Tour Reports

If anyone is interested in riding this route, as well you should, here are some useful links to help plan your trip, and a little advice of my own.

Firstly, I have done this route twice, the first time was few years back during late Sept – early Oct, and this year in late May and without doubt the best time is late May or early June as the snow is still there and makes it even more impressive, and of course there is less traffic. However there is a major drawback in this as the highest passes may still be closed. So you can take the chance in early June and you should be ok, but Sept to be sure. The French however, know how important this route is to tourism and they will open these passes as early as they possible can, the Italians on their side seem to be a bit more relaxed about it, so be warned that the passes leading into Italy may be open on the French side but closed on the other side forcing you to double back.

Another word of warning, watch out for cyclists, Routes des Grande Alps is part of the Tour de France race so it’s always full of these guys training, or more likely using it as an excuse to shave their legs.

Check out the status of the passes

Securite Routiere Tous Responsables

Securite Routiere Tous Responsables (ENG)
Infotrafic: Etat Des Cols

As of today, June 6 2010 both Galiber and the Iseran passes are still closed, and may not open untill July but don’t let this stop you.

For more info on the route check out the official website for loads of practical info: Grande Traversee Alpes

GPS vs. Maps

Great Alps Route MapAn essential map “Great Alps Route Regional Discovery Map: 81024, ISBN : 3282118102426″ can be bought online for approx. 7GBP (or 10EUR). Apart from a general map of France this is the only one you will need. Also, don’t forget the French tourist office, they have a great little map of all the best motorbike routes in southern France.

Even if you have a GPS on your bike I’d still recommend having a map, I used a BMW/Garmin Motorrad Nav III which on more than one occasion I felt like ripping out and throwing away!!! In some towns in deep valleys the GPS lost satellite connection, and riding through small winding streets in a strange town in lunch hour traffic, without a f$*ken clue as how to get out-of-town and a GPS in meltdown can “as it did me” get you into an argument with a traffic cop!!!!

Also if heading to Spain be warned that your GPS maps are probably well out of date. The Spanish are building new roads and motorways like you would not believe, especially near the coastal towns/cities, they got a load of cash from the EU for this and they intend to spend it. My 1000+ Euro Sat Nav got lost just south of the Spanish border, again near Barcelona and was in constant meltdown in the Alicante area. It is fine in the older established roads, but if you find yourself on the new motorways or large roads and your 1K+ Euro GPS flips out just switch off the damn thing and follow the road signs or an up to date 6 Euro road map. Unlike Ireland where road signs are seen by the Government as a useless waste of money along with our child and health care system, the Spanish like most EU countries feel they have a useful purpose and place large high vis signs in plenty of time for you to get into lane.

Planning Your Hotels/Campsites

Also if doing this route I’d definitely advise taking your time if your budget allows. Plan your hotels/campsites or whatever no more the 200km apart and stay for two nights. Why?? Because the roads/passes are that bloody fantastic you will want to do them more than once. The 1st time its the scenery that will blow you away, but if you can base yourself on one spot for 2 nights you will be able to unload your bike, adjust your suspension, double back and enjoy the roller-coaster roads as God “who is a biker” intended… Also there are plenty of magic roads, passes, old fortified towns etc off the main route well worth exploring.

I’ll upload the GPX files for the route as soon as I can sort them all out into one coherent route. Now get off yer computer and get on your bike…


Route des Grande Alps - Roads, Links, Photos 4 Responses so far

4 Responses to “Route Des Grande Alps – Tour Planning”

  1. Lenny says:

    Hi, Thanks for all the great info. Im just wondering, if im plodding along and doing this route, how long would it take? i kinda only have maybe 3 days to do it, put putting aside all the picture taking and cheese and wine drinking you think ill be ok with this time scale?
    I intend to redo it of course next spring, but im based in basel switzerland and summer is fast running away now. Leaving this thursday. Any recommended campsites for along the way? I didnt see any on the site. Thanks for your help, please do respond asap,
    Goood luck

    • gpsroutes says:

      Good to hear for you Lenny,

      Glad to know this blog was of some use to you. As for doing the full route from Geneva to Menton in 3 days I would have to say that I wouldn’t recommend it, it’s the guts of 1000km depending on your route and many of the high roads will seriously slow you down even if the weather is ideal, you’d be doing long hard days in the saddle and by far the worst thing is you would not have the time to really enjoy it which would be a real shame!!! The scenery is mind blowing, there are plenty of other bikers from all over the world who are all more then happy to stop for a chat and a bit of tire kicking, and then of course there is the wine and cheese which is all part of the experience!!! To do the full route I’d recomend at least 5 days if your on your own and 10 days for larger groups.

      Also, some of the roads are so good you will want to turn round and blast back to do it again. To be comfortable, to enjoy it and of course to do it safely you should look to do no more then 200/250km per day, certainly no more then 300km, of course it depends a bit on your bike, but anything more then that and it becomes more of an endurance test as these roads will test you!!! If your living in Switzerland then I guess your used to high altitudes, but if not don’t forget to remember once you get up over 2000 meters your body gets tired really quickly due to lower O2, and there is absolutely no room for error or dangerous driving due to fatigue on many of these roads. If you miss a turn up here you will have a 1000ft drop to look forward to and a birds eye view before the hard landing :)

      When going through the highest passes 2500+ meters I brought my own packed lunch, this may sound weird, but having a few tins of tuna and a bunch of mars bars in your pack is a good move, between the protein and the high energy choc bars these will really help you stay awake and push on as there are not too many places to stop for lunch or even just to have for an emergency if the weather turns bad and you have to stop in the middle of nowhere. If the weather or clouds come down on you the visability can drop to almost 0 and you may not be able to see your front tire so be prepared just in case you have to stop and wait it out.

      If your short on time “3 days” I would seriously consider doing the route in stages, especially if you intend going back in the Spring. The highest passes between Geneva and Briancon will almost certainly be closed in Spring as they were for me on this trip so I’d consider doing this part now while the highest passes are still open, and it will also help you get a feel for the route and what to expect when you head back in Spring when the passes from Briancon heading south will reopen “ aprox last 2 weeks in May. You can do Briancon to Menton/Nice easily in 3 days in Spring on the D902, but also don’t forget the Route des Grande Alps is not an exact route and is only based loosely along the D902, there are plenty of passes running either side of it and in-between which is why I keep going back for more :)

      As for camp sites, I did not see many, very few, and only around the larger towns, keep a look out for roadside signs, mostly DIY jobs leading to auberges and Hotel d’ote, they may be very “rustic” but they are seriously cheap, friendly, full of charm, cheese and great wine. They all cater for bikers, as along with cyclists and hikers we are their bread and butter in the summer months, and many will offer facilities to clean your bike or dry your gear. If your really looking for just camp sites then just pop into a tourist office in the larger towns, or the post office or local grocery shop in the smaller villages as these guys will know everything and everyone in the area. Its also good to know that if there is no camp site near the small villages the wizened old lady in the village shop may well know someone close by willing to rent out a room for the night or a nearby chalet if there is 3 or 4 of you so dont be afraid to ask.

      Another tip is never pass a petrol station without topping up, there can be very long stretches between fuel stops on the French side and many close for lunch, so keep this in mind…

      Hope this helps…
      Have a great trip and let me know how you get on, if you have any good stories of the trip, impressions, good places to stay or advice of your own that you got from it please feel free to write back and I’ll post it here so others can read it and plan their own trips of these great Alpine roads.


  2. Dave hendy says:

    Hi Lenny

    The map you recomend ‘Great Alps Route Regional Discovery Map: 81024, ISBN : 3282118102426′ does not seem to be available, any other suggestions? I am struggling to find the exact route over its full length.

    Thanks and keep up the good work!


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