See the section for France of the Trento Bike Pages.

Biking in Corse

By Lucio Cadeddu, 13 November 1995

The Land

Mediterranean Sea.
250,000 people live in a 8,700sqkm island, that's 28 people each sqkm. In other words Corse is a almost desert land. This situation changes a little bit when Summer comes and 2 million tourists invade the island. Being pretty near to italy (82k), to France (180k) and Spain (450k) and VERY near to Sardinia (12k) it's one of the preferred touristic places of the Mediterranean Sea. It has gorgeous and wild beaches together with very high mountains (Monte Cinto 2,710m) and you can easily reach this paradise by boat (from Livorno, Genova, Marseille) and by plane (Rome, Florence, Lion, Nice and Marseille).
The FFDC (Federation Francaise du Cyclotourisme) organizes a full-optional (?) 15 days/1200kms bike tour. You can get more infos on this subject at "Vivre la Corse en Velo" (Travelling Corse by bike) Residence Napoleon, 23 Cours Gen. Leclerc 20000 Ajaccio; Phone: 952119694

The area of my trip

Balagne, in the north of the island. Touristic ports: Calvì and L'Ile Rousse.

My equipment

Some advices

If you're planning a bike trip in Corse be prepared to mount a triple chainring unless you decide to ride without luggage (like me). A lighting system could be useful. Remember to bring with you evrything useful to fix usual and unusual mechanical problems. In some areas it could be very difficult to find even a spare tube. The best months: June, July, September. The Corses are bilingual: French and Corse (which is a mixture of French, sardinian and Italian) but, being accostumed with so many tourists it's very asy to find someone who speaks Italia, Deutch or English. Anyway, some words of French could help.

Some on-road trips (with some hazardous single tracks in between)

My starting point has always been the Sant'Ambrogio village, midway between Calvì and L'Ile Rousse.

Trip #1: Speloncato and its very strange eclipse phenomenon (70kms)

Just to see what I'm loosing I decide to reach Punta Spano, a must-see rocky beach. Starting from the village and heading for the Golf Club, after some hazardous (given the tires) unpaved road I finally reach Punta Spano just to tell myself how fool am I preffering 20k of sunny climbing to some refreshing swimming... The first clim, from the village to the paved road called N197, starts to give me n idea of how hard life can be. Once reached the N197 I turn right in the direction of Calvì. BTW, did you know that Cristoforo Colombo (yes the man who discovered something important while navigating back in 1492) was actually born in Calvì (and not in Italy) ? (or so they, The French, say....).

Now the road goes up sweetly (?) (5-9%) 'til Lumio where I can measure my climbing prowess, passing some tourists panting in their granny gear....oh, I forget to say that their bikes were overloaded with 30 kgs (if not more) of luggage...oops. I wave at them with my best French-sounding "salut!" and they reply with a "bon-something I can't understand". at the top of the hill I turn left taking the road D71 in the direction of Lavatoggio. During the 7.5 km climb to Lavatoggio I can enjoy one of the most attractive panoramas of the whole trip: the Gulf of Sant'Ambrogio surrounded by some high mountains. Oh, oh now I understand why they call "Panoramique" this strange camping... Once reached Lavatoggio where those of you interested in this knid of things can visit an ancient (1621) francescan monastery (Marcasso), the road goes up again to Cateri, Avapessa, Muro, Feliceto and Nessa which are some very characteristic small village pretty similar one to the other. Near Feliceto I see a water spring where I can refill my (already boiling) water bottle (remember, it's August...). After Nessa I have to turn right (road D663) to reach Speloncato. Otherwise, going on in the same road, 9 kms later you'll find Belgodere.

Here the climb becomes less sweet and, as usual (Murphy's law no. 115) I begin to hear strange noises from the rear wheel. the cones and the locknuts of the rear axle are so loose that the rear wheel rocks from side to side with a horrific noise. Well, is life as bad as dreams ? I guess it's just the way it seems. A quick fix allows me to gain the top of the hill and enjoy the scenery. Speloncato is famous for its several natural caves ("spiluncas") one can easily find near the village. The most famous is Pietra Tafonata (2km far from the village) which is a kind of tunnel (8m long, diameter 6m) responsible of a very strange eclipse phenomenon. On April (the 8th) and September (the 8th) the sun goes down the mountains at 6 pm and reappears some minutes later through the tunnel enlightening the main square of the village. Wrong month for the right trip, I think. Now, for those of you whose name starts with Pan and ends with Tani, there is a long and very steep uphill (some walls at 20% or more) right in the direction of Poggiola. I decide to climb it but after some kms I understand that with a 46/26 granny gear and a 15 kgs monster I can't go far enough without killing myself. Plus, the sun is going down fast and I don't have any lighting system. Pretty nice excuses, uh?

Well, the way back home is a sweet downhill where I can spin my 48/14 gear easily exceeding 65 km/h. The rear wheel makes still some noise and in a hi-speed turn I feel the rear end of the bike skidding a little bit. Nice fix, Lucio. Next time I'll try to remember to carry a camera with me. Grrr.

Trip #2: Sant'Ambrogio-Corbara-L'Ile Rousse (45kms)

Rest day. That's how I call days like this. Following the N197, after some little climbs (one at 6-9%)I reach l'Ile Rousse, a 2,500 people village with one of the most important touristic ports of the island plus some pretty nice squares. Unluckly (murphy's law No.116) I have choosen the WRONG hour of the day. The traffic is so intense that I start op cough for the toxic exhalations. Too many tourists for a so small village. OK, time for some clean air ie for some climbing. The uphill to Corbara refreshes my lungs and glazes my eyes with a superb view of the Gulf of Algajola and Sant'Ambrogio. 4 kms later I reach Corbara. A nice baroque church dominates the village while not far from it you can find an ancient monastery. My interst now is focused on the search for a water spring. Easy to find and very refreshing, do I need more ? Some people of the village look at me a little longer than usual. My strange bike, I think.
My atomic-age sunglasses or my aero helmet, I suppose.
My shaved legs, maybe.
Am I so terribly UGLY ??? No, maybe they're thinking: with so many gorgeous beaches to see is it possible that there exists someone who climbs 'yil here under this hot August sun ??? I decide they're almost right so I take the way back home. During the downhill a red (not yellow...) Ferrari Testarossa passes me. I think: there's someone fooler than me. In some of these turns there isn't enough room for two normal-sized cars, imagine for a Testarossa. Clever choice. Following again the N197 (direction: Calvì) I find the time to discover some sandy beaches (rare in this area, normally they're rocky) and even a "naturist" one, for those of you eventually interested in these kind of "sceneries" . Time to go home.

Trip #3: The Bonifatu Forest - Calvì (on and off (!)-road) (70kms)

It's a very windy day. Like in my Sardinia, here the Mistral blows very often. For this reason one famous joke among my buddies is: Q) What comes after two days of Mistral ? A) Monday. For some strange reason (maybe it's another Murphy's law) it's ALAWYS a HEADWIND. I decide to visit the Bonifatu Forest, the one from which it starts the well-known GR20 (Grand Randonnee 20) that is a 200 kms hikers (or even mtn bikers') lane that runs in the middle of the island. As usual, the first climb from the village to the road N197 reminds me how wrong the single 48 chainring has been, especially with this tedious headwind. Before reaching Calvì I turn left taking the road called D251 which runs near the St. Catherine airport. You can't imagine HOW near. Remember to carry one ear pads with you. After 10 kms (almost flat) the road becomes uglier and the pavement starts to seem a mined field. Plus it starts to up cause the Bonifatu Forest has been placed 600m higher. The uphill isn't very steep but the destroyed pavement makes things more difficult. Some kids yell at me: "Le tour de France c'est fini" (the Tour is over). My painful grin seems a smile...or maybe it is. Some wild cows (yes, cows)cross the road just in front of me regardless of my presence. Cycling is a very low-noise mean of transport, isn't it. Finally I reach the Forest and, as I was hoping, I find a fresh water spring. Now the pavement definitely ends leaving the place to the gravel and some rocks. The road (?) goes up more seriously following a mountain river 'til the start of the GR20. Some hikers wave at me but I have very little time to reply...the uphill is very steep to climb using a 48/26 gear, two overinflated slick tires and a road drop bar. The sweat begins to run into my eyes (I wear contact lenses...ouch!) and I begin hating me for having choosen this off-road uphill without some serious off-road equipment. Since I believe in the "no pain-no gain" theory I reach the top of the hill right where the rideable lane ends and begins a rocky singletrack for hikers. I'm smiling. Seated over a rock, looking at the river below me, eating some wild forest fruits and drinking almost-iced water...yes, I'm smiling. No noises, no toxic exhalations, a deep happiness pervades my soul while my heart is beating fast. I guess it hasn't been the uphill 'til here to raise my heartbeat.

Time for some downhilling. The way back is a single- (not dual-) slalom among those hikers (I'm just kidding, I go down slowly trying to not crash). The next paved downhill raises again my heartbeat (and my average speed). When I reach gain the road to Calvì I decide to visit this pretty village again. The port and the Cittadella (the ancient part of the village) are real must-see places. But the silence of the forest still plays loud into my ears. Time to go home.
Lucio Cadeddu

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