See the section for France of
the Trento Bike Pages.
Biking in Corse
By Lucio Cadeddu, 13 November 1995
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:
The area of my trip
Balagne, in the north of the island. Touristic ports: Calvì and L'Ile Rousse.
A Unknown Comp full-black frame aka the cheapest and heaviest combo of
steel tubing available wordlwide.
26" quickrelease-less wheels with 1.75" slick tires inflated (well,
over-inflated) at 90 PSI (max recommended pressure 60 PSI).
Five (yes, Virginia, FIVE) gears with a 48 teeth front single chainring and a
14/26 rear (bad...) cluster.
A full plastic-1$-Shimano SIS shifter lever.
A single brake (front, Mamola-style...)
A Turbo saddle and SPD pedals (stolen from my mtb).
A Vetta C-15 computer to remind me how slow I'm going.
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
Some on-road trips (with some hazardous single tracks in
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
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
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.
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