Tarn Valley and Millau — anyone taken a bike there?

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  • Tarn Valley and Millau — anyone taken a bike there?
  • At last my son is grown up enough that I’ve been able to strike a deal at home that gets me 4 or 5 days off later this year to go for a bit of a cycle tour. Ever since Top Gear went to the Millau Viaduct a few years ago I’ve wanted to see it for myself, so I was thinking of flying to Toulouse, riding up the Tarn Valley, on to Millau and then down to one of the Mediterranean airports to fly home.
    So far I’ve found references to there being a cycle route up the valley along a disused railway line, but any more information would be gratefully received. I’m not looking for any kind of epic off-roading, more a few days of rolling along, chilling, looking at the scenery type riding.

    Premier Icon duncan
    Subscriber

    Sounds like a fine plan. I passed through that area on a tour a few years ago, only on the road but they were fantastic roads. Much quieter than the more obviously popular regions, but no shortage of campsites and restaurants etc. (not that I’ve ever found an area of France lacking in campsites and restaurants but you know what I mean). Anyway, our route: from the Pyrenees, went South of Toulouse through Revel, zigzagged North-East to Millau, took in the viaduct (riding underneath along the river was as close as we got, still amazing though) then East across the Cevennes to Ales, before heading up to the Alps.

    I’m sure most people would tell you that with only a week to play with you should go straight to the Alps and just tick off as many TdF cols as you can stand (and stop off at a couple of resorts for some VTT of course) and although that would obviously be a great way to spend a week, if you’re after something more chilled, quieter, less touristy, but still challenging and interesting, then your route would be ideal, I reckon. And the bridge is just cool.

    ianv
    Member

    The hills between Millau and the south coast are pretty big. You will not be just “rolling along”, that’s for sure.

    Premier Icon stavromuller
    Subscriber

    It might be possible to find a Grand Randonee route (marked GR then a number on maps). Although really for walkers, nobody gets arsey about riding on them

    chives
    Member

    Not been to Millau, still on my ‘to do’ list – but my old girl lives near Ales, and there’s plenty of scope for off-road around there. The Ales / Uzes / Nimes area is littered with forestry-type tracks, which whilst not strictly ‘public access’ are completely ok. You’ll probably not see anyone whilst you’re out, and as mentioned above, if you do, no one really worries.

    As ianv – it certainly isn’t flat!

    For the best restaurant you’ll ever find in a tiny village, head to St. Just (between St. Brouzet les Ales and St. Maurice de Cazavielle)- they do B&B too.

    Premier Icon Stoner
    Subscriber

    Millau is a lovely town, and further over on the tarn we often stay here
    http://www.camping-florac.com/index.html

    and some of the riding round there looks like this:


    [img]https://lh6.googleusercontent.com/-CnDijoWKE7M/TgjnxgpzYyI/AAAAAAAAABg/y8pYUgAEQGo/s400/IMAG0245.jpg[/img]

    Premier Icon stavromuller
    Subscriber

    Done a little research and maybe GR 6 might be a goer for you, if you pick it up at Rodez

    cynic-al
    Member

    I did a road trip around there 10 years ago, great road riding.

    mcmoonter
    Member

    Its a spectacular piece of engineering. I was looking at the map to see if the caves at Lascaux were near, but it’s probably way to far to ride.

    Premier Icon Stoner
    Subscriber

    rode underneath it. Unbelievable scale

    [img]https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/-nxbrtAhuv28/Tgjns7nFOpI/AAAAAAAAAA4/47N7FAul4UE/s400/Pompino%2520Trip%2520169.jpg[/img]

    TandemJeremy
    Member

    Did some riding in the Tarn valley and thoroughly enjoyed it – much like the stuff stoner posted

    Premier Icon ononeorange
    Subscriber

    Can I just say that I have walked/crawled through the main section box under the tarmac surface? Amazing experience. Flipping high up though.

    (Probably the only willy-wave that I will ever get on here and it’s not even bike related).

    Thanks for the info folks. Due to the time constraints and the distance I want to get in I’ll probably miss the GR routes in favour of quiet roads. My experience of GR routes in the north is that they aren’t the fastest way of getting where you want to go. Also, having read the comments about the size of the hills between Millau and the Med I’m now wondering how wise it would be to do the trip on my singlespeed commuter.

    Premier Icon Stoner
    Subscriber

    I’m now wondering how wise it would be to do the trip on my singlespeed commuter.

    pffft!! Piece of piss! 😉
    http://pompinos.blogspot.co.uk/

    Oh dear, there’s a challenge there Stoner, isn’t there. Just as I was plucking up courage to order a Surly Cross Check to house that Alfine hubbed 29er wheel I never seem to use.

    I’ll be riding the singlespeed for the London to Brighton (road) Night Ride at the end of May and see how I feel about it after that. Nice pic.

    Premier Icon Stoner
    Subscriber

    Im going to have a go installing my 29er rohloff wheel in my pompetamine to for this years france trip – gives me a geared CX for pulling jr’s trailer and me doing a few trails when I can.
    Will fit the twistgrip shifter to one of these:

    hofnar
    Member

    As you said better to Give the GR a miss as the are designed for walkers and can be quite hard core on a bike especially around Millau as you will be in the valley and have to climb out. There is easily 2000ft difference between the valley and the surrounding hills. Best to avoid big roads.

    Note that the old railway track might just be gravvel so not that road(race) bike friendly. I live at about 40k from Millau but it tend to go for hard offroad stuff so I will more likely be on the GR.

    The bike I’m planning to take is an MTB running 26×1.75 Marathon Plus road tyres so is good for tow paths and most hard-packed surfaces. The 50:18 gearing is far more road biased.

    hofnar
    Member

    OP why not take a spare front ring then? 50/18 is big around here I have singlespeed back up from the valley(as shifter broke) and its hard. With a smaller ring you could put that on for the climbing days when you are getting out of the valley back onto the plateau(which is abvoe 3000ft

    That sounds like a bit of a faff to me. I’d be having to mess about with chain lengths as well if I was going to make any meaningful difference to the gearing.

    ianv
    Member

    It’s one thing riding along the tarn valley but I would definitely have gears if you are intending to ride from there to the coast (even on roads). Driving from Montpellier to millau on the autoroute, I have had times when I was in third gear in a 2 litre car! Once you reach the highest point, there is a big drop down to the viaduct.

    cynic-al
    Member

    Touring on a 72″ gear?

    Yes, it’s sounding like the Alfine/Surly build I mentioned above could be a good idea If I want the trip to properly feel like a holiday.

    Premier Icon Stoner
    Subscriber

    or just go 63″

    hofnar
    Member

    I know its a big mess to change blade and chain length. Though with a 50/18 you are either going to grind your knees to a halt or have a full days walk from Millau(valley) to the highlands ab ove. Many of these inclines the locals revert to 34 26 and these guys are reasonably fit.

    I know one road out of the valley thats not to steep its only 3 but it takes 25k’s(and it doesn’t go where you want to go) thats by bye to the knees IMO. the main roads out of Millau towards the sea are all quite steep and hard

    Best bet if singles speeding might be following the dourbie up to its spring as its likely to be more gradual(though never done it so there might be steep parts) anyways get some decent maps with altitude grids to map it out if insisting on the singlespeed its really beuatifull around here but some climbs ar a bit though

    cchris2lou
    Member

    Millau is my home town .

    Toulouse is a long way away .

    I would rather fly to Rodez, then it i a nice ride down to millau , about 70 to 80 km , but some places to stay like the lakes .

    then ride down to the med . once you are on the Larzac ( above millau ) it is not too bad .

    there is a disused rail track following the side of the larzac but it wont take you far .

    email in profile if you want more info . currently living in the uk , but was in millau last week .

    The trip’s on!

    Today I finally booked flights from Bournemouth to Carcasonne for Friday 28th and back on the following Monday afternoon.

    ViaMichelin says it is 100 miles to Millau so I’ve got two and a half days to do 200 mile round trip. That sounds do-able.

    A little bit late to report back, but I did it and here’s a quick summary.

    Friday:
    Got soaked riding to Bournemouth.
    Put wet riding kit back on to leave Carcassonne in late afternoon.
    Headed north out of Carcassonne.
    Climbed to a col at 890m, getting dark.
    Found that Viamichelin wanted me to go down a dirt track. With smooth tyres and panniers in the dark — no thanks.
    Back down to 600m then up to another col at 880m and roll down to Albine — glad I took my Ayups.
    Found a B&B, La Charmante, run by Elaine from Ireland, very warm welcome.
    60 miles

    Saturday:
    Ride to Millau.
    Up in the clouds anywhere over 600m.
    Torrential rain for 6 hours in the afternoon.
    Ride the last 15 miles into Millau on roads closed for the Millau 100km run.
    Stop at the visitor centre under the bridge and drip — a lot.
    Buy a cheesy fridge magnet as it’s the only souvenir that I can be sure of getting home undamaged.
    Find a hotel on the edge of town and spread wet kit all over my room.
    After dinner walk to the finish line in the centre of town and cheer in runners who have been going 12hours plus
    90 miles

    Sunday:
    Steady ride back south via a different route, weather quite pleasant at lower altitudes.
    Chain dry and noisy so lube it with a dribble of diesel from a closed filling station.
    Get back to Elaine’s place and am invited to eat with her and her friends — cracking evening.
    95 miles

    Monday:
    Pleasant ride back to Carcassonne and have time to look round the town and old Citadel — one of the larger collections I’ve ever found of shops selling tourist tat. Pretty from a distance though.
    Ride back to the airport and sit out in the sun unntil I’m told off by the girl at check in for being late.
    Back to Bournemouth and a strong tail wind all the way home.
    65 miles.

    BIG thanks to everyone who contributed to this thread with advice.

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