The eastern side of France offers a diverse landscape, with open countryside giving way to rolling hills and mountains
Head down and and eyes flicking from apex to exit and on up the road, I threw the Tiger Explorer into another hairpin, chasing the vanishing point – and a local rider – up the Col du Ballon. As it came upright, I wiped rain from my visor. Such a shame; last time we were here, it was beautiful.
That’s the thing with mountains; the weather’s changeable. On this trip, we got the rainy day. When we were here in 2013 for the first Guide to France, we had brilliant sunshine. Indeed, I’ve ridden in the Vosges a lot over the years and this is only the third time I’ve been caught in the rain. It really is a shame.
Not just because it messes up our photo schedule, but because these rolling hills on the French/German border offer amazing riding. There are miles of super-twisty roads working their way through the peaks and valleys of these low, well-wooded mountains. In summer, the trees cast welcome shade on the roads.
Today, they’re keeping the worst of the rain off the tarmac. Only the very highest sections, as the mountains climb towards Grand Ballon – the tallest peak in the range – are above the treeline. As we emerge, I consider stopping at a café but then think better of it. These are some of my favourite roads and I’m going to enjoy them – it’s outstanding riding, whatever the weather.
Other routes in North East France
1. CALAIS WWII SITES
Start/finish: Calais. Distance: 105 miles. Riding time: 3.5 hours
2 BEAUVAIS AND VEXIN
Start/finish: Beauvais. Distance: 180 miles. Riding time: 6 hours
From the pretty city of Beauvais to the north of Paris, this route flows though the Vexin region to the beautiful village of Lyons-la-Forêt.
Hotel tip: City Hotel
Beauvais and the Vexin map Download the GPX file
3. SEZANNE AND PROVINS
Start/finish: Sézanne. Distance: 215 miles. Riding time: 6 hours
4. CHAUMONT LOOP
Start/finish: Chaumont. Distance: 210 miles. Riding time: 6 hours
A full day exploring the gently rolling hills of Burgundy.
Hotel tip: Ibis Styles Chaumont Centre
Chaumont loop map Download the GPX file
5. LORRAINE LOOP
Start/finish: Neufchâteau. Distance: 245 miles. Riding time: 7 hours
From Burgundy and into Lorraine, this longer ride stays resolutely off the beaten track.
Hotel tip: Le Romain
Lorraine loop map Download the GPX file
Please note: This page contains the routes for The RiDE Guide To France which came free with RiDE magazine in July 2017. These website pages are not regularly updated, so please check all critical information before you travel. All route files are in .gpx format. Garmin and BMW users can download the main file, which contains all the routes. TomTom users can either download the individual routes or use the MyRouteApp (depending on the age of your device). For many routes we also have Google Map links. However, as Google Maps will not plot routes over seasonally closed roads, such as high Alpine passes when they’re shut, so these may not work for every route all year round.