Volcanic hills give rise to gently undulating, flowing roads cutting through lush countryside
To say that there’s good riding in the Massif Central – the huge range of low mountains, high hills and dormant volcanoes in the heart of France – is to undersell the attraction of the region. For one thing, it’s huge so there are miles of amazing roads to explore; for another, it’s quiet, especially as you get further from the beaten track.
We base our riding here around the town of Issoire, just south of Clermont-Ferrand; much smaller but equally well placed. To the east are the wooded Livradois hills, to the west Puy de Dôme and the dormant volcanoes. Whichever way you go, there’s fantastic riding. Hotel tip: Le Pariou
OFF THE BIKE
The centre of the Auvergne is dominated by a chain of extinct volcanoes, known as Puy. The Puy de Pariou is the most typical shape and a two-hour roundtrip. Have an easier time at the Puy de Sancy. It is the highest in the area but easier, thanks to a cable car. Stunning views.
PILGRIMS START HERE
Le Puy-en-Velay is the start point of the Camino pilgrims’ path to Santiago de Compostela in Spain so there are plenty of religious monuments, like the Chapel Saint Michel d’Aiguilhe, a church perched on a rocky pinnacle.
This fortified village, south east of Clermont-Ferrand, ‘glows’ due to the local ‘coppery’ sandstone and Romanesque tower.
A COLD SHOWER?
The Cascade du Queureuilh are two waterfalls just north of Mont-Dore. The nearest one is the most impressive and it’s a 2km walk from the car park.
HENRI MALARTRE MUSEUM
A vehicle museum just north of Lyon with a substantial collection of bikes from 100 years ago - righthand, hand gearchange? There’s a 400hp armoured Mercedes parade car used by Hitler and the first FWD car.
If you’re in a rush, you can hammer your way to Issoire in a day on the autoroutes – it’s on the A75. But if you have a pillion, they won’t thank you. Better to take two days and enjoy the ride.
OUR MOTORCYCLE TOURING ROUTES
Start/finish: Issoire. Distance: 165 miles. Riding time: 5 hours
Flowing riding on the twisty roads of the Livradois hills between Issoire and St Étienne.
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Start/finish: Issoire. Distance: 195 miles. Riding time: 5.5 hours
From Le Mont-Dore to Puy Mary on some of the Auvergne’s best roads.
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Start/finish: Issoire. Distance: 190 miles. Riding time: 5.5 hours
A long loop down to St Flour, taking in the best hill riding in both ranges of hills as well as the Benedictine abbey at La Chaise-Dieu.
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Please note: This page contains the route files for The RiDE Guide To France which came free with RiDE magazine in July 2017. These website page 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 and our recommended hotels as separate waypoints. TomTom users can download the individual routes and use the Tyre software to convert them. For many routes we also have Google Map links. However, as Google Maps will not plot routes over seasonally closed high Alpine passes when they’re shut, these may not work for every route all year round.