Best Biking Summer Holiday... France

Best-ever biking summer holiday to France so you can get some ideas for your own. You don’t have to spend thousands of pounds or be away from work for long

FRANCE

Name: Ben Cope
Bike: Honda Hornet 600
Miles covered: 1,034
Total cost: £620
Pros: Glorious French roads
Cons: Destroyed my bike!

Youth, a Hornet 600 and the Cote D’Azur rally down to Le Mans sounds like the recipe for a memorable cross-Europe trip. And it was, it’s just the memories I got weren’t quite the ones I was expecting.

I took the ferry from Dover to Calais and it was only me and another biker on the crossing. The other guy, on a TL1000R, was on his way to Greece via Italy, but we were taking a similar route down through France so we decided to ride together. After just a few miles it turned into a daft riding competition and we were pretty much flat-out tank after tank until we stopped for lunch. Totally battered and knackered but being 19, not able to admit to this. I down-played any need for a fairing and told my companion that I rode like this back in the UK and was up for some more.

My Greek riding chum split off in another direction and I carried on my journey at a more neck-friendly pace, eventually making it to Tain L’Hermitage, south of Lyon, 850km from Calais, where I bedded down for the night. I’d first got on the bike 14 hours ago and I remember lying in bed with my ears ringing, my eyes so dry and sore and a neck that was on fire.

The following day I ditched the motorways and headed east, deep into the foothills of The Alps. The roads were, as you would expect, breathtaking and, with my dodgy riding, almost lifetaking too. The whole area is like a playground for bikers, the roads unravel before you, there’s no traffic and the tarmac is better than anything I’d ever seen in the UK. Monaco itself was a let-down, grid-locked, hot and sticky. I did a lap of the F1 circuit as best I could, dodging in and out of Bentleys that littered the queues of traffic. The lap itself took around 20 minutes, so a little shy of race-pace.

I spent the next five days in a skiing lodge in Sospel, it was off-season and so prices were super-cheap and I had the run of the place. Some of the privateer rally teams used the town as their workshop. I headed back up through France, via Gap, along a road called the D993 – an amazing road you should go and discover. I joined the motorway at Valence where it started to rain and an hour later, the rain was torrential.

The next morning, to my dismay, the rain was still beating down. I took the motorway home, up through Dijon and Troyes. Just as I was approaching Reims, I was running out of fuel, but I worked out that I could stretch the tank to the next stop, 50km away. I got to 2km before the petrol station when the Hornet started to stutter, I rolled from left to right to slosh the fuel around, slip-streamed a lorry in the slow lane but fell 500 metres short.

I parked up then ran with all my bike gear to the petrol station, bought a bottle of water, emptied it out and filled it up with petrol. I ran back to my bike only to find it wasn’t there. I was greeted by a Frenchman who ran up to me and put his arms around me to hug me. I didn’t have a clue what was going on. He apologised and apologised and only when I looked to my left did I see my Hornet, upside down in a ditch. I looked at his white car and it had a large Hornet-shaped dent in its bonnet. To this day I cannot figure out what he did to punt my bike from the hard shoulder. The bike was recovered and my insurance company said I had to wait 4 days for a recovery vehicle. Not one for waiting around, I spent half a day in a local workshop with a hammer, banging my bars and footpegs straight, removing stray bits of plastic and taping up my clocks. I limped home with my right bar poking skywards and tufts of French motorway grass slowly burning on my engine casings.

WHOWHATHOW?

This trip will cost plenty more now than it did then thanks to fuel prices. Bank on £100 for ferry tickets, £300 for gas and from that point on it’s down to you and when you decide to travel. Pop in to see the racing at Le Mans and a weekend pass will cost about £40. Skip this and your only expenses are accommodation, food, beer and fuel. Camping is the cheapest option, or budget about £40 a night for a low-end hotel. You are on your own budget with this trip. Save or spend, it’s up to you.

Contact: www.franceguide.com

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