Offroad Riding in France
So yesterday I went offroad riding in France and jumped on the CB500x L3 Rally Raid and headed out to the Alsace. I was planning to go for an hour but came home 6 hours later!! I had no route, I just followed the dirt where ever it took me and it just kept on taking me 🙂
I mean, the Alsace is beautiful! Rolling hills spotted with forests, small ponds and full of Historical sites from the Roman Roads, Middle age buildings to Word War II heritage sites. Lots to see, and if you have the interest, lots to learn.
I have some photos of the tour in this post, but thought I would share a few things I have learned about offroad riding in France. This season I plan to find a French Lawyer to help write a more detailed post about the off road riding rules, but this is a brief introduction and are the thing that more experienced riders have taught me and I have found to be useful. So here are:
Some tips for Offroad Riding in France
The goal here is not to get in trouble with the locals or get a ticket from the Police or the Forest Service. To avoid this fate there are number of rules you need to be aware of. You also need to be aware that there are different layers of rules from the national rules and down to local community rules. If you go riding there is always a risk of breaking them through ignorance, so if you do get a ticket or get stopped it can be part of the experience. As long as you are polite and friendly usually the worst that happens is a verbal warning or a small fine. I have heard stories of multi-thousand euro fines, but these cases seem to be pretty openly flagrant breaking of common sense rules.
The only problem I ever had was during a ride in the Rhone Alps. We entered a forestry trail by a side route and didn’t see the no entry sign (White Circular sign rimmed by Red). The forestry officer stopped us, took our licence plates and weeks later I received in the mail a carbon copy fine (yes literally a hand written fine on carbon copy paper!) in the mail. I think it was about 60 Euros. A small price to pay.
So what rules should you follow if you want to go offroad riding in France?
1. Ride on approved routes only.
The basic rules finding a legal route is two fold which makes it fairly easy to find your path.
- the path has to be wide enough to accommodate a car.
- It cannot be marked restricted
At the beginning of a trail look for a large or small circular sign which is white with a red border. These can be blank with no pictures or writing, or on the white section there can be writing or pictures. Sometimes these are free standing on a pole, as in the picture on the left, or sometimes they are quite small and nailed onto a tree. If you see these signs you know that you are not allowed to ride here.
2. Respect People and Animals
When you come across people stop your engine and let them pass. This is especially important when there are animals involved, usually horses or dogs. It can be helpful to lift your visor or remove your goggles and say hello to the people. In my experience the French do not dislike motorbike riders and have always been very friendly to me. Being friendly back helps your relations and i have had experiences where pilgrims have given me prayer cards and others have given me food to eat. Makes it a nice experience
3. Respect The Authorities
If you get stopped by someone, stop your engine, take off your helmet and find out what is going on. Apart from the one ticket I received, I have not had any problems with police or forest officers. Usually they wave at you and drive on. We even had one forest officer who was repairing a bridge help traverse the ditch by stopping what he was doing and giving us a push! 90% of the people you meet will be helpful and friendly. It is up to us to set the scene of respect and friendliness and usually the others will follow.
You can also play the nationality card. I am Australian and sometimes people are interested in this fact, other times they see my Swiss number plate and I am perceived as Swiss. Sometimes this helps, sometimes not.
So that is it for today. Some pictures from the ride below. Hope you enjoyed and feel free to build on the topic in the comments below. Cheers.
CB500x L3 Rally Raid checking out the Route Romane d’Alsace