This is a very special tour that combines the very best of what the South of France has to offer. The tour takes place to the south of Geneva, riding fabulous roads in mountains, parks and on the coast.
Riding a Harley-Davidson in the wonderful French Alps, on some terrific mountain passes is an amazing adventure and great fun. The tour includes riding the Col d’Iseran, the highest mountain pass in the whole of the alps and this is where the tour gets its name from – being up so high. These high mountain pass roads are a joy to ride.
However, many riders don’t have the experience of riding abroad, or don’t have time to research and plan the best routes to get the best out of a European ride. Wouldn’t it be terrific if someone was able to do all the hard work for you, plan great routes, book good hotels and lead the ride to show you some of the best riding in the world? That is exactly what we do!
This is one of our favourite tours, where we have selected our favourite French mountain roads. The tour has to be in mid-summer, during a very short window when we can guarantee the high alpine roads we will be riding will be open. This is one of our technical tours of the year and should only be undertaken by experienced riders who enjoy challenging and twisty roads, with many tight hairpin bends. You need to be reasonably fit as we will be riding long days, for many days in a row.
We will ride almost every day, but do have a rest day where we take it easy. The total distance we will ride will be just over 1,200 miles. A lot of these miles are done on some of the very best riding roads available, set among wonderful alpine scenery.
There are a good mixture of road types, from tight and twisty to faster and sweeping. We have chosen many that we know will put a smile on rider’s faces.
Depending on where you are from, you could ride your own bike on the tour, or rent one from one of the Harley-Davidson dealers we work closely with (see ‘Rentals’ tab at the top of this page).
Day One – Thursday 13 July
The tour officially starts in Geneva.
You can either (a), make your own way to Geneva on your own bike and meet us there, or (b), ride on your own bike with us from Folkestone, UK, leaving on Wednesday morning to get to Geneva on Thursday afternoon, or (c), you could fly to Geneva and rent a bike there. We can help with the arrangements for any of those methods if needed (details will be included in the road book for the tour). For specific information about renting a motorcycle for this tour, see the ‘Rentals’ tab at the top of this page.
However you choose to get to Geneva, you need to be at our hotel, with your bike, late afternoon on day 1 of the tour to meet your tour leader.
Tonight we stay in an 18th century chateau just to the north of Geneva.
The hotels we stay at vary in size and quality, and where possible, we only use hotels with good off-road parking. All are 3 or 4 star. We don’t use large chain hotels in larger towns, but prefer smaller remote locations. On two of the nights on the tour, your evening meal is included within the tour price and on the rest of the evenings, you are free to eat where you like. Often, we will eat as a group, but it is really up to you.
Day Two – Friday 14 July
Our first three days of riding see us heading south to arrive at the Mediterranean Sea.
We start our main riding this morning and immediately we ride terrific roads. Within just a few miles of leaving the hotel we ride the Col de la Givrine, a pass road that climbs up into the nearby low mountains. We then head south, the direction we follow for most of the day to head away from Geneva.
In the morning we ride along the ridge of the southern end of the Jura Mountains through the National Natural Reserve of the High Jura, a protected area and a very scenic road. Just east of Aix-Les-Bains, we ride through the Parc Naturel Régional du Massif des Bauges, on more very scenic roads.
To end the day, we ride through the dramatic Gorges du Guiers Mort, with it high sided steep cliffs. By the time we reach our hotel in Voiron, we will have ridden 155 miles today.
Day Three – Saturday 15 July
On day 3 we continue heading south towards the Mediterranean and we will get as far as Sisteron by the end of the day.
First we bypass Grenoble as we head into the highlight of today, which is riding thorough the Vercors Regional Natural Park. Set upon a limestone plateau, the park is at the western end of the French Alps. The plateau’s main elevation reaches 1,000 metres (3,300 ft) and the Vercors area is peppered with caves. During World War II, it served as a safe and defensible position for the French Resistance. For riders, the area holds many great motorcycling roads, gorges and impressive views.
We will ride through the Gorges de la Bourne, as it snakes its way alongside the River Bourne.
One of the most dramatic roads we know is Combe Laval and we ride that road today. Originally built as a logging road, it is cut into the side of a huge cliff, through a series of short tunnels. The view from the road of the Vercors area is simply spectacular, and there is a very impressive view down into the gorge below.
Next, as we ride down off the huge plateau, we ride the Col de Rousset, a snake-like road with plenty of hairpin bends. The views of the road are excellent as you ride down.
As we enter Sisteron, we stop to look at the very strange-looking pyramid shaped rock across the river, before we ride the short distance to our hotel. We will have ridden 142 miles today and while that doesn’t sound much, due to the twisty nature of the roads, it will take all day.
Day Four – Sunday 16 July
We ride 160 miles today and the aim is to reached the coast, but first we have some more magnificent roads to ride!
As we head south from Sisteron, our main place to ride this morning is the Verdon Gorge, which is a river canyon. Carved by the Verdon River, it has white-water rapids and steep cliffs. We will stop at the bridge that crosses the river to admire the best view of the canyon rising up above the turquoise blue water of the river. The road runs along the canyon, about half way up its northern cliff. The views are dramatic, as is the road!
We ride more scenic roads as we leave the canyon behind and join the southern end of the Route Napoleon. We arrive at the Mediterranean in Cannes, famous for its film festival, fabulous beaches and beautiful coastline, which we then ride along to arrive in Nice, where we stay for two nights.
Day Five – Monday 17 July
This is a rest day, but with such great roads in this part of the French coast, we plan to have a short ride on the roads above the cost where we can look down to admire the best views. For those who want to, we will ride a little further along the coast to Monaco, to ride around the streets that make up the famous Grand Prix circuit.
Day Six – Tuesday 18 July
From our hotel in Nice, we ride west along the coast, but just inland on the famous corniche to arrive at Menton where we say goodbye to the Mediterranean before turning inland to ride into the main part of the French Alps.
We ride 142 miles today on some wonderful twisty roads as we climb up into the mountains. We ride very close to the Italian border and our aim
Today we ride the Col d’ Eze, Col de Castillon, Col de Turini, Col Saint-Martin, through the Gorges-de-Valabres, Col Des Fourches, Col de Raspaillon, These are great riding and have wonderful views!
We stay in a hotel near Barcelonnette as use this as our base in the French Alps for 3 nights.
Day Seven – Wednesday 19 July
Today we go on a 150 mile ride starting and finishing at our base hotel.
This is a figure of eight loop ride to the south of our base hotel and we will ride: Col d’Allos (7,380 ft), Col de la Colle St-Michel, Gorge de Dalus, Gorges Supres du Cians, Col de la Cayolle (7,631 ft) and the Gorge du Bachelard. This will take all day. Two of these cols are classified as high mountain passes and their twisty nature and spectacular views make them wonderful to ride.
Day Eight – Thursday 20 July
Day 8 see us riding another loop route from and back to our base hotel, this time to the east and this will also take us briefly over the border into Italy. This 119 mile loop also takes us into Italy briefly. The pass roads to be ridden today are amazing, high and with spectacular views. These include the Col de la Bonette (8,907 ft), Col de Raspaillon (8284ft), Col des Fourches, Col de la Ombarde (7,710 ft), Col de Larche (6,549 ft).
This will be a terrific days riding.
Day Nine – Friday 21 July
Day 9 sees us riding 166 miles, mainly north as we ride away from our base hotel for the last time.
After Sainte-Paul- sur-Urbaye the first pass we ride today is the Col de Vars. At Guillestre we head north east through the Combe de Queyras, which is a 200m high canyon with steep-sided walls. Next comes the Col d’Izoard before we reach Briancon. Then the Col du Galibier and the Col du Telegraphe.
Then we ride the road that gives this tour its name, the Col d’Iseran, which at 9,068 ft (2,764 metres) is the highest paved pass in the Alps. We will of course stop on the top. Then as we ride down the mountain we approach the famous ski town of Val d’Isère which is very close to the Italian border. We stay here overnight.
Day Ten – Saturday 22 July
Day ten is our final day riding before we arrive back in Geneva, but we still have many great roads to ride on our 139 mile route today.
We ride another famous pass road this morning, the Cormet de Roseland followed by the lesser-known Col des Saisies, then the Gorges de l’Arondine and the Col des Aravis. Our final pass road on the tour is the Col de la Colombiere before we drop onto some motorway to speed us back to Geneva.
If we have time and if the weather is good, we will also stop next to Lake Geneva to take a photo of its famous fountain. We stay tonight in the same chateau we started the tour in.
Day Eleven – Sunday 23 July
The tour officially finishes this morning after breakfast.
For those who rode to Geneva on your own bikes, you will start your journey home this morning (riding with Tour1 if you so choose, taking two days). For those who rented motorcycles, you can either ride back to the Harley-Davidson dealership in Lyon today (subject to their opening days /times), or later depending on your onward travel plans.
If you choose to travel back with the Tour1 team, we will stay the night in France. Details will be in the road book.
Day Twelve – Monday 24 July
If riding back to the UK with Tour1, we will arrive in Folkestone at around 5pm.
Our group sizes normally range from 10 to 14 motorcycles.
Each day, we normally start riding at 8.30am sharp and cover in the region of 100 to 190 miles. We try to avoid motorways wherever possible and only use these when there is no real alternative. We take mid-morning and mid-afternoon breaks and of course find somewhere for lunch. Our plan is to normally arrive at that evening’s hotel by around 6pm.
The hotels we stay at vary in size and quality, and where possible, we only use hotels with good off-road parking. The hotels are not super luxury and not bottom end, but mid-range – normally 3 and 4-star. We don’t use large chain hotels in larger towns, but prefer smaller remote locations. On some nights on the tour, your evening meal is included within the tour price and on the rest of the evenings, you are free to eat where you like. Often, we will eat as a group, but it is really up to you.
We ride at a pace to suit all of the riders. We stick to all speed limits in towns, but in rural areas we ride at, let’s call them ‘more appropriate’ speeds. We generally ride in staggered convoy on straighter roads.
As we have pre-booked hotels and a schedule to stick to, we ride in all weathers. During any exceptionally inclement weather, we will pull over for short periods. We could experience a range of different types of weather, so bring waterproofs, just in case.
We like these tours to be about having a real adventure, riding on great roads with like-minded people. For that reason, we do not use a support van, but we always have a back-marker.
Each of our tours has a difficulty rating and this tour is rated as ‘challenging’. That means this tour is for experienced riders only, with say, a minimum of five years of riding large motorcycles. You must have ridden on the right-hand side of the road before on many occasions and you must be comfortable with travelling in a group of riders and be able to keep a good pace within that group. We do not ride very fast, but at the same time, it is better if riders do not go too slowly. The route will include many twisty roads, plus many high mountain roads with many tight hairpin bends / switchbacks. There will be some sections of road with steep drop-offs at the side and no guardrail. If you or your pillion are at all uncomfortable at riding at height, then this tour is not for you. If you are from the USA, please note some of the roads you will be riding are significantly narrower and have tighter bends than in the USA. All roads are fully paved. While there is not much motorway riding on the tour, as a guide, the group will be riding at speeds of 75mph+ on motorways. You must be confident of riding in rain and on wet roads.
Each day’s riding will be around 9 hours, with breaks. You must be able to ride all day. If you are at all unsure if your riding ability is good enough for this tour, then you must contact us by telephone to discuss.