"Biker" for me usually means motorbiking, though I also have a Marin mountain-bike...
My current motorbikes are a CBR600RR and a CBR600RW, both from Honda.
Previously I have owned: 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
Last weekend in January and - taking advantage of a lucky break in the winter weather in Provence - an opportunity for a quick spin on my RR of the tour of the Étang de Berre, the lagoon adjoining the oil refineries constructed to process oil bought by France from Iraq.
The area is a geological melting pot with numerous different types of rock; consequently the road is both interesting and challenging to motorbikes, there are sections of autoroute, including the Caronte viaduct over Martigues, ordinary N roads (route Nationale) and a very interesting section of particularly troubled geology between Istres and St Chamas where the road twists on under the shade of low pine trees along the shoreline of a thin isthmus. Both exciting to ride and pleasing to the eyes.
A fiery dawn in Marseille and fresh start for a ride up from Barcelonette to the col de la Bonette, that the French say is the highest road pass in Europe. The route de la Bonette climbs more than 1400m in altitude over about 14km length up from Jausiers. The current route, built 1963-64, passes the barracks at Restfond and some high altitude bunkers built by Maginot in 1931 as part of what became known as the “Maginot Line”. Many inscriptions in the rock and on the buildings and bunkers confirm the area was heavily associated with the Légion Etrangère.
Autumn colours in the trees in the valley of the Durance and onwards past Chorges and the Lac de Serre-Poncon to Barcelonette, Fine, dry and clear roads with just real insects hitting the visor, no police (“flics”) and no cyclists! No snow on the crags and the signs confirmed all the cols open; but time for winter leathers.
Then the magnificent col de la Bonette, practically perfect, lots and lots of corners to get the leg down and use some sidewall rubber. The corners keep on coming and they are all different. Pretty much an empty road: a few cars, a downhill board rider, then just a couple of cyclists and no flocks of sheep sprawled across the road, but there were a few marmot calls. Is this biker paradise, the place to say to the devil that I want to stay for ever? Maybe that's getting a bit fanciful, but having seen Gounod's “Faust” earlier this week at Covent Garden, I was just waiting for Mephistopheles to appear and make life hell. Maybe he didn't appear because I was missing a “Marguerite” on two wheels; I was riding alone, despite asking around both the UK or the French bike clubs of which I am a member. Anyhow, I got back to Marseille under a colourful sunset for a meal with friends at a favourite small restaurant on the Canebière; a social end to a brilliant day.
I was last up there in August 2010: Col de la Bonette, 2802m - August 2010
The col de la Bonette, 2715m, is where the route passes from the valley of the river Ubaye to the valley of the river Tinée
The highest point of the Route de la Bonette is at 2802m.
Leaving the bike and walking up a further 60m altitude (about the same as a Avon Gorge in Clifton, Bristol) one reaches the Cime de la Bonette at 2862m, 9390ft.
Col de l’Iseran, 2770 m
The mythic big one, the highest road pass in Europe between valleys. Place of rocks, strong sunshine and a chilly breeze. It's always an event to come up here, my first ride was on my XJ750 back in 1986. That was an epic camping trip in the days of European biking before mobile phones and internet booking and before the euro made the currencies easy. Before also the almost ubiquitous adventure style motorbikes and GPS navigation....
Col de la Madeleine, 1993 m
The view of Mt Blanc, 4810 m, is spectacular at the col. It's a classic granite Alpine climb from industrial La Lechère through pine forests, road and views widening out through pretty villages towards the summit.
Cormet d’Arêches, 2109 m
The “other cormet”, more for the hikers, mountain push-bikers and trail motorbikes.
Sumptuous views of the high Beaufortain pastures and the rich red Beaufort cows who supply the milk for the Beaufort cheese. Watch out for
“mud” on the road!
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.