Motorcycling In The Vosges Mountains: Make It A Priority!

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Motorcycling in the Vosges is epic!

If you only take one thing away from this post, take that.

Unduly dismissed, people enthusiastically plan tours to more popular riding destinations like Switzerland or Spain over the Vosges.

Why?

Because we live in a world that rewards bigger, faster, and better. So why go to the Vosges when you can have the Alps?

Well, here’s a secret.

Motorcycling in the Vosges is quieter, more diverse, and will leave you with a grin on your face as wide as your visor.

Of course, it can’t rival the views from the summit of Stelvio. But what it lacks in heroic vistas, it more than makes up for in sheer riding pleasure.

Neverending sweeping bends, magical Walt-Disney forests, and some of the best riding roads await you in eastern France.

All-in-all, the Vosges is a region of contrasts that provides boundless variety both on the bike and off it!

switchbacks - motorcycling in the vosges

Motorcycling In The Vosges Mountains: Where Are They?

The Vosges mountains are found in the east of France, close to its border with Germany. Whilst the same geological features extend into Germany, the Vosges are considered to be solely in France.

The extension into Germany conveniently leads to the famous Black Forest and its B500 road synonymous with biking.

The Black Forest Highroad can be reached from the southern Vosges in around 90 minutes whilst Switzerland is a stone’s throw away and can be reached within an hour (depending on where you are.)

Due to the proximity of the Vosges with Germany and Switzerland, the ‘feel’ of the Vosges sweeps between French in the north with German and Swiss influences present in the south.

france map

The Vosges: An Overview

The Vosges is split into two distinct regions. In the north, there is the Parc Naturel Régional Vosges du Nord. In the south, there is the Parc Naturel Régional des Ballons des Vosges.

The southern area is the sexy part of the Vosges and is referred to as the Haute-Vosges (the High Vosges).

Many of the mountains here are well over 1,200m including the Grand Ballon – the jewel in the crown – which summits at 1,424m.

In contrast, the northern region of the Vosges is more rural and rustic.

For the purposes of riding, I wouldn’t say one region is better than the other. Many routes lead up and down most of the peaks. And all of them are a glorious combination of mountain twists and lush forests.

motorcycling in the vosges - roads and forest
Image via Fabien Twb / Unsplash

Why I Love Motorcycling In The Vosges

For me, there are two main reasons why I love the Vosges. The first is the sheer variety of roads. The second is the undeniable beauty.

Diverse Roads

The large sweeping roads leading to summits like the Grand Ballon are Alp-like in their size and twistiness. You can really make progress as you enjoy the many exhilarating switchbacks.

In contrast, the tiny roads leading through the forests are complex, dark, and mystical, with shards of sunlight breaking through the dense trees. They remind me a lot of the technical roads deep in the Pyrenees.

If you’re feeling adventurous, the unpaved, unnamed roads provide an off-road opportunity that will have you twisting and turning through woodland unseen by humanity for decades.

And you can experience all of these during a single day!

If you’re not confident in your bike (or your ability) on dodgy surfaces, I’d recommend sticking to the named roads. You can quickly find yourself stuck on unpaved trails with no way to turn back if you’re not careful.

grand ballon

Diverse Scenery

The scenery in the Vosges is just as diverse as the roads. Ride the Route des Crêtes up to le Hohneck and you’ll have sweeping views all the way to the top.

Head further south and you’ll witness single-track roads tightly enclosed by bottle-green trees and wildflowers.

A few minutes later, a gap in the trees will open up and you’ll be looking over a mountain vista that stretches as far as the eye can see.

Drop into Alsace and the scenery changes again. As you wind your way through miniature communes, the traffic disappears and sweeping plains of greenery greet you before you start the ascent back into the mountains.

The Vosges is one of those places where you want to stop every two minutes to take a picture! You have to really prioritise where you stop or you won’t actually get anywhere.

motorcycling in the vosges - diverse roads and scenery

What Are The Road Surfaces Like?

In general, the road surfaces in the Vosges are impeccable. But you can also find yourself in some pretty dubious circumstances if you follow the trails and unpaved roads.

The other thing to watch out for is resurfacing. You will no doubt come across the sign that every biker hates to see – Gravilons! (Gravel.)

You’ll regularly see this sign in places where there is no alternative route. So you have to choose between going back the way you came (and ruining your day) or risking the gravel.

But be warned. The gravel can (and frequently does) go on for tens of kilometres. And this makes for an exhausting experience on these small and winding roads.

Through the forests, the road surfaces are surprisingly good. But you can expect random patches of gravel that have a nasty habit of catching you out.

There are also breaks in the tarmac, awkward cambers, and slippery moss in parts of the forest where the sun struggles to break through.

indian motorcycle grand ballon

Take Waterproofs

The Vosges is a mountainous region. And that means the weather will do what it wants – despite what the weather forecast says!

I was last there in June, and it rained in biblical proportions on a few of our ride outs.

Thick fog can make riding difficult. And it will definitely obscure any scenic stop off’s you have planned!

The secret is to cover all eventualities as you are likely to see both hot and dry weather and cold and wet weather.

My Furygan summer jacket combined with a lightweight waterproof was my preferred set-up this year. This meant I could slip the waterproof on and off as the weather changed.

motorcycling in the vosges - grand ballon

Motorcycling In The Vosges: Conclusion

The Vosges isn’t about Instagramming or uploading pictures to Facebook. Why? Because the roads are so damn good that you won’t want to stop to take pictures! You just want to ride. Hard.

And whilst the scenery is amazing, the Vosges is all about the roads. Sheer unadulterated riding bliss.

From the big sweeping roads of the mountain summits to the pocket-sized trails of the forests, the Vosges is made for bikers who want to ride spectacular roads, hour after hour.

Next time you’re thinking of passing through the Vosges to get to the Alps, take a minute to explore it properly. You might just find you don’t need the Alps anymore!


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Top image via Alexis Antoine / Unsplash

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