9 Minute Read
9 Minute Read
First of all, this post is part of a greater series of posts that I’ve written about that documents my trip to the area in the summer of 2022. If you’re looking for more on that trip and where else I went, definitely check out the post!
So according to frenchmoments.eu, a “Corniche Road” literally means “Cliff Road”. There are three of them, each progressively further up the cliffside, between Monaco and Menton. They follow ancient Roman routes through the region, and a lot of it was later built by Napoleon Bonaparte!
Somehow, they each have very different and unique views out over the Mediterranean Sea, despite generally following a similar path and direction. It’s not always easy to connect over from one to the other, as the terrain through this region is, well, mountainous.
This means that riding through here is sublime.
The day that I did this was actually somewhat of an errand day, believe it or not. I had previously visited the region after visiting Croatia and had a few places I wanted to visit and a few items to purchase, so I opted to make the day into an adventure!
The musette that I brought with me definitely got some good use this day.
On this trip, I stayed at an AirBnb in Roquebrune-Cap-Martin, which is just east of the country of Monaco. It’s a small town, but does have its own set of busy roads, so I started the day by quickly getting out of town.
After passing some construction and new paving of the road I was on, I found myself climbing up and over Monaco via one of these corniche roads, stopping for a quick bite to eat at a cafe in La Turbie. This is a small town that I found myself passing back through multiple times on this trip, as it seems to intersect a bunch of the cycling routes in the region.
The views along this road are unparalleled, and it’s shocking just how far up you go so quickly!
Leaving La Turbie, I then descended down what was a glorious descent past the town of Èze and through some tunnels into the actual city of Nice. Traffic definitely tends to pile up a bit towards the base of the descent, so be aware of that when coming into town.
When in Nice, I stopped in at the Service Course (they carry my favorite chamois cream that’s hard to find in the US) and Cafe du Cycliste. Both were very welcoming to me and I spent some time inside escaping the heat from the day (with an iced coffee, of course!).
Coming back along the coast was awesome. Both my fiancée and I had explored it only a few weeks prior, just after visiting Croatia. It was so fun being back in Nice so quickly and having pedaled there myself. There are just so many beautiful places along this route!
There was Villefranche-sur-Mer, which has a nice beach and walking path right next to its train station:
Next was Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, a Beverly-Hills like affluent community (second most expensive residential neighborhood in the world after Monaco!) with calm roads that look like they were made for a Strava time trial segment:
If you need a good bike shop in this region, check out Camellini Bicycles, as they have some high end stuff and were friendly to me both times I visited.
After taking that coastal road in the last photo, make sure to stop near the tunnel through the rock that you can see around the point. It’s such a beautiful spot. Not far beyond it, you’ll find yourself in Monaco!
I discovered something here when mapping my route for this ride. For whatever reason, most mapping applications like RideWithGPS and Strava seem to get very confused when creating a bike route for crossing the border into Monaco. Rest assured, you can just follow the road straight into the country without issue!
Although you will quickly find yourself in a network of tunnels, underground roundabouts, and basically madness of car traffic that will quickly want you to get out of there in search of better paths!
Once you do, however, you can kind of just meander through the Grand Prix route, which is a spectacle in and of itself. I had been to Monaco in the past and walked it, but it was so much fun to actually ride it on my bike!
I wanted to get my bearings first by stopping by the harbor waterfront, and if you follow the road directly in, you may miss riding along that portion of the race track. No worries though, it’s not very far to backtrack if you exit the tunnel (Rue Grimaldi) and follow the bus route towards the roundabout at the base of the hill where the palace is. From there, just head left towards the waterfront and head down the hill, making sure to stay left to avoid entering another tunnel.
If you’re familiar with the Grand Prix route, you can use a general sense of direction to follow the route around the harbor, up the hill, past the casino, and then turn left at the bottom of the hill (don’t turn right unless you want to go to the infamous tunnel).
Admittedly, that’s a lot to just gloss over so quickly, but feel free to create a route from my Strava ride I recorded that day!
Seriously, that casino is quite the sight to behold, given how many movies it’s been showcased in. Don’t linger too long though! There is security all over that place, and the entire country of Monaco is under careful surveillance, so while it’s a super safe place to be, make sure you act like a respectful guest!
It’s a bit tricky to navigate your way out of the country, though. Just follow the coastal road (which is Avenue Princess Grace) until you see a hairpin that leads up away from the sea. You follow that road up and follow it straight until you take a right and then a left hand roundabout that gets you to the main road. That road is called Avenue de France and while it looks a little like a freeway entrance, it’s just a large road and is your ticket back to your starting point. Basically just follow the traffic and go where they’re going!
Again, feel free to use the route I recorded that day as a route to make this easier. Just make sure to avoid going into the parking lot at the end of that hairpin. I was looking for a route through that day, but alas, there wasn’t an accessible one!
Getting back to the Menton area from here is straightforward, but if you go during the commuting times of the day, be prepared for some more madness! Experienced city riders will manage just fine, but over time I started to get really irritated at the frantic passing that many motorbikes were doing around me. This is also while trying to navigate the slower moving traffic in front of me with no shoulder or bike lane. Oof.
I managed to find this video that showcases some of this traffic in the region, even taken from a road bike. It really reminded me of what I experienced that day in some spots! There’s also this video that doesn’t showcase the traffic, but shows (most of) the specific route back that I took.
Overall, the route through here is mostly flat and even has several downhill sections to it, so I never felt stuck on the side of the road with cars zipping past me the entire time. I imagine if you ride this section outside of normal commuting hours, it’ll be significantly less crazy and likely just as beautiful as the earlier sections of this ride!
Oh and do yourself a favor and take the roundabout way back through Cap-Martin. The road is significantly quieter, with incredible views looking east out towards Menton and Italy.
Coming back into Roquebrune-Cap-Martin happens quickly, as most of the road leading into it tends to be fast and is slightly downhill, so enjoy it!
Once there, make sure to fuel up and enjoy the rest of your day! I found it difficult to find much grab-and-go food that was also healthy in the immediate vicinity, so my advice would be to find a nicer place to sit down or go visit the nearby grocery store (they close on Sundays, though). This is especially the case if you have another day or two in town to do more riding, as it’s always good to have some food in your AirBnB.
Alternatively, you can ride your bike a bit further east (like I did that day) into Menton itself, where there are significantly more choices for food.
Despite this route not going up and over any of the famous Cols of the region, I still feel like this is a must-do ride when in the region. Especially if you’ve never ridden here before. It’s an incredible way to see the coastline that most associate with the French Riviera.
I love seeing areas like this from the back of my bike. It allows me to take it all in at a pace slower than if I were in a car, without having to worry about traffic, right of way, one way roads, and without having to worry about parking each time I want to stop and look at something. Basically, it’s the best of both worlds!
Given this region’s incredible natural beauty, I wouldn’t suggest seeing it any other way. So do yourself a favor and start planning your next bike adventure out to the Côte d’Azur!