Away from the Alps Vercors & Chartreuse

It was spring 1994 - or was it 1995? I’m not completely sure - when a ‘motorcycle club’-member proposed a trip to the Vercors.

We had no clue where the Vercors was, but knowing the initiator there would be great riding roads all the way. There were plenty of other reasons to go as well: we had only been riding for two years and every moment spent on a motorbike was better than not being on a motorbike. Great philosophy, huh? Riding was our life, discovering new roads was our goal, seeing the world our quest … 

Yes, we agree, it was the era before speed traps and mobile phones and one could still enjoy riding a motorcycle in France, but for sure the destination itself was still worth the trip. To reach our destination we had to plan ahead. 25 years ago, we left from Ghent at 06:00 am, rode on the motorway to Namur and did the rest of the trip over National and Departmental roads. Roughly 12 hours and 850km later we enjoyed an apéroin Izeron, a neighbouring village of St-Marcellin (yes the one from the stinky cheese), along the Iseres at the bottom of the Vercors.

A party of three: a TDM850, a CBR600F and a GTR1000. Our average speed down south would nowadays leave you stranded without a license somewhere along the road… However, speed was not the main stimulant!  The man that took us there knew a few things about history and geography. That made the trip really worth our while. 

The famous elephant!

The Vercors is a mountain fortress to the southwest of Grenoble, the Chartreuse a peaky area in the north of the city. Both areas are rather different in geography and experience turning them into a perfect duo for a long weekend. They have a rather central location in Europe so they are easy to reach; and they are much more quiet than the Alps. True, there is more satisfaction to be found in the Alps, but keep in mind that we like to do things differently and that we prefer quiet area’s more

However, forget the idea of riding alone here, because one of the most exciting roads of the area has already made it into every magazine or website pretending to know something about roads: the road of Combe-Laval. A marvelous stretch that deserves everyone’s attention, especially as you need to make sure you don’t miss a turn or you’ll find yourself cartwheeling through the air before a certain painful impact about 300m lower…

You need to see more than the famous ‘elephant’ road, however, since there are plenty of gorges in the Vercors where the road follows the meandering rivers through deep canyons. One of the best rides is to be found at the Gorges de la Bourne. There are greater things to see in Pont en Royans… 

You can approach the Vercors from any side and you’ll find out that there are always a couple of surprises. You’ll notice that the inside of the Vervcors, which is basically a big plain, is a very secluded place. That’s also what the French resistance thought: during WOII this area gave them a feeling of safety, to that extent that they established the Free Republic of the Vercors. They had to surrender only in 1944 when German troops used gliding planes to invade the area. This did not end well for the resistance. There were massacres.  We still relive the feelings we had when we think back on that trip in 1995. 

Make love, not war. Or make miles on a bike, not war. Therefore we invite you to discover every road of the Vercors. We have made a road book that probably covers the best, but there’s much more. Take your time for the Col du Rousset, for example, and climb it via Die. Upon crossing the whole Massif du Vercors get out on the Grenoble side, head south for a little bit more and cross a little part of the Massive des Ecrins. And while you’re there why not just ride up to L’alpe d’Huez (make sure is not July…)? 

From there you can either turn back in the direction of Grenoble and go North to the Chartreuse or you can choose north east to Saint Alban de Villards, cut via the A43 towards Chambery and ride into the Chartreuse. The Natural Parc of the Chartreuse does not offer the same as the Vercors but it is very quiet; you’ll come accross the Monastery of the Grande Chartreuse, the main monastery of the Chartreux and the birthplace of the green herbal Chartreuse liquor… The landscape is very different to the Vercors that it really makes you wonder how two adjacent area’s have such a dissimilar type of erosion.   


Enjoy the ride!

For those who know the road of Combe Laval, check out this video from some nutters (in French) : 

Be aware this movie has nothing to do with motorcycles… just with freedom…





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