Andy's Adventures - 2011 on........
 
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The Corniche des Cevennes - Sept 2011
France's best kept motorcycling secret.
 
I read about a chap who walked his donkey along this route and then wrote about it. He then went on to write a few novels later in his life - Treasure Island, The Strange case of Dr Jekyl and Mr Hyde, to name a couple you may have heard of. I was intrigued, nobody I could find on the Internet was writing about it?
To explain a bit about myself.. I was 59 years old when I did this trip and I've been riding motorbikes since my 16th birthday. I've owned all sorts of bikes from a brand new KTM RC8 to a BSA Bantam 175cc but I presently own, in my opinion, the four best bikes fit for the purpose intended. I have a Yamaha TTR250 for my trail riding in Devon, a Honda F6C (Valkyrie) for high speed cruising and the only bike my wife finds comfortable, a Yamaha FZS1000 (Fazer Thou - carbed version) for gentle hooning and an XT600E that I'm going around the World on next year (see link above). I am not interested in "getting my knee down" on public roads nor do I condone it as it I believe that you need a safety margin when road riding and getting your knee down means you are too near the limit. I'm not a killjoy though, if you want to ride like that then please do, but not near me thank you.
In 2011 I visited a few countries on a Ural Cross sidecar outfit. I started in the UK and turned round to come home when I got to Ereentsay. Just the odd 14,500 miles in 6 weeks and 4 days and I never felt I'd rushed anything.
In August '11, I took my wife to France for 2 weeks on the 'Valk' and we had a nice time but I couldn't get as far as the area I've been intrigued with for the last 4 years, so a weeks holiday was arranged so that I could "solo it"!
Leaving the exit of the "Chunnel" in Coquelles on Saturday 17th Sept '11, I rode to Evreux where I'd booked a room for the night in the Formule 1 Hotel there. Early the following morning, after a filling breakfast, I set off for a small hamlet South of Limoges and arrived at my Brother's house mid-afternoon. I had a couple of jobs to do the following day but I booked a hotel in Ales (pronounced 'Ah-Les') for the Tuesday night so I could enjoy the 250 mile ride out and the 260 mile ride back. The route back was slightly different to the outward route hence the difference in mileage.
Tuesday morning and I decided to stay away from the A20 Autoroute and take a direct course to Uzerche (very pretty) and on to Tulle. An aside here, DO NOT go to Tulle unless you are proficient in extra-dimesional physics and understand how a Mobius strip works. The sign-posting in this town beggars belief and the ring road appears to involve algebra in a way I was never taught at school! The road from Tulle to Aurillac is the type of road that you dream about. The bends have an equal radius to them and the road surface is almost new with no drain covers to frighten you. As said by Fred Astair back in the 1930's "I'm in heaven...".
From Aurillac I decided to take the main road to St Flour. This takes you across the high plateau of the Auvergne which happens to be my favourite part of France. Nothing is written about these roads as the people that ride them want to keep them for themselves...I know this as I wrote to a guy who produced a book about motorcycling in the Alps and I suggested he included the Massif Central. His reply was that he didn't want more 'motos' riding on his favourite roads! Please forget that I told you about them...Thank you.
From Aurillac it was another non-motorway route to take in the gorgeous Viaduc de Garabit - built by Gustave Alexandre Eiffel who went on to build a tower in Paris - and the, amazingly serpentine, D909 under the viaduct.
 

The Viaduc de Garabit as seen from the seat of my Fazer 1000.
 

sans moto
 
I think it would be useful to talk about the roads of France in general here. The Autoroutes (A1 etc) may be a toll route or free. The Southerly part of the A20 from Vierzon to Toulouse and the A75 from the South of Clermont-Ferrand to Montpellier are free, except for the toll on the, Englishman designed, Millau viaduct. The Route Nationales are designated by either an 'RN' or just 'N' and are the equivalent of our 'A' roads. The Departmentale roads are designated by a 'D'. These are the roads I like using. The big 46 tonne lorries aren't allowed on them, except for short runs, and the traffic is usually very light. The 'C' roads (Communale) are the tiny roads that you end up crawling along. They usually have grass growing in the middle! The Departmentale roads change number when they cross into a different regions - you have been warned. You start on the D909 which suddenly becomes the D7!
I had to ride some of the A75 to get to Mende, but I kept it to a minimum, and then it was on to Florac, where my intriguing road starts.
Yes, it is the Corniche des Cevennes....
Take the D907 to motorcycling heaven....
What makes this road different to other 'gorge' based roads is that one minute you are down by the river and the next you are up on the top looking into the gorge.
 

"Up, down, twist around" but all on a good quality road surface. this is looking back along the Corniche des Cevennes
 
At the Florac end there is a large sign with a 'moto' on it with the word 'Prudence' writ large, "Take Care" you have been warned!
The road is beautifully surfaced and has a mixture of lovely sweeping bends and a couple of tight hairpins to keep you amused. There are several villages where a coffee stop can be made as you will want to savour this road and enjoy the ambiance that small French villages can imbue.
You start on the D907 and then you turn off onto the D983 which quickly becomes the D9. Then, following the Corniches Des Cevennes signs, this will then become the D260 without you knowing that you've crossed into another 'district'. Never mind about the road numbers....enjoy the ride/views/ambiance.
Stop after the hairpin outside Saint-Roman-De-Tousque..look at the view..then notice something quite odd..there's the hairpin bend but there's another road in the middle of the bend? It goes back to the village you've just bypassed! But where's the entrance? Check it on Google Maps..you'll see that there's a hairpin bend inside of the hairpin bend! Wow, that's what I love about France, amazing sights and strange road geometry.
 

There's the one bike I saw going the other way heading towards Florac....hang on, I've just come round a hairpin bend and there's another road in the middle of the bend...What?
 

This is the road inside the hairpin and this tree was laden with fruit even in mid-September.
 
Before entering St-Jean-du-Gard you'll rejoin the D907 and stay on that until Anduze where you take the D910 to Ales. I stayed overnight in the Premier Classe Hotel. Fairly inexpensive with a toilet/shower in the room and a good breakfast the following morning. Mustn't forget that there is a Buffalo Grill about a kilometre, and a pleasant walk, from the hotel. Stick with the Menu Buffalo until you've had time to translate the placemat which is your menu.
The following morning I took the N106 which is the main road through the Cevennes. The beginning (Western end) has a few villages on it but then it is clear for a good hoon. This brings you back to Florac where I decided to take a trip along the Gorges du Tarn towards Millau.
 

This is the reservoir dam near Sainte-Cecile-d'Andorge on the N106 from Ales. the water is a bit low or possibly missing?
 

The normal level is at the tree line!
 
The road along the Tarn Gorge just happens to be the D907 again! This is a serpentine road with more traffic and quite a few villages so it is a road to take care on. I stopped for a coffee in Sainte-Enimie before turning off the D907, at Les Vignes, to ascend to 'Le Point Sublime'.
 

Sainte Enimie from the old bridge
 

The old bridge. Check out the church in the cliff face above
 

I wonder if they do "Abseiling to Church" lessons? Or perhaps you just "Drop In!"
 
 le Point Sublime is a vantage point where you can see the Gorges from on high as well as watch the eagles soaring on the updrafts right next to the road.
 

This view is looking East from a hairpin bend half-way to the Point.
 

looking SE from the same place
 

looking SW
 

looking West towards Millau
 

Looking East from the Point Sublime
 
 Turning back to the more main road I headed for Espallion. Crossing the A75 and then hitting a nightmare of a diversion because there was road works! I love France but I can get exasperated by their idiosyncrasies. There's a 'Deviation' because of road works. When you get to the next village there's another deviation because of roadworks. This time it was the real 'Freddy Krueger' of detours. I never found the right way and ended up riding on hot tarmac whilst the French road workers looked on with complete disinterest.
In Espallion you take the Gorge du Lot through Estaing, to Entraygues. This is a fabulous road BUT there is one bend that has a decreasing radius and can catch you out. "Moto Prudence" please!
There you go, a 510 mile trip that is an easy 2 day ride. Enjoy.