Saturday, 5 April 2014

2014 Riding Season begins- A tale of singles

Servoz, Haute Savoie, Rhone Alps, France.

Dry, dusty, sunny, flowers blooming & one fast trail.

We headed to Servoz today with our downhill bikes.  I'm single, not only in the girlfriend sense, but in the bike front too.  This does give one simple option of riding when I want and only on my downhill bike.  I'm getting a Nukeproof Mega 275 AM at the end of the month, but more on that later.

It was a lovely spring morning as we set off up the Servoz locals downhill track.   Andy had ridden his newly built enduro/all mountain/xc/mountain bike yesterday and was keen to get up to speed on his downhill bike today.  Though he is supposed to have a single love in his life, Maddy his wife, he's collecting up more bikes this summer, along with snowboards form the winter...

I dropped in to ride the top section,
"How was it?" Andy asked.
"Great to be out on the bike, but awful riding skills" I replied, "I was a passenger down there trying to remember how to do it".

A little session started on the jumps trying to remember again how to 'send it'.  We were both beginning to get the hang of riding again.  The big smiles were coming out.
Me, not on a log ride near the lovely blue lake
Andy dropping in

Cutting through the logs

We headed down through sections of roots & rocks where we skipped about all over the place, got some speed through some sublime flat dusty corners and hit some steep slopes near streams in full flow from the higher up melting snowpack.

It was only one trail, but we had great fun on the many different features the trail brings.  Not a bad way to start April!

And my plans for the summer?  I'm going to be working in Beaufort (about an hour from Cham) as a mountain bike guide for Trail Addiction.  I'm getting a lovely top of the range Nukeproof for a superb price, plus some Shimano goodies.  The trails should be world class, and I'll be helping out with the Trans Savoie again before going off for my International Mountain Leader Summer Assessment in September.

Friday, 4 April 2014


I'm returning to the blog after a strange old winter without a huge amount of snow.  I'm ready to ride, but I'm also hoping to try and extend the skiing season as long as possible.  As a newly single man there's been a lot of skiing recently and soon biking.

Pas de Chevre exit after Poubelle Couloir

Deep in the Poubelle

A windy Norwegian IML Winter Training Course

Challening conditions in the steeps of Argentierre

Classic Touring away from the crowds after a 3 hour que to get up the Aiguille du Midi

Great gentle turns from Col Entreves before joining the masses on the Vallee Blanche
Great gentle turns from Col Entreves before joining the masses on the Vallee Blanche

Thursday, 28 November 2013

The biking is dead, long live the skiing!

With the end of muddy conditions and wearing lycra in the UK its time to say goodbye from Chainmark for a little bit:

Some snow cover is here in France so its ski touring time:

A Bientôt!See you soon!

Sunday, 10 November 2013

November Sun- Midlands style

UK Riding in the Forest of Dean

I've been in the UK for a few weeks now and have ridden some of the classic loops that Herefordshire, Shropshire and other locations have to offer. This last week I have been on girlfriend duty and the week before I was in a North Wales getting very wet whilst doing my International Mountain Leader Summer Training.

After the first frost of the year it was with some relief, that the sun came out for a spectacular Autumnal ride in the singletrack haven that is Forest of Dean.  We've been coming here for years and years so I know my way around fairly well.  Last weekend two of the group had been up here exploring around and found some new bits.  It then rained all week so when we were told of, "dry pine woods" in emails we were all still very much interested...
Sunshine at the capark

The visitor centre was packed out with all kinds of riders.  Downhillers through XC weekend warriors too novices seeking easy flat riding along the old railway lines.  Since the opening of the Verdeerers trail a few years ago it's been a popular winter riding spot for many many people.  Its a classic UK man-made trail centre.  Great fun when conditions are so soggy, but lacking a little something real.
How many Herefordians does it take to fix a puncture?
Dark woodland singletrack
Dropping in on the Red section

Screaming with fear or joy? both?
The big wheel crew

So after we'd zoomed down the final descent back towards the visitor centre we headed away from the crowds.  Despite the bike area being so busy, its good that only locals or those in the know venture away from the Verdeerers trail as it keeps things quiet.  However as these other trails haven't seen any machine touches (i.e gravel), they do get muddy! But that's real isn't it?

It could be summer but for the stripey socks
After a bonus loop we found the promised dry pine trails and headed off on more classic Forest of Dean singletrack with a super steep and greasy final section.  The faint ribbon we'd undulated along gave false impressions of the trail ending, however the 29ner I was riding handled the steepest bombholes with ease.  My Dad wisely chose to walk down the end bit.

Well earned coffee for my Dad
Dad's Scott 29ner- Fast UK capable trail bike.  It just wants you to go fast everywhere!
November weather in the UK- GREAT
Cleaning bikes at home- NOT GREAT
Bonus loop- NOT GREAT, but the trail after it was worth doing.
Upsetting Wives/GF's- NOT GOOD
Possibility of this being my last ride of the year- NOT GOOD
Possibility of ski-touring in Cham next weekend- GREAT

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Cheating for the goods

One car was driven to les Houches train station while another went all the way up to Flatiere with the bikes.  October shuttling at it's best. Cheating some might call it.  I've ridden all the way up several times before, but I'm not doing it on a DH bike!

We were on our way to get access to some of the best out of season trails Chamonix and Servoz Valley has to offer.  It was still fairly warm so t-shirts and shorts were order of the day as we hung onto our last bit of summer before heading onto the leaf covered Autumnal forest trails.

On the way to les Grosse Peirres the all-mountain mini ridge line pedalled and flowed ok on big bikes and we battled the super slick roots with ease as well as the poisonous mushrooms.

At the left turning you enter a descent section with some of the best switchbacks ever. Some are flat, and some have almost natural berms and jumps out of them.  It is a superb lower alpine trail that is great on any bike as it never gets too technical except for the big, ever-wet rock slab half way down.  If your good with a map you can get to this descent from Brevent/Aig des Houches and really ramp up your vertical descending into Servoz.

The next section is a long hike-a-bike traverse from just above the hamlet of Montvauthier.  I don't think it see's much foot traffic, and I've never seen a bike track on it except of groups I've been with.  After some carrying, and traversing your treated to two very technical rock slabs which today we didn't do due to the green moss covering them.  Scared, yeah, but just walking over them was slippery enough.  This then drops you straight into a steep rock and root chute which is again nearly impossible to get down and around.  Perfect for us to session! And for Tom to clear with a small dab!

And then its time to let go of the brakes all the way down to Servoz at 845m on more superb forestry alpine singletrack. We had alittle bit of time before our train back to les Houches so we pushed back up the last section as if we were back in an English wood, where we sessioned a natural jump several times trying to get a good photo. A little push further and it was time to let go of the brakes back for our second run down.  We arrived with a few minutes to spare at Servoz train station, muddy, but happy and time for our last bit of cheating to get the cars back!

Uphill rode: 10 metre's-ish
Uphill pushed: about 1km's distanace
Vertical descending: 800m worth of goodness!
Downhill pushed/carried around: 2 rock slabs...maybe next time...
Kilometre's driven: 8-ish

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Best Corner in Chamonix?

corner marked on map here

October and still riding in shorts and t-shirt!

I pushed my big bike up to Plan Lachet 1570m today and then turned back around.  An hour and half push up was made easier by listening to this great podcast : Off_Track Podcast .  Perfect for bike geeks!

There is a great section you can ride flat out which drops you into this perfect, flat, loamy right hander.  I've hit this corner in many seasons, but last November when Brevent re-opened for school holidays was probably the best with loads of leaves covering the roots coming into it.

Is it the best corner in Chamonix?
corner marked on map here

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