Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Alps 2012 - Part 2

Thanks Dave, this now feels like a 'Dragons Den' pitch :)

Ok, In conjunction with Dave, I've been researching organised MTB trips to the Alps. I've been in contact with a number of companies based in France and Switzerland including AlpsCycle, OTP and WhiteRoom. The objective has been to find high quality single track riding, good quality guiding from qualified and legal guides. A decent standard of accommodation and a clear indication of total inclusive price. As a final phase, I posted an open forum question on STW requesting recommendations. The feedback was very helpful and as a result I shortlisted the 'WhiteRoom', Sainte Foy, France.

Here is a summary of what's on offer plus some user feedback and comment from the guys at WhiteRoom:


Firstly, the WhiteRoom web site is very comprehensive. There are some great video's of the single track riding on offer + lots of useful information about what to expect and what is covered in the inclusive price. Once I'd read the web site I was left with very few questions to ask!

WhiteRoom response to my limited questions:

" If you enjoy getting out there, away from the resorts and your are prepared to pedal a bit to do it then definitely go for the back country week. Our Classic Singletrack weeks are focused around using uplift to allow us to do as much singletrack descending as possible with the minimum amount of climbing. That said, if your group is 4-6, then we'd almost certainly give you your own guide for the week, so there is no reason you couldn't do more of the Backcountry type riding during the chair lift season.
In terms of the difficulty of the trails, it's always hard to judge this without seeing you ride, but generally speaking our trails are more flowy and less steep then in some other places in the alps. Our trails are generally less rocky and more loamy. A lot of our riding is on surfaces with a deep bed of packed dirt and pine needles. "Hero Dirt" as someone called it this year!. At the same time, this is the alps and it is inevitably going to be steeper, more technical and rocker than anything on a UK trail centre. There are some videos at and loads more posted on Facebook by guests. Our guides can tailor the riding to suit the kind of trails you prefer. If you'd rather avoid the steep and techy stuff and stick to the flowy stuff, that's fine by us!

Prices for the week are around £495 and incl:
5 days guiding
on trail coaching, skills sessions
Airport transfers
7 nights accommodation
Bfast and 3 course dinner
Packed lunch
unlimited beer, wine, soft drinks
Afternoon tea and cakes
Wireless internet

Some STW user feedback:

"Just come back from there and its easily the best trip that I've ever been on. Seemed very capable of adapting to the needs to the client"

"White Room gets 100% recommendation. The riding was superb, lots of trails to choose from. Doubt I'd go anywhere else now for an Alps holiday."

"Another vote for WhiteRoom, been the last two years, wipe the floor with every other MTB Holiday company I've been with....."

In Summary:

Option 2 is an organised holiday with a professional MTB company.
It's more expensive but what you are getting for the money is set out in detail. I don't think the quality of riding is in question.
It comes highly recommended

Looking forward to your feedback and comments on both option 1 and 2. Dave and I will response accordingly pending your comments, preferences and potential group size.


Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Alps 2012 Part 1

R2, Willy and I have been looking in to a number of options for next year. The main criteria being:
Not scary downhill stuff
Some form of guiding.
Can fly or drive there.
Can accommodate long weekend or full week.

R2 will be blogging some details on a highly recommended mount bike specific company.

Below is a place I have found that is more of a generic alpine holiday, but they can help us out with the mountain biking. See website: (Maps can be found under their summer activities section)
Chalet Snowbell is the one they recommend has it has a lock-up garage below it.

In 2011 there were lifts open in each of the 3 resorts (Valleys) every day except Saturday. This means that you can access most areas within your chosen 'Base Valley' (Courcheval, Meribel, or Val Thorens) 6 days of the week. Meribel has the most lifts and the largest variety of trails for all abilities out of the 3 Valleys and is hence the best base in my opinion.
On 2 of the 6 days there are lifts open that provide access into the adjoining valley. Once again with Meribel being the in the middle of the 3 valleys it is easy to access either Courcheval or Val Thorens on these "Access Days'.
There are also certain routes that can be taken between the valleys that do not require lifts if you're feeling particularly fit.
To summarise, Meribel is the best "Home Valley' in terms of exploration as well as access to the other valleys on 'Open Days'.
Be aware, there may be more positive changes to the 2011 'lifts-open status' and/or number of dedicated trails by 2012 as Meribel is in the process of increasing it's summer infrastructure. Events such as The National Downhill, Cross-Country, 4X, and Trials Championships are held in mid-July providing entertainment, great atmosphere and a legacy of new and exciting courses/trails.
There is also an organised event where everybody can join for part (or all) of a marshalled circuit (80km) of whole of the 3 Valleys aided by the lift system in the 'Rando Tour' on the opening week of the Summer (1st weekend of July) - Fully supported with free food and wine stops and mechanic stations at regular intervals. It's an amazing day!


Formal - There is a group called FRP (Fast Riding People) that guide specific 'Downhill' groups that started this season. They navigate and advise on technique etc This takes place on the many trails in resort but they have the advantage of placing a minibus and trailer 1000m below the lowest lift station, giving a further 1km of vertical decent options with an 'uplift.

Informal –Lee the chalet host is happy to show us round the trails. Lee rides the local trails on his Nomad, but has introduced his wife to mountain biking this year on a 100-120mm bike (so about our level?)

They have a mini-bus - a LWB 9-seater that can accommodate 6 people and 6 bikes (with 3 of the seats taken out). We can offer a transfer service to/from Geneva (approx 150€ each way for the service whether it's 1 person or 8), as well as potential pick-ups during your stay if you would like to do the additional descents 1km below the lower lifts.

The price per person for a week of catering (6 days out of the 7) would be less than £200 per person. I would have to confirm numbers and what we require. Catering would be for a good continental breakfast of cereals, fruit, yoghurts, pastries etc to start your day, and a 2 course meal with unlimited wine in the evening. We could talk about further options of full English/cooked breakfasts, packed lunches, 3 courses in the evening etc if a catered option is of interest.

Excellent value
Looks clean
Food looks OK and flexible
Bike lockup
They will show us around the trails
Lee sounds genuine
Meribel recommended by MBR

No recommendations (+ve or –ve)
Not a mountain bike specific company.

Let me know if you are interested and once R2 has blogged the other option we will get some email discussions going. There are few things I don’t want in the public domain!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011


Just a short post - I had to go up to Cannock last Sunday for middle son's hockey trials. Took the opportunity to ride Follow the Dog and Monkey Trail for the first time. Was a great set of trails - what felt like a lot of climbing was off-set by some really fun descents - nothing too hairy (though I did manage to fall off and bend mech hanger close to the end). Trails were mostly very dry but were suffering a bit with braking bumps in some places. A really good 2.5hr ride that I would recommend if you are in the area.

Toby has further trial on 25th September so I will go round again then if any one wants to join me. I will get there by around 1pm and would probably need to leave again at 3.30 so let me know.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Gaerne Boots

Gaerne Boots, is that pronounced Gay Ernie or Gear Knee? Who knows. Anyway, these are fully closed boots leather uppers with velcro fastners.

First ride in them today, they are very comfortable and the elasticated ankle supports keep rubbish out and protect ankles very effectively thanks to a solid plastic protector.

Grip is excellent in the inevitable muddy walking and unusually the grip stands proud of the cleaps (Les-ism) so you can walk about without clicking and wrecking the cleap.

Styling is slightly 'unusual' but that will soon disappear under mud.

These boots are fur lined and have plenty of flex and give in the uppers, I think they will break in nicely to my duck like feet. Velcro straps are strong, don't slip and provide lots of adjustment to find a comfortable fit. I don't really know why but my feet always seem to come loose in my shoes after a mile or two, laces make this more or less impractical to adjust hence my choice of straps.

I had planned to keep my old boots going for the summer and use these in the winter but I rode today in 20 degrees and didn't feel any overheating at all to my surprise.

Bought from chain reaction, reduced to £90 so a good price, quality is excellent and easily justifies this price but the RRP would be a little 'full' in my opinion.

Italian made shoes are often slightly mean in the sizing, these are my normal 44 and seem to fit very well so I was glad I didn't go a size up.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Giant XTC 4.5 For Sale - £250 (SOLD)

This is my son's bike, which he has sort of out grown. It is a medium, suitable for someone 5'7" - 5'10" (he is now 6'2"). It has done one weekend off road (Dalby) and a few road miles(on slicks) so the knobblies are hardly worn. I would guess 500 - 750 miles, with a few minor scratches. I thought I would see if any of our crew were interested before I place it on Single Track.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Bike, Beer and BBQ Update

To my surprise, Les turned up after a hard mornings work (?) on his bike, so that was 8 miles before the rest of us had even started. I had checked the forecast and had seen the storms the last couple of days so decided to put the mudguards back on (BGB) and then wondered why, not a puddle in sight :-).

I had told Uphilla that the route was all legal, well from our FNC pub onwards it was. There are some new steps to negotiate on the way to the pub, more a case of riding up the side of them but there is a big nasty route at the top now, I think some members of the posse may have had a little dab? Rob took the lead without a GPS or any knowledge of where we were going, which resulted in me overtaking him at some forks in the route :-).

Uphilla managed to find a nail and lodge it in his tubeless tyre (how do nails lying on the floor get in to your tyres?). We had a few goes at trying to seal it, I tried to assist but just snapped off his irreplaceable tubeless valve (very sorry again, but you did get your own back!). Followed by a nice piece of single-track down the far side of Telegraph hill (NB fallen tree now removed).

We made it over to the Offley motorbike show, before Rob managed to split his shorts and then fix them (does anyone else carry a needle and thread with them on these rides?), with big hairy Hells Angels going back and forth eying him up. Followed by one of the best downhills round here (Chalk Hill), similar to some of the Chilterns descents.

More XC type riding over to Langley and as we approached another downhill we were looking forward to, we found the ground was soaking. We had just missed a downpour, so maybe take this one easy? I didn’t go that slowly but Les still came hurtling past me, Rob got stuck in a rut and was heard cursing a swearing as Sicknote sailed past him.

I had noted there was PH marked on the map at Ayot St Lawrence, so had thought this would be a good place to stop for a pint or 2 with only about 7 miles remaining, downhill and then flat. Little did I know how desperate I would be to stop at this point for other reasons (NB to the landlord, re read the note you have put up on the door in the loo!!!). So after a couple of pints, a few nibbles and out first down pour we were off again.

A nice little downhill followed by boring but safe cycle route back to Harpenden train station. We did get caught in a couple of downpours but managed to take cover under trees or bus shelters, so never had to put our waterproofs on. Rob left us at this point as he decided it would be quicker to cycle home from here. The rest of us jumped on the train back to Harlington and Leagrave. I think we might have been a little smelly and muddy by this point, but that is was knobblies is all about.

A quick wash for us and the bikes followed by BBQ at chez Yates (ta), to finish off a good day on semi local terrain.

Posse; Uphilla (another new even lighter hardtaiL), Dozer (Canyon ESX), Les & Sicknote (Specialized Bitch Pros), Rob (Turner Flux)
Weather; Sunny/Overcast, dry and then very wet at the end.
Mechanicals; Uphilla nail in tubeless tyre, Rob split his shorts.
Injuries; Dozer (Forehead V Uphilla’s car boot, fixed by Dr Yates (Mrs))

Monday, June 20, 2011

Bike, Beer and BBQ

Hi everyone, long time since I saw a some of you. I am going to be out of action for all of August, and no it is not a gastric bypass (Chris, don’t believe a word Darren says!). So last chance to get a ride in and have a few drinks before the nights start to draw in.

If anyone is interested I am planning a local ride on Saturday 9th July. Not sure whether to do the run down to Harpenden (32 miles) and then get the train back or something a bit more local taking in the quarry we found last year. It wont be an early start as our friendly postman has to ‘work’ Saturday morning, so I guess kick off from mine between 1-2.

Then back for lots of drinks and a BBQ. Therese and Anne-Marie are away for the week, so plenty of places for people to crash out for the night.

Route (TL)


Once I am back on the bike again, either September or October I’ll look at organising a weekend away in Wales, not done that for a while.

Also come the Autumn I’ll start planning a return trip to the French Alps, July 2012 before the schools break up for summer. Meribel was recommended in one of the mags, it reckoned the trails are more like the Welsh Centres rather than the scary stuff around Morzine - PDF.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

In stock from 7th March 2011 we're taking orders now, here is a picture of the final product. As you can see the cufflinks are in pearl Rhodium finish which look great and lasts really well. They have a knurled bullet clasp which is really easy and quick to fit.

Shipped in a superb quality black leather case with white leather lining.

These are my own unique design no one else has this you can be sure you won't arrive in the office Monday to find that everyone else is wearing the same cufflinks.

See them here;

Or for my other mountain bike stuff;

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Bike Security Solutions

From past blogs its probably become apparent that the bikes in my family have successfully bred over the past few years. As a result between the family we now have a total of 6 bikes stored in what is essentially an over sized garden shed. I've been promising myself for some considerable time that I will 'do the sensible thing' and invest a small proportion of the value of the bikes on a decent security solution. My sentiment was further encouraged by the fact that I've been unable to find a household contents insurance company who don't hang up when I tell them that the bikes are stored in a shed! Apparently 40% of all bike thefts are from garden sheds.......

Having justified it to myself, I needed to find a suitable product. A few hours of intense google searching, product reviews and general price comparisons resulted in a short list headed by

I decided to use a 'Ground Anchor'...resin bonded into the slab and concrete sub-base of my shed and 13mm heavy duty chain secured with a Squire padlock.

Prior to purchase I gave a call and spoke with their Technical Director Stephen Briggs. He gave me some great advise on chain/lock configuration to ensure that I had a manageable solution. He suggested two smaller chains as an alternative to one long chain (the chains are very heavy!) and gave me some precise directions on how to resin bond the ground anchor into a concrete slab and also the concrete sub-base that acts as the shed base. This essentially involved purchasing a higher volume of resin from screwfix to ensure that any cavity between the concrete slab and concrete base was also filled with resin thus ensuring that the ground anchor bolts were successfully bonded throughout the whole of the concrete base structure.

Including floor preparation, hole drilling and bonding the installation probably took me around 2 hours.....Here are a few pictures of the finished installation. I'm pleased with the results and satisfied that any would be thief will be confronted with a serious challenge......hopefully enough to make them look elsewhere for easier pickings..............

Finally, the product and service from torq-anchors comes highly recommended!