You may well primarily associate the Alps with descending the slopes on your skis and cosy winter nights spent in your chalet, however, the winter is not the only attraction to the mountains for adventure seekers and lovers of the great outdoors. If you were wondering what to do with your property in the summer then look no further. With cycling as one of the biggest sports in general in France, it is no surprise that mountain biking is the number 1 activity in the French Alps during the summer months and we can’t think of a better way to enjoy the clear mountain air and beautiful views.
Just as with snow sports, the necessary equipment can be hired in resort for the duration of your holiday. All bike routes in the Alps are graded like ski runs; from green through to black, and best of all- you can make use of the lift system! Whether you’re a speed freak or just want to enjoy the scenery, the sport facilitates something for the whole family to enjoy.
Mountain biking in the Alps can be split into three main categories and France plays host to multiple biking events to enjoy as a participant or a spectator.
A good place to start, which is perhaps the most suitable for the whole family, is to just get on a bike and enjoy the multitude of gentle slopes and trails the Alps have to offer. This is the best way to enjoy the alpine scenery and in most resorts you will be able to find relatively flat and wide track cycle routes and footpaths with fantastic views which are accessible without the complications of ski lifts. Your bike will be designed to enhance endurance and performance in rough terrain so you can enjoy your ride.
The step up to Cross Country can be as marginal or significant as you choose. The disciple is usually characterised by long climbs and a subsequent descent across trails with wide banked corners, rock gardens and short, steep runs. The designated trails are either natural or, more commonly, custom, carved out trails with varying terrain including rocks, roots, gravel and mud.
There are routes catered for a variety of abilities, from novice and family friendly trails to those designed to satisfy the more experienced riders. The easier going routes are generally situated on valley floors and are on wider paths or forest tracks. For the more experienced thrill seekers, there are more technical climbs with fast, windy single track descents.
The tracks are often located far from roads and built up areas, thus, carrying supplies for your hydration and nutrition are definitely recommended and you will need a helmet and gloves.
Here is a sport for the more daring disposition. As the name suggests, the discipline consists solely of downhill riding, rendering utilisation of the lift system a necessity. Once you have reached the top, you enter a fast descent which takes a more direct line down the mountain in comparison to the traverse tracks typical of trail riding. Downhill trails incorporate drops, gaps, jumps, rocks and other obstacles into your speedy trajectory, and thus, requiring a certain amount of commitment on your part as the rider.
Downhill mountain bikes are very much designed to perform the job. You fill find a downward sloping top tube, chunkier tyres for grip, powerful brakes and fewer gears as they are not ridden uphill and require more clearance to ride over obstacles. You will also find you require considerably more serious gear than riding the aforementioned mountain bike trails. A full face helmet, eye protection and even a bit of body armour are all highly recommended.
Do not, however, feel too intimidated. As with everything else, the activity is accessible at a more novice level, with some low graded courses designed with obstacles to be rolled over and do not require you to be airborne…phew. Further, you may find the gap between cross country and downhill can be filled by ‘Enduro’, also known as ‘All Mountain’ riding, which may be described as a hybrid between the two. Enduro incorporates some uphill riding in addition to less demanding downhill tracks and jumps.
Most resorts in the French Alps advocate all types of mountain biking and comprise an abundance of cycle hire shops for your perusal. Below is our personal selection of resorts where you are guaranteed to enjoy your biking venture.
Spanning 2 countries and 6 distinctive French villages is the Portes du Soleil. As the second largest ski area in the world it comes as no surprise that this is a hotspot for mountain biking enthusiasts. The beauty of such a region is, as with during the winter months, you can visit different valleys and resorts on just one lift pass. At the entrance to the Portes du Soleil you will find Les Gets, a world renowned mountain biking centre where, in September 2004, the World Mountain Biking Championships were held.
Located in the French department of Isère, this large area composes several resorts and villages. There are over 250km of trails linking the 8 resort villages of the region. Alpes d’Huez consists of a wide range of routes, suitable for all levels, and provides an appropriate entrée into the sport before immersing yourself into the bike mad Portes Du Soleil.
The resort can be found within the Grand Massif, an expansive, high altitude area. Samoens provides a range of trails and consists of beautiful tracks such as the ‘Giffre River Loop’, a gentle, short ride, cycling along the shores of the river and meandering through beguiling woodland. Of course, the resort also comprises a network of more challenging and adrenaline pumping descents for those who value speed over scenery.
A week in August dedicated to all bike disciplines in LA ROSIERE – MONTVALEZAN.
The world tour makes a stop in Les Gets and is definitely one to watch. Comprising of a series of challenges including slopestyle and a ‘whip off’, this competition even holds events for juniors. LES GETS.
Held in June every year, this competition comprises mountain biking in all its forms and is open to all. LA CLUSAZ.
Described as the ‘craziest mountain bike challenge in the world’, this event is the longest downhill race in the world. Held every July, this is a race reserved for the serious thrill seekers out there. ALPE D’HUEZ.
Despite the ominous title, this three day downhill race aims to bring together both amateur racers and professionals in a 25km decedent .LES DEUX ALPS.
Article written by Bella Eyre, Sales and Marketing Coordinator at ELP
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