Sunday, July 18, 2010

The Alps - The Second Week

Given the lack of posts you probably all assumed I was only out for one week...

Not so!

On day 7 we went to Chatel to tick off a number of the black trails that run around the edge. All was going well in the morning, I cleared a northshore gap, a big rock slab drop and made it down some very steep, rooty trails with minimal dabbing.

Whilst we were sitting at the bottom (Pierre Longues lift), enjoying our 3Euro cokes, the clouds rolled in and we jumped on the lift to get onto that rickety shit old lift that takes you from the middle of the bike park to the top. Unfortantely, we were too late. As we were queuing for the aforementioned shit lift (I'm sure you know which one it is) it was struck by lighting, with the jolt arching all the way to the bottom, putting the lift out of action. In any case, the worst alpine storm I've witnessed in my 4 years of being there was underway so there was no way they'd open it up again. After huddling around the back of the control room, the storm seemed to ease and we decided to face the inevitable and walk up and out of the valley, take the fireroad down to Lindarets, the road to Montriond and then back up to Morzine. All was going well until the storm returned with renewed vigour, showering us with marble sized hailstones and striking sometimes only feet away. Walking up the ski run, both of us were convinced that at any second we'd be struck by lightening and it'd be game over.

Obviously, we survived that part but you could say the next bit was like coming out of the frying pan, straight into the fire. We road down the ski run come VTT route down to Lindarets (a big, rocky, loose fireroad like route), figuring this would be easiest given the conditions. Not quite. The sheer quantity of rainfall was wrecking havoc with the landscape and causing landslides. The torrent on one part was so strong that we couldn't walk across with our bikes without the water snatching the bikes or our legs from underneath us. Fortunately we found a route around and made it safely down to Lindarets, where we were faced with flooded roads down to Montriond.

The next day, we took a day off riding DH as all our kit was still soaked through and headed up to Nyon to do a little trail we found in 2006. Later on we headed up to the top of Super Morzine to watch the end of the Tour stage ending in Avoriaz. The procession of sponsors was a great spectacle as always but it was a shame not have seen them descending. Though credit where credit is due, I wouldn't want to ride up that road from Morzine to Avoiraz!

During week 2 we explored Super Morzine and found some incredible trails to the left of the Zores lift. In previous years we've always been busy riding off to the Swiss National, Chatel, Morgins and many other places but we found such a plethora of excellent riding in Morzine we found it difficult to justify the trip out. But on Wednesday we took the car over to Morgins to settle a score with the black graded "Freeride" trail there. Warming up on the "Blue" and "Red" graded trails, it soon became apparent that the Swiss don't get grading the same as the French. Sections of the blue were easily as hard as black trails and France, and the red had some particularly nasty steep corners which claimed a few victims that day (but where fun when you got them right).

After a spot of lunch we headed down the black trail with limited success, I crashed on a rooty shoot early on and we then lost the rest of the trail and somehow ended up back on the red. Our second and third attempts were far more successful, however and we both managed to clean the entire trail without a dab.

I managed to get the "berm jump" in Les Gets and on Friday we finished off riding the trails around the edge in Chatel. Damage from the trail had wrecked the trail in places and it was crazy to see the aftermath of the landslides and the sheer quantity of material shifted during that storm.
On Saturday we finished off the holiday by having a go on the "Fantasticable" in Chatel (that zip wire that sends you across the valley). With lift passes it was discounted to 20something euros and was totally worth it.

Parts Broken/Worn Out During the Two Weeks
-My Marzocchi 888 forks (went from getting 8" of travel to about 4" of super harsh travel which did not improve - Replacement Rockshox Boxxers were acquired).
-3 sets of brake pads - a pad spring was also randomly eaten by my brake
-2 Maxxis Supertacky Highrollers
-Bearings in my Cranks (Race Face Atlas FR)
-All the pivot bearings on my Iron Horse
-Headset on my Iron Horse
-The Meta is now creaking from the headtube area. I suspect it has a few rides left in it at best - seeing as it wont have been heat treated these frames are extremely weak.

Final Word
This year we decided to just go alone, instead of in a big group as we have done in previous years. I missed the social aspect to a certain extent but we got so much more riding done... even despite being a bit slack some mornings and not getting out until mid morning.

It also allowed us to just go off randomly - like up to the Nyon Waterfall to have some waterfall cooled beers, round to Lake Montriond for a quick walk along the most extreme path I've ever walked and then up to Avoriaz one night during a storm to get a better view.

Glad to be back now, but a lot of unpacking/bike fixing to be done!

Friday, July 09, 2010

The Alps - Day 7

Not much to report today, we spent the morning fettling bikes and then headed up Pleney again late afternoon to find some more steep bits off the side of the main drag.

With fixed bikes, we intend to head to Chatel tomorrow.

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Thursday, July 08, 2010

The Alps - Day 6

Alex had agreed earlier this week to show some local (to Cannock) whippets (on of the guys is currently doing very well in expert category) down some of the steep off piste stuff off Pleney so we met at theirs and headed up for a warm up run.

We took them down 'yeah boi' but we didn't get further than a few yards before we all piled up after Alex took a poor line round the first corner!

We spent the rest of the day exploring off the Pleney, including one run which started off with the craziest rock garden chute we've ever ridden. We think this was either 'step up' or 'step down' and it spits you out onto the road that leads from Les Gets to Morzine.

Posse: Alex (Socom), Dave (Iron Horse Sunday)
Mechanicals: Alex suffered from some brake issues.

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Wednesday, July 07, 2010

The Alps - Day 5

We had hoped to take the xc bikes out and take a trip up to the top of Nyon to ride a trail we first rode back in 2006. However, as somebody had locked their bike to Alex's xc bike, this plan was abandoned and we headed over to Les Gets for a chilled one after my crash yesterday and to give out aching bodies a breather.

We spent the morning riding the new bike park up there which features jumps and flowy, bermed trails. Alex hit a jump

I felt sick after lunch so we took the road back down to Morzine. We'll be heading over to Sherpa for the BBQ later to top off a nice chilled out day.

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Location:Les Gets

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

The Alps - Day 4

Day 4 of our holiday saw us head over to Switzerland for a bit of action on the Swiss National course.

We headed up the Super Morzine lift and headed along the fireroad towards a rocky trail that drops you into Lindarets. On our way we spotted what I guess was a bunch of school kids heading down a trail we opted out of on Day 2 in case it got a bit wild. After a gentle start it turned into a fairly rocky trail, leaving me feeling sorry for the kids on their hire bikes with fear in their eyes.

It smoothed out however, and turned into a nice flowy trail. This smoothness was short lived when we took a wrong turn that definitely couldn't have been part of the trail; it was one of the most knarly rock gardens I'd ever ridden, with the added hazard of low lying tree branches (think neck level). I felt sure I'd end up on the floor in some painfully horrific crash,but it was too late, I was committed. I made it to the bottom with only a little dab after a blow from a branch.

We made it down to Lindarets without further incident and headed up to the top of Avoriaz. From here, we found and awesome flowy (but rutted) trail I railed all the way to the bottom of the Mossettes lift. After taking this lift up to the top, we were greater by chilling winds and clouds meaning visibility was low.

Standing at the top of the Swiss National, we couldn't even see the first corner, only 50 yards away:

Undeterred, we set off with the cloud soon clearing.
The Swiss National throws you in at the deep end with steep switchbacks with certain death if you manage to go over the top - thank goodness there is catch netting!

It maintains its steepness all the way to the bottom, with a point, shoot and hope rock garden, some big jumps that egg you on into trouble and heavily breaking bump infested berms to keep you on your toes. We headed up the other side to hit a track called. 'shorty' (due to its length) which started out smooth, fast and flowy, but soon turned to a mess of breaking bumps.

From here we headed back up the mossettes lift and down towards 'rutsville'. On our way, we stumbled across a large unmelted glacia. We figured it'd be fun to attempt to ride across it but promptly failed. I don't think I've had wheel spin at such a low speed; if my back wheel wasn't spinning uselessly in soft ice, the front wheel washed out in the same, soft ice. Still, it was laugh.

After a short lunch stop, we headed down rutsville, back up to Avoriaz and down the road towards Morzine. On the way we headed down 'Run of The Mill', a track our host at Rider's Retreat in 2008 had a hand in building and kindly showed us. A steep track running down the side of a shear drop.

After making it to the bottom, we headed back to the Rider's Retreat for a quick breather and I headed back up alone for a few runs of Pleney, hoping to catch the other lodgers, but after 30 mins of sunbathing at the bottom, I headed up and set off. I quickly caught up with some riders that wouldn't pull over so I tool one of the sneaky offshoots to overtake them and headed up to the old rooty section of pleney (it was the line in 2006 but the high berms were added in 2007). Another steep section, with a series of root drops a couple of feet deep. I got a bit excited through here and let go of the brakes, feeling totally on it. My bravery was soon rewarded by being bucked off the bike and onto my back facing down my trail. Fortunately, no bones broken, and no skin broken, I only suffered from bashed knees which are already seizing up! A fun run and a good reminder I am only mortal!

Posse: Alex (Socom), Dave (Iron Horse Sunday)
Mechanicals: none - some rattles from the previous day cured by fettling last night and Alex spent a bit of time fettling his forks. - Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone


Monday, July 05, 2010

The Alps - Day 3

After a good ride yesterday on the 'little bikes', we headed up Pleney on the 'big bikes'.

Given the changes we've seen year to year, we figured we'd take it easy first run down as it's been 2 years since we last rode here. I soon found myself forgetting this idea and just letting go of the brakes.

Last time I was out here, I was on my C'dale Judge, and despite it being typically well made Cannodale a utilising a great suspension system, I could never get on with it. It just felt too big, cumbersome and didn't fit me at all. This time however, I'm out with my new Iron Horse Sunday and I couldn't love it more. Whereas before I was lagging behind Alex I found myself pulling ahead and going faster and faster.

My bubble burst a bit when Alex lead us down some off piste trail off Le Pleney aptly named 'up your arse'. Mainly because this is where your back tyre ends up! I had a complete crisis of confidence down here, and after a few falls/fails, I struggled to get back on in the steep conditions and came back to the chalet to collect my thoughts.

After some lunch and cup of tea, one of the other guys in the chalet came out with us and we did another run of le pleney to sort our heads out and head down crepery, a steep trail down a gully with plenty of roots, rocks and tight turns to keep you amused! Next we headed up and road another off piste trail, named 'yeah boy!' after I discovered that the cause of the creaking was a result of the bolts having fallen out of my direct mount stem!!! After tightening the remaining bolts we headed off down yeah boy, which features tr steepest chute I've ever ridden. I managed to clean it this time, increasing my success to fail ratio and made it most of the way down without any dabs. We somehow missed the turn for the second section and instead rejoined crepery, after which our new riding companion left to check on his girlfriend who'd stacked it earlier.

Feeling confident again, we decided to have another bash at up your arse. We made it most of the way down, only crashing twice each, making it to the bottom without serious injury.

Another ace day with the added bonus of if being dry.

Posse: Alex (Intense Socom), David (Iron Horse Sunday) and joined later by Matt (Lapierre DH 920).
Mechanicals: Alex started the day without much of a front brake and found loose pinch bolts on his shimano cranks. I found a missing and a loose bolt on my direct mount stem (the stem bolts directly to the top crown on my triple clamp forks), leaving them held on by the stem top cap and a prayer!

Plans for this evening are to eat a good steak and chill in the hot tub.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

The Alps Day 2

Having heard the Mountain Style event was on in Chatel today, we pulled the xc bikes out and headed on over.

Sitting on the lift I suddenly felt a bit exposed without a full face helmet, full body armour and a downhill bike. I thought to myself "what am I doing? This is France! I need my big bike!". From the top of Super Morzine we headed down a rocky trail down into Les Lindarets, and I soon stopped worrying about the lack of protection and just got on with riding and loved it. The tracks were a lot rougher, but nothing my fettled Marzocchi 55s couldn't handle and the Meta simply felt awesome. Eventually we made it over to the Mountain Style event were the competitors were still practicing. I don have any photos on the phone as I didn't want to risk breaking it but suffice to say they were going big. We watched by the the top were there was an insane 2 tier wooden drop. Only a few riders took this line and boy did they go big. The riders kept the crowds entertained with tricks, including backflips and 360s off drops.

The clouds rolled in and we jumped on the lift out if chatel before the lift closed. We headed down a new track from the top and found ourself deep in steep, breaking bump infested berms all the way down. Down here I forgot about the 100mm travel (which I later found was mostly locked out) and played catch up with some downhillers. We arrived at the bottom to find the lift up to Avoriaz closed because of the storm, so we had no other option but to head through the crazy goat village of Lindarets and down the road into Montriond, past the lake and overtaking several cars in the process!

Overall it was an awesome day. Some awesome trails, some awesome freeriding from the pros and it was great to be out on the xc bikes. No heavy bikes to lift on and off lifts and total freedom of being able to pedal instead of pushing or blowing out of your arse trying to pedal a dh bike.

No mechanicals and only 1 crash when Alex took a dh bike only line.

Day 1: awesome, time for a beer I think.

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The Alps - Day 1

Day 1

After leaving 3 hours later than planned, we eventually reached the QE II bridge at 6pm and powered or way onto Dover 10 minutes later. Panic set in as we hit more traffic on the M20, but using the influence of the BMW, we arrived with just minutes to spare.

Over the most expensive breaded chicken and chips, we poured over a map, deciding our toll free route, with the aim of saving money. Sometime after 10pm (uk time), the Norfolkline ferry docked and we were off, driving on the wrong side of the road and going round roundabouts the wrong way.

20 minutes later, I realised we were heading up the A16 instead of down the A25. I quickly found an alternative "shortcut" which worked, but also revealed the crashy ride of Alex's BMW 3 series coupe... Leaving us begging for more motorway. Some time and guesswork owing to a poor map later, we found ourselves on the right road! One thing I will say about the signs in Belgium is that they are shit. Appear 50yards before you whizzed past it cursing and uttering profanities...

After a short stop, we set off again at 2:30 refreshed and ready to face the road ahead. We peeled off the toll road after Nancy and took N roads from there onwards. The first stretch was a completely straight road, providing Alex with plenty of opportunity to exercise his right foot, overtaking everything in the way. The road took us through some lovely little picturesque old French villages, and then spat us into a rival to the best driving road...

Some switchbacks, a Maccy D's and some more vague navigation from the crap later, we arrived in Morzine at 4:40. We were greeted with thunderstorms and feared a repeat of 2007 when it rained the whole two weeks but our host assured us it would pass. An epic journey with some epic roads. It was a fun trip but a bit of a mission without being to swap divers.

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