"Biker" for me usually means motorbiking, though I also have a Marin mountain-bike...
My current motorbikes are a Honda CBR600RR ABS 2017 and a Kawasaki Ninja Z250.
Previously I have owned: Honda CBR600RR 2005, Honda CBR600RW, Honda VF750F, Yamaha FJ600, Suzuki GSX750EX, Yamaha FJ750, Yamaha XJ900, Kawasaki Z750 and I passed my riding test on my Kawasaki KH250.
See also my Motorbiking web links
A day at the races at the Circuit Paul Richard at Le Castellet, between Marseille and Toulon. Pascal and I went for the final hours of the 2021 Bol d’Or, the 24-hour endurance motorcycle race.
The sound of screaming engines first hits you in the checks at the gates - passe sanitaire required as well as ticket - and then becomes the soundtrack to the day, with the sunshine and the breeze of the Mistral.
The bike of each team rides the whole race, it’s the riders who switch, mostly they are teams of four riders. The racing continues through the night so the bikes have headlights although this was also a nearly full moon.
This year there were two bands of rain or showers overnight, uncomfortable for fans camping in the surrounding of pine forest but imagine the additional challenge for the riders and mechanics, as well as the changing track temperature as the sun goes down and then rises after dawn.
Circuit Paul Ricard have improved many facilities and track safety features since I went there in 2015 but it’s still all but impossible to follow the races in detail. At least now the mobile phone network doesn’t saturate so you can follow on the web but there’s only one tower showing the leaderboard and only one big screen, which isn’t big enough and is in the wrong place for the fans.
But great to see and hear bikes going really fast, to eavesdrop on the moments between the rider and the team that don't get shown on television and also, a day out in the sunshine in the clear air up on the forested flanks of Mont Sainte Victoire.
Earlyish start from Marseille to ride through vineyards of the Coteaux Varois-en-Provence, through to Aups, then high above the Lac de Sainte Croix and on to the South Rim Road of the Grand Canyon of the Verdon.
The South Rim Road is the more sportsbiker of the rim roads and it’s possible to get past the traffic reasonably. As well as the Red Mist opportunities on the access roads, there are the tunnels, the classic views down to the rivers far below, the bridge that sometimes gets used for bungee jumping. And plenty of hard straight runs down towards a rock face and a hairpin turn or a catastrophic overshoot into oblivion. Maybe it would be good to still fear those. I’m reminded this instinct is also triggered by the famous Aragón Wall at the Ciudad del Motor de Aragón, visited by MotoGP last weekend.
Riding around the Alpilles, the little limestone ridge hills that border the Camargue, the delta of the River Rhône. Pines, olives and the midday heat of Provence. Landscapes here have inspired Vincent van Gogh, Paul Cézanne and others.
Just as you have to get your eye in to ride a sportsbike to its potential, you have to get your eye in to see the all the colours in the rocks and vegetations here, as those artists did. My photos are usually intended to be clean and sharp but that style underplays these particular landscapes so I have used some distortions and filters to highlight how I see and feel about these scenes I’ve seen today; these are my views, I’m not intending to mimic anyone else’s style
And great to be riding somewhere that Barcelona is signposted! Why not ride on?
First ride on my RR for more than a year. It had to be the Col de l’Espigoulier (723 m.), my favourite ride local to Marseille with quite enough challenges over its 14 km ascent of over 600 metres of altitude from the Provençal village of Gémenos. All the gear of course - AGATT safety principles - even for a short session to practise skills.
Riding my CBR600RR after so long wasn’t quite like riding a new bike, but after a few rides on my Ninja Z250 in Keswick that’s great for little Lakeland lanes, my RR just rides fantastic. So tight on the curves, stable on the braking and very much point and shoot in terms of forward power; the red line on the RR is up at an almost unimaginable 15000 revs. And it’s easy to adore the physicality of Honda’s engineering on the RR, it is so elegant and efficient and sounds so sweet.
My RR being “in jail” in my garage here and not running for over a year did cost a new battery, the rejuvenation programme on my charger couldn’t bring the old battery back. The new battery charged up slowly overnight and was ready with another colourful Marseille dawn - crimson before the sunrise then blinding orange.
Noticeable also that, despite plenty of mildly obsessive time in the gym in the meantime, actually riding a sportsbike on challenging roads is still a noticeable physical effort.
Not an artisan boulangerie in Provence - just a supermarket in Workington, Cumbria - but it’s been too long since I enjoyed a fresh pain au chocolat on my bike on a ride out from Marseille.
Photo made with the assistance of a chatty local R1 rider.
I'm riding light for a week on the mountain roads of the Alps. No laptop, although I do have my SLR camera but photos will have to wait till I'm back in Marseille..
I left Marseille for a long ride north via the Col de la Croix Haute (1179 m.) to Saint-Gervais under Mont Blanc. A bit of rain towards the end of the day which cleaned the Provence dust off my white leathers and boots but didn't soak me through.