Routes - General
Which Super Randonnée to choose?
You may want to choose according to the difficulty level. In the table above, Super Randonnées are classified according to the total elevation gain, calculated by Openrunner. However, if it is true that Port-la-Montagne is the easiest among the French SRs, the most difficult is probably Garbure and Piperade, due to the high percentages.
The new SR du Désert is a special case, since it has a third of unpaved roads.
Keep in mind that the difficulty can also come from weather conditions, poor refueling possibilities, or navigation. And, there is a subjective factor - we feel better off on a particular type of terrain, that cannot always be explained.
If there is one route that appeals to you more than another, this is the one to choose. Ride the Super Randonnée you most want to ride, that's essential.
Check the weather forecast before your start. In the Randonneur option, it is possible to postpone the start date indicated at the time of registration (by informing the organizer). It is even advised to do so if the weather is bad.
In the mountains, the weather can change very quickly, the temperature can drop sharply and fog can set in, or thunderstorms break out. Depending on the season, temperature differences can be considerable between day and night.
Time of the year
In general, these routes can be ridden from spring, from the opening of the highest pass or peak (see table above), until the beginning of winter. The opening and closing dates vary depending on the annual snowfall. Information are displayed by the territorial authorities (see below: road closures).
Port-la-Montagne is the only Super Randonnée which can be ridden in winter, and not in summer, during which access to the main massifs is prohibited.
Road access prohibited in the summer (SR PM)
Refueling and Water
In France, it is possible to get supplies in most towns and villages, during the opening hours of shops (no shops are open at night). However, the Super Randonnée routes visit isolated places in the heart of nature, and the possibility of regular refueling is not taken into account by the organizer when creating the route. It is therefore prudent to take some food in your bags.
It is also safe to take water bottles. Many water points are spotted on Open Cycle Map (zoom in to see the symbols for drinking water and public toilets). These maps can be viewed on Openrunner (example below).
The Super Randonnées use mountain roads, sometimes very small roads. The road surface is sometimes excellent, sometimes very rough, and some passages can be rutted. In some cases, there is moss and various plant debris on the road. Apart the SR du Désert, there is no gravel, except 1.5 km on the SR du Léman Dément before Col des Glières (and, as an option, 6 km on the SR de Port-la-Montagne: the Malpasset variant). Even if the roads are maintained, it is still possible to encounter, from time to time, stones and mudslides, especially after a storm. Mountain roads also may be crossed by wooden or metal gullies (for the evacuation of water), by fords, and by cattle grids.
The new Desert SR is a special case since it has a third of unpaved roads.
Certain road closures are posted on the road information sites of the various départements (French territorial divisions), links to these sites are indicated on each SR page. Participants are advised to visit these sites before their start. Unfortunately, all closures are not reported.
Mountain roads are subject to landslides and other natural events. They have many bridges and tunnels. They are particularly subject to closure for maintenance or repair. In France, during the works, the roads are either open with alternating, or closed to all traffic. In this case, depending on the worksite, it can be difficult to pass through, even on a bicycle (barriers preventing the passage, or foreman opposing the passage of cycles).
Roads may be locally closed during an auto motorcycle rally (usually organized on weekends, some starting on Friday). We have compiled a list of rallies which potentially interfer with the SR routes, according to the Calendar of rallies in France (which may not be exhaustive). Check, on the organizers' websites, the dates (in 2021, many events are postponed, due to the Covid), and the routes (most of them have not yet been published when we established the list of rallies).
The organizer, if she is informed of the closure, suggests an alternative route. If the participant encounters a closed road during the ride, he or she takes a photo of the sign or barriers indicating the road closure, then tries to reach the next control by another route, and if this is not possible, to join the SR course as soon as possible. The organizer decides on a case-by-case basis if the ride can be approved, and if an additional time credit can be allocated, keeping in mind the following principle: an alternative route which adds elevation gain (or at least, do not subtract) is not penalizing. An alternative route which has less elevation gain, is penalizing and must be compensated (for example, by adding or repeating another climb located on the route, with photos as proof).
If you are riding at night, be extremely careful on downhill, as animals, both wild and domestic, can suddenly cross the road when you approach. Animals can also be found lying or walking on the road, in particular in the Pyrénées mountain pastures. If you encounter livestock guardian dogs (so-called patous): in general, by riding on the tar, you never cross the flock, and there is no problem. But it happens that the sheep flocks are grazing close to the road, and the guardian dog(s) can become threatening to the cyclist. The risk is even greater at night. Stay calm, don't gesticulate, don't yell, ignore them. At worst, get off your bike and walk.
During the hunting season, especially at dawn or dusk, wear the reflecting vest, and if you encounter a hunt, do not hesitate to make noise.
On the SR de l'Ours Cathare
On the SR Pyrénées-Pirineos
Le Patou: official recommendation
SR Routes - General Information (overview)
Topographic maps of France (by IGN, Institut Géographique National) are available on the website Géoportail.
Topographic maps of France by IGN can also be viewed on Openrunner (a service requiring a subscription of 13 euros per year).
Michelin maps are available on the Viamichelin website. You can display the classic map, or the outdoor version.