Mountain Bike Holiday FAQ
Will the riding group suit me?
Short answer is yes! We have 4 guides available for a maximum of 14 clients which means we always split our guests down into small groups to suit different ability levels. We usually ride in groups of 4-5, but sometimes even smaller. It's not unusual for someone to end up with a private guide if that's what we think it takes for you to get the most out of your holiday. If you come on holiday with a really big group of mates and you all want to ride together, we'll often put 2 guides with the group to keep things flowing. People often seem to think 14 clients means we ride as a group of 14. This is NEVER the case, unless people really want to!
What flight times should I aim for?
Please book flights arriving in Geneva between 12 midday and 4pm and departing Geneva after 12 midday. The flight time on the day of departure is very important because the transfer has to leave the chalet 5 hours before your flight time. If you book a flight departing before 12 midday, and all other guests are on afternoon flights, we may have to make an extra charge to run a private early morning transfer for you. If you are struggling to find appropriate flights, let us know and we’ll see what we can do to help. See our travel info page for more details.
What tools / spares do I need to bring?
Not much. We have a well-equipped workshop with almost any tool you could imagine needing as well as track pumps, tubeless inflators, random spare bits & bobs, etc. As far as spares go, there is a great bike shop (Gravity Lab) close by, so it's possible to buy most stuff you could need. They also have good mechanics if you do have a problem we can't fix in-house. We'd recommend bringing a spare of anything which is very specific to your bike. The classic examples are mech hangers and non-standard spokes. On that subject, just don't buy factory wheelsets with non-standard spokes. They're always a disaster. If something unfixable really does go wrong, it's always possible to rent a bike.
The one thing you should definitely bring is spare brake pads. You will almost certainly go through a set of pads during your trip. We'd recommed bringing a full spare set. Maybe even an extra set just in case. You can buy pads for almost any brakes locally, but it'll be expensive and it's a lot less hassle if you already have them when you need them.
We strongly recommend Organic pads rather than Sintered. Sintered will last a little longer, but, under Alpine conditions of super-long, steep descents, will generate much more heat which can lead to some horrible screeching noises and eventually to the brake fluid boiling. In our typical dry & dusty trail conditions, you don't really need the extra grit-resistance of sintered pads.
What bike should I bring?
The ideal bike for our trails is a mid to long-travel full sus. The guides all ride bikes with around 160mm of travel (Orange Alpine 6 and Stage 6). You can enjoy riding almost any bike here though and we even get the occasional hard-tail rider. On our Backcountry Enduro weeks and the other more adventurous trips, a mid-travel full-sus (e.g. Orange 5) is ideal. A DH bike is overkill for most of our riding and can actually get pretty cumbersome in the tight singletrack.
If your bike is on the shorter-travel or lighter end of things, consider beefing it up a little - dual ply tyres and bigger brake rotors will make a big difference.
Can I bring my e-bike?
Sure! Ebikes are becoming more and more ubiquitous around the valley. You can bring your ebike on any of our trips. In our honest opinion, the motor gives little advantage on a chairlift week and the weight of the bike can leave you feeling much more tired at the end of a big dayy. Yeah, we know, we've heard all the "planted" arguments, but when it comes down to it, we'd always choose a light bike over a heavy bike all other things being equal. But if you run a big ebike as your only or main bike, no worries at all, bring it to the big mountains! On our Backcountry Enduro and other more adventurous weeks with a little more pedalling, an ebike definitely brings more advantage and will take the sting out of some of the steep climbs. There may be short sections of hike-a-bike, which will be harder with the extra weight, but these are pretty limited and the guides will help out if need be! Be aware that it is generally not possible to transport an ebike by plane due to the size of the battery. If you want to bring your ebike, you will need to plan to road-trip your way here!
If you're travelling as a group of ebikers, or there are a few other ebike riders in the chalet, we can form an ebike group and the guide will be motorised too.
What tyres should I run?
Something big, meaty and preferably tubeless. We mostly run big Maxxis (High Rollers & Minions) or Michelin (Wild Rock'r2) tyres. If you want it indestructible (especially on the chairlift weeks), go for dual ply (although they're super-heavy).
Can I hire a bike?
We don't supply our own rental bikes, but we work with our local bike shop, Gravity Lab, to provide rental options. Please check their website for bike options and to make your rental reservation. The Specialized Status or Pivot Firebird are the most suitable enduro bikes for our local riding.
Do I need a full-face helmet/pads/body armour?
Generally, we reckon all these things are personal choices and that you know yourself if you're going to be pushing hard enough to need the extra protection. The guides generally wear knee pads, elbow pads and open-face helmets. We occasionally break-out the full-face lids if we're going for a full bike-park DH day, but that's pretty rare.
A few things that are worth bearing in mind as you make your own decision:
On a normal ride at home, you probably spend 80% of your time climbing and 20% descending (if you're lucky). Out here it'll be more like 90% descending, so carrying pads won't make for any weight penalty and you'll be travelling fast for a much bigger portion of your time.
Alpine trails are often steeper and with nastier consequences than UK trails
You don't want to miss any riding time because you've had a minor spill and cut your shin or arm.
We recommend that you wear a decent, open-face helmet, eye protection, gloves and knee pads as an absolute minimum. Elbow pads are also strongly recommended. Full-face helmets offer a significant extra level of protection and there really isn't any penalty to using them on most of our rides. Body armour is good for DH days, overkill otherwise and can get unbearably hot.
Can I come on my own?
Yes! Lots of our guests come on their own. There are no single supplements to pay unless you want to guarantee a room to yourself (prices are all based on sharing a twin room). Our holidays are very sociable, both in the chalet and on the trails and a lot of our solo travellers end up coming back the following year with the friends they made on their first trip!
Can I have my own room?
All of our prices are based on sharing a twin or double room (all the rooms in the chalet can be configured either way). As above, there is no single supplement to pay if you are happy to share with another solo traveller on this basis (although we will give solo travellers priority on any single rooms available if we have space). It may be possible (depending on remaining spaces) to guarantee a single room by buying a single supplement of up to 50% of the trip cost, please contact us for more information.
How should I pack my bike for travelling?
Here's a quick guide:
Get yourself a bike bag or blag a box from your local bike shop.
Remove your wheels. Put something between the drop-outs to stop the frame/forks getting bent in during transit. There are plastic spacers made for this purpose that you should be able to blag from any bike shop (take donuts with you...).
Remove the brake rotors from your wheels and pack them somewhere well padded (e.g. in with your clothes). Don't forget to pack the rotor bolts!
Put something in between your brake pads so that the pistons don't get pumped out if the levers get pressed in transit. Ice-lolly sticks, coins, even the wee plastic things that are actually made for the job have all been used successfully!
Remove your rear derailleur and cable-tie it to the inside of the chainstay so that it's out of the way.
Remove the pedals.
If you're feeling lazy, stop now, put the bike in the bag and head for the airport!
Get some polystyrene pipe lagging and cable tie it round the frame tubes to protect them from damage.
Remove the handlebars and cable tie them to the top tube.
Pad the bottom of your chainring so that it doesn't eat through your bike bag.
Put the whole lot in your bag/box!
What's the weather like out there in summer?
Generally, the weather is great out here with dry and dusty trails all summer long. It's pretty normal for temperatures to be around 30°C in Bourg Saint Maurice, making for a very pleasant 20-25°C up on the hill. We're a good bit further south than some of the other famous biking resorts in the Alps (such as Morzine or Les Gets) and it makes a difference to the weather as we lie in the rain-shadow of the Belledonne range around Grenoble and the pre-Alps of the Bauges & Beaufortain, as well as the massive bulk of the Mont Blanc range. Rain is pretty rare and we generally expect to spend most of our days riding dusty trails under blue skies. Our trails here are mostly on rock or loam rather than the clay of Morzine, so they also dry incredibly quickly after any rainfall. We almost never have to deal with riding in mud. Early in the summer, the heat build-up and snow-melt will often combine to give a short-lived (but violent!) early-evening thunderstorm so we plan our days to start and finish early so we don't get caught out. When a big storm rolls through, it can bring slightly longer spells of rain and a drop in temperatures which can put snow on the highest peaks but this is pretty rare.
For our late-season trips in September, the temperature has usually dropped-off a few degrees, making for settled weather and ideal riding temperatures, especially as we pedal a little more at this time of year.
With all that said, it's the mountains and anything can happen. We've seen snow in July and we've seen 25°C on Christmas Day!
Can I bring my family / kids / non-riding partner?
Yes, we're happy to welcome families, kids & non-riders. If kids are very experienced riders who are already riding technical singletrack trails back in the UK, then they can tackle many of the trails out here. In this situation, we'd normally arrange things so that your family would have their own guide to run things at a suitable pace for the kids, with Mum/Dad welcome to drop in and out of this group or one of the other groups so that they get the chance to both ride with the kids and experience our trails at their own pace. The same arrangement can also work for kids who are beginner riders, in which case we would generally ride mostly bike-park style trails to help them develop their riding skills. In both cases, this works best when the chairlifts are open in July & August, giving us the most flexiblity with our riding groups and the least amount of pedalling for little legs! Older teenagers who are experienced riders are very welcome to join in with our normal riding groups.
In the chalet, we are more than happy to do kid-friendly meals and we have family rooms / suites available.
For non-riders, there's lot's to do around the valley in the summer, from mountain-walking to paragliding, rock climbing and white water rafting. We do recommend that non-riders consider driving out as many of the activities are spread-out around the valley and it's helpful to have your own car.
Are your guides qualified / insured?
YES! All of our guides hold a French Carte Professionelle (Professional Card). This is issued by the French state to all sports instructors who are registered with and approved by the state and is proof that the instructor is working legally. Our guides all hold either the French BPJEPS VTT qualification or the UK International Mountain Leader and Scottish Mountain Bike Leader qualifications. We all hold appropriate Professional Liability insurance.
How do you become a mountain bike guide in France?
The goalposts have been moving around a lot on this one and are still doing so! The short version though is that there are two options:
1. Complete a French qualification (currently the BPJEPS, although this is in the process of being replaced).
2. Complete a British qualification via British Cycling, MIAS, etc. and complete 2 years of documented professional guiding experience. You can then undergo a French exam which will include bike skills and navigation plus teaching and emergency skills assessed in French.
There is a new Europe-wide bike guiding scheme in development which will involve completing one of the British qualifications then going on to further training and assessment.
Brexit, of course, is likely to make all of the above irrelevant and it is probable that it will become very difficult for Brits to start working as guides in France.