Cold War

Cold enough for ya?

The Cold War. Fifty years where the leaders of our wee planet did their best not to have any real fights with anyone else, unless of course anyone else was a small nation that could be played with like a board game.

Quite an expensive board game, the US alone spent $15119.3 billion*, which is a lot of shiny carbon bling or a lot of hungry kids that could be fed. If it helps you to get your head round that number then how about it’s a bigger number than spending $2370 every second of every minute of every hour of every day of every year since Jesus was born (and, in case you’d forgotten, he’s got another birthday coming up. See, it’s topical this, I don’t just throw it together on a whim). $2370 a second, every second, from 4BC until the 5th December 2017, and you still wouldn’t manage to keep up with US military spending during 44 years.

Toby droppin' bikes not bombs. Summer target hit.

Still, in amongst the bombs too big to be dropped and weans being fed radioactive porridge there was some fun stuff too…

Dig out your old transistor radio.

Ok, find a grown up and ask them what a transistor radio is.

Taking to the air-waves. (try the veal, I'm here all week etc.)

Tune the radio to 4625kHz and what do you hear?

The two alternating tones is pretty much all anyone’s heard on the channel since it was first noticed in 1982, except just occasionally, once in a whiles, you get a random Russian word. Nobody who’s telling knows what’s going on here, but as the station is transmitted from sites near St Petersburg and Moscow, most educated guesses say it’s a cold war relic giving Soviet spies instructions over the airwaves.

You’d think with the budgets involved they could stretch to smartphones and WhatsApp.

Have I mentioned it was cold out?

Clawing it back to bikes, it is winter. “Winter is coming” doesn’t cut it right now. Winter is here and doesn’t look like it’s planning on going anywhere in a hurry. Alas what is not here yet is a particularly deep snowpack so, whilst it’s fun enough scratching about the hills getting some early season turns in on the skis, you’re having to go affy canny to avoid destroying skis or knees.

Shortly after this image was captured, Toby perfectly t-boned a tree and put a good hole in his leg. Proving that avoiding injury by not skiing mibbies isn't a foolproof plan.

Which is why the more committed/daft are still out on their bikes. Put enough clothes on and don’t stop too much and the -10 air temperatures don’t seem to bad, the extra drag from riding through the snow even helps up the exertion levels and keeps you warmer.

Yay.

So the ski season's started, doesn't mean the bike season's finished.

Nordic ski trails and ploughed roads make the uphills relatively easy and trails in the trees, preferably not too rooty and with helpful berms for the bends, make for good descending. I’m not saying I want to ride snow covered trails every. damn. day. of the year, but for a change for a wee bit of fun, it’s pretty good.

Toby mistakes his Reign for a RM250. Braaaap.

As ever at the start or end of the bike season, it’s Servoz we head to. The road up from the village is cleared and I’m sure it gets easier every time, then no matter which of the many trails you take to head back down, as long as it’s not the 4×4 track you’ll be treated to fun singletrack through the trees and, in the case of the trail Toby and I hit, a wheen of built features to play about on.

Well, if your wheels are in the air you can’t slide.

My wheels are not in the air, and I'm sliding. I may look like I know where I'm going, but the following 5 frames will attest that I don't.

Anyways, hopefully it’ll either snow more soon so skiing proper can get underway, or the weather copies last year patterns, goes full mass snow destruction and we can get some dusty bike laps in. Win win. Unlike the old cold war which more of a no-score draw kinda game.

Who knew an afternoon playing bikes in the woods would lead to a blog post about military excess...

*Ish, kinda, maybe. Numbers here aren’t exactly the domain of a second rate MTB blogger, but that figure is for the years 1946-1990, inflation corrected to 2010 levels, in US billions, which is a thousand million, or 1,000,000,000.** And I’m assuming Jesus was born in 4BC on 25th December, which is another kettle of assumptive fish. And possibly loaves too. Questionable sources here and here.

**The Greenlandic native language (despite operating on a base of 20) only goes up to the number 12, after which they just used “many”. I think we can safely use similar language at this point for the dolla spent. ‘Mr Obama, how much did you spend on drones?’ ‘Many.’

Aosta, Col Entrelor

Aosta, Col Entrelor descent. "Swoopy" covers it

Climbing, skiing or biking, Aosta Valley has got some of the best lines you’ve ever or never heard of.

Year round good weather, stunning backdrops of some of the biggest and best hills in the alps, coffee, pizza. There ain’t much it hasn’t got. During three weeks in Canada I would be looking at friend’s instagram feeds full of rides in Aosta and suffering serious #fomo. This tell us that 1) society (or mostly me) has an issue with living in the here and now, and 2) Aosta is really that good.

Why is Aosta so good? Because you can get 1600m descents like this. Lots of them.

So, after getting back to Chamonix I was pretty happy when one of the first messages I got was from Ross suggesting a trip through the Mont-Blanc tunnel to go ride in Aosta.

The first contrast with B.C. was as we loaded four bikes and riders onto and into a European spec estate car. This procedure is considerably easier with a pick up truck, however I consoled myself with the knowledge that said truck would use more fuel backing out of the driveway than we would for the 100km round trip, even with detours for coffee.

The quality of trails might vary globally, but gravity is a constant. We had to work against it first to work with it after. Like an inverse Brexit for Britain.

Bad omens continued as we had to dingie our first choice of cafe as the Carabinieri were parked outside, which was where we planned to park so we could keep an eye on the bikes strapped to the car. Second choice was closed for the day. Fortunately next door was serving and 1.10 cappuccinos could start pointing the day in the right direction.

If I’d been paying more attention I’d have followed Davide’s lead in getting a croissant and espresso chaser, but I wasn’t paying attention and so had no idea just how high Ross was planning on making us ride.

It's a sunny day in one of the most stunning places in Europe. Why rush?

From the carpark in Degioz, Valsavarenche, there weren’t any more clues either, as Ross pointed to a series of switchbacks on a 4×4 track leading up a hill before adding “then it goes up to a col over there”, and we set off up the trail.

There's a col up there somewhere...

Ross soon pulled into the lead, unsurprising really given that despite being a life sentence skibum he is fit to the point of owning a road bike. A road bike that he’s taken for casual laps of Mont Blanc. In a day. He’s also smashed his back up to the point where he can’t really walk, or stand, or sit, so his only option was to keep pedaling until he fell off or reached the top.

We’ll never know which it was, as Dave, Davide and me set a more relaxed pace up the hill because it’s Italy. You either do it at a steady relaxed pace, flat out, or not at all.

Gran Paradiso. A hill better left for the skis, unless you really like riding dry glacier.

As we pulled above the tree line and the full views of Gran Paridiso and the remains of its glaciers came into view we met a signpost which finally let me know where we were going, the Col Entrelor at 3002m altitude.

You've got to be pretty soulless not to feel some sort of wish to be here.

3002m is pretty high. Maybe not for climbers, maybe not during ski season, but for a biker attached to mechanical uplift who’d not been above 2500m for 6 months, getting to 3 kilometers above sea level was going to be quite painful. At least I had company.

No caption required here.

The climb continues through alpages, past barns and refuges and small lakes, over the occasional bit of frost and disturbing assorted herds of Ibex and chamois. Another advantage of Aosta over B.C. there, the wildlife is lower down the food chain than mountain bikers.

Look, Simba. Everything the light touches is your kingdom.

After continuing for quite some time, the climb stopped and the col arrived, complete with views down into Val de Rhemes and beyond. We could now turn round and come straight back the way we came. Futile fun.

Ross and Davide begin the long journey back to the beginning of the ride.

Normally I’m no a fan of there-and-back rides as I’d rather not see what’s coming up on the trail, ruins the surprise. This time however the combination of altitude, sun and overall height climbed meant I’d completely forgotten everything before dropping in, so the whole descent was an unknown present to open.

Dave descending whilst I push the limits of what the lens on my camera can handle.

And what a treat it was too. Other than a couple of one meter sections where the trail narrowed between rocks and fear of ripping off a derailleur or brake disk encouraged the prudent use of a foot to guide the bike through, the full descent back to the tree line was fast and flowing singletrack with just enough wee drops and rolls to keep you on your toes.

Ross had longer than the rest of us to try and remember what he'd seen on the way up, which was a trail more suited to todays carbon bikes than his old Pace RC200.

We had feared that the quality of the trail was going to drop as we re-joined the 4×4 track that had given us the first 650m of ascent but no, a right turn onto the trail down to Eau Rousse saw to that.

You’d think all bench cut alpine trails through the trees would be the same. They follow a fairly similar gradient as they traverse slopes too steep to walk up (or ride down) directly, feature 180 degree bends every so often, and generally have roots cutting across them at right angles to travel. Yet, all over the alps, some are just a bit better than others.

Spot the riders. There was a lot of big view/wee riders moments.

This trail was better even than those. A well built bike park line lets riders of different speeds and abilities to play with the terrain and find airs and gaps and features to play with. This trail did the same, despite being made long long before anyone considered it might be used as anything other than away of getting from A to B. Makes you wonder how many other lost trails out there could be resurrected to do the same…

Probably the techest bit of the ride, and no match for someone with their mind set on pizza.

No matter how good a trail, it always ends. Probably for the best, I suspect on the third or fourth day of continuous descent it might get a bit samey and you’d want to stop for a coffee break.

The trail ended, we span the short distance back down the road, loaded the car and began a new quest for pizza. No doubt some other bikers in some other place were having a better day on a better trail, but I really didn’t feel like I was missing out today.

Why would you want to be anywhere else? Lots of reasons, but that doesn't tie up the loose ends quite so well, so we'll ignore them.

B.C. Pemberton, Squamish and Chilcotins, I don’t only ride park.

There is a lot of space in B.C. and this is only a wee bit of it.

Following on from the part 1 post on the trip to British Columbia, here’s some envy inducing images from our trips away from mountain bike Disney Land to some other choice spots.

Whistler’s park is famous for a reason, but then the rest of B.C. is also famous for a reason. I could’ve probably spent 3 weeks riding Squamish and come home thinking I’d had a grand trip. There’s a lot of amazing riding out there and I’ve hardly seen any of it, but I suspect I’ll be seeing more over the next few years.

None of this would have happened without Rob and his friends taking us on roadtrips away from Whistler and lending out assorted gear and advice so I raise a craft IPA/fizzy French lager to y’all in gratitude and hope I can repay the favour in Chamonix at some point. Cheers also to Lorne for doing most of the organising and logistics for the trip, and taking the better photographs!

Here’s some pictures and pretention that I scribbled down at the time in the absence of a coherent write up on 3 weeks riding.

Elbows out on "Boney Elbows" Squamish.

I’m a little confused by Rob and Andy’s chat of “a good climbing trail”. Normally this is called a chairlift. Here in Pemberton it seems to be a flowing trail cut up the hill. It is a pleasant enough way gain height for sure, but a little frustrating not to just push straight up through the zig zags and gain height with speed an efficiency.

B.C. verses France I guess.

For the afternoon we swap pedalling for shuttling in Rob’s F150 truck. The 19 year old V8 behemoth makes it hard to take the moral high ground on e-bikes, but when you’re lapping a trail as fun as Reserectum the moral high ground is a mute point.

B.C. verses France.

Lorne dropping onto the dustbowl of "Glue Factory", somewhere between getting stung by hornets and Rob trashing his wheel.

There used to be a trail called “One trick pony”. Then the forest got harvested and the trail destroyed. From the dust arose “Glue Factory”.

As a group of 7 we drop in in roughly guessed order of speed. After 30 seconds Rob stops at the start of the clear cut. ‘Reet good that. J.P. and Joe arrive to similar comments. Lorne arrives swatting himself and complaining about having been stung.
We look up the hill.
The screaming starts.
Ali and Esther are busy being engulfed by a swarm of hornets we’d disturbed.

The group continues for another 30 seconds of trail. ‘Reet good etc. etc.

Rob arrives, compresses out of a turn and superman front flips off the trail into the clear cut debris about 3 meters below. Somehow he’s completely unscathed but his four ride old rear wheel is toast. Or taco.

What’ll the next 30 seconds bring?

It’s about 7pm, the sun is going down behind the truck cab, behind the three bikes on the tailgate, behind the hills. Beck’s ‘Loser’ is on the radio and we’re taking the piss out of each other after obscenely good day’s riding in Squamish. This is one of the best bits of biking, and the hardest to capture or explain.

The Chilcotins are so far removed from Whistler bike park it's hard to grasp that it's part of the same sport, done with the same bikes. Rob takes the backcountry chairlift up Ridge-O-Rama.

Yesterday we saw Momma Grizzly and her 3 cubs crossing the road. This was cool because they were 75m away and we had Rob’s dirty great truck to hide in if they headed our way.

Today, I’m leading out above the treeline. The trail’s traversing below the summit of a mountain I never found the name of. I see a load of fresh earth ahead but, being a veteran of many an alpine trail, clock it as a freshly fallen small landslide and keep going.
I notice the landslide starts from just above the trail. Odd. I keep going.
I notice the landslide has a great big hollow as its start point. I keep going.
I notice the landslide has bear shit all over it. I stop.
Shit.
I appear to have ridden straight up to a grizzly’s hibernation den. Rob then arrives with the key thing that Goldielocks never had. Bear spray.

Just Momma grizzly and her 3 cubs crossing the road, nothing to see here. Canada eh.

It’s not a new complaint, but generally the best biking doesn’t get photographed. Who wants to stop mid-train as you slide down some new best trail ever with ridiculous scenery and colours around you. Aye it’d make a grand photo but that’s not worth killing the moment for. And that’s before you start with the issue that the photo only illustrates the moment, it doesn’t include the climb to the trail, the atmosphere, the enjoyment of the trail up to this point and the anticipation of the trail still to come

Hence, there are very few photos to illustrate just how good the Chilcotan combination of Hightrail-Molly Dog-Pepper Dog-Kens Trail is (and it might be the best 1000m vert of singletrack I’ve ridden) but you can extrapolate from the scenery shots of the climb, the pictures from Ridge-o-rama and Cinnabar the day before, and your own memories of that. time. when.

There weren't many photos taken on out way down High Trail, but this kinda conveys the idea pretty well. Alltimefalltime sums it up.

As I might have mentioned, there’s bears out there. Riding into a bear would be a bad thing, so to minimise the chances of this you start a little chant of “hey bear” as you approach blind corners, thick shrubs and the like. This rises to “HEY BEAR!”  as you get faster.

At first I wondered if it evolves a Pavlovian response in the bear, instead of the ringing of a bell getting the saliva going the sound of our anti-bear call would actually get Yogi ready for a 70kg snack. I’m now wondering if I’VE got the association conditioning, where whenever I’m riding a grand trail I’ll start yelling “hey bear” to the confusion (and possible consternation) of French hikers.

Little Rob getting his freeride on high in the Chilcotins.

I’m not sure I’ve really conveyed the awesomeness of this trip, and to be honest I don’t really need to. You either want to go to B.C. or you don’t, this page isn’t going to influence you either way. I’m glad I went, I want to go back, but I’m also pretty happy to be living where I am with all the Chamonix trails on my doorstep, and the infinite choices spreading out from there. Squamish, Finale, Pemberton, Verbier, Chilcotins, Aosta. There’s not much to whinge about there.

See you next trip everyone, cheers!

Lorne near the start of Ridge-O-Rama. Some trail names are inventive and original, others less so...

 

B.C. Whistler, I only ride park.

Do you even drift bro?

British Columbia is mountain biking. The sport might have been born (kind of) in Marin County USA, but it grew up and had kids in B.C. If you want to get an idea of the benchmarks in biking, and to see what’s behind all the shiny images in most mtb media, you have to take a trip to B.C.

I finally took a trip to B.C., travelling over with Lorne and meeting up with assorted friends from Chamonix and the UK. It was, as expected, amazing. The trails, the biking culture, the infrastructure and the space were everything the internet had told me they’d be and some.

All of this made for a great trip, and I can’t thank my friends, the folks I met and the trail builders enough for it.

What it didn’t make for though, is a great blog post. It’s not even going to scrape through as an average blog post. Three weeks is a long time to either remember everything that happened, or condense everything that happened. There’s far too many varied experiences to try my usual crutch of finding a random fact that interests me and writing around it without missing most of the trip, and far too much material to just write about the whole trip in an even remotely interesting way.

Instead I’ve channeled my inner Partridge and, by scribbling notes during the trip, have managed to drag this out to two posts, one for Whistler and one for not Whistler, of random bits and bobs that happened to space the photos. I’d focus on the photos.

This is the Whistler one:

Rob showing the way where, really, there isn't a way. Cheers Rob!

With an 18 month build up to getting here, the stress and anticipation of a day or so dragging 60kg of luggage around planes, trains and automobiles & a healthy dose of jetlag…..the first lap was always going to be an anti-climax.

Lorne was obviously keen to start on a grand trail. Not too hard to ease us in, but fun riding, and with his experiences from last year had been set on “Crank it up” for a whiles. It’s not that it was a bad trail, far from it, just between the wheel sized craters in the berms and my struggle to get the speed for the jumps I got to the bottom of the hill a bit “meh”.

The second trail was a different story. We’re on blue velvet and, at this point, Lorne is leading out. The trail arcs almost 180 degrees right on a dirt wall of a berm, straight into a second berm, the mirror of the previous. As I look round the corner to see what’s coming up next I see Lorne fade out of sight, slightly sideways in the air, with the accompanying giggle. At this point I get park.

The park chairlifts are pretty sociable, if you’re lapping on your own but want company it doesn’t take long to meet someone to ride with.

Heading up the Garbo chair I get chatting to Gary, who is riding a bike that looks like a session. Because it’s a session. I ask how Freight Train is riding, I’ve not ridden it yet and my first lap down jump trails is always…entertaining….as I try and get my speed right.

A couple minutes later, 52 year old Gary is leading out down Freight Train and giving me a tow into each kicker. Seems there’s plenty of time left to get better in the air.

I'm not saying the park is ALL about A-Line, but it's all about A-line.

Top of the World, TOTW, is apparently a “must do” when you’re in Whistler. A must do despite being an extra 20$ for a short chairlift to access one trail much like all the trails Chamonix has off all lifts above the tree line. I digress. The TOTW trail is fun enough, but the best reason for going up there with a bike is to then get into the trails like Khyber, Babylon, Ride don’t Slide. All of these used to be accessed by a long push up the hill, but now for a mere $20 you can ride a fun enough trail into them.

We were stopped for photos about half way down the TOTW trail when one of Rob’s bike patrol colleagues passed us and said he was going to be needed. A couple minutes down the trail a rider was receiving CPR. His friends, assorted stopped riders and the bike patrol worked, for over an hour, to keep Derrick’s blood and oxygen moving around his body whilst arranging for helicopter transport from the mountain to hospital. After he’d been carried into the helicopter and the area tidyed back up we continued on to Khyber, Upper Babylon, See colours and puke and other classics, my first rides of “real” B.C. trails instead of bike park, followed by a BBQ.

The next day we found out Derrick had died of a heart attack. Sometimes the world is shit.

https://nsmb.com/articles/memoriam-derrick-rockhill/

Ride don’t Slide is a bit of a pedal and push away from the park when TOTW isn’t open. I’m on my own in old growth forest with no human sounds other than the tick of my freehub. I start thinking about bears and cougars.

The bears seem sufficiently vegetarian however the cougars are more of a concern. Several folk have told me you only see a cougar when it wants you to see it, seeing a cougar is fine, it’s when you can’t see the cougar you have to worry.

I can’t see any cougars.

There’s a lot to be said for countries where you’re the top of the food chain, but this trail is good enough to beat that argument.

It’s damp out. Make a cup of tea, have a sandwich, and put on waterproofs.

Shady acres into Del Bocca Vista in Whistler hero dirt is as good as it gets. Renegade in Whistler humidity, is not.

I’d love to know what freak of geological nature makes Whistlers dirt so tacky in the wet, ‘cos it’d be great to get that sorted in Chamonix. The rock is just as slick though.

There’s a word to describe the feeling of realising for the last 350m of climbing you’ve been on the wrong trail. And there’s no other trail cutting across to where you want to be, And there’s no alternative descent from where you are. And logging service road back to the trail head to start anew the 600m climb is your only option.

There’s a word for this feeling, but I don’t know what it is…

 

 

 

The Escher trail

The stairs look like they go down but the man is walking up. Mind blown.

There’s been a running joke for a few years now that, as well as the Chamonix Bike Book, there should be a Chamonix Don’t Bike Book. A bible for Chamonix riders of the trails that, no matter how tempting they look on the map, just ain’t worth the hassle. Dinnay bother.

Prime examples would be the auspicious looking dashed line heading NE from the Col de Balme past La Remointse (the descent from the Refuge des Grands would be fun enough, if your enthusiasm somehow survives the preceding hike a bike). Then there’s the trail from the Refuge de Logan down to Argentiere, which does start promisingly enough (….then keeps suggesting it’s going to get better again, then just gives up and dumps you out onto 500m vert of rubble). And how many naive riders have rocked up at the top of Brevent full of enthusiasm to take the track down towards Col du Brevent and round to Pont d’Arieve (there’s a reason the bitter old locals just carry up from Planpraz to Col du Brevent and it’s not that we like carrying our bikes)?

This is what a good trail should look like.....if you ignore what's about to happen. TIm and Robbie are enjoying this bit at least.

All this isn’t to say that unrideable trails can’t be part of a good day out on the bike….

Unrideable is subjective. Tim's got nae issues calling this rideable.

With the look of ovine compliance only those who don’t know what’s about to happen can truly nail, Dave, Tim and Robbie followed me to the Bellevue lift to join the hikers and e-bikers and start the ride. Robbie did have an inkling of what was about to happen, he’s been on my exploratory rides before and also up to the Col Du Tricot, but it turns out he’d forgotten all the bad bits. Or maybe blanked them out as part of a coping mechanism. Hard to tell.

If you want to ride down from the Col du Tricot, first you've got to push up to the Col du Tricot.

Anyways, the descent down to the snout of the Bionassay Glacier is classic big mountain mountain biking. Huge views, a good trail, occasional exposure and the odd bit that it’s probably for the best if you don’t ride.

The trail culminates with the photo stop classic of the wire bridge, which still isn’t any easier to ride with 650mm+ bars but a pure dead good wheelie could get you to the other side. At which point rider stops riding bike and bike rides rider. With the advantage of youth, fitness and no knowledge of how long the climb is, Tim and Dave pulled off into the lead whilst Robbie and I set a more relaxed pace.

The bridge. When oh when will it go boost compatible?

Considerable skepticism as to the ridablility of the descent for the Col du Tricot was being expressed by walkers on the way up and Dave and Tim didn’t seem completely convinced by Robbie and my assertions to the contrary. Fortunately on reaching the col and looking down all doubts were assuaged and lunch one could be enjoyed with the view of the descent to come.

Lunch #1, nice spot for a washing line.

The trail’s changed a bit from the last time it was written about here but only 2 short sections weren’t ridden by anyone in the team, mostly due to a combination of fear of smashing brake rotors and the amount of goat poo on the track.

Like snakes and ladders, but where the snake bit is winning. Top of Col du Tricot

At the chalets Miage the first trail choice had to be made. Another 200m of hike a bike over Mont Truc
[Cartographer: You there, local hick, what do you call this insignificant mountain?
Local Hick: Indecipherable.
Cartographer {to scribe}: God knows, call it Mount Thingy] to get to a grand wee trail I knew down to Les Contamines or roll the dice with the 4×4 track traverse round the hill to an unknow line on the map that would also drop us down to Les Contamines.

Dave and Tim approaching the Chalet Miage to the cheers of a hundred Japanese walkers.

We gambled and, at first at least, it seemed we’d rolled double sixes. The traverse was pretty quick and the short climb pretty easy. Dropping into the singletrack (or straight off the singletrack in Tim’s case) we found a smashing wee trail that snaked down the hill with a fine balance of narrow and tech without loosing flow too much. Then it went uphill for a bit, then a fainter trail descended from the climb. Obviously we took the descending trail. It wasn’t quite as good as the trail before, loamy straights into hairpin turns, but still plenty fun, before it spat us out onto an overgrown 4×4 track.

The trail goes left. Tim didn't.

A slightly too late look at the map showed we should have suffered up the climb for another couple of minutes more and we would have had a longer descent down to Les Contamines. As it was the 4×4 was pretty interesting as these things go and we headed down to Les Contamines and on to the Telecabine de la Gorge.

Messing with the image/writing continuity a bit here, but no one will notice. Jump back to Robbie and Tim high on the Col du Tricot descent.

The Mont Blanc Unlimited lift pass covers a huge area of lifts in the summer, however with such a spread of lifts comes some idiosyncrasies. The lower half of the Les Contamines lifts runs no stop during the day, the upper half closes from 1230 to 1345. On a completely unrelated matter, at the mid station there’s a little paddling lake and a couple of cafes. Nothing for it but to sit with the feet in the lake eating icecream. And “help” Robbie fix a slow puncture.

This is how all punctures should be fixed.

Once the lift had opened and carried us up to 1875m the main part of the day could start. Following the trail that traverses from the ski area out towards the Chalets d Roselette and then from there on to the Lacs Jovet.

Got to admit, the trail started with plenty of promise.

And at first it seemed ok. Not fully rideable but not too far off. Then there were some slightly harder bits to carry the bike across then. Then to carry the bike up. Then to carry the bike down. Carrying the bike down is not a good sign, group enthusiasm starts to drop off pretty quickly once you have to carry the bike downhill.

Riding new trails is fun. We are not riding. We are not funning.

By the time we’d finished climbing and carrying and climbing our way down across the first half of traverse to the trail that scampered back towards Les Contamines it wasn’t hard to find a bunch of perfectly rational reasons why it would make much more sense to head back that way rather than continue with the original plan.

About turn. The alpine rolling endo's about the only trick I've got left in the bag, so I'm going to darn well use it whenever I can.

At first the trail was pretty good, though the novelty of just being on the bike and rolling across the terrain without much effort possibly helped this assessment. Even this trail then started to head up hill, even as it was definitely loosing height.

What an achievement, we’d found the fabled Escher trail. Like an alpine Electric Brae we seemed doomed to keep ascending to the base of the trail forever.

Dave drops in. Def downhill at this point, so presumably we were meant to be climbing.

Fortunately we’re all rational folk and physics quickly re-asserted itself. We joined the furtherest south of the trails we normally ride from the Les Contamines lifts. It pointed downhill and stayed downhill. And it’s a really good trail too. Braap, laugh, wheelie and drift our way down towards the Nant Borant refuge. With a quick excursion off the bike and into the undergrowth for Robbie.

The trail after it picked up its spirits again.

We could have gone for another lap or two off the Les Contamines lifts, but the prospect of letting gravity pull us down towards St Gervais along the riverside singletrack through Les Contamines followed by ice cold sugary drinks and an earlier tramway back into the Chamonix valley was too much to resist, so we enjoyed the last of the 1000 or so meters of descent that counts for a way home out here and I mentally put another red line onto the map of trails in my head. Not fully scored out, but for now mibbies best leave that one alone and just pedal up from the valley floor to explore the trails near Lacs Jovet. Another time, there’s trails straight off the lifts to be ridden before the summer ends…

Looking over the Roman bridge to see if we could find where we went wrong....

Le Tour Triptych

Three of these please.

Three stories about the Tour du France. No, not really, but I wonder how much traffic from VTT’s lycra clad brethren will be directed this way as a result of that title. Page views are views, it all aids the google rating…

No, this is the story of the three descents from Le Tour that seem made to be appreciated together. The trail trio that take the tumultuous twisting turns towards Trient, Chatelard and Vallorcine. I’d prefer it if those last two were renamed Tatlard and Tallowscene but I want doesn’t always get as Trump appears never to have been told as a wean.

Alliteration or no alliteration, this is what 50% of Le Tour riding looks like. The other 50% features more trees...

The Le Tour riding encapsulates much of what makes biking in Chamonix so great. A mix of gondolas and chairlifts interspaced with traversing and climbing under your own power. Thin ribbons of singletrack high above the treeline dropping to ancient paths through the forests, all with a range of technical challenge from the fast and flowy to the feck that I’m pushing and everything in between.

Great bike, great trail, adequate rider. Cheers for the photo Fred Leth.

The catalyst for riding all these trails in a day came in a visit to Chamonix from Fred Leth. I seem to make a habit of riding with friends from the flattest countries in Europe, presumably in the hope that I can be faster than them. Riding the Enduro des Belleville last week with Bas from the Netherlands, where he kicked my ass, and most peoples ass, on every stage he had inflated tyres for shows the folly of that theory. Fred being from Denmark doesn’t seem to cause him any issues with knocking out some impressive race results as he trundles about the alps each summer in his caravan. Even better, Spence made a return visit to town to get reacquainted with the trails that made him the rider he is today.

Frederik Leth. Taller than Mont Blanc.

In the usual narrative the trails would be ridden in ascending order so you could use a line like “each trail was better than the last” but I think we probably rode the best trail first. Though the second trail runs it close. And the third is up there too.

Up the Charamillon gondola and the Autannes chairlift, onto the bikes and pedal round to the Refuge du Col de Balme and onwards towards le Bechat. Uphill dealt with and some cryptic clues from Spence and I about what lies ahead we drop in and start the fast flowing blast round towards Catogne that forms the first part of the descent to Chatelard.

Fred leading out Spence onto the first dip down towards Catogne.

It’s a particular pleasure, getting to show someone a trail for the first time. You know what’s coming up and, whilst you no doubt still enjoy the trail, some of the excitement has gone out of it. With someone new to the trail along for the ride though, so much of that comes back as you watch their reactions. Fred seemed pretty happy!

Sheeeeeep! Such interruptions aside, cracking trail innit.

With the 200m prelude down to Catogne done, we continued on for yet more alpine singletrack through fields and past old cowshed to the tree line. As the trail enters the trees things start to get a little more challenging, but still nothing too technical. A new built section of trail near the Esserts reservoir brings you away from some grassy 4×4 track and keeps you on singletrack all the way to the tiny hamlet of La Mena. It’s an odd contrast, going so suddenly from dark woods to weaving through perfectly tended chalet gardens, then back into the dark woods but that’s how it rolls about here.

Spence making the call between looking at the trail, looking at the views and looking to see if there's a clown waiting in the haunted cowshed. All in a days work on the way to Chatelard.

The next dark woods are a bit different from those above. The roots are to be expected, but it’s the most rocks we’ve had to deal with all descent. Much steeper and more technical it’s a challenging finish when the arms and core are getting tired from all the trail above, but very satisfying.

A less tech, but also less dark, bit of the dark woods. Dark woods do not make for easy photographery.

The trail spits you out onto a viaduct for a short flat pedal, another little bit of jibby trail, a picturesque bridge and an old school version of falling water house and then it’s done. 1100m of first class and varied descending. Now just pedal back up the road to Vallorcine before the lifts there close at 1250 (not 1300 as the website claims) and for added fun, watch the train that saves you this effort go past shortly after deciding that there probably isn’t a train at this time of day.

Lap two involved a bit more up to get to the down.

Lap two. Off to Trient. Once more up the Autannes chairlift, onto the bikes and pedal round to the Refuge du Col de Balme but this time keep climbing to the Col below the Croix de Fer. You can pedal all the way to the col, but you can also chill out and push up, it’s not a race. The col is a good spot for lunch, so we stopped for lunch. Bikes are grand, and going downhill fast is grand, but lying on a grassy hill in the sunshine with stunning views all round is grand too.

Even better if you can add in some good French bread. An Italian coffee too would have been perfection, but you can’t always get what you want (is Trump a fan of the Rolling Stones?)

Tyre tappin' Mont Blanc and sending the alpinists flying. Starting the Trient trail with (almost) a Swiss squeaker.

Eventually we accepted we would have to sit up and exercise. The trail to Trient has been covered here before, away have a look at the other blog entries or check out Tom’s Chamonix Bike Book if you need more information (or give Wayne a shout if you want to be shown a few of the variations that have been left out of the blogs to keep a bit of the trails hidden…) but suffice to say it’s a Chamonix classic for a very good reason and there are a lot of people out there who’d rate it as the best descent in the valley.

We're not in the bike park now Dorothy.

There has been some trail work on the first section that has seen the arrival of some very aggressive drainage features, rock slabs sitting vertically out of the trail about 30 to 40cm proud. How you deal with them depends mostly on how high you can bunnyhop, but despite it messing with the flow it’s probably for the best if it helps slow down some of the folks blasting down here on one of the busier walking trails. On which subject, some kind soul has been putting screws and nails into drainage ditches presumably in an effort to puncture tyres, though the angles used could equally puncture trail shoes or livestock hoofs. Gonnay no dae that would seem a fair comment.

This is at the top of the Autannes chairlift, but it's be well good if the sentiment coud be applied elsewhere too. Please.

Back to the trail, which has finished. We’ve spun back round to France on the road and are about to head up the Vallorcine gondola for the second time of the day. The group grows by three as we bump into Lorne and Edinburgh ski shop Freeze‘s finest Al and Becky.

Bikers assemble! Lorne hitting the Vallorcine DH on a sociable group lap

We’re heading for the Vallorcine DH track (Fred is a downhiller after all), they’re heading to the DH track, so we get a fun lap as a big group feeding off each others laughs/screams at surviving rain eroded berms and some of the best man made biking in the area.

After another ride up the Vallorcine lift we head back round to the front of the hill for the third big lap of the day. Spence has to head home and the others are going for the Trient lap to finish the day so Fred and I re trace our steps from the mornings first lap, but with none of those pesky flow-breaking photo or crash stops.

Heading back up to the col from the Vallorcine gondola. The toughest tiny climb in Chamonix?

At the chatelard junction we head up the short climb to begin the third variation of the day down to Vallorcine. We hadn’t really noticed time or fatigue creeping up on us during the day, but suddenly both were becoming a pressing concern. Energy levels were low and we only had 12 mins to the last lift out of the Vallorcine valley, so we skipped the link into the Vallorcine DH track and it’s associated singletrack to instead dump a couple hundred meters of altitude on 4×4 track and short cut throughs. This wasn’t a full wave of the white flag though, we still broke off for the final 200m of fine forest singletrack back to the gondola to arrive with 5 minutes to spare. An irrelevant 5 minutes as the ferme barrier was already up.

All smiles at this point of the descent to Vallorcine, only 900m to loose and not long to do it in...

Fortunately the liftie took pity on us and we were ushered under the tape and onto a gondola. As we stepped off the top the motors were shut down and the lift stopped turning. Time to head for home.

Yeah so the photo's from the first lap, but it's got a kinda heading for home vibe about it, so I'll stick it in here and assume nobody'll read the caption.

In an ideal world we’d then have hit the Posettes trail back towards Chamonix, but it’s August and we didn’t want to invite conflict on one of the more contentious local trails. Nothing to do with being tired or how much I like looking down from my high horse (though I hear the higher they are the more they hurt when you fall off). Instead it was a cruise through the bike park and assorted simple trails by the river to home and a fridge of cold drinks.

Just 3 bikers riding 3 sweet trails and chilling with a dinosaur. We think the t-rex is more of a track rider but, those arms wouldn't last long on a 1000+m descent.

Another day in paradise ticked off without having to think twice or listen to Phil Collins.

Le Thuile: Day of the Dead (forearms).*

Enduro zombies. Or Team Scandinavia. Or just Läderlappen!!!

Last year La Thuile hosted round 4 of the EWS. It won the race of the year accolade and was raved about by racers and press alike as “real” enduro (eh!?!) with thousands of meters of descent on rough and raw tracks. Val di Sole times a million as Team America might say.

I had a great time last year, but I got smashed. The long harsh trails were a reminder that I’m not too fit and my arms are a bit pathetic. Well not so much a reminder as a mugging down a dingy back alley, but you get the idea.

Todays "photography" is brought to you by a cheap smartphone. Soz.

So, fast forward a year and since the last race at La Thuile, I’ve broken both arms and wrists, spent almost 5 months with an arm in a brace to stop me using it, and a couple weeks ago decided to dislocate my right middle finger to balance up my pre-existing feebleness at holding onto the handlebars.

Seems like a good idea to go back to La Thuile and get some Superenduro action….

Ready to drop into Stage 3 with Team Scandinavia. (and Switzerland, and Scotland. So Team "S" really)

Fortunately for those of us making up the numbers, races are a great excuse to catch up with people and win at practice, which is pretty much how the weekend went. Lots of groups of riders from all over the world sitting about in the sunshine and riding some of the best trails on the planet.

Stage 1. One of the better trails on the planet, did you take the left or right line?

The Superenduro crew put on an amazing event, the key things were prioritised: Amazing venue, great trails, well taped, relaxed vibe. The less important things came second. How it should be really.

Only one stage was completely common to the EWS, this year’s first stage which was also last year’s fifth stage. Last year this was my worst stage, the relentless steepness and braking took its toll on my arms and by the end I was having to choose between 3 or 4 finger braking, which didn’t leave many fingers for holding onto the bars. So I was curious how it would go this year, just taking it nice ‘n’ easy and preserving my energy for the lower third. Answer? 30 seconds slower. Bit humiliating that really, though at least I was able use the brakes at the end this time.

The start of stage 1. Sure, it looks nice here. Give it 8 or 9 minutes and see how you feel....

The rest of the stages were shorter, but still steep, loose, dusty and fun. I’ve said it plenty times before, but if you own a #enduro bike, go to La Thuile, it is every bit as good as everyone says. Though mibbies a wee bit rougher than it was a few years ago.

Yeah, I know the image quality is terrible, but if you wanted a better idea why didn't you go yourself?

Mechanicals did seem to be a bit of an issue. About 350 riders signed on on Saturday morning. By the end of practice 12 had already had to pull out through mechanical or injury, by the end of Sundays racing another 40 were missing from the sheet. Racing the stages, the side of the track was littered with bikes missing a wheel whilst the rider tried to stuff a tube in as quick as possible. At the end of each stage other riders would be trying to fix cooked brakes, blown shocks, buckled wheels or even snapped bars. It’s going to sound like an advert for my Airdrop Edit, but it was pretty amazing to sail through all this without having to touch the bike all weekend other than to put some chain lube on after Saturday practice and tighten a solitary loose spoke after Sundays race. Oh, and stop about 30 seconds into stage 4 to switch the rear shock back from climb to descend mode, but I’m no sure I can blame the bike for that one.

My biggest mechanical issue of the weekend. Brushing the dust off the Edit.

So if I was such an also ran this year, why did I enjoy the racing so much? Usually I put the unrelated rant at the start of the writing then try and claw it back to some sort of bike relevance half way through. This time, it’s going the other way round. If you’re only here for the biking stuff, change the channel now, possibly to see what Ben Winder made of it all.

Some rocks, some trees, some dust, ok lots of dust. Easy this track description lark.

Dopamine. The neural transmitter that, according to the well known, peer reviewed, journal “The Sun” makes “cupcakes as addictive as cocaine” is responsible for all manner of stuff in the brain, but the best known bit is releasing reward chemicals into the heid and making you feel just smashing thanks.

Would riding this trigger a dopamine response in you? And would it be due to a "near miss"?
It might be a surprise to you, but it turns out dopamine is a little more complicated than The Sun makes out. As well as being released following success or something that makes you feel good (say, a really tasty cupcake for example) and making you feel good about yourself, hence wanting to repeat that behaviour (that was a really good cupcake, I shouldn’t, but just one more) it gets released following worrying, scary, near miss events too (holy crap, there’s a tarantula in my cupcake! I wonder if there’s one in the next cupcake?).

Does sprinting hard enough to cough a lung get you high? Seems to work for the fast folk.

Ah yes, racing long and tough courses with minimal practice. I had a clean weekend with no crashes and in control all the time, but you still spend plenty time going “eek” as whole sections of track you’d forgotten about appear, or sections you kinda remembered turned out to have changed somewhat since you rode them a few hundred riders ago. And if you’re really cracking on, you need to take some actual risks and get near your limits. That’s when the near misses (or near hits really) start to rack up and you hit full dopamine house. It’s addictive and you go back for more.

And racing in Italy being especially good? Well, what could possibly trump a cupcake other than good coffee and gelato?

Post race affogato. It is Italy after all.

Of course, the brain is way more complicated than that. All manner of other chemicals are complementing and countering the work of dopamine and messing with our emotions. But if you want to know more, perhaps consult some form of expert rather than an unqualified rant on the internet. Seriously, what’s wrong with you people.

*RIP George A Romero.

Unintended consequences/Chamonix Bike Ban

If a MTBer rides a trail and no one can see it, did they ride the trail?

In 1958 Chairman Mao, the well known mountain biker and modernist, issued a decree titled “the four pests campaign” with the intention of purging China of (the latest) four greatest enemies of the people: Rats, mosquitos, flies and sparrows.

To deal with the particular threat of the sparrow, the nation was mobilised. Men, women, children and, the linchpin of any agricultural based economy, grandparents unleashed their full fury on the mighty and terrifying sparrow. In addition to the obvious tactics of smashing the nests, breaking the eggs and just running about shooting the birds, whole cities would turn out in their millions to bang pots together and scare the poor things into the air. The cacophony would continue for hours, sometimes days, stopping the sparrows from landing until they dropped, dead exhausted, from the sky.

Want to ride this in July or August? No one's stopping you, it's on the Vallorcine side of Le Tour, and in Switzerland.

Alas, it turned out the evil winged consumer of grain and rice was also a kinda useful consumer of pests and insects. Whilst the sparrows did eat the crops, they didn’t eat anything like the amount that the insects who were thriving in their absence did.

Posettes. In September you can lap this and hardly meet anyone. In July and August.....pure hoaching.

There was nothing for it. Mao had to change his 4 least favourite animals to rat, mosquito, fly and bed bug, let the sparrow re-establish itself, and then get on with believing 150 grams of rice was a reasonable daily ration (is there a graph plotting percentage of a nation underweight verses said nations leader’s obesity?) and that melted down woks would produce high enough grade steel to build an industrialised nation. These latest great leaps forward would help him into the very upper tier of despots, and contribute to the death of somewhere between 30 and 55 million people, to date still a dictator high score of own peoples killed through incompetence and hubris.

Lucky the incompetent and hubristic world leader is a thing of the past eh.

Chamonix's most photogenic corner. No can do in July and August.

Of course, what’s the issue with a few million deaths when you have the far more important first world problem of not getting to ride a handful of trails and 3 lifts for 2 months of the year. Snowflakes.

So yeah, there’s this “bike ban” thing in Chamonix, which from some of the comments floating about the internet (and comments on social media and forums are obviously representative of the majority of human opinion) seems to mean to most folk that all trails in Chamonix and a 50km radius are completely forbidden to bikes, all the year, and that it’s some form of dark conspiracy against anyone holding a lift pass from Compagnie du Mont Blanc so they can take your money then stop you from using the lifts.

Off the back of Le Tour. No walkers and no worries.

First off, the Chamonix bike ban, or Arrete du Marie 006872/2016  to give it it’s Sunday name, is only applied during July and August, and only on the trails within the Chamonix commune (and with the exception of those exceptions listed in the arrete). The rest of the time the trails are just as legal to ride as anywhere else in Haute Savoie. July and August also happens to be the busiest times of year for walkers and trail runners, the trails in the valley are just too busy to get any flow going. I get that if you’re only going to be in Chamonix for 1 week of your life and it’s August and you really, really want to ride from Brevent then it’s frustrating, but for everyone else, there’re better places to ride during those months. Ban or no ban. There’s a minority of riders that really ain’t helping things either by not using the universal “don’t be a dick” rule and no slowing down whiles passing other folk on the trails, skidding their way through cut lines and generally being dicks.

Don’t be a dick.

Les Houches DH trail. Somewhere that walkers ain't allowed and bikes are, so you can be a dick to any you pass on the track. Or not.

As for the lifts, again, the only lifts closed to bikes that are otherwise open are the Brevent and Flegere lifts. So Le Tour, Grand Montets, Les Houches, Tramway du Mont Blanc (and if you have the annual or summer season pass Les Contamines, Megeve, St Gervais, Combloux) are all still open during the ban. And you can still go the Brevent and Flegere lifts.

You just canny take your bike.

Or wingsuit.

I couldn't find a good photo from GM, so here's another from Brevent. In October, when the lifts were open and you could take your bike on them.

From Grand Montets only the Lavancher bowl trail is officially open, though strangely there never seems to be many people on any of the other ways down from there….probably because most of them are a bit rubbish.

Another Brevent trail. They're not that much fun anyways.

Le Tour; yup, Posettes trails are included in the ban area. Plenty of folk ignore the closure, it’s a cracking trail after all, but during the morning through most of the day it’s hoaching with walkers so really, what’s the point of never getting to ride at any speed when you could hit any of the trails from the Vallorcine gondola legally and with way less traffic? Or you could pedal up to the trails down from Loriaz chalets. Then there’s all the trails over in Switzerland that start from Le Tour.

Lorne on a trail somewhere above Vallorcine and below the telecabine. All legal, all year, always quiet.

Les Houches, like Vallorcine, isn’t in the Chamonix commune so the arrete doesn’t apply. Instead they have their own arrete, Arrete No 13/046, which prohibits biking only on the “great walking trails” implying any of the not so great trails are fine…. GR5 counts as a great trail, officially and critically. Those of you who’ve spent too much time watching legal dramas will probably notice that the linked arrete is only valid until 30th September 2013, and no I canny find a more up to date document online, wouldn’t it be ironic if bringing this to attention got it updated in a more draconian manner.

A grand trail, but not a great trail. Or is it the other way around? Either ways, above Les Houches and all there for the taking whenever you want.

So aye, it’s frustrating, not getting to ride on the doorstep in Chamonix, but for plenty folks the result of the ban is just looking a bit further afield. Looking closer at the trails they can ride in the valley, looking where they can ride at Le Tour and Les Houches, looking where they can ride beyond the valley. If that’s too hard, try having a look at the trails suggested in the Chamonix Bike Book, or hire a guide. Mibbies as the numbers of VTTists at Les Houches and Le Tour continue to rise, forced out of the more convenient spots to town, the Marie will be forced to make changes to further fill its coffers with biking dollar and reinstate the bike trails at Flegere.

Doubt it. More importantly, it’s not that big an issue, quit whining.

If not getting to use a lift to the start of this trail, riding up instead, then getting stopped by a PGHM gadgie and told not to be a dick is the worst thing that happens to you this year, you're having a good year.

If you want to read more about China (sorry, CHYNAAH. Trump rules) then give Wild Swans by Jung Chang a go.

FIN

FIN. Finale trails, as smooth and creamy as good Gelato

Another interseason, another trip to Finale. Following the annual MTB migratory route to the Italian Riviera (except the bit where you head back to the frozen north after a few days, seems we’ve still some learning to do from them birds).

It’s good to get in on copying your favourite pro’s social media which, until recently, will have been filled with #preseason #shakedown and #testing in the sunny south. Or even your friends who will have been busy with #newbikeday and getting some dust in to try out their new whips.

OK, so Rohan's not on a new bike, or doing a whip, but Rollercoaster is a good trail none the less.

I saw the trip the other way round, a last chance to ride my bike before it goes to a new owner. I try to avoid unbridled enthusiasm, or even any enthusiasm, it’s just not what the cool kids do, but my Canyon Strive has done me well for the last 2 years and I’m pretty sad to see it go. Through races, bike parks, mud, dust, rock and root it’s just rumbled along not complaining and, except for the odd puncture or crash squinted saddle and pulled cable, never have I had a mechanical. Well, except the first shapeshifter unit, but it just got left in DH mode all the time anyways.

The strive might be a great #enduro bike, but alas it doesn't make the rider able to do great #enduro turn-downs.

But, it’s sold and gone now, so I’ll save you any anthropomorphism of an object and get back to the more interesting bit of the trails.

Last spring we rode Isallo Extasy and declared it the pure bestest trail ever in Finale, so figured it would make a grand first trail of the trip this year. Only it’d been raining solid for the previous three days and our shuttle driver asked us no to ride it. A bit of guessing later we headed down an only slightly slick roller coaster, which was good but not as good as Isallo.

Choose Finale, choose a trail, choose Rollercoaster above the Mediterranean sea.

It also turned out not to be as good as Toboggan which too goes from the Din drop off point and was mibbies all four of our favourite trail. Rohan because he didn’t have me getting in his way, Gabrielle because she didn’t crash on it and didn’t have me and Spence getting in her way, and me and Spence ‘cos we managed to have a conversation the whole way down. And didn’t crash.

We didn't get any photos on Toboggan, too much fun to stop, so here's Gabrielle getting heckled somewhere else.

Completing our three days of shuttle to Din we final(e)ly went and rode Insalo again, only to discover later on Strava that our previous favourite trail is, in fact, called Fast and Furious. The names don’t really matter anyway, I wouldn’t want to declare which is better and fortunately we’re not in some contrived tv gameshow where we have to choose, so I’d say go and ride them both, 2 great ways to start your day. Or, if you’re like our new friend Rainer who we met at the base of Toboggan, him having arrived from Isalo looking very not-covered-in-mud, ride them both in the same day with just a few thousand meters of pedalling up inbetween.

Rainer on Cacciatore, in between a mere 2500m of climbing for laps.

I find the closer I get to Finale town the less I enjoy the trails. Not the the trails closer to town are bad mind, more that the style of the trail becomes much more physical and, if I’m honest, more like it’s trying to break your bike. As my bike was no longer actually MY bike on this trip, I was more keen than usual to avoid breaking it. Breaking myself is something I can manage anywhere.

Sun, dust, scrub and rocky trails. Quintessential Finale riding.

The exception to the rule would be the trails leading back into Orco Feglino town itself from Chiesa San Rocco which, like the nearby Pino Morto trail, don’t bother with any of that pesky mid-trail uphill rubbish or require any great finesse to ride. Just lots of holding onto the bars and not the brakes fun, swing the hips about, look where you want to go and holler on through.

Rain stopped uplift on the 4th day, but the sun came out to play for the afternoon, Gabrielle in the light and on Rugetta/EWS '14 special stage 3.

Trails that are so much fun, when we went to do a few shuttle laps on the last day before heading home I got all anti social and just kept doing top to bottom laps rather than sharing the fun. It was my last play out on the Strive, let me have my moment. I’d never ridden Little Champery before this trip (no idea how, I’ve ridden past the entrance often enough) but it got the questionable honour of being the last trail I rode on the Strive, a fitting last blast.

Time for a change.

Do you even #lightbro? Spence on the fine combination of Kill Bill/Madonna.

Off to Scotland now for some mud and ALE.

You thought the racers were struggling to see in Lourdes, think how we felt. DH cat don't care tho.

Cheers Spence, Gabrielle and Rohan, and Canyon, for yet another grand trip. FIN

An object in motion remains in motion unless…

If you go down to the woods today, you're sure of finding some trees.

How’s your memory on high school physics, up to Newton’s first law of motion? I’ll give you a reminder, save you the hassle of dusting off your copy of Principia Mathematica.

First Law: In an inertial reference frame, an object either remains at rest or continues to move at a constant velocity, unless acted upon by a force.

Caillet lowers, lots of us have done some work in here over the years, but there still more to be done....

Or; stuff stays where you put it unless you give it a prod. Traditionally, giving things a prod then moved you onto Newton’s 2nd law where the object in question would accelerate in the direction it was prodded. Irritatingly some pesky scientists now went and (sort of) made a material with negative mass, so when poked it moves towards you*.

Mess up a photo? Just slide the contrast and light levels about until it works as b&w. Take that Ansel Adams.

Having crowbared in a current (non political) affairs story, how does this swing round to bikes? Weeel, riders seem to react to their environment. If the local trail push in one direction, the riders tend to go with it, until something changes and then they get pushed in a new direction.

There's a bit much bedrock about to say "fresh loam", maybe "recently worn moss" will come into parlance?

Not sure what I’m on about? If you live somewhere with a chairlift and bike park, you tend to ride a big heavy bike and hit jumps a lot. Live somewhere flat with rolling trails, you probably ride a XC 29’er. Live somewhere flat with no trails at all, you’ve probably bought a shovel and started digging trails (as in the proper definition of trails, jumpy ones). Finally, live somewhere with chairlifts and cracking natural tracks, you probably don’t both much with a shovel. i.e. Live in Chamonix, why bother building trails, there’s so many good ones already.

Caillet lowers. Which do you prefer, steep line or mellow line?

Only there’s always someone who want to be counter intuitive, to go in the wrong direction when pushed. And in this case, they’re building trails. The someone is really plural, as from Le Planet to Servoz folks are heading out and tweaking, modifying, extending or just straight up creating, trails.

Spot the rider can be as hard as spot the spot.

I know who some of trails are made by, others I dunno, so it’s not for me to map out where the building is. But, if you get out a fair bit around Chamonix you should notice the more popular ones. The more hidden ones are an incentive to go and explore more, you never know where you might find the next gem.

Is it too early to start whining about the trails being too dry?

I guess it’s also an incentive to go and add to the work that’s being done. Doesn’t need to be much, trail maintenance is as useful as making a new trail. The commune does grand work keeping the marked trails well maintained but there’s plenty of wee unmarked tracks that 5 mins work a ride to move fallen trees, kick clear drainage or push back encroaching shrubberies will make a difference.

Best not forget that the "main" trails got made by someone, and maintained by someone else too. Merlet.

And, if you all can do that then I don’t have to do anything and can just leech off everyone else’s hard work.

We're having to pedal n push up still, so it's kinda like hard work.

On the subject of getting something for nothing, the Chamonix lift accessed riding season started last week. Then ended after 1 day following the last minute change of mind by Compagnie du Mont Blanc to NOT keep Flegere running but fire up Brevent instead. Flegere lifties were happy with bikes, Brevent less so. Riding plans changed from lapping the Flegere trails to riding assorted valley trails under summer skies if not always summer temps. The pictures might look like they’re from August, but they were all definitely taken this April. Hence you’re getting a blog post about all the grand trail build work folk have been doing rather than how great it is to be riding off the lifts already.

If you look hard enough in the trees, somewhere 15 mins from the centre of Chamonix, you too can find the BC porthole.

The sun’s taking a wee break for a few days so I guess I should head off into the woods with a shovel and saw too. You never know, maybe the next post will be directions to the new greatest trail you’ve never ridden.

I wouldn’t get your hopes up but.

Servoz. Beaucoup building, and not all of it from dirt as Spence demonstrates!

*Think how awesome negative mass materials could be in bikes! Tyres that roll uphill, pedals that accelerate away from your feet. It’ll be like an e-bike but without all that pesky attached stigma that you’re not a “real” cyclist just because you’ve got a motor in the downtube.