Cycling in the Massif Central

by Martin Thomas   May 6, 2011  

I've got a bit of a treat on the horizon: a week's cycling with a mate in the Massif Central. Neither of us know the area. We'll be camping and we don't want to break camp too often so we'll probably look for something central and ride off in different directions each day.

Does anyone know the area? Any suggestions about where to go? Where to avoid? Where to camp even, perhaps?

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It's beautiful and it's tough round there. If you want to stay in the heart of it, I'd look to stay somewhere like La Bourboule, Mont Dore or Chambon. Super Besse is a bit further south but as a ski resort might have more camping.

From Mont Dore you can ride le tour des Volcans route which basically takes you round all the major climbs in the area. There's also the Tour d'Auvergne. Main climbs I'd recommend are Puy Mary, Super Besse, Mont Dore, Croix Morand, Puy de Sancy.

You can probably make it as far as St Flour and Mende in a day.

The wine round there isn't amazing, but the cheese is: St Nectaire, Fourme D'Ambert, Bleu D'Auvergne, Cantal.

Other things worth doing:
visit Puy de Dome. Can't ride up it anymore as far as I'm away (except possibly Wednesday and Sunday before 9am?) Just walk up it, it is incredible.

Go to Clermont and visit Michelin factory, also see if you can track down Rapha Geminiani who still lives there. Man is a legend.

Visit the Charade race circuit, one of the most insane in the history of motorsport. Like Brooklands, most of what was isn't any more, but you get a sense of how insane it was.

Worth looking at routes that take you round some of the spectacular 13th century churches, like Orcival. and visiting the spa towns like La Bourboule.

The great thing is most of the routes are on near deserted D roads where there's only one road between two towns. Very few cars and spectacular scenery, also some great mountain lakes. Essentially you can pick and choose loops from one central base.

Weather: it can come in fast and heavy, so take wet weather gear. It's also surprisingly chilly at times.

Gear: roads tend to be chip seal and heavy, like the Pyrenees. Go for a reliable tyre rather than a light one as it can get a little flinty.

Enjoy it, it's a much under-rated area for riding.

http://www.chasingwheels.com - Chasing Wheels, the journal of Britain's least competitive cyclist

posted by leguape [31 posts]
6th May 2011 - 15:34

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Can't offer too much help other than to say that a couple of years ago I did a charity ride which finished at the foot of the Puy de Dome. It's normally closed to cyclists with the exception of Sunday(?) mornings, but we were allowed to ride up it. 6km at an average of 12% which corkscrews up the mountain was a bit of a battle after 3 days riding, but the views from the top were great.

Most of the roads around there were great for riding, so don't think you'll be able to go far wrong and you'll never be far from a climb or two!

posted by nellybuck@msn.com [149 posts]
6th May 2011 - 15:35

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you catch me in the massif central and the first thing i'm riding is this:

http://www.leviaducdemillau.com/english/index.html

Surprise

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posted by Dave Atkinson [6732 posts]
6th May 2011 - 16:08

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Excellent stuff, thanks very much to you in particular leguape (but you other 2 as well, natch)

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posted by Martin Thomas [536 posts]
6th May 2011 - 16:22

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Rather late in the day, I'm wondering whether I should arrange for insurance cover for my bike. I've got travel insurance but that only pays a max of £150 for individual items (helluva policy eh?) and my home insurance doesn't cover stuff abroad as far as I know. The bike's going to be transported there and back by car so it's only the danger of theft or damage while riding that I need to think about...

Would *you* get extra cover? If so, who with?

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posted by Martin Thomas [536 posts]
16th May 2011 - 8:38

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Just wanted to thank leguape once more for these excellent pointers - all were spot-on. Blog post to follow about some of the highlights but in a nutshell: it was brilliant!! Getting to the top of Puy Mary (finishing a 10k+ climb with 2km of 15%) and then descending pretty much uninterrupted for 22 miles was probably the highpoint Smile

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posted by Martin Thomas [536 posts]
31st May 2011 - 16:01

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try google/ amazon search around "walter judson moore"

posted by wyadvd [97 posts]
3rd June 2011 - 18:38

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