long, hard slog – a long, hard slog that new tourers can’t comprehend until they’re actually doing it!

“I want to go to Grimsel, Susten, and Furka on the way to Stelvio” they excitedly tell me. And it’s usually followed by “I don’t want to go on motorways or toll roads, either.”

“Ah, nice! How long have you got off work?” I ask.

“A week.”

motorcycle routes france - winding road through mountains

Understand It’s Too Far!

Trying to ride the Alps, the Pyrenees, or the Dolomites in a week isn’t happening. And if you want to do it whilst avoiding motorways and tolls, that definitely isn’t happening.

Dream a little smaller. Plan motorcycle routes in France with fewer miles. And plan to actually enjoy it rather than munch through 400 miles each day.

The thing is, I (like so many others) spent a good few years blasting through France to get to Switzerland. But it was only when I started to slow down and explore France properly that I realised I probably preferred it to the bucket list passes in the big mountain ranges.

Of course, the mountains you see will be nowhere near as big as the ones in the Alps. But when you take everything together as a package, France can be a stunning place to spend a week on your bike.

bmw side of road by mountains

Motorcycle Routes In France That Take Less Than A Week

You can’t ride all of France in a week. The secret to enjoying this wonderful country is to pick a region – and then stay in it.

Don’t be tempted to cross the border into Switzerland, Italy, or Spain. Just stick to your chosen region and commit to slowing down, exploring it, and, most importantly, enjoying it.

To help you choose, we’ve come up with eight motorcycle routes in France – all of which you can enjoy in a week if travelling from the UK.

With a little time spent looking at ferries, you can choose where to dock in France and instantly get on with riding away from the troubles at home!

motorcycle routes france - two bikers

Look Beyond The Eurotunnel

I like the Eurotunnel. And if I’m heading south-east, it will always be my transportation of choice because it’s quicker, cheaper, and (generally) less faff than the ferry.

But Folkestone and Dover aren’t the only gateways into France. And once you realise where other ferry ports are located in the UK and France, you can start to mix and match your crossings.

Don’t forget, you don’t need to buy a return ticket. You can buy a single to one port in France and then travel back to the UK via another.

Strategically planning where you’re sailing to (and from) can save you days – days that you can now spend enjoying motorcycle routes in France.

map of ferry ports in france and uk
UK (left to right) – Plymouth, Poole, Portsmouth, Newhaven, Eurotunnel, Dover. France (left to right) – Roscoff, St Malo, Cherbourg, Caen, Le Havre, Dieppe, Eurotunnel, Calais, Dunkirk

Motorcycle Routes In France: Picardie And Champagne (Ardenne)

If you fancy the idea of visiting regions historical in two world wars, Picardie and Champagne are fabulous areas to visit.

With memories of sad days past, you’ll see rocket bunkers, armament emplacements, and the sombre sights of graveyards and memorials. You’ll also see the spine-tingling Thiepval monument – the monument for the Missing of the Somme.

As you head further into the region, the mood lightens a touch as you reach the home of Champagne. And with roads gently winding their way over undulating hills, you’ll meander through quiet villages and communes whilst feeling the ambient sun on your back.

Another nice thing about the Champagne region is the “Accueil Motards” signs you’ll on properties – “Bikers Welcome.”

The biker friendly hotels offer parking (usually off-street), areas to dry off kit (and sometimes wash it), and tools and equipment to make any repairs.

motorcycle routes france - map of picardie and champagne

Where To Base Yourself

To get the most out of the region, aim to base yourself in the following:

  • Amiens
  • Moussy
  • Monthermé
  • Verdun
  • Troyes

How To Get There

If you plan to stay more in the north of the region, you have various options! The obvious choice is to jump on the Eurotunnel and ride into the region from Calais.

You could also catch a ferry into Dunkirk or even Dieppe depending on where you want to visit.

Here are some other options if you wanted to base yourself further south:

  • Dieppe to Amiens – 71 miles (1 hour 30 mins)
  • Dieppe to Moussy – 76 miles (2 hours)
  • Dunkirk to Monthermé – 173 miles (3 hours 15 mins)
  • Calais or Dunkirk to Verdun – both around 250 miles (4 hours)
  • Dieppe to Troyes – 228 miles (4 hours)

Route Suggestion:

  • Day 1 – Make your way to Amiens via Dunkirk or Calais
  • Day 2 – Loop northeast to visit the war monuments and sites (back to the hotel in Amiens)
  • Day 3 – Head south-east from Amiens to Compiégne and Chantilly for some excellent riding
  • Day 4 – Continuing south, ride through the vineyards of Montagne de Reims towards Troyes
  • Day 5 – After a night in the ancient city of Troyes, head northeast towards Monthermé and the Ardenne
  • Day 6 – Head north towards Dunkirk or Calais from Monthermé for your crossing back into the UK.
french town and canal
Image: Gintarė Kairaitytė

Motorcycle Routes In France: Brittany

The good thing about Brittany is that it’s so easy to get to from the UK. So it’s perfect for everything from a long weekend away to an entire week.

And if it’s your first time touring, it’s also a great way to dip your feet in. It isn’t too far, you can choose to make it short, the roads are enjoyable but not challenging, and there are plenty of towns and cities so you’ll have everything you need.

One thing to remember about Brittany is that it can get busy. Because if it’s easy for you to get to, it’s also easy for everybody else to get to!

But if you can make it there out of season (around May, June, or September), Brittany is a fantastic yet relaxing way to get some ‘you’ time.

Finally, you don’t really have to double down on route planning, either. With beaches, coastlines, and awesome riding roads in every direction, you can’t really go wrong!

motorcycle routes france - brittany map

Where To Base Yourself

For good access to roads and amenities, consider the following locations to base yourself:

  • Ploumanac’h
  • Quimper
  • Fougères
  • Plougonvelin
  • Carnac

How To Get There

Getting to Brittany is easy, so it depends on the most suitable location for you or how long you want the ride to be once you get into France.

The easiest ports are Roscoff or St Malo. But if you fancy a nice ride in once you get off the ferry, go for Caen.

Here are a few options:

  • Caen to Fougères – 93 miles (1 hour 40 mins)
  • St Malo to Fougères – 55 miles (1 hour 10 mins)
  • Roscof to Ploumanac’h – 48 miles (1 hour 15 mins)
  • Roscof to Quimper – 63 miles (1 hour 20 minutes)
  • Roscof to Plougonvelin – 52 miles (1 hour 10 mins)
  • Roscoff or St Malo to Carnac – both around 130 miles (2 hours 15 mins)

Route Suggestion

  • Day 1 – Make your way to Fougères via the ferry to St Malo or Caen.
  • Day 2 – Explore the châteaus of St Michel, Fougères, Châteaugiron, and Château Gontier.
  • Day 3 – Head west to your base around Morlaix, visiting the seaside village of Ploumanac’h.
  • Day 4 – Enjoy a loop of Amorique national park and the historic town of Guingamp.
  • Day 5 – Head towards your next base in Quimper, stopping off at the coastal Pointe du Raz, the Crozon peninsula, and the stunning Arree Hills.
  • Day 6 – Head south-east for your last night in Carnac, enjoying Quiberon, Rocheforten-Terre, and the Carnac megaliths.
  • Day 7 – Riding back north to Roscoff or St Malo for the ferry back to the UK.
coastal view from brittany
Image: J Ahrndt

Motorcycle Routes In France: Normandy

As with Picardie and Champagne, Normandy is a great route to enjoy if you’re into history. But it’s not all about D-Day landings, William the Conquerer, and the Bayeux tapestry.

Normandy is rich with luscious greenery, relaxing coastal roads, and picturesque harbours. There’s a reason why Monet made this one of his regular places to visit.

As with Brittany, Normandy is an excellent option if you’re new to riding, new to touring, or want to see if you enjoy riding with a pillion.

Sights you can enjoy along the way include Le Mans, the Gatteville lighthouse at Barfleur, and the hidden coastal area of Cap de La Hague.

motorcycle routes france - normandy map

Where To Base Yourself

  • Bayeux
  • Fécamp
  • Barneville-Carteret
  • Alençon
  • Caen

How To Get There

As with the other routes in this post, Normandy is an easy place to get to, thanks to the plethora of options you have available.

To get to Normandy from the UK, you can sail into Cherbourg, Caen, Le Havre, or St Malo – depending on where you’re basing yourself, or how long you wish to ride for when leaving the ferry.

Your Options Include:

  • Le Havre to Fécamp – 27 miles (45 mins)
  • Cherbourg to Barneville-Carteret – 22 miles (35 mins)
  • Caen to Alençon – 67 miles (1 hour 15 mins)
  • St Malo to Barneville-Carteret – 120 miles (2 hours 20 mins)

Route Suggestion

  • Day 1 – Make your way to your accommodation in Bayeux via any of the ports above.
  • Day 2 – Spend the day visiting the sights of the D-Day landings, Pegasus Bridge, and the Airbourne museum.
  • Day 3 – Take the coastal route northwest to see the Cherbourg peninsula, the Gateville lighthouse, and some of the stunning Normandy countryside.
  • Day 4 – Enjoy more of the countryside as you head south-east towards your base in Alençon.
  • Day 5 – Head north-east towards your base in Fécamp, enjoying the coastal roads and crossing the river Seine.
  • Day 6 – Ride the few miles to Le Havre, Caen, or Dieppe to your crossing back to the UK.
coastal view normandy
Image: Alexey Komissarov

Motorcycle Routes In France: The Auvergne

If you want excellent riding, the Auvergne is a fantastic choice. Situated in the Massif Central, this historical region is surrounded by imposing mountains, green forests, and dormant volcanoes.

Shall I tell you another reason why it’s so good? It’s quiet! And this is because everyone has headed for the Alps!

The regional capital, Clermont-Ferrand, is the busiest you’ll see. But even that is pretty quiet. As you would expect, the areas outside the capital are even quieter and are sparsely populated.

The Chaîne des Puys runs through the regional centre and features a chain of extinct volcanoes. And with cable cars running throughout the area, it makes for fabulous riding and fabulous views.

Other sights include Le Puy-en-Velay, Chapel Saint Michel d’Aiguilhe, the fortified village of Montpeyroux, and the Cascade du Queureuilh.

motorcycle routes france - the auvergne map

Where To Base Yourself

You’ll have a way to travel when you depart from the ferry. So if you plan to visit the Auvergne, we recommend basing yourself in Issoire – south of Clermont-Ferrand.

How To Get There

Due to the central location of Issoire, getting to it from the north is quite a trek. And it’s made worse by the fact it’s surrounded by mountains and volcanoes that you need to circumnavigate.

Options To Get There (split over 2 days):

  • Caen – 387 miles (6 hours)
  • Le Havre – 386 miles (6 hours 15 mins)
  • Eurotunnel – 464 miles (7 hours 30 mins)

Route Suggestion (all to and from the same hotel):

  • Days 1 & 2 – Ride from Caen to Issoire with a stop somewhere in the middle.
  • Day 3 – Enjoy a loop of the glorious riding roads of the Livradois hills, separating Issoire and St Étienne.
  • Day 4 – Another loop, this time heading south. Head down to St Fleur and enjoy the ranges and the Benedictine abbey at La Chaise-Dieu.
  • Day 5 – Your final loop through from Le Mont-Dore to Puy Mary, taking you on a trail of the historic volcanoes via some of the finest roads the Auvergne has to offer.
  • Days 6 & 7 – Make your way back north to catch the ferry (split over 2 days).
drone shot mountains auvergne
Image: Louis Endelicher

Motorcycle Routes In France: Limousin

So far, we’ve had history and culture, old towns and cities, and the riding brilliance of the Auvergne. But if you fancy combining them all, Limousin might just be your ticket.

Next door to the Auvergne (to the east), we have Limousin – the quietest and least populated area of mainland France. 

Similar to the Auvergne, the volume dial is turned down a tad. The hills are lower. The forests are rich and dense, and the roads are emptier than those in the Auvergne.

With ancient architecture to admire, hidden châteaus to explore, and wonderful cuisine to sample, Limousin is a great shout for lovers of riding, food, and semi-timbered historic towns.

motorcycle routes france - limousin map

Where To Base Yourself

You can stop in a few places here, depending on what you want to do. For Limousin, St Étienne-de-Fursac is good place to stop.

Brantôme would work well if you fancy exploring further south towards Bordeaux, or Treignac if wanted to combine this trip with the Auvergne.

How To Get There

As with the Auvergne, getting to Limousin is a bit of a mooch as it’s in the centre of France. You can get there via a range of ferry options, however.

  • St Malo to St Étienne-de-Fursac – 324 miles (5 hours 40 mins)
  • Caen to St Étienne-de-Fursac – 284 miles (5 hours)
  • Le Havre to St Étienne-de-Fursac – 327 miles (5 hours 40 mins)

Route Suggestions (all to and from the same hotel):

If you were short on time, the ride from Caen to St Étienne-de-Fursac is certainly manageable in one day – if not ideal.

For those who have a few extra days, I would split the ride from Caen to St Étienne-de-Fursac (and back again) into two days.

Suggested Route 1:

  • Day 1 – Make your way from Caen to St Étienne-de-Fursac after getting off the ferry.
  • Day 2 – Enjoy a mouth-wateringly twisty ride taking in the castles of Richard the Lionheart, and the awe-inspiring château at Arnac-Pompadour.
  • Day 3 – Pick a direction, and loop out to enjoy some wonderfully relaxed twisty roads. Visit the historic town of Brantôme, and stop off to see the château at Rochechouart on your way back.
  • Day 4 – Another long slog back north to your ferry port.

Suggested Route 2:

  • Days 1 & 2 – Make your way from Caen to St Étienne-de-Fursac, stopping off halfway.
  • Day 3 – As day 2 in route 1.
  • Day 4 – As day 3 in route 1.
  • Days 5 & 6 – Split the long slog back north into two days and enjoy the quiet roads.
scenic view in limousin
Image: Igor Ferreira

Motorcycle Routes In France: Dordogne

For the third trip to Central France, we bring you the Dordogne – a region synonymous with (arguably) the most popular wines in the world, fantastic food, tonnes of historical charm, and quintessential French culture.

The Dordogne is perfect for a relaxed tour. The roads are quiet, twisty, and easy. And with the Loire Valley to the north and the Pyrenees to the south, it’s a wonderful mix of vineyards, culturally rich towns, and jaw-dropping scenery.

If you like history and architecture, head towards the Dordogne Valley, where you’ll see mightly châteaus standing guard over the river.

And if you get time, head into the caves and gorges on foot to catch a glimpse of pre-historic art.

motorcycle routes france - dordogne map

Where To Base Yourself

If you want to stay in one place, Périgueux offers a central location. And as the capital city of Périgord, it has all the amenities you could need.

If you want to travel around, Le Roque Gageac is a lovely place to stay, as is Bergerac.

How To Get There

As we’re still close to Limousin and Auvergne, the problem of getting there still stands. These are your best options, depending on your schedule.

  • St Malo to Périgueux – 346 miles (6 hours 30 mins)
  • Caen to Périgueux – 343 miles (6 hours)
  • Le Havre Périgueux – 375 miles (6 hours 50 mins)

Route Suggestion

Technically, you could ride from Caen to Périgueux in one day. And then ride back again after a few days in the Dordogne.

That said, I’d split the trip into two days to fully enjoy it and immerse myself in the wonderful French culture.

  • Days 1 & 2 – Split the ride from Caen to Périgueux into two days.
  • Day 3 – Head south to the chocolate-box village of Le Roque Gageac, and then follow the Dordyne river to your stop off in Bergerac.
  • Day 4 – Either enjoy a day off the bike exploring the old-world charm of Bergerac, or head west and take a ride through the vineyards of Bordeaux.
  • Days 5 & 6 – Head back north for your crossing to the UK.
french castle
Image: Simon Hermans

Motorcycle Routes In France: Loire

If castles are your bag, you’ll love Loire and its impressive array of châteaus. Take a stroll toward the river, and soak in the sights of the architecture crammed with castles, churches, and Basilicas.

Don’t be afraid to take a day off the bike to explore the landscape and castles. After a long ride there, it might be just what you need!

Chenonceau and Chambord are both worthy mentions. For churches, try the Basilica of St Martin in Tours and the cathedral of Orléans.

For some artistic homage, the smallest castle in Amboise (Clos Lucé) was home to Leonardi Di Vinci – it also houses replicas of some of his machines.

motorcycle routes france - loire map

Where To Base Yourself

For somewhere central, with riding options in all directions, and a host of amenities, Amboise is a good choice.

If you want somewhere near all the attractions without being in the middle of them, Bléré is quieter and sits a few miles south of Amboise.

How To Get There

As the Loire sits on the northern side of central France, it’s a bit easier to get to than Limousin or Auvergne.

It’s a little bit far to reach from the Eurotunnel in a single day, but these options are available.

  • Caen to Amboise – 176 miles (3 hours)
  • Le Havre to Amboise – 208 miles (3 hours 45 mins)
  • Eurotunnel to Amboise – 322 miles (5 hours 45 mins)

Route Suggestion

  • Day 1 – Make your way from Caen to Amboise.
  • Day 2 – A shorter route east will allow you to mix riding with seeing the castles on foot. Try Chaumontsur-Loire, Chenonceau, Chambord, Bloise, Amboise or Montrichard.
  • Day 3 – Loop yourself west towards Tours, where you’ll find the châteaus of Usse, Loches and Château de Chinon.
  • Day 4 – Head back north to Caen for your ferry to the UK.
castle in loire valley
Image: Dorian Mongel

Motorcycle Routes In France: The Vosges Mountains

If you’ve been around Motorcycle Tourer for a while, you would’ve heard me bang on about the Vosges a few times! But the reason for that is simple – it’s awesome.

With more twisting roads that you can shake a stick at, you don’t need the Alps. It’s quieter, cheaper, and more authentic.

In terms of scenery, the Vosges is a unique mix of wide-open panoramas and dense woodland – both of which can form tours of their own. And if you wanted to stretch this tour out even further, you’re only a few hours away from the Jura mountains – another adventure in itself.

The people are lovely and incredibly hospitable. Much of the food is foraged from the woodlands, so the cuisine is delightfully fresh and tasty.

Be prepared for cyclists around every corner. But if you choose the right time to go, the roads are devoid of traffic and can be as testing (or as relaxing) as you make them!

motorcycle routes france - vosges map

Where To Base Yourself

For me, the only place to base yourself in the Vosges is Gérardmer – a lovely little town that has everything you need without the hustle and bustle of a city.

Other options could include La Bresse, Belfort, Mulhouse, or even Besançon if you want something further out.

You could ride from the Eurotunnel to Gérardmer in one day if you wanted to. However, I would recommend stopping in Arras or Reim.

  • Eurotunnel to Gérardmer – 363 miles (6 hours 40 minutes)

Route Suggestion

  • Days 1 & 2 – Ride from the Eurotunnel to Gérardmer.
  • Day 3 – Head in a loop northeast to ride the Route des Crêtes and witness the summit of Le Hohneck.
  • Day 4 – Loop south-east to the quiet town of Cernay and enjoy switchbacks all the way.
  • Day 5 – Head southwest for a day that takes you away from the mountains and into the deep woodlands for a different experience.
  • Days 6 & 7 – Head back north to the Eurotunnel.

For a precise route map, see our dedicated post on the Vosges here.

view from vosges
Image: Matthias Mullie

Motorcycle Routes In France: You Missed Out The Pyrenees!

Well, yes and no. I did miss out the Pyrenees – but I did that on purpose.

The fact is, you could ride from any of the ferry ports in the north and ride through France to get to the Pyrenees. But when you got there, you’d only be able to sample the outskirts before immediately heading home.

You could choose to take the ferry from Portsmouth to Santander (or Bilbao) – but it would eat into your riding days.

If you want to visit the Pyrenees, you need to dedicate time to it to fully experience the delights it has to offer.

You can always go there next year!


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7 thoughts on “8 Motorcycle Routes In France That Take Less Than A Week”

  1. Do you have any recommendations in and around Valence (for 1 week)? We’d fly into Lyon from the US and rent the motorcyles in Lyon. We need to be in Valence for two days, but other than that we are free to ride.

    • Hi Janine, depending on how long you like your days, you could head south towards Montelimar for that South of France vibe, or even further towards Avignon if you enjoy the city and culture. Riding southeast will take you through the lovely town of Bedoin and onto epic rides such as Mt Ventoux. If you head northeast, you’ll reach the peaks surrounding Grenoble (or even Chambery if you have the time.) Failing that, heading northwest towards the Auvergne will give you a nice mix of riding and culture while riding west will take you towards the Massif Central with its imposing mountains and dormant volcanoes. They’re all quite far from Valence, but I’m sure you’ll have a great time whichever direction you choose!

  2. Hi, just a quick line to say a big thanks for putting this together , my wife and I are reasonably experienced tourers and we are heading to France in May /June this year , via Belgium and Germany. I have read the full article and I’m sure that I can gleen something from it .
    Stay safe , Shiney side up !!

  3. Hi from Canada!
    Thank you for so many amazing ideas. I wondered if you had a suggestion on a bike tour company that I may join for a week of riding. I would be solo. I would be based out of Paris at the start and end of my holiday. Thanks so much and take good care. Ride safe.


  4. Hi David,
    These all look amazing. I’ll be solo in Paris in mid-April (first trip to France) and my idea was to rent a bike in Paris, make my way to Provence, then to Barcelona for a couple days, up to San Sebastián, (perhaps via Andorra), and then up through Bordeaux and back to Paris, taking two-to-three weeks on the road. Reading your guide, it seems you’d advise against biting off that much territory in one trip alone, but I’d love to get your suggestions. Seems like I could take two weeks just in the Southeast of France.


    • Hi Mike, you absolutely COULD do that trip in 2 weeks – especially if you’re starting and ending your trip in Paris. My only concern would be when you got to the south of France/Spain where you would be skirting the Pyrenees. If you’re planning on going through the range, snow might still be around in April – so some of the Cols could be closed.

      As well as the Pyrenees, you’d also likely be skirting the Vosges and the French Alps. I’ve spent two weeks in each of these three locations alone!

      But given the time of year, you probably won’t be spending much time in the mountains – so your trip would definitely be possible. Just plan for it being on the colder side! Let us know how you get on 🙂

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