COTE D’AZUR

IT’S NICE IN NICE AND MONTE CARLO IS A MUST. BUT BEYOND THE FAMOUS NAME TOURIST TRAPS THERE ARE GREAT RIDING ROADS GALORE. LA CÔTE D’AZUR: IT’S NOT ALL ABOUT CASINOS, YACHTS AND BILLIONAIRES

COTE D'AZUR

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Don’t begin your ride on the coast. Instead, start north of the Hautes-Alpes region at Grenoble. Ride the Route Napoleon in reverse. This is the route taken in 1815 by Napoleon on his 100-day journey to Waterloo with the intention to overthrow Louis the 18th. Bonaparte began his journey at Golfe-Juan (after travelling by sea from Elba), and wound his way north from the Riviera through the foothills of the Alps. This brilliant biking route skirts the Écrins National Park, passing through La Mure, Corps, Gap, Sisteron, Digne, Castellane, St. Vallier-de-Thiey and Grasse, before finally arriving on the coast at Cannes.

Take a detour shortly before Castellane and follow the N202 towards Entrevaux. Well worth a visit in its own right, the fortified medieval town is also home to one of the best-kept secrets in motorcycling history – le musee de la moto d’Entrevaux. Founded by Michel Lucani and his son Franck, the museum is located in a two-storey cottage that bears little exterior signage or indication of its historical contents. However, as soon as you step inside you will swoon at the grandeur of this collection.

Motorcycles of all manufacturers line the walls. From the earliest motorised Peugeot bicycle, to WWII British Royal Enfields, many of this 75-strong fleet precede even their elderly guardians.

From Cannes, ride the coastline toward Nice. This road guarantees picturesque sea views but can be quite congested, especially during the summer months.

Stop for a break and a bite to eat in Antibes. While nowhere on the Cote D’Azur is exactly cheap, the sailing town of Antibes is slightly more affordable than the bigger tourist destinations (Cannes, St Tropez, Monaco). And, if you’re clued up on your French moto magazines, Antibes is also home to the fun-loving Moto et Motards team.

Visit over the last weekend of June, and join hundreds of other bikers at La Moto En Fête, a three-day festival in Villeneuve- Loubet (in between Cannes and Nice). The festivities kicks off on Friday 23 June at Marina Baie des Anges with a bike show, followed by a line dance and prize giving. Johnny Vegas (a tribute act to Johnny Hallyday, not the British comedian) will take to the stage that evening for a ‘grand concert’. Saturday consists of further music and motorbike parades, while Sunday culminates in a huge ride of homage for the French comedian Coluche, who died in a motorcycle crash in June 1986, in his hometown of Opio (the ride’s destination).

Spend the night in Nice, in an Airbnb or one of the city’s hostels. Dine on the regional delicacy of socca, a heavy chickpea pancake (it’s nicer than it sounds) before sampling the local beer at one of Nice’s pubs. Wayne’s Bar is popular with the British and French – there’s live music and dancing on tables most evenings. Pompeii boasts a similar atmosphere, but with a later last call at the bar.

No Riviera ride is complete without a sejour in Monaco’s revered Monte Carlo. Trace the tyre marks of motoring greats on the Circuit de Monaco – while sticking to the speed limit, of course. Peer into the Casino de Monte Carlo, but don’t expect to be granted entry dressed in leathers as the Casino has a pretty strict dress code.

SOUTH EASTERN FRANCE, LAND OF LM STARS, GREAT BIKE MUSEUMS AND BRILLIANT ROADS

Cross the border into Italy and you can explore what was once the home of the San Remo Grand Prix – the Circuito di Ospedaletti. A Formula One and motorcycle race was held on this road circuit from 1947 to 1972. The closest you can get to racing action here nowadays is the biennial Trofeo Internazionale Motociclistico classic event, next due to take place in September 2018.

The Côte d’Azur is an attractive destination all year round, but with temperatures topping 30o in summer pack appropriately airy gear and remember to keep refreshed and focused.

GETTING THERE

Ferries to France are plentiful and the ride to the Riviera can be as pleasant as you have time for. If you are adamant on taking your own bike but don’t fancy the toll road slog, BikeShuttle.co.uk offer return motorbike transport to Geneva (less than a two hour ride from Grenoble). Or fly to Grenoble, or nearby Lyon, and rent a motorbike for the week.

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