Last ride of the year, Marseille to St Tropez via Toulon and Collobrières, the “Capital of the Maures”. It’s a holiday weekend here so unsurprising to find myself joined at the fuel pumps leaving Marseille by several other sports bikers, then mugged (ie expertly block-passed) by several more as we all rode up the bends on the road to the Circuit du Castellet, the Paul Ricard motor-racing track. I continued on the road to Toulon, still riding in the style of sheep dressed as wolf; other bikers weren’t so mindful of the numerous well-intentioned posters suggesting specifically to bikers that the road is not the place for competitive riding. Air at Goldilocks temperatures: for me, neither too hot nor too cold, although a bit of a pesky Mistral wind here and there.
Meeting in Toulon with Denis and Michel, we enjoyed a promenade along the port, then a whole turbot each as plat du jour, good size fish and delicious.
On through many vineyards of Côtes de Provence to Collobrières, the capital of the Maures, the forest in the hills back from the coast, largely cork oak or chestnut trees with a few pines. This being November, Collobrières was neither baking hot nor full of camping cars and cyclists: so much the better. But Collobrières was full of almost every style of motorbike and biker - this might have something to do with the absence of camping cars and cyclists plus the roads to the village being either full-speed wide-open routes through the vineyards or some of the most challenging mountain roads you’re going to find with reliable tarmac on them. Oh, and a good selection too of graded forest routes to rattle your off-road bike around.
After a coffee in Collobrières we tackled the pass and skyline road to Bormes-les-Mimosas on the coast. Low sun and distractingly idyllic panoramas out across the forest of cork trees and across the Mediterranean to the islands is a wonderful problem to have to deal with.
Stop for another coffee at a beach hut, then the problem became a distractingly gorgeous sunset as we rode along the Corniche road in the rapidly deepening dark and gathering chill of the post-equinox dusk.
We rode into Saint Tropez by moonlight, a back road through the vines.
A slightly different route back today, another challenging route through the Maures forest then up over the Sainte Baume massif towards the Circuit du Castellet. My eye now in for the road after a couple of days’ riding, I find I’m back riding as wolf in wolf’s clothing, holding my own with the local knee-down bikers. One last 10,000 rev take off, a few kilometres calm riding on the urban motorways then it’s time to put my RR away for the winter: 2016 has been not a bad year at all.
Thanks to Denis and Michael