Motorcycle Touring In France: Why You Shouldn’t Dismiss It!

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For many years, motorcycle touring in France wasn’t on my radar.

In fact, it merely acted as a stepping stone to get me from the UK to the rest of Europe.

But as time goes on, France becomes ever more important to me whilst the popular mountain ranges around it become less of a priority.

Don’t get me wrong, I love blasting through the Swiss Alps just as much as the next rider.

I enjoy the peace and serenity that comes from the secluded pockets of the Pyrenees.

And the out-of-this-world vistas that greet you in the Dolomites will always have a special place in my heart.

But it’s all too easy to get caught up in the popularity of the mountain ranges.

Over the years, I began to realise that the joy of tarmac-based motorcycle touring is about quality rather than quantity.

motorcycles on col de la croix fry - motorcycle touring in france

Motorcycle Touring In France: Quality vs Quantity

Of course, you can cover 2,500 miles in 10 days whilst you cross 9 countries. And whilst there’s nothing wrong with that, you have to accept that this will be little more than a whistle-stop tour of the best of what Europe has to offer.

So this year, we decided to spend 3 weeks touring France. Our 2,750-mile tour would never once see us stray across the borders into the more popular destinations.

As we travelled southeast, it would have been easy to cross the France-Swiss border and into the Swiss Alps.

Further south, it would have been equally as easy to cross the border into Italy to play in the Dolomites.

But sticking to our original plan, we stayed in France. And our trip was all the better for it!

le grand ballon - drone shot

The Sheer Size Of It!

Many people seem to forget how big France is.

For reference, France is 2.3 times the size of the UK yet has 3 million fewer people.

It’s the same size as Texas and twice the size of New Zealand.

In other words, it’s a mighty big country!

So whatever it is you want from your motorcycle tour, you will be able to find it in France.

And the best bit? It’s easily accessible from most of its European neighbours.

map of france - motorcycle touring in france

Motorcycle Touring In France: The Welcoming Winds Of Calais

For me, any motorcycle tour starts with the wind of Calais and the sightings of way too many tractors and hay bales.

Within a few kilometres of leaving the Eurotunnel, you’re in rural French countryside surrounded by fields that roll on for miles.

And the warm breeze coupled with the reacquaintance of riding on the wrong side of the road reminds you what it’s like to be abroad.

Bliss!

You ride to your first hotel with a smile on your face. You’ve made it – and your tour has just begun.

motorcycles in calais

The People

I have to say, I love the people of France just as much as I love the country itself.

In my experience, most are warm and welcoming. And the gesture of at least trying to communicate with them in French goes a long way.

They love the area in which they live and will go out of their way to provide you with maps and information on local places to visit.

Speak to locals in the best French you can muster. Because the information you will gain from them is sincere. They really do want you to witness the beauty of what France has to offer.

french people in town - motorcycle touring in france
Image via Reuben McFeeters / Unsplash

Roads & Bikers

The road riding in France is incredibly underrated.

Again, people are so focused on getting to the Alps that they forget to enjoy the roads in front of them.

Put a little bit of time and effort into the planning of your routes and you can enjoy fabulous riding roads whilst having them all to yourself.

As you head towards the eastern border with Switzerland, you’ll see the majority of non-French bikers buying Swiss vignettes and preparing to ride the Alps.

But you’ll also see Swiss bikers coming the other way and entering France. And that says a lot.

Swiss bikers are lucky enough to have some of the finest biking roads on their doorstep.

So it says a lot that they are happy to leave them to enjoy the roads of France instead.

Where are they going? Well, let’s have a look at just a few of the places they are heading towards.

swiss bikers on winding road at sunrise
Image via Kevin Oetiker / Unsplash

Motorcycle Touring In France: The Vosges

Heading east, you can enjoy the roads and forests of the Vosges for weeks. In my opinion, even people that do visit the Vosges don’t stay there long enough.

Base yourself somewhere local and central like the lovely town of Gérardmer. From here, you’re never more than 10-minutes away from the start of awesome biking roads.

Of course, the roads in and out of the towns are more populous. But once you turn onto the twisties, the traffic dwindles dramatically.

Yes, you will come across other bikers. But you won’t be swarmed by them like on the passes of the Swiss Alps.

In fact, you’re more likely to come across cyclists than motorists.

The roads leading to the summit of Le Hohneck are incredible – as are the views. And there are many routes you can take to enjoy the awesome riding experience that is Le Grand Ballon.

If views are your thing, head over to Alsace where you’ll be rewarded with breath-taking views of emerald green waters and perfect switchback roads.

And if you’re into photography or hiking, you could spend weeks exploring the forests – literally weeks.

near grand ballon - motorcycles on winding road

Jura Mountains

Head a little further south and you’ll enter than the eerily quiet Jura mountains. Reminiscent of Luxembourg, you can pretty much see across the border to Switzerland.

The roads are small and narrow. But at the same time, they are quiet and the views are open.

You won’t see a car for hours as you pass through tiny deserted rural towns. Stopping off for lunch is more difficult than in the Vosges, but if you want some peace and quiet, the Jura is the place to go.

And the roads are just so easy!

Yes, they’re twisty. But keep the speed steady and you’ll wind your way through them all day long with very little effort.

It’s a relaxing place to be.

motorcycles in jura - motorcycle touring in france

French Alps

Head even further south and you’ll come to the majestic French Alps. Here you’ll feel like you’re in the Alps proper – with roads and scenery to match.

With big mountain passes such as the Col d’Iseran, the Col de la Bonette and the Col de la Croix Fry, you’d be forgiven for thinking you were in Switzerland.

Whilst a little more touristy than the Vosges or the Jura, the French Alps are so unbelievably underrated!

And if off-roading is your preference, the trails of the French Alps will provide you with scenery that will easily rival those of their Swiss counterparts.

As you head further south, you’ll notice the people and culture change along with the climate.

Of course, it gets warmer. But it also gets busier and more touristy. But that’s not to say that you should avoid it.

The riding is exceptional in this part of the world. As are the views.

And because of that, the number of people who want to visit increases.

summit of col d'iseran

Motorcycle Touring In France: Conclusion

Hopefully, this post will go some way to convincing you that you don’t need to visit the honey-pot locations of the Swiss Alps, the Pyrenees or the Dolomites to experience great riding roads.

For most European countries, the journey to France is a short one. It’s quick, easy, and generally affordable to get there.

Once there, you can base yourself in an area that suits you and enjoy what France has to offer for weeks on end.

There is an abundance of towns and cities – each with its own customs, foods, and culture.

There are mountains galore in the French Alps, and you can get lost in the mystical forests of the Vosges.

Whatever you want, you can enjoy it in France – so don’t dismiss it too quickly!


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