Nice - signposted locally as Nizza - is a huge sprawling town occupying a large bay on the Cote d'Azur. It's not a very cyclist-friendly place, the traffic is very heavy indeed, but it is surrounded by pleasant Alpine foothills country and this in turn leads to the higher roads quite quickly.|
It may not be our favourite part of the world, but we do visit here quite often, in the early spring, just because it happens to be an easy flight for us, and the climate is very warm.
The links to the right show just some of the places that are accessible within a day or two.
There are so many routes out of Nice - you can travel East or South-West along the coast, or West, North-West, North or North-East into the mountains. Or you can fly or take a ferry to Corsica.
Of these, heading due North is probably the only direction that doesn't work too well - all the rest have good cycle-friendly routes and all are pictured in these pages.
East towards Italy.
The coast road, or Corniche Inferieure is good for cycling, the only slight problem is navigating through Monaco, apart from that its easy and scenic and not too busy, all the way to Menton, which is a town we rather like, then the Italian border, and beyond - though it does get a lot busier in Italy.
Menton, Ventemiglia and San Remo are the places to turn inland into the mountains, Menton being the southern end of the Route des Grandes Alpes.
Alternative roads are the Corniche Moyenne, which is a main road and not really the best choice for cyclists, and the Grande Corniche, including the Col d'Eze, which is a beautiful road but a rather unpleasant climb out of Nice - better in the other direction. The three roads re-join just before Menton.
South-West along the Riviera.
Usually there are two parallel roads, one much busier and faster than the other. Usually the one to choose is the one nearer the sea, but leaving Nice its the other way round for a short while. Its very easy to get side-tracked onto the wrong road, and that can be really bad. If you stay on the quieter road, it can be a pleasant ride and its pretty flat, so you make good progress.
The two most interesting bits of country are the rocky Massif de l'Esterel, which is past Cannes, and the Massif des Maures which is a large area of low wooded mountains, a bit further along the coast, most accessible near St Tropez. These are both very scenic but basically easy-riding areas, ideal for a winter break.
West along the line of the Route Napoleon.
The main road itself has some very tough climbs, although its not as busy as you would expect. We avoid it though.
The absolute easiest route in this direction follows the river Loup, from Cagnes to Pont-du-Loup to Greolieres, joining the D2 there. It climbs steadily to 1120 metres before you get choices, one of which would be the Col de Bleine, which at 1439m is easily the highest road to be found this far south in the Alps, or, without climbing, you can head towards the most outstanding scenery in this area, which is the Grand Canyon du Verdon. This D2 is a fast track away from Nice and into good country.
Alternative, more energetic ways onto the D2 include the Col de Vence, which is only briefly scenic near the top and on a rare clear day, and the D1/D8 via St Laurent, Gattieres, Bouyon, Coursegoules, a roundabout route but a more interesting climb.
North-West heading for the high passes.
We really like the D1, Corniche du Var, which climbs steeply out of St Laurent and continues to gain height through Gattieres, Le Broc, to Bouyon and then cuts across very remote country heading towards the Gorges Daluis which are a gateway to the southern French Alps.
This is probably our favourite inland route out of Nice.
North up the main road.
This eventually leads straight to the Col de la Bonette, 100km away and 2802m up, but we wouldn't cycle this way. Maybe, downhill in the opposite direction, if we were pushed for time.. Otherwise, not recommended.
There are some lesser roads north, these all dump you in the Gorges de Vesubie and then your options are limited.
North-East into the Mercantour.
There are some good roads just inland in this direction, for example Madeleine de Corbio, and the classic climb of Col de Braus, and, eventually, the superb Col de Tende. These roads combine well with the coastal routes around Menton.
There are a lot of good tracks in the Mercantour National Park but most of them are forbidden to cycles.
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