Inspired by the women from The Adventure Syndicate, we’ve been focused on the topic of bikerafting for a while now. But what is it? Bikerafting is the clever combination of packrafting (with a super light, inflatable kayak) and bikepacking (with a bike loaded with bags).
So when Antonin suggested that we try it out in the Cevennes mountains in France before taking on a longer trip, we didn’t think twice! I set off with Nathan and Sophie to meet in the heart of the Cevennes. The idea was simple – we wanted to go down the Tarn gorge with the rafts and then ride back up the Causse Méjean plateau by bike, folding the rafts and fitting them on our small bike racks.
This Collection presents our outward journey (La Malène-Les Vignes-Saint Pierre des Tripiers) and return journey (Saint Pierre des Tripiers-Saint Énimie-La Malène) as well as the gravel route from Plan de Fontmort to Signal de Ventalon as a little added extra.
Dive into the Tarn gorge and lose yourself on the plateaus, keep an eye out for herons and kingfishers, deer and wild boar, ride by small stone cottages with slate roofs, old railway tracks, and along long-distance footpaths pass – this is the autumn adventure of four outdoor enthusiasts who are passionate about gravel and bike-packing and wanted to get some fresh air before winter.
First day of our bikerafting trip in the Gorges du Tarn. We start from Malène, a small village in the Cévennes Natural Park.The start of the route is in a packraft, to descend the Tarn to Les Vignes. We start by inflating the boats, dismantling the bikes, fixing them, checking the stability. This 12 km stretch of river is particularly beautiful, with some affordable rapids. We are quickly struck by the silence that reigns on the water, and we take the opportunity to observe an electric blue Kingfisher perched on a branch. A heron accompanies us for a moment, to get away from its nest.We rush into the Gorges, enclosed between the Causse Méjean and the Causse Sauveterre, and led by Antonin, our guide *****. The gentle descent allows us to observe the caves and cavities in the cliff, the small perched hamlets, the typical buildings.We put the bikes back on the small Vines beach, we harness the packrafts on the Carradice racks, and we go to enjoy the nightfall at Point Sublime. A nice climb of a little over 500 m of D + to reach an incredible point of view on the Gorges. We redraw in wonder the course on the river, then on the roads, here and there.
The descent is superb, on a small hairpin road. We cross the river to reach the Gîte, perched at the top of the Causse Méjean. Again, it is a beautiful climb in hairpins that leads us there, and a completely different landscape arrived up there.
The sun begins to break through the massive clouds as we set off for this second day. The colors are incredible, and the small stone buildings typical of the region.We quickly leave the road to embark on a beautiful track which follows the GR. Loaded like donkeys, we take advantage of these beautiful rolling gravel and fall colors. At the intersection, we continue to follow the GR, which gets a little thicker: it is a path that engulfs itself between bushes, which goes up and down. We walk along a fallow field, to reach a typical view of the Causse Méjean: a beautiful plain covered with dry grass and small clusters of limestone rocks. Perfect for the picnic.We will set off again on the tracks, straddling a few barriers, before returning to the road. One last small bump, and we descend quietly to Saint-Énimie. It is from this small medieval village that we set off again on the packrafts, to descend 12 km of river to La Malène. On this part of the river, there is a small hamlet without access to roads: a cable stretched in the air allows food to pass, and small boats patiently wait for the inhabitants to cross. We stop a little further on at the bottom of Saint-Chély du Tarn and its pretty bridge. Sophie is getting dangerously close to a small waterfall, which is daring this time of year.Before reaching La Malène, we hear a waterfall a little further on. We lean well back, and it goes quietly!
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The first laps of the wheels are done in a cool drizzle, in the direction of the Col de Fontmor. We quickly branch off towards gravel tracks then an old railway line. The sun is rising, and autumn bursts in our faces. An old bridge recalls the railway's past on the route, and further on, you get off the bikes to avoid a wall collapsed by the violence of a Cévennes episode.Before starting the climb to Signal de Ventalon (1350m), we see a sunny café terrace. Boosted and warmed up, we set off on a long climb up the slopes. The climb is made difficult by sticky mud, but you are rewarded with the colors and the chestnut bugs littering the ground.The last section to the Ventalon signal is a stone path. Sublime, but steep. The wind picks up as we approach the pass, and we start to get cold. We decide to stop there, in the shelter of a small forest, to have a picnic before leaving. The path narrows and the signal antenna rises in front of us. When we reach the top, the wind heckles us in all directions. We take shelter in a small hut at the top to admire the breathtaking view of the Cévennes.The small path that goes down is a bit perilous. We carry the bikes, we go slowly before joining a superb track that goes down through the forest. You then reach a small road which turns to the right. An unexpected view of the Ventoux opens up right in front of us. The descent is made by small hairpin roads, each stopping at an angle to photograph this moment. These colors. Those smiles.