Motorbiking

"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

Col d'Allos & Col de Vars - July 2011

Sunday's motorbiking ride from Castellane, up the upper valley of the river Verdon to the Col d'Allos (2250m). Then down to Barcelonnette and on up the Col de Vars (2108m), which is a section of the classic route des Grands Alps.

The southern approach to the Col d'Allos runs long and relatively straight up the higher valley of the Verdon. We paused in Colmars-les-Alps and looked around the fortified town and one of Vauban's forts. The road for final 5km up from the ski report is pretty and rural but not much fun for motorists on two or four wheels, nor for cyclists. The view from actual the Col d'Allos is mainly of the ski resort: the spectacular view north comes from the refuge Napoléon which is a few metres further than the col. The descent to the valley d'Ubaye and Barcelonnette is not fast riding and is also relatively unimproved: it's a charming ride through pastures and forests with spectacular views to the valleys leading to the Col de la Cayolle and the cime de la Bonnette and its section of the Maginot Line. And vertiginous views down to the river far below.

On from Bacelonnette there is either the Col de Vars or the route over to Italy via the Col de Larche (1996m) - historically Col de l'Argentière - the name is an indication  of the complicated history of the area, with changes in nationality between Savoie, France and Italy. Several more of Vauban's forts survey the crossroads and the valleys.

The Col de Vars is the prettier option. It's often closed to motor traffic: this summer the cyclists have had the road to themselves on Friday mornings. The road to the Col de Vars was improved recently but, like the Col d'Allos, it is not a fast route; the tunnels on the south side have removed some of the obstacles to traffic but also reduced the charm of the route. Higher up, the road passes through pastures and the as the view widens out. Marmotte calls up above 2000 metres and there's a traditional bar and boutique at the col. The refuge Napoléon further on the road down the north side offers more extensive fare, has a charming view of a small lake and the new management is very welcoming.

Arno continued back to Annecy and I returned to Castellane: the late afternoon traffic was much lighter. The views stayed clear as the shadows lengthened but riding alone is not the same as riding as a pair. Lots of other bikers on the road, mainly Italians in packs out for the day, all riding new bikes in smart new leathers, mostly with a matching female pillion. Economic crisis: what crisis! Seems not for them from Turin and Milan, or at least not yet.

Postcard from Grasse

We paused in Grasse on the French Riviera on our way across the Var to stay once again at Castellane on the Route Napoleon. The gardens below the promenade surround one of the perfume factory outlets; the flowers in beckoning with enticing scents, perhaps more sophisticated than the fields of purple lavender flowers in the fields around Provence, this being July.

Grasse turned out to be party mood as maybe it always is. A small party were enjoying Champagne outdoors on the shaded promenade whilst we contented ourselves with just ice cream. A band was setting up nearby on the promenade, playing R&B on its sound system. Posters advertised Grasse Festiv'été (their spelling) as lasting throughout all of July and August, so pretty much confirming my initial impression of a town where someone is always having a party.

The southern part of the Route Napoléon climbs up from the Riviera, passing a prison (Maison d'arret de Grasse) with what must be one of the best but most frustrating prison views: it's high up on the cliff overlooking Grasse and down to the coast. Not to mention frustration of hearing the sound of sporty motorbikes zapping past outside the perimeter wall. And what crimes have the inmates committed to be sent there? Just the usual (run out of money at the municipal Casino?) or maybe that's where you are sent  if you wear in public a counterfeit perfume or last year's fashion. We didn't stop to find out.

The Route Napoléon is known to sports motorbikers for its long dramatic curves and hills. It was a fantastic ride late on a fine summer afternoon, refreshed from the pause at Grasse and with the certainty of a booked room in a friendly Auberge up Castellane.

This Sunday dawned clear and bright in Marseille with a fierce and violent Mistral blasting down the Rhône valley following an overnight storm further North. The wind wasn't too bad up in the hills, the sun was strong and warm and the roads were clear. Particularly, the roads were clear of motor caravans and coaches; but not clear of goats... biker beware!

The Ardèche gorge road from Pont St. Esprit on the Rhône up to the natural rock bridge at Vallon Pont d'Arc is known to motorbikers as a particularly sporty route. It's not just the river that twists and winds through the gorge. A spectacular 48km of twisty roads with curves that start challenging, keep on coming and then get tighten further with the odd unexpected hill thrown in just to keep the rider alert. Yes there are warning signs aimed at bikers saying "Prudence - trop d'accidents" (Too many accidents - take care). It's different from riding a mountain pass because there is little overall change in altitude, though each hill is quite significant in its own right. You're never quite sure if the next bend will be flat, a dip or a crest but  that makes a huge difference to the riding technique.

 Cotswolds and Chilterns bike ride

Easter Monday 2011: Fine sunshine in London and all across Southern England. Booted, leather suited, ears plugged and helmeted head well in the supersportsbiker zone, I left home while the roads were still quiet. Westwards, down in to the Thames valley at Stokenchurch, clear skies and clear roads as far as the eye could see...

Read more: Cotswolds and Chilterns

Pictures of the Cinque Ports along the English Channel

Some pictures from a motorbike ride to the “Cinque Ports” along the English Channel coast. Tony and I dropped in for coffee and a tasty bacon sandwich at David in Canterbury, then visited Hythe, Romney, the town of Rye and then Hastings before enjoying a delicious home-baked cake with Terry in his garden in Brighton. Then the ride back to London on the main road.

Scenic road from Canterbury down to Hythe. The windmills on Romney Marsh were turning well. There were some posh motorbikes out on the roads but the motorbike stop and cafe in the town of Rye weren’t particularly busy. At Hastings… another Victorian pier sadly lost to fire. We missed out Dover and Sandwich was represented by the bacon sandwich!

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En route from Marseille to the Alps

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.

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