Cycling the Riviera

Author: fraise

Wednesday 6 November 2013, in Cycling, La France, Travel

Colline du château de Cagnes

This view from part of my commute, snapped with my phone yesterday at sunset, speaks a great deal about cycling conditions in this part of the world: to say “it is not flat” is an understatement. With just 200km on my still-new road bike, not quite in good enough shape yet for longer rides, I’ve been looking into weekend ideas for short trips into the countryside. I assumed, given the number of serious cyclists you see here, plus the 14 million tourists we get each year on the Riviera, and knowing pro cyclists train here, that there would be at least someone blogging about it at some point. I know of MapMyRide, but was hoping for stories, insight, descriptions, experiences. The sort of thing that GPS traces don’t provide.

Well, I didn’t find much at all after hours of fiddling with French and English search terms. Here are some in French that give good results for trips anywhere in France except here:
– balade vélo (essentially a short bike ride)
– cyclotourisme (French for “bike touring”)
– cyclisme (cycling, generic)
– région à vélo (switch out “région” for whichever region you want to visit on bike)

If you do put in Nice, PACA (our region’s official French abbreviation), or the Côte d’Azur, in French or in English, you’ll come across lonely questions with no responses, or forum posts with “be aware that it is NOT FLAT!” replies, or a couple links to bike rental/tour gigs in the area, who generally take visitors along the flat Promenade and Basse Corniche. Those are nice rides, beautiful ideas for first-time visitors, but I’ve lived here for a while now and am the type of cyclist who enjoys a good climb or three.

“Crickets”, respond the intarwebs, apart from the obvious, yet rarely-described, Moyenne and Grande corniches to the east. The Moyenne Corniche is a bit steep and has gorgeous views. You can ride all the way to Italy (which isn’t that far, 30km from Nice) on both it and the Grande Corniche. The “Grande” corniche lives up to its name, and is a road many pros train on for its challenges. Those take you east, and flat coastal roads take you west, but what about the north? There lie the Alps, and equally stunning vistas… but no recommendations, aside from one French blogger not from the area, who talked about the crête de Craus a few kilometers north of Nice, as well as Roquebrune, La Turbie (along the Moyenne Corniche), and a few other mountain villages. However, he entirely avoided Nice. Rather impractical for advice when Nice is my home base.

I’ll likely return to my favorite bike shop and ask them for recommendations. They would definitely know some great cycling routes in the area. In the meanwhile, my personality is also of the “neat, I can figure this out on my own and learn from mistakes” type, so I’ll be checking out topo maps and whipping up some outings that I’ll try, then post about here.

IGN, France’s National Geographic Institute, has some very nice maps available for free download, in addition to the excellent ones they sell. They also publish a free Android and iPhone app. Below is a crop of their large physical map of France, showing our southeast corner of it, as well as neighboring Corsica, another place I look forward to visiting on bike.

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