Trail Riding in France in 2020 - the where, why, how

So the big question that everyone asks is “where can you ride your motorbike off road in France?”

In some ways it’s not as straight forward as in the UK but in other ways it’s easier.

The equivalent of the UK Ordnance Survey Landranger maps are the blue IGN Carte de Randonee maps.
However these IGN maps do not necessarily show rights of way. And it is actually very difficult, if not impossible, to devise off road routes from maps alone. 

For example, many of the routes mapped near 3Bs Biking are not passable or go nowhere. You will only find out when you go and try to ride them. This is why local knowledge is invaluable when devising routes for off road riding in France. We have spent days going down dead ends on our trail bikes so you don’t have to!

This is our guide to trail riding in France.


Where can you trail ride in France?

So the theory of where you can ride your off road motorcycle in France is as follows:

·       Unless it has a legal sign prohibiting it (there are many homemade signs that have no legality)
·       It must be wide enough for a car to fit along it, although this is often ignored. Many of the trails that might once have been wide enough are no longer due to vegetation and lack of use.
·       Unless it’s a National Park. There are 7 National Parks and these should not be confused with a Natural Park of which there are many more. We are on the edge of the Perigord Limousin Natural Park and many of our routes go through the park. This is fine.

Please note: in France they don’t generally discriminate between users. If it is legal for hikers, it is legal for all users including horse riders and motorised users. So there’s no concept of footpaths, bridleways etc. They are just trails or chemins as they are known here. 
The rights of users of the chemins are represented by an organisation called Codever and they produce a booklet which tells you all about where you can ride including what are the legal and illegal signs which may scupper your plans. However you need to be a member to receive this. Oh and it’s in French.

3Bs Biking are corporate members of Codever. With this membership we have legal cover so that if anyone does challenge the legality of the routes we ride we have support to defend ourselves. It also means we can get involved with working parties to keep the chemins clear and open for everyone to use. 

If you want to know more about trail riding in France with 3Bs Biking just click here.

What to expect from trail riding in France?

Well prepare to be smiling from start to end! There are a huge variety of trails but we are in a heavily wooded area so a lot of our terrain is woodland tracks. In addition we are in a very hilly area – wonderful for trail riding.

There’s also plenty of faster gravel tracks, grassy tracks round the edge of fields, rocky climbs, sandy stretches and plenty of rivers and streams to cross. We rarely come across any gates to open and if we should happen across other users of the chemins (rarely) they are pleased to share their space.

There are miles and miles of motorcycle trails however occasionally we have to link with some road sections. However these will usually be short and very quiet, rural roads, often going through farmyards or tiny villages where the locals will wave. The road bits can give you a bit of a welcome respite from the rigours of off road riding. We do not have a lot of ruts to ride and the ones we do have are usually huge, made by the logging lorries. Quite often, deep in the woods, you will come across some surprises e.g. the deserted holiday village, the immaculately kept church literally in the middle of the wood, a shrine or a small water feature/fountain. You never quite know what’s round the next bend.

Refreshment stops are usually in quaint villages but may also be overlooking a stunning chateau (see below). Places to refuel can be a bit sparse in rural France and the majority are card operated but we can advise where they are if you’re venturing out self-guided or we can meet you at a pre-arranged re-fuelling stop with jerry cans (and a picnic lunch if required). Be aware that lunch breaks in France can be a lengthy affair and leaving you needing a nap afterwards. Try and find something light at a bakers.

If you should run into mechanical problems or injury, we are available by phone and can advise how best to handle the situation. At 3Bs Biking we also have a bike trailer and we can recover your trail bike back to base if necessary. We advise you to install the What 3 Words app on your phone before you head out for the day so we can easily find you if necessary. Our workshop has some basic parts and consumables in stock plus tools but there are also a number of large bike shops 35km away in Limoges (KTM, Honda, Yamaha, Beta etc)

The trail riding in France is certain not to disappoint as there is huge quantity and quality of trails.

Coffee stop at the chateau at Jumilhac le Grand
not that way
Maybe not that way....
knew where we were
See! Told I knew where we were...
map backup
It's always a good idea to have a map as backup to the GPS
middle of woods
Strange things in the middle of the forest
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