Summertime on the Bikes

One of many big solo days this summer (Mont Joly/Tete de la Combaz)

Even after more biking than skiing last winter I was still really looking forward to another good summer on the bike around Chamonix this year.  I wasn’t feeling quite as fit at the start of summer compared to most years thanks to far less spring ski touring than usual but some pedally days sorted that out pretty quickly before the lifts started to open in mid-June.  I was happy with my old bike which I’d been riding for the last two years, but when I saw a bit of a deal on my dream frame and a bit of web design work came together I couldn’t resist so ordered it up and switched all of my components across.  I’m very glad that I made the change, as the length feels a better fit on me and it rides nicer in every situation.

As usual some trail restrictions came into action in mid-summer and Brevent & Flegere didn’t allow bike access at all since all of the trails are off-limits there, and as usual Chamonix’s moaniest mountain bikers took to the internet to whinge about it while the rest of us took full advantage of the huge area covered by our summer lift passes and the excellent natural trails on offer between Trient and Megeve.  Exploring new natural trails off the lifts is probably my favourite style of biking; even if the descents aren’t amazing it’s always a bit of an adventure but I did find some very nice new routes and variations this year especially around Saint Gervais, Les Contamines and Megeve.

Personally the Chamonix commune’s trail restrictions don’t bother me too much since they largely apply to the trails that are very busy with day-hikers in peak season and are therefore not as fun or safe to ride as they are at other times of the year.  Yes, I have been guilty of the odd cheeky run on Posettes or Trappette in mid-summer in the past, but after exploring a lot more of the local terrain I’ve been behaving myself this year and enjoying riding in other spots to save those for September.  And while it was nice to return to those trails for a little variety once the restrictions expired, I really don’t think that they’re as good as I once thought they were anyway.

Some bikers are calling for the restrictions to be overturned but I feel like there’s a lot of ignorance involved in a lot of the arguments, including those by a newly-formed group who are trying to improve local trail access who I have expressed my opinion to but opinions will always be mixed.  With the growing number of bikes on the trails, especially in the last two years, I think it’s more important than ever to understand what the restrictions are and why they are in place, otherwise I feel that it’s quite likely that more restrictions will be made in the near future.  I would have thought that respecting other trail users and the trails themselves would go without saying, but I’ve seen a growing number of bikers (particularly some large groups of bikers) not giving enough respect to walkers and runners and on a couple of trails in particular the increased numbers of skid marks and new cut-lines are going to piss off some people.  I think that education should be the focus now to preserve what we currently have.  And who knows; maybe if the mountain bike community proves that they can ride respectfully then the current restrictions may be loosened in the future.

A few friends are now at various stages of their bike guiding qualifications; Wayne is the first British legitimate bike guide to be based in Chamonix so give him a shout if you’re looking to make the most of the local trails on a visit.  If enough bike visitors are looking to hire guides in Chamonix then guiding is definitely something I think I would enjoy and be good at but I’m not sure if Chamonix’s trails would be able to sustain the high levels of bike traffic that would be required to give even a handful of guides enough work to live on.  So for now I’m happy to just enjoy the trails and show any friends around when they come on holiday; I had some really good days at both ends of the valley in August this year with old friends who I’ve never ridden with before and their comments made me appreciate how good the local riding is more than ever.

September is probably my favourite month of riding in Chamonix but it was cut a little short this year when I had to head back to Glasgow for my grandad’s funeral.  A good ceremony with a big turnout saw him off really well and it’s been good to see the whole family during have a bit of downtime.  Still, I’m definitely looking forward to flying west in a few days’ time for another trip to BC…

New spot & new riding buddies; definitely planning to return here in the Autumn (Mont de l'Arpille)

Nice views from the top end of the valley (Le Tour/Vormaine)

Showing some old pals the old classics (Croix de Fer/Catogne/Trient)

Got a comment, question, or your own report from elsewhere in the Chamonix valley? Leave a comment below (Facebook login required).

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