Supermotard Alpe d’Huez

Super Moto, Supermotard at the Alpe d’Huez

The Alpe d’Huez, 21 hairpin turns, average 8.1% grade, 13% maximum, 13.8km (8.6 miles).  Climbing the Alpe d’Huez is a regular event on the Tour de France, and played host to the bobsled events during the ’68 Winter Olympics.  Besides having a world class ski resort, what else can you do to attract summertime business?

Supermotard racing.  Supermotard combines ashphalt & dirt sections requiring riders to display 3 skills: road racing, dirt track and motocross.  Born in 1979 as “Superbikers” on the American TV show “Wide World of Sports”  The idea was to find the best all around rider.

Supermotard (aka Super TT or Super Moto) has spawned its own class of motorcycles.  (Think KTM Duke, Husqvarna, Yamaha YZ426F) These bikes are equipped specially adapted tires.  Any other type of bike will not work and attempting supermotard style is not a good idea.

It also has spawned a particular riding style.  Instead of leaning into the turns, stay on top of the bike and push it down beneath you.  Result is the back wheel slides out in a drift like fashion.  Put a boot down (appropriately called an ‘outrigger’)in the turn at redline to save yourself from disaster and soon enough you’ll be slippin’ and slidin’ with the best of them.

The racing is spectacular, drifting, passing, jumps, bumps, these guys go all out.  We particularly enjoy Supermoto racing since the Alpe d’Huez plays host to a weekend of race action every August.

We never get tired of riding up the Alpe d’Huez, all 21 turns.  The race is free, you can move to different parts of the track to see the dirt or street portion better.  It attracts plenty of riders and motorcycles and all around makes for a good time.

For more information, check the supermotard website.  You can also see Supermoto racing on our motorcycle tours in France.  The Alpe d’Huez is a regular part of our European motorcycle tours as well.

I want to fly like an eagle

What a great classic rock song from the Steve Miller Band in the 70’s, but that’s the topic for another post.

Flying like an eagle, ever since Icarus & son attempted their fateful flight, man has wanted to fly.  Fast forward to today, and we’d agree that most of us motorcyclists might describe riding as being similar to flying.

Well, right in our backyard is a fantastic spot for unpowered flight.  On a clear day you can see gliders silently soaring above the Vercors, Belledonne & Chartreuse mountain chains.  If you’ve never experienced flying in a glider, it is a bucket list experience.

It’s entirely different than commercial flights on jumbo jets.  No luggage, no tray tables, unruly passengers, agitating fees…

The first thing that strikes you is the wingspan.  It’s wide.  Really wide.

The weight.  If you are requested to help push one around, you’ll be surprised at how light the thing is.  When you get inside, you’ll see why.  There’s not much to it.  It’s pretty much bare bones.  A seat, dashboard, pedals, control stick.  That’s about it.

The Spartan construction doesn’t instill much confidence, but there’s some reassurance in knowing the pilot is right behind you.  If you go down, so does he.  Another real confidence booster is the parachute you have to wear.

All kidding aside, prior to getting airborne, the pilot will give you a little briefing.  Then you get buckled in and with tow-line attached, a propeller plane takes off with the glider in tow.  What’s amazing is the glider gets airborne before the tow-plane.  How is that possible?  That’s because of that huge wingspan.

When you get up to altitude the tow-line gets dropped and then…silence.  The sensation is amazing.  For a moment you might feel like you’re suspended or weightless.  No, you’re flying.  No engine noise to disturb the silence.

You can feel the updrafts gently lifting you upwards as you ascend in a corkscrew fashion.  Still it’s remarkably quiet.  Feels like you’re floating.

Now there’s a lot to process between the sensations of flying without an engine, feeling the currents affect the plane.

Now comes the scenery.  When you feel up to it, you can look all around.  The canopy is huge and you get panoramic views of the landscape.  Views you don’t ordinarily get with your feet on the ground.

You might pass over a castle, or see hikers wave at you.  You’ll probably see other gliders doing the same thing you are.  Their passengers have their mouths wide open just like you.

When it’s time to land, you’ll be elated after taking your glider flight…it might remind you of that day when you first rode a motorcycle.  Felt like you were on top of the world.

If you’d like to participate in first class European motorcycle tours, and take flight in a glider, check out our motorcycle tours in France.





What’s the deal with Tartiflette? 



Winter is here and so is Tartiflette season.  Although the recipe may differ from place to place, it consists potatoes, cheese, lardons (bacon), and maybe cream [which is the ingredient that is subject to dispute]

The majority of our intrepid guests sample the local specialties while on tour.  One dish that almost always gets top honors is Tartiflette.

Tartiflette is a hearty, stick to your ribs, comfort food, pure cheese goodness, food coma inducing dishes.  Its origins are in Savoy (if your geography is a little rusty, think mountains, skiing, Olympics, Alps, France) The Savoyards are said to have invented this little piece of culinary heaven.

Unlike widely exported dishes, French Onion Soup, French Fries (technically Belgian Fries), Beef Burgundy, Coq au Vin, you will have a tough time finding Tartiflette on menus outside of France, or the Alps for that matter.

We’re not sure as to why.  We surmise it might have to do something with the ingredients.  Now you’re probably saying I have potatoes, bacon and cheese so I’ve got what it takes to make Tartiflette.  Well, not so fast. 

Potatoes & bacon are readily available most anywhere, but the cheese thing is another story.  It’s not just any cheese.  It’s Reblochon.  It’s the cornerstone that keeps the whole thing together, otherwise it’s not really Tartiflette. 

Reblochon cheese comes from Savoie.  Supposedly the locals would make it for personal use as a way to dodge the tax collector.  The curious can read about its origins here on this gourmet site.

Winter sports fans who flock to Alpine ski resorts ingest tons of Tartiflette each season to the delight of local restauranteurs.  At local Christmas markets you can find giant casseroles of Tartiflette with their cheesy incense mixing with the scent of mulled wine filling the air.  Frankly it’s hard to resist the Siren’s song of Tartiflette beckoning you to partake in its cheesy potato lardon goodness.

You will find Tartiflette on the menu in every French Alpine Ski resort.  That’s a sign that there’s something good about it.

Once our guests have had the chance to savor a real Tartiflette, the choruses of superlatives rings forth:  “the best…the most comforting….the tastiest…the cheesiest…”  it goes on and on .

Quite often, we’re asked for the recipe.  We issue the standard disclaimer, that if you don’t have access to Reblochon cheese, it won’t be the real deal.  We think the best way of enjoying Tartiflette is after a long day of motorcycle touring.  If you like motorcycle riding, join us for an Alps motorcycle tour and you can savor Tartiflette to your heart’s content.

This one dish wonder is a great way to recharge your batteries after conquering Alpine mountain passes.  Those who’ve had an authentic Tartiflette will agree.  If you’re looking for the recipe, here’s one take.

If you can’t get Reblochon in your area, consider a Brie, Camembert, maybe a Gruyere or just improvise.

Here’s a how to video on making Tartiflette.  If you cannot view the video, here is the url: