A French Partitour In May 2010


A biker-friendly hotel in Auxerre – the meeting point for the tour, provided a warm welcome and opportunity to make new and renew friendships and greet new members, including one on a Yamaha Virago, to their first partitour. The Virago was to prove that it is entirely possible to tour successfully with a tank range of just 100 miles.

Our mountain-based tour had its second and third stopovers, in the villages of Villard-de-Lans (1050m) and St Andre-les-Alpes (900 m). Our two night stay at Villard, a small ski centre south of Grenoble, gave opportunity for mountain touring ride-outs as well as mountain walking and viewing a great ice show at the Olympic-sized rink.

A number of tourers visited past chairman Ken and his wife Mary to enjoy coffee and spectacular cakes at their home while en-route from Villard to St Andre. Ken and Mary then joined the tour for two nights. The ride was a fantastic mixture of beauty and immensity on mainly excellent biking roads. Routes varied, with plans needing amendment due to closures of several cols. France had had a very hard winter, with much damage to minor road surfaces and lots of repair work underway. The narrow Col de la Cayolle  (2320m) saw riders surrounded by snow for around an hour of the traverse.

Although the St Andre village centre had little to offer, the hotel team were great and the venue ideally sited for very scenic touring, both by rail and bike, covering mountains, coast and the principal Cote d’Azur resorts. The most impressive ride was a switchback round trip to Moustiere-Ste-Marie, taking in both sides of the Grand Canyon du Verdun. Pillion riders had the best of the views……..while everyone was getting used to the twisties and occasional sweepies which would continue to provide ongoing delights.

We travelled west by assorted beautiful routes to our three night stay at the foot of the Corniche de Cevennes. Such was the thrill of the ride and the heat of the day that early arrivals plunged into the river (fed by snow melt, so a trifle chilly to say the least) opposite our hotel - another winner, well located for day touring on some of the best biking roads in France. Visits were made to points of interest all around St Jean Du Garde and to the coast. Almost all riders took the suggested trip to the stunning Millau Viaduct (Well worth a visit!) riding over and around it and travelling to it by circular route on dramatic mountain roads via the curvy Corniche de Cevennes and the Gorges de la Jente.  Most enjoyed a totally sunny day. Those who did not had light replaced by darkness, birdsong removed by crashing thunder - or from the drowning of the songsters - and torrential rain turning roads into streams. And then the sun came out again, almost drying us before we returned to our excellent accommodation.

Riders steered by GPS arrived in our next stop, La Bourboule, by farm track – thus demonstrating the previously unremarked upon off-road capabilities of the Pan Europeans and a BMW LT. But all had a great ride across the high points of the Central Massif, arriving at this small and very pleasant spa town and another great hotel – fully refurbished and with a spirited and amusing staff team The riding in this area provided good variety and on and off bike opportunities. For rides out, the tour split broadly into two. The ‘geological’ group set out to visit the volcanoes which formed this area (but found them shut!). The ‘strong stomachs’ group(s) took a 220 mile round trip west to the memorial village of Oradour-sur-Glane, a village and 642 occupants all laid waste by a Waffen SS division in June 1944 - the remains of the village since left untouched. A moving reminder of our good fortune to live in less tortured times.

After a damp start, 27th May gave us a very pleasant ride north through rural France to the heart of the heavily timbered medieval city of Troyes for the final two night stop and a last day of off-bike tourism. A joint evening meal in a local restaurant made a great finale for the tour before the Saturday morning departures to the channel and North Sea ports or to Auchy-au-Bois for an additional night.

This early-season tour produced, even for France, enjoyably quiet roads and marvellous spring-fresh views. Our itinerary, with excellent route options, allowed a good balance between eating together and making our own grazing arrangements and a variety of stopover durations allowed a great deal of individual choice within the broader programme. Hotels with friendly staff made for a great atmosphere at the beginning and end of each day.

In summary, a tour which reflected so well the traditional values of good mileage, fun and enjoyment from IMTC touring. Approximate mileage in France: 2450 miles (some more, some less).

Peter Morphew