Exploring the Oise region of France on a lent MTB

Every self-respecting bike nerd will have a vision of riding in France: Mount Ventoux, the Tourmalet or the cobbles of Roubaix will come to mind and going to France and NOT riding would be a travesty. When I set of to visit friends close to Paris in October 2018 there was no plan to ride for a week - and in any case I would be far away from the highlights of french cycling... However this would change rather quickly.

On arrival the weather was but sunny and the fallen leafs in the heavily wooded area of Chantilly provided a perfect “golden autumn” vibe. Not being able to explore the area closer was making me cranky and a solution had to be found. Luckily an acquaintance of my friends was able to lent me a MTB for the week for the payment of two bottles of craft beer (in Champagne bottles no less - this is France after all!).

Now being equipped I set out on a number rides to explore the surrounding woods of Chantilly and what was billed as the “mer de sable” (the ocean of sand) on a map. My first ride took me towards the east to the town of Chantilly, which is known for its large castle and horse racing and into the “mer de sable”. Turns out the naming is very accurate: Riding the “mer” means sinking into powdery sand and drudging along at almost walking pace. The remaining rides were directed towards the other three directions of the compass through farmland, along the river Oise and through more forests.

Riding the southern Oise region is nice both from a biking perspective with fantastic singletrack, technical climbs and descends, and challenging deep sand and from a cultural viewpoint with castles, old bunkers from the world wars and fantastic croissants and baguettes at every corner. You have to be aware of hunters however: I did come around a piece of singletrack only to be greeted by a fancily dressed group hunters on horses carrying large horns and rifles - After a friendly “Bonjour” however they and I were on our separate ways.

This impromptu explorations again showed to me that every new area you visit does have areas to explore and that you do not need detailed plans and perfect equipment to do get out there. I did make a note on Roubaix being some “only” 200 kms norths from Chantilly for next time however...

Adventurer: Bengt