You’re here because you’ve been thinking about motorcycle touring in France. Well, rest assured, if you decide to follow through with your tour, you won’t regret it.
France is renowned for its culture and history, every area has its own story, so you’ll certainly get your fill if this is what you’re interested in. But, if you’re more interested in the journey rather than the destination, France has some of the most wonderful roads in Europe for motorcyclists. Whatever you want to get from your trip, you won’t be left wanting.
Top Adventure Riding Routes and Destinations in France
Here are some of the best routes and destinations for motorcycle touring in France.
Kicking off our list is the Route des Grandes (Great Alpine Road). This 700km ride takes motorcyclists through 16 mountain passes and countless winding turns. The route starts on the Banks of Lake Geneva and finishes at the Mediterranean sea. Two hard days of riding could take you through the whole route but it’s recommended that you take at least four days to really soak it all in.
The road goes through some of the highest mountain peaks in Europe, which is great for sights but means weather conditions can be hazardous. Generally, the route is closed from late October until mid-June but, of course, you should check before leaving.
Mont Ventoux to L’Ape-d’Huez
Mount Ventoux is the highest mountain in the Provence region of southern France, gaining it the nickname of the “Giant of Provence” and “The Bald Mountain”. We recommend riding from Mont Ventoux to L’Alpe-d’Huez which is one of the main mountains in the Tour de France and hosted the 1968 Winter Olympics bobsleigh events. From start to finish, this route takes around four hours.
Col de Turin isn’t just one of the most scenic roads to ride in France, it’s one of the most scenic in the world. The route is 35 km long will take you up to 1,607m above sea level. Of course, due to its height, it can be prone to some poor weather conditions. Some of the corners are pretty treacherous too, so take care if riding the Col de Turini. All of the twists and turns mean this route takes over 40 minutes.
The Col du Chaussy adds yet another high mountain pass to the list, coming in at 1,533m above sea level. The highlight of the route is the Lacets de Montvernier (Hairpins of Montvernier), which encompasses 17 hairpin turns strewn across the mountain like spaghetti. Although, the entire route is just over 14 km, so doesn’t take too long to complete. This is definitely one for those who like to scratch.
Col de la Bonette
The Col de la Bonette runs along the Cime de la Bonette, a mountain in the French Alps. At 2,860 m, it’s the highest paved road in Europe, so is sure to be an unforgettable experience. The route runs down near the border of Italy and is where Tour de France competitors reach their highest point in the race. This is definitely one of the longer routes on the list with a ride time of nearly six hours.
The Verdon Gorge is located in the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, in south-eastern France. The river canyon is often touted as one of the most beautiful areas in Europe. The gorge itself is about 25 km long and 700 m deep. It’s named after its mesmerizing turquoise-green color. This trip is definitely more about the destination than the road, but here is a great route to get you thinking.
The Route de Presles is a road for any motorcyclist in search of some adrenaline. The 7 km balcony road is carved into the side of a mountain. The road itself is narrow with plenty of blind corners and an almost vertical drop, couple this with the threat of landslides and you’ve got a thrillseekers dream.
Like the Route de Presles, a section of the Combe Laval is cut out of the side of a mountain and offers a view of a near vertical drop, so isn’t for the faint-hearted. The road is approximately 13 km long, so only a short ride, but overlooks the beautiful Vercors region and won’t be soon forgotten. Due to the collection of flora and fauna in the region, Combe Laval is a protected natural heritage site, so get your camera ready.
Col du Mont Cenis
The Col du Mont Cenis is a great road for anyone who’s interested in history, as it was built by Napoleon between 1803 and 1810. The mountain was also crossed by Charlemagne and his army when he invaded Lombardy in 773. The road itself is a massif and pass, reaching a maximum altitude of 2,081 m. Until the 19th century, the Col du Mont Cenis was used as the main route to cross the Alps between Italy and France. Depending on how quickly you ride, you should be able to complete this route in around 30 minutes.
Passports and Visas
If you’re coming from the U.S.A or Australia, you can stay in France for up to 90 days without a visa. Plan to stay any longer than this, however, and you’ll need to apply for a visa. Anyone whose home country is in the Schengen zone doesn’t need a visa to visit France.
Bike Permits and Carnets
There are no carnets required for motorcycle touring in France if you’re coming from another E.U country. If you have the new-style of EU registration plates, which show the EU flag, you don’t need a sticker showing the country you’re from. However, if you don’t have the new-style registration, you will need to obtain a sticker before you leave.
According to the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile, France is on the list of countries which require carnets for those who are traveling from outside the E.U. Although, the first line on the FIA website reads, “This list may not be up to date due to changes in customs formalities or border procedures.”. So, this is something you will need to check before leaving.
In Paris, Grenoble, and Lyon there is a system of color-coded stickers which show how polluting your vehicle is. So, if you plan on visiting any of these areas you will need to order your sticker from www.certificat-air.gouv.fr/en. There are plans to add more cities to this list, so check before leaving.
In terms of documentation, you will need to be able to show originals of your full national driving license, vehicle registration, vehicle insurance, and passport. You’ll also need to carry your motorcycle’s MOT certificate if your motorcycle requires one.
Other Requirements for Motorcycle Touring in France
Apart from the documents mentioned above, there are a few more things you’ll need to ride legally when motorcycle touring in France. Motorcyclists and pillions both must carry high-visibility vests. You must also carry a breathalyzer kit, although it’s a legal requirement there is no penalty for failing to carry one.
It is illegal to ride with any audio device in your helmet, this includes hands-free kits and earphones, the only exceptions are helmets with an integral system and hearing aids. It is also illegal to use any device which can indicate the location of a mobile or fixed speed camera.
Every French resident has personal liability insurance which means, in the event of causing injury to someone or damage to their property, the insurance company will cover the compensation cost. Those who don’t take out liability insurance motorcycle touring in France are liable to pay compensation themselves for any property damage or injuries they cause.
The roads are, generally speaking, good in France. You are not required to have a vignette as there are tolls on the highways. Speaking of tolls, you will encounter quite a few if you stick to the motorways/freeways when motorcycle touring in France. They are the fastest way to get around and can be great if you are in a hurry, but most of the time, that’s not really the point, so they’re easy to avoid.
Best Time of Year to Ride in France
Motorcyclists are often advised not to go to France in July and August, but mainly in August, due to the high volume of tourists and, as such, cars on the roads. Anyone interested in cinema should check out the Cannes Film Festival which is on in May.
Other Hints and Tips For Motorcycle Touring in France
Riders should be aware that they’re required to give way to traffic from the right in built-up areas. You should also be aware that the national speed limit has been reduced on all secondary roads from 90 km/h to 80 km/h.