TET Northern France : Section 1 & Section 5

I’m starting this trip at the Cote d’Opal, the beautiful coastal region in the North of France. The first impression and pleasant surprise is the amount of space! 

The wide views over the slightly hilly terrain are simply astonishing. With this feeling of breathing space I’m ready to ride the rocky paths laying in front of me. The tracks full of stones are quite different from the sandy underground I’m familiar with. It takes some time for me to find the right pace. I’m riding a light Honda CRF450L, a huge difference with my KTM990SM. This is already helping me to ride these rocks and stones smoothly.

During the first hour of the ride there is a faint rain. While the day becomes darker, the rain will accompany me the whole day through. The rain is making the roads slippery and muddy. The narrow single tracks can get tricky when wet, but I succeed to keep the wheels on the ground as I continue the ride. This ride takes me further inland in the region Hauts-de-France formed by the Picardy and North Pas De Calais departments. A green agricultural landscape characterized by wide-open fields dotted with small villages. 

The disadvantage of an enduro bike is the smaller fuel tank. I’m not familiar with the bike I’m riding and quickly I find myself on the lookout for fuel.  At the nearest fuel station there is only diesel. On to the next one. This detour takes me further away from the TET route. I have to skip a few kilometres to get back on track. Just to bring me to the next obstacle in the region of Wismes. Here I find a few road signs that indicate I am not allowed to enter the unpaved road with a motorbike and/or quad. Too many bikers already? I will have to skip some more kilometres.

Once on the right way a great adventurous route treats me well. In general a mixture of single tracks (which can be tricky in this wet weather), open field paths and small tarmac roads.

The terrain is rather flat with some smaller hills. But never very difficult. The rain is an extra challenge, but the newly installed Bridgestone E50 tyres get me through the deepest muddy roots.

Riding in the rain takes its toll. In other words: “I have enough of it.” I long for a hot shower and something to eat. Finding food is a challenge on a Sunday afternoon. With cold hands and an empty stomach I ride into the city centre of Amiens, the capital of this region and well known for its marvellous cathedral. The Ibis hotel has a patio behind a closed gate where I can park the motorbike; for myself there is a nice warm bed. One of the most beautiful and touristic places of Amiens is Quai Belu. A series of restaurants on the waterside; a great place to eat and reflect upon today’s ride. 

When I look out of the window the next morning the sky is still grey, but at least the rain has stopped. Ready to hit the road and ride further south into the Haute Normandie region. Although it has been raining a lot, some of the unpaved roads are still rather dry. The open field roads are not too muddy which gives me the opportunity to make some speed. You’ve got to keep focussed however, because there are some tricky parts ahead, big stones and deep roots. Next to these unpaved sections there are a high number of asphalt roads. A little bit too much at some stages. But, I can imagine it’s an incredible job to find an unpaved route that crosses the whole of France.

After a great morning of exploring the beautiful French countryside, I enter the city Beauvais. Time for a lunch break: a baguette with brie - what else when you’re in France?

The afternoon brings me more of what I found earlier this morning: a mixture of all kinds of roads and some great wide views! At some stages I feel like I am alone on the world… just a great ride!

At the end of the day I have to make a decision. I can’t ride the complete section 1. Because it stretches just to Aurillac which is almost in the south of France. This would take me several days. I’m in the shadow of the Eifel Tower now. At first I was thinking to ride into the city centre of Paris just for to have a coffee at the famous Champs Elysees, but it will take me too long just to get in and out of this huge city.

At the point I am right now, I can choose to ride section 8 which will take me on a 334 km long track to Le Havre or go back North and take section 5 which is app. 200 kms long and leads to Dieppe.

I go for the last option. I have 2 days to get back home, so I reckon this will be the most suitable option. Via local D-roads I ride back north. And after a good night sleep I’m off for my last day on the French TET. And what a great ride this is! A superb mixture of all kinds of paved- and mostly unpaved roads. I have the impression that this section has a higher number of dirt roads than the first part of section 1. And there are definitely some more challenging situations on this part of the TET. Deep trenches all covered with grass, some very narrow passageways… Quite a challenge! I make some very curious looking movements to keep the bike upright, and myself but somehow I manage not to fall. But it sure means a lot of fun! Also the last section at app. 8 kms from the end is one to remember. A nasty and muddy uphill with some real deep trenches and tracks where I have to use all my skills not to get stuck in a trench. I’m really happy to ride a decent enduro bike to ride this section.

Sitting at the seaside some minutes later I overthink the last days and the track I. It’s a different trajectory than the Belgian or Netherlands TET that I rode before. Both these TET tracks can be done with a big bike (when dry), but the Northern part of the French TET is something else. There are some narrow, challenging and tricky parts in it. No problem with a bike like the Honda CRF450L I drove, but I would not want to ride it with a big Africa Twin for instance. And on the other hand there are some larger asphalt sections that are more interesting to ride on a big bike instead of a hardcore enduro bike.

Let’s say it’s a mixture of both worlds and probably doable with every kind of decent dirt bike, but if you are taking your BMW GS to ride the Northern France TET you’re going to have some nasty moments. Be sure NOT to wear that nice woolen underwear, because you’ll break out in a sweat at some stages.

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