Loads of fun in the Lot Valley

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Posted on Jun 2 2013 - 6:36pm by

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Looking out of the window at the few white clouds did nothing to dampen the ache, nor calm the increasingly insistent call of the road outside! A good forecast for the next few hours… Decision made ‘Today was going to be mine and my KTM’s’.

Dainese leathers on, Sidi boots squeaking and tinted visor firmly fitted to my Shoei lid, it was definitely time to hit the road! The garage doors swung open to reveal my ‘stable’, 2 x DRZ400S and the KTM 950 SM ‘07. Today the trails would have to wait though, I needed speed and crazy fun! The twisty roads in the Lot Valley are on my doorstep, and the KTM is more than manic enough to cope with all of them… a torquey 67 ft-lb of power, rather than top end speed (it peaks at around 135mph). That’s what is needed around here with the tight hairpins and poor surfaces. I love my sports bikes, having ridden them all my motorcycling life, but even with the incredible routes and plenty of tarmac, I would pick the KTM Supermoto any day of the week for these roads! Many a time the KTM has left litre sports bikes behind on the tight twisties.

With a new tyre on the front that needs scrubbing in – a Pirelli Rosso slightly grippier than the rear Pirelli Angel – today I would oblige. Key in the ignition, kill switch flicked to start, lights showed me all was OK. The ‘07 still has carbs, not fuel injection like the later models, so it means a little choke is often needed to help get it warmed up. I can feel the thunking V twin engine vibrating the concrete under my feet! Fantastic! While it warms up I give the bike a quick check around to make sure all is ok with nothing hanging off. Indicators present and working, chain tightened and waxed (my preference is Würth chain wax rather than oil) and lights clear from the huge bugs I regularly collect around here.

Choke off, idle engine now blapping through the standard exhausts (I’d love the Akrapovic system but funds won’t allow, and hey, I keep telling myself that it’s not really needed anyway!). Earplugs in, lid on, gloves settled and throttle blipped… just for fun… I’m out of here!

KTM parked, viewed side on in the sun, with the hotel signboard, 'La Noyeraie', Chambres D'hote, behind it.

Canon EOS camera stowed safely in my bag I pull out of the garage and head towards my first destination, Cahors. Initially along the main roads to get the small French market towns behind me, but I’ll soon have the twisty roads under my tyres. The roads are clear as it’s lunch time, and for the next hour at least I have the roads pretty much to myself, plenty of time to play! The 17.5ltr tank carries enough fuel to go about 200 kilometres on average, depending on how I’m riding, so I know I have enough to take the twisty route to Cahors, 64 kms away.

At the fork in the road between the main route and the tight twisties, I need to make a decision, no contest today though, I take the twisty one! Bumpy but warm, dry roads mean I can really open the throttle hard, bouncing it off the rev limiter on the straights with the front wheel skipping just slightly. It’s amazing, hard on the Brembo brakes, scrubbing off enough speed to hit the tight corners, rear tyre bouncing now and again just before I release the front brake and chuck it into the corner, typical supermoto style. I have to scrub that new tyre in and the grip is awesome. Not a second of instability at any point, just a skip here and there from the tyres as the road surface isn’t great. Off the narrow lanes onto the tiny twisty road over the hills and together we overtake the slow vans that crop up now and then around here, smooth overtakes, but I’m not hanging around today… I have an hour to play and I’ve taken the longer twisty route, so no time to dawdle and enjoy the beautiful countryside.

The KTM parked, viewed from the front, in front of the hotel garden, with a helmet and bag on the ground beside it.

Put the power down hard coming out of the corners and back onto the main road to Cahors.  Sweeping bends on the main road give the top end of the power range a try out… Again up through the gears, knocking them up just before they hit the rev-limiter, getting the most out of the power, enjoying the good tarmac for a while, and then back onto the smaller lanes to cut across the valley and drop down into Cahors. Over the top of the valley with its superb views, the KTM is enjoying the hard push and we barely have enough time to flick around the corners before entering Cahors, just in time to sit down in the cafe and enjoy a leisurely lunch sat in the sun with a friend.

The KTM parked on a pavement, with some mopeds, in a tree lined street, in bright sunlight.An hour later with us both refuelled, and a caffeine boost for me, the KTM and I head towards the vineyards that are the main reason for today’s blast. I want photos to go in my wine folder and to help with my understanding of the Cahors Black Wine, so it’s on to Clos Troteligotte first off along the main road towards the pretty village of Villesque.

Power down, rear tyre gripping and around the sweeping bends with good tarmac, a few good overtakes of the trucks along the road, plenty of view and time to really push the KTM. I’d had a sticky throttle the last ride out so I wanted to make sure I had the full throttle range this time… I did! Smooth gear changes up and down around the clear open bends, then down into the tight twisties and up behind a car with the solid white line down the middle of the road! I respect the painted road lines and today it gives me a chance to just pootle along, enjoy the stunning scenery and lovely sunny day – the tinted visor is really working hard today!

View of a french vineyard in the sun, with the farmhouse in the distance.Onto a short straight with a broken line, the first chance to overtake and with a twist of the throttle, the KTM obliges without hesitation. Passing just in time for the really tight, fun bends, then far too quickly I see the turning for Troteligotte. Off onto a dirt track, time to stand up on the pegs to have a bit of a play along the gravel lane. I’m a short-arse at 5’3”, so this also gives me the added view of the road over the fluffy green hedges.

Manu has a little gravel area in front of the tasting cellar and the KTM has an excellent turning circle, totally unlike my Gixer! So we turn round and find a stable point to put down the side stand. Thank God for long legs!! The KTM has quite a tall seat height 885mm, so the supple leathers and long legs really help.

A few photos later and I’m ready to get back on the road again. No wine tasting for me today, it’s purely the thrill of the ride and the photography.

Side view of the KTM, parked on the road, below a sign for the Chateau Tour De Miraval

As the KTM and I hit the main road again, that ‘feeling’ kicks in and we power through the corners, blast along the straights, flick around the tight twisties and balance each other out as if we’re one machine. Fantastic! The KTM just has it all, and on good road tyres, it is more than capable of handling anything I could dream of throwing at it. Low down torque, mid range power, easy to flick around, and more than enough top end to cope with the straights around here before another tight bend appears. I don’t have the disadvantage of a tall body, so with a short screen added to the front, I don’t suffer wind buffeting, or extra drag on the Supermoto, and although the upright sitting position is better than being scrunched over all the day, I can sit forward a bit to put what weight I do have, a little more over the front end if I need to.

view of the french vineyard from the road, with a really blue, sunny sky, with the KTM in the distance.One more vineyard off the main road before we take the bumpy tiny back roads across the top of the Plateau. Chateau Tour de Miraval is owned by a fantastic woman who has the most impeccable taste in wines – well worth being part of my Black Wine Tours. She knows her stuff, but unfortunately isn’t there for a photo opp. So a few snaps of the barn and vineyard, and we’re off again.

I’ve been looking forward to getting off the main road, and the tiny lanes don’t disappoint!!  Switchbacks, ever-tightening corners, farmers in the middle of the road and tractors appearing from the fields – I have it all and not once does the KTM baulk at anything. A minor stoppie at one point, but that’s my mistake in almost overshooting a turning. No problems, tight turn in the middle of the road and we’re back on track. Up through the high fluffy green hedges, the smells of the warm day enhanced by my increased endorphin levels and the adrenaline rush of riding the bike! As we blast along the top, I recognise Chateau de Chamberts first sign indicating their top vineyard.

Sign for the Chambert vineyard with vines in the backgroundTime for a quick photo and slurp of water, the leathers are definitely keeping me warm as well as safe… must think about some Hood Jeans. A few cars go past as we’re sat there, and then off to the Chateau. I’d let the owner Philippe Lejeune know I’d be out on the bike on a sunny day to take some photos and he was happy for me to stop by.

Turning the corners from the local village, Floressas, there are glimpses of the Chateau, the most stunning place I’d seen in Cahors. Small and beautiful, suddenly it appears at the end of the driveway. I stopped for a few photographs, and although the tarmac road runs around to the main bureau, I felt it would have been rude not to ride along the enticing gravel driveway on the KTM… Sure footed and with only a slight wiggle now and then along the gravel, with its road tyres, we picked our way up to the Chateau – riding around the old stone steps to the main car park. Pulling up, I took a good 10 minutes of photographs before knocking on Philippe’s door to drag him out for some photos!

Phillipe showing a vine stem in a vineyardDeciding to mix business with pleasure I took some pictures for my Black Wine business as well as a few of the bike and the gorgeous setting. Philippe, as usual, was kind, patient and more than happy to show me the vines, and several photos later, I knew, once again, yet more than I had before about the Malbec grape, the terroir, and what they are up to at Chambert. Always an excellent visit, time with Philippe is invariably a pleasure, he loves what he is doing and, as with all the vineyards chosen for my Tours, he has some of the best wines in Cahors. I eagerly await his white wines in a few weeks – if his perfect Malbecs are anything to go by, this will be as impressive as the rest of the red wines
at Chambert.

And who could resist a few arty shots of the KTM as well – with such an incredible backdrop for some perfect pictures!

Time to ride back down that far too tempting driveway and out along the Lot Valley back onto the tiny twisty roads towards my last vineyard of the day. Nothing is particularly far away on the main roads but they don’t hold any appeal for me right now. It’s the little roads, the tight corners and the call of the throttle today! Riding along the valley, the threat of rain and a slight dampness present on some darker lanes, it was time to be a little more cautious, even though the warm tyres and capable KTM rarely worry me on the poor road surfaces.

KTM parked at the start of the long gravel drive running up the  hill to the Chateau de Chambert, with vineyards either side.

Puttering through a village, a black cat decides to run across my path, spookily just as my trip meter click onto 66.6kms since filling up!!! Taking it steadily through that village, a huge wine bottle was sitting just past the town sign! I couldn’t resist taking a picture… Then onto Luzech via the little lanes… which is easier said than done of course, given the lack of signposts! Still, it’s not too late and luckily the rain held off for another hour.

Side view of the KTM, parked outside Pierre's premises.Finding narrow lanes straight through the many vineyards in this area, it really is a fantastic route, and finally arriving in Luzech, I took the twistier way alongside the Lot river. The smooth sweeping road with its good tarmac provided a nice change from the bumpy surfaces of the tiny roads and for a short while I opened the throttle hard. Out through Caix where I have been using a small vineyard for a couple of years, a quick stop for a photo, then carrying on following the lanes across to Caillac and Lo Domeni vineyard, my final stop of the day before heading back.

Pierre Pradel is a one man band, he has around three acres of third terrace vines. This makes his wines smooth, intense and complex, but easy to drink! I stock his perfect rosé (in my humble and amateur opinion, the best in Cahors!) and also his 100% Malbec, hand pressed wine… incredible! As I pulled up I saw a couple heading into his small tasting area and, given that the last time I visited him 18 people turned up for an impromptu tasting, I figured we could be in for another busy evening!

He looked a little puzzled at first but then, as he recognised my leathers from my Facebook profile, he laughed. A big welcome from Pierre, as always, he is a very nice, kind guy, and willing to help with my poor French as well! It helps that I love his wines and think so highly of his rosé, but he is always very welcoming. We had a good visit, I chatted to his American visitors and waited out the brief rain-shower, then found the smallest lanes I could to head back out towards Cahors. However, time is ticking on now, so back to Rocamadour. After Cahors I kept mainly to the larger roads giving the KTM beans where I could, and enjoyed it. Back in the ‘stable’ the KTM sat and ticked happily while it cooled down – we ride hard together, but we love every minute!

Collage picture, left side KTM parked on the road with a view into a valley in the background, right side, Pierre pouring a glass of his own wine.

Warm decent tyres, fantastic brakes, and one of the best all-rounders I have ever ridden, I have been constantly impressed with the KTM950SM. Always missing my litre sports bike, since the moment we parted company, I have recently been aching for another 2004 R1. However, after today’s ride on the KTM I realise that I would have struggled too much on the smaller, amazing but incredibly bumpy roads, where the KTM was nimble, chuck-able, torquey and even when the front wheel skipped about with the power through the rear tyre, I always had confidence in the bike’s ability to take whatever I threw at it. I always arrive at my destination tired but very happy! And looking forward to the next ride out…

Jennifer Capron

view over the handlebars of the parked KTM of the entrance to a small French village.

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2 Comments so far. Feel free to join this conversation.

  1. David Cobbold June 11, 2013 at 7:21 am - Reply

    Small world? Coincidence? Anyway I happened upon this article in this magazaine which I rarely read (should do so more me-thinks) and I see that we have two or three shared interests. I am a wine journalist, living in Paris but with a hideout just the other side of the Garonne. I have written quite a lot about Cahors recently and agree with the selection of producers you mention here. I know and appreciate both Phlippe Lejeune and Emmanuel Rybinski and have some of their wines in my cellar. But I also ride, amongst other two-wheeled things, a KTM, the Duke 690, also well suited to those roads. Maybe we should meet up to share a glass and a ride one day when I am down that way ?

  2. John Vara June 11, 2013 at 7:24 am - Reply

    Nice one Jen. You put the large tick in the box confirming why an increasing number of ex pat bikers chose to live here. Great roads for great bikes all mixed up with sunshine and ear to ear grins! Looking forward to my visit to Rocky at the end of the month.

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