Posts Tagged ‘Google Tour’

My latest post “Carcassonne to Andorra via 11 Passes/Cols” is now available on RoadTrooper.com

RoadTrooper.com is my new site with greater functionality and integration with Google Maps and Google Earth. Use the Google Map Street View to see road conditions along the route, just drag the “orange man icon” on the integrated map at the top of each post to the roads along the route to help plan your journeys. You may need to install Google Earth to avail of the function. It’s well worth the effort, I’ve found it an invaluable tool for deciding if the road condition suits my bike, riding style etc., and planning my tours. When in “Street View” use the mouse scroll wheel to travel along your chosen road in continuous high-res photos. If your have not yet used this tool it will blow your mind!

Google Earth Tutorials Here!

I have had a few problems with very unfriendly IP’s origionating from Eastern Europe and China using automatic bulk download programs to download routes, photos and contant for who know’s what reason which also effected bandwith and accessability. To stop this I’ve had no choice but to implement a small restriction to the new site www.RoadTrooper.com in that you will need to create a free account to log in if you want to download the routes. No information is required other then your email address which will NOT be used for any other reason, a password will be sent to the email address you supply which you will need to keep until I find a better way.

You will not recieve any unwanted email by doing this, the subscription service to recieve updates is seperate to this. Unfortunatly if you have already subscribed to this blog you will need to subscribe again to recieve updates for the new site, sorry for any inconvience but I could find no way around this.

Coming up in my next posts to the new site RoadTrooper will be a full description of La Grande Route des Cols Pyrenees which is an amazing 950km route through the highest passes along the Pyrenees from the Atlantic to the Med. Also Irelands west coast, more Alps and the Dolomites.

Hope ye all have a great summer touring and if you dont get around to it this year then do the next best thing and read about Europes best motorbike routes here and plan to get your ass out there next year!



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Route description and places to stay along Stage 7 of this great Alpine tour.

Stage 7 – Castellane to St Martin du Vesubie
Distance – (Stage 7a “Purple” – 148km) (Stage 7b “Green”- 157km)

Click here for St Martin du Vesubie Information

Stage 7 - Castellane to St Martin du Vesubie

From Castellane there are two routes back onto Route des Grandes Alpes, route 7a (map marked in purple) brings you through an area of Provence few tourists ever find themselves.

Near Saint Auban Route 7a

It winds through unspoilt rural roads and villages, passing small but extraordinary gorges and fascinating perched villages untouched by tourism and a must for the true explorer

Near Aiglun, Route 7a, the roads themselves are an adventure!

Route 7b (map marked in green) is a faster run bringing you back up much of Stage 6 to Valberg then St Martin du Vesubie. I’d recomend route 7a, it’s a slower road but it will give you an insight into a usually unseen region of the Alpes-Maritimes that is truly a tranquilly beautiful area and once you hit the busy coast it will seem like a paradise. It’s also the weekend playground for local bikers, take note however, as its remote there are no petrol stations until you get to Puget on the D6202.

Hidden church, route 7a

Plan to spend an afternoon or preferably a night at St Martin du Vesubie with its bitter-sweet history, originally a Roman settlement around the 1st century it later became a fortified town during the Saracen incursions. More recently it became a Jewish haven during WWII when the Alpes-Maritimes was under the control of the Italian Fourth Army from November 1942 to the Italian Armistice in September 1943. During this time the Italian Fourth Army were sympathetic to the Jews who flocked to the area, after the armistice of 1943 however the German authorities moved in and rounded up thousands of the Jews in the area and transported them to Auschwitz, only a few children survived the purge having being taken in by the local French. Another thousand or so crossed up over the surrounding mountains into Italy, a few joined the partisans, most however were eventually caught and ended up in the camps or shot.

The town it’s self is a great place to spend an hour wandering around old buildings, churches, shops, restaurants and cafe’s, almost uniquely there is also a little stream actually running down the centre of the main street. In my book however there is a far more interesting spot just a few kilometers north of the town, and it’s got wolves!

Boréon Valley, near St Martin du Vesubie

APLHA wolf park, nestled in the striking Boréon valley holds the 10 hectare park with 3 wild wolf packs and allows tours into the park where you can, if your lucky get up close to the wolves and tells the story of how after the wolf’s extintion from the French Alps the wolves suddenly and naturally reappeared to the area 19 years ago, tickets are about 12 Euro and you should plan to be here for at least 3 hrs, bring walking shoes and leave the leathers in a hotel.

Click here for more photos of Route Grande Alpes

Biker friendly hotels along Stage 7 of the route;

Hotels – St Martin du Vesubie
Camping 06 – Alpes-Maritimes

Downloadable GPS Routes for Stage 7 are as follows;

Road conditions; check the status of the Cols/Passes:
InfoTrafic: Alpes Du Sud – Apline Pass Status
Bison Fute – Traffic/Road Info
French Autoroute Traffic Info

Next Stage 8 – St Martin du Vesubie to Menton.

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Route description and places to stay along Stage 5 of this great Alpine tour.

Stage 5 – Briancon to Barcelonette
Distance – 114km
Cols – Col l’Izoard, Col du Var
Additional Routes – Lac de Serre-Poncon (Route 115km), Col d’Allos (el. 2250 m.) – Col des Champs (el. 2087 m.) – Col de la Cayolle (el. 2,326 m) (Route 116km)

Click here for Barcelonnette Information
Click here for more photos of Route Grande Alpes

Stage 5 - 5 Stunning Passes - Click to Enlarge

The first part of this stage is a 114km run to Barcelonnette taking in Col d’Izoard (el. 2361 m.) including the strange Casse Deserte atop Izoard and then Col de Vars. The route up Izoard is a nicely surfaced road winding through forest and a couple of small villages to the summit where stunning views north and south await.

Refuge Napoleon, North side of Col l’Izoard - Click to Enlarge

At the top everything changes! On the south side is the mythic Casse Deserte (broken desert), a beautiful, strange, rocky environment, with forbidding and barren scree slopes with protruding pinnacles of weathered rock to which the road clings. Do yourself a favour, pull in and just spend a few minutes and look around to appreciate where you are.

Col d’Izoard + La Casse Deserte (broken desert) Click to Enlarge

From the bottom of Izoard you can take a left for a ride up La Bonnette on D947 or right on D902 to Guillestre.

Pinnacles of weathered rock lean over the D902 - Click to Enlarge

Guillestre is worth a stop to have a walk around the 17th century fort of Mont-Dauphin a UNESCO World Heritage Site before heading up Col du Var.

Bikers belting through Col d’Izoard

Col de Vars, elevation (el. 2108 m.) The first stretch of road leaving Guillestre is a cracking sweeping climb that will warm up your tires and blow off the cobwebs.

Sweeping road out of Guillestre to Col du Var

At the top is a monument explaining a bit of history about this pass since the 1300’s.

D902 along Col du Var

This was often a contested border point between Italy – France – Savoie – etc., and a couple of battles have been fought (way) up here, its hard to imagine how they managed to get army’s, guns, canon and supplies up here before roads, not to forget Hannibal who was called the Great for a bloody good reason!

Summit of Col du Var - Click to Enlarge

Along the Var you will pass a few small villages and ski stations where you can grab a coffee. From the top it’s a 30 kilometre (19 mile) descent to Barcelonnette. This is a beautiful, easy and very enjoyable fast ride with good road and more stunning scenery to feast the eyes all the way to Barcelonnette.

Barcelonnette, a good-sized town with a few hotels in and arround it, a couple of good bars and good value restaurants make it a good stop over for a night. I’ve stayed in Hotel Cheval Blanc in the centre of town, it’s a bit run down as it’s still stuck somewhere in the 1970’s, but its clean, friendly and close to a good bar to service my typically Irish drinking problem, i.e. lack of oppertunity 🙂 The run to Barcelonnette from Briancon is only 114km if you dont take a detour to La Bonnette, and assuming you have chosen to stay here you can dump your gear at a hotel and take your choice of two afternoon rides.

Ride 1. Barcelonnette, Lac de Serre-Poncon and back.

Lac de Serre-Poncon - Click to Enlarge

This is a nice easy run along good fast roads around Lac de Serre-Poncon with a few good sweepers where you can open up your throttle. A good route if your feeling tired and lazy and easy on a pillion, but it wont get your blood running like ride 2.

Yours truelly by Lac de Serre-Poncon, worth a run if you have the time.

Ride 2. Barcelonnette to Col du Allos, Col des Champs, Col de la Cayolle. This route is the dogs bollox, I really can’t recommend it enough. Scary, even terrifying and bloody dangerous in places on Col du Allos, the exhilarating and desolate isolation of Col des Champs, and a stunning ride through Col de la Cayolle.

No room for error on Col d'Allos - Click to Enlarge

This may well be the highlight of the whole trip, 114km of adrenalin fulled fun. Col du Allos is a very narrow road clinging to the side of a cliff for a large part, with, as of last May parts of it crumbling into an abyss. Going up is fine, but if you’re coming down towards Barcelonnette and you meet an SUV like I did forcing me to pass inches from the edge and a long long fall to a very messy death then God help you!!!!! This road was not built with a fat, heavy RT in mind.

Refuge on summit of Col d'Allos - Click to Enlarge

Also at one point I had to stop the bike and clear a small avalanche that had dumped snow and rocks over the road. This can easily happen in late May and early June when the snow ploughs have just opened up the roads and the sun starts melting the snow built up to as much as 3 meters at either side of the roads.

Col d'Allos, better road on south side - Click to Enlarge

Col de Champs starts outside Colmar (another fortified town and worth a look) and is a wonderful ride through rugged high alpine scenery and jagged peaks, some parts of the road can be a little dodgy, especially along deep paved drainage ditches, also common here is gravel spilling off the mountains so you really need to watch the road on corners.

First bridge on Col de la Cayolle - Click to Enlarge

This connecting road/pass leads to the village of St. Martin where you can join the D902 back to Barcelonnette via Col de la Cayolle which is a right little beauty.

Col de la Cayolle feels very remote - Click to Enlarge

Again unfortunately you probably wont be getting above 4th gear as much of this road clings to cliffs above a gorge, but it’s a visual treat you wont forget.

Nearing the summit of Col de la Cayolle - Click to Enlarge

The road along Col de la Cayolle can be a little rough and extremely narrow in places but it’s definitely not to be missed with jaw dropping views from bridges spanning the gorge.

Col de la Cayolle summit, despite the snow it's actually really warm!

At this stage you will probably begin to realise all these high passes are stunning, but each one is so different, with every one of them throwing something different at you in such a relatively short distance that it seems you have traversed a continent, the memories will take months to process, this is what makes Route des Grande Alpes so unique in Europe for a motorbike trip. And it’s not over yet, in the next stage the landscape changes drastically from the highest road of La Bonnette to the red rock of Gorge du Daluis, and the epic Gorge de Verdon, oh hell yes!

Route Instructions

* Start: Just head south from Briancon on D902 and you cant go wrong!

Biker friendly hotels along Stage 5 of the route;

Auberge L’Echauguette – Mont Dauphin Fort
Hotel Restaurant Le Catinat Fleuri – Guillestre
Le Grand Hôtel – Barcelonnette
L’Hôtel du Cheval Blanc – Barcelonnette

Downloadable GPS Routes for Stage 5 are as follows;

Road conditions; check the status of the Cols/Passes:
InfoTrafic: Alpes Du Nord
Bison Fute

Next Stage 6 – Barcelonnette to Castellane, why not sign up to the Email Subscription to stay posted, email address’ will not be given to any other party.

Coll de Champs

South side of Col d’Allos

South side of Col d’Allos

Col de la Cayolle

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Route description and places to stay along Stage 4 of this great Alpine tour.

Stage 4 – Lanslebourg/Val Cenis to Briancon
Distance – 110km
Cols – Col du Telegraphe, Col du Galibier
Additional Route – Including Col du Lautaret, Col de Sarenne, Croix de Fer, Col du Glandon (300km)
Click here for Briancon Information

Stage 4 - Click to view large map

First, the Col du Telegraphe, a 12 kilometres pleasant ride that winds it way up through the woods before a 5km descent into the ski resort of Valloire, then its a straight shot (8kms) up through the valley with high Alps looming down on either side. At Plan Lachat the road then goes up over the mountains at Col du Galibier

More curves then a porn queen - Col du Galibier - Click 2 enlarge

The Col du Galibier is at 2645m, the 4th highest mountain pass in France links the towns of Saint-Michel-de-Maurienne and Briançon via the col du Télégraphe and the Col du Lautaret. From the top, the route descends down towards Col du Lautaret, dropping 585m over 8.5km

My beloved RT on the Galibier Pass

What can I say here, this stage starts as another good ride that turns into an epic climb through good twistys to stunning views on the summit of Col du Galibier then a good smooth run down through a glacier valley into the ancient roman town of Briancon.


Briancon is has some UNESCO listed buildings with an interesting fort, the old town is worth a look if that’s your thing but to be honest you’d be better off getting here about lunch time, finding a hotel, dumping your gear and exploring some of the biketastic roads around this town before starting stage 5. The Ibis hotel is conveniently located in the characterless new part of town, clean, cheap, good buffet breakfast, shit bar and walking distance to plenty of good restaurants. For a bit more Alpine character I’d recommend Auberge l’Arpelin 12km out of town on the D902 as this would will be your last chance to experience real alpine food, lifestyle etc as in the next stage you’ll enter the Cote D’Azur region where the buildings, colours and lifestyle will change markedly from Barcelonette south.

Col du Galibier is a seriously enjoyable run - Click to enlarge

I usually stay 2 nights in Briancon as from here you have a few route options depending on how much time you have to spare.


Option 1 – (40mins trip – 20km) From Briancon take a short run to Montgenevre, excellent road surface, good set of twisty’s. You can always make this a day trip up to Lac Cenis from here.

N94 from Montgenevre to Briancon - Click to enlarge

Option 2 – (Full day trip – 240km) From Braincon head back on D1091 through Col Lautaret, take D25 at Lac du Chambon through Col de Sarenne (2000m) with an incredible 21 corner set of arse clenching technical twisty’s that will leave you a sweaty grinning wreak, or dead if your not careful, best to leave your panniers etc in Briancon to really enjoy this! I met a lad who said his front break disk warped on this stretch, and I believe him 😉

It's Col de Sarenne for a twisty overload!

The Col de Sarenne is a narrow undulating road that continues on past the Alpe d’Huez ski resort and tops out 9 km further on at 2000 metres. It is a beautiful road that, although it is close to civilization, feels really quite remote, partly due to the fact that parts of the road are a little rough.

Col de la Croix de Fer - Click to enlarge

Then it’s another climb up to Croix de Fer and Col du Glandon via the D526 where you can swing back around to Briancon again via Col du Galiber.

Col du Glandon

This really is a fantastic route with a unforgetable mix of hard technical riding and fast sweeping high alpine roads with incredible views throughout. It’s a good 140km run that will leave you with a stupid imbecilic smile and gagging for a few beers. You could incorporate this into the Stage 4 run from Lanslebourg, but it will then add up to at least a 300+km run which is a hell of a long way on these roads, especially if your loaded down with luggage/pillion passenger. You could also consider staying over night in Valloire, a good sized ski town between Telegraphe and Col du Galibier with a number of hotels.

Looking down the south side of Col de l'Izoard - Click to enlarge

Option 3 – From Briancon head up Col de l’Izoard on D902, on the other side at 1st T-junction go left on D947 to Château-Ville-Vieill with its big ass castle, cross the river on the next bridge to the D5 through Molines en Queyras with its ancient and striking chruch and well worth a closer look.

Restaurant Marmot Saint-Veran (dont order the Marmot, see stage 3)

Then on up to the magically beautiful old stone alpine village of Saint Veran, this is a really cool village and well worth a look around. Up from Veran the road gives access to Col Agnel (Italian – Colle dell’Agnello), the third highest paved road in the Alps, after the Stelvio Pass and Col de l’Iseran.

Col de Agnel, France on left, Italy on right - click to enlarge

At 2744m it’s worth putting on your list of things to do, as its not well known its quiet and with the landscape you can really feel like your on another planet. At the summit is another ridiculously beautiful view now becoming just part of the course, it’s also the border into Italy.


Route Instructions

* Start: Lanslebourg
* Exit town to the west on D1006
* At Saint-Michel-de-Maurienne cross the river onto D902
* At Monêtier les Bains (Col du Lautaret) go left on D1091
* Follow D1091 to Briancon

Biker friendly hotels along Stage 3 of the route;

Christiania Hotel – Valloire
Hotel les Melezes – Valloire
Ibis Briancon – Briancon
Auberge l’Arpelin – Cervieres

Downloadable GPS Routes (Inc. Options 1-3) for this post are as follows;

Road conditions; check the status of the Cols/Passes:
InfoTrafic: Alpes Du Nord
Bison Fute

Next Stage 5 – Briancon to Barcelonette, why not sign up to the Email Subscription to stay posted, email address’ will not be given to any other party.

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Route description and places to stay along Stage 3 of this great Alpine tour.

Map of Stage 3

Stage 3 – Bourg St Maurice to Lanslebourg
Distance – 76km (120km inc trip to Lac Cenis – 6/8hrs) (200km+ Bourg St Maurice to Briancon 6/8hrs)
Cols – Val d’Isere, Col d’Iseran

Entering Val d'Isere

This stage runs through Bourg-Saint-Maurice, Val d’Isere, Bessans, Val Cenis, Lanslebourg. This pass, only for tourism, is undoubtedly one of the finest in the Alps at 2,770 m (9,088 ft) and especially the highest Alpine pass. The legendary Col de l’Iseran is the highest paved mountain pass in France, riding this stage is breath-taking, stunning, the ride of a lifetime. Riding up to its highest point the mountains seem to weigh down on you like sleeping titans and at certain points the road, which is like a rollercoaster ride with a throttle, seems to cut through a surreal lunar landscape. Doing it once is simply not enough!

BEWARE – This road will bitch slap you into a state of bikers ecstasy.

Magical road to Val d'Isere

Starting at Bourg St Maurice and passing Lac du Chevril it’s just 20km up to Val d’Isere at about 1800m, a large ski resort and a gateway to the seriously high riding road through Col de l’Iseran.

Rush hour in Val d'Isere

From the St Charles bridge on this part of the D902 becomes utterly awe-inspiring, a stunning run never to be forgotten!

Mental Landscapes of Col d'Isere

The Col de l’Iseran doesn’t go through the Alps, it’s damn well slapped right on top of them! At the sumit are jaw dropping views and a little restaurant / shop where you can buy your highest Col in France t-shirts, or a defibrillator if altitude sickness has kicked in! After stopping for obligatory photos of the sign at the top, it’s a superb descent down the savagely rugged south side.

Lunar landscape's of Col de l'Iseran

From Bourg St Maurice to the highest point you will climb about 2000m within 50km, so older bikes without fuel injection may well start acting sluggish and burn more fuel than normal due to lack of oxygen, old farts may get heart attacks for the same reason, make sure you have a clean air filter and a full petrol tank 🙂

Get your t-shirts here!

Refuge at Col de l'Iseran

There are also 6 or 7 tunnels along the route, can’t remember how many but some of them are long, wet, dark and very slippery, belting through them at 100kmph is definitely not recommended if you wish to see your family again.

Col de l'Iseran heading south

From the summit it’s a good twisty 40km road down to Lanslebourg-Mont Cenis and a drop of 1500 meters.

South side col de l'Iseran towards Lanslebourg

From Lanslebourg you have two routes to Briancon the half way point of Route Grand Alp. The most enjoyable and longest is via Col du Galibier, but there is also the route via Lac du Mont Cenis into Italy then on to Briancon via Montgenevre.

Smooth Alpine road to Col du Cenis

Given the time I’d recommend to check in to a hotel in Lanslebourg around 3ish, dump your gear to lighten your bike and take a run up to Lac Cenis, believed to have been Hannibal’s final pass before dropping into Italy and kicking three shades of s*it out of the romans.

Road along Lac du Cenis is well worth a run!

The north side road up is a real little belter, smooth surface and twisty’s up to and arround the lake with utterly stunning views and a couple of restaurants and bars whose car parks are packed with bikers.

Summit of Col Mont Cenis!

The south side into Italy is a classic break melting stepped zig-zag eventually leading to the Torino motorway (left) or Briancon (right), the route to Briancon from here is not bad and enjoyable enough, but far better to double back, take a night around Lanslebourg and head up Col du Galibier with a fresh head.

Zig-Zag road on Italian side of Lac Cenis

This will allow you to pull into Briancon around lunch time, dump your gear and run up the now famous “Cime de la Bonette”.


Col de l’Iseran is the highest mountain pass in France, but the Cime de la Bonette became the highest road when the local authorities extended Col de la Bonette in a loop around a mountain peak – for no other reason than to be higher than Iseran – bloody brilliant 🙂

Riding the high alps you may occasionally hear a sharp screeching sound like a Japanese school girl being accosted by your grandfather. This is probably a marmot – basically a cross between a beaver and a giant guinea pig on speed. They will stand on their hind legs, give you the finger and screech to warn other marmots of danger. Best to leave them alone – even after marinating them for 24hrs they still taste like rat 😉

Route Instructions

* Start: Bourg Saint Maurice
* Exit town to the East
* At McDonald’s follow D1090 towards Val d’Isere
* At Seez, take D902 towards Val d’Isere
* Climb and descend Col de l’Iseran
* Leave the marmots & Japanese alone
* Stay on D902 until Lanslebourg

Biker friendly hotels along Stage 3 of the route;

Mont Iseran Hôtel – Bessans
Hotels in Lanslebourg

Downloadable GPS Routes for this post are as follows;

Road conditions; check the status of the Cols/Passes:
InfoTrafic: Alpes Du Nord
Bison Fute

Next Stage 4 – Val Cenis to Briancon, why not sign up to the Email Subscription to stay posted, email address’s will not be given to any other party.

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