Half time analysis

Hero pose (photo Lorne Cameron)

It’s about ½ way through the bike season here in Chamonix, which means everyone’s discovering what that annoying squeak/rattle/creak has been for the last couple weeks as various parts give up or fall off after a few months abuse.

The trails are kinda the same with lots of bikes, but not much maintenance, going down. So how are things fairing around the valley?

Owen by Joel

Le Tour seems to be the in place to ride this season with the rarest of all things; occasional queues of bikes for the up lift! The front side is holding up well, the original DH track under the gondola is still the most accessible riding for all, being fun for beginner and faster riders alike. A few of the corners and braking areas are getting a little cut up, but nothing too bad. The new track that’s been cut under the chair is starting to ride in now and is a good introduction for folks new to bikes, but it’s not been designed to anything like the same standards as the other man made tracks up there. Still, it’s a new track and hopefully the first of a few up at Le Tour.

Les Jeurs descent

The natural trails are still excellent, though Posettes is VERY busy with walkers and definitely best left till after the bike ban ends to avoid any chance of the trail being completely lost for bikes. The new sign board at the refuge helpfully tells us that “walking trials (sic)… are for hikers only” and “in case of Mountain Bike accident, the authorities disclaim all responsibilities” as well as showing a picture of trail damage on the descent from the col towards Trient, all caused by bikes not weather and walkers apparently.

Col du Balme notice board (click to read)

Either way, it’s not a legal notice, but the excellent Les Jeurs descent is possibly better if you plan to take any of the singletrack down to Chatelard, Vallorcine, etc  and much less frequented by walkers.

Swiss trails above Chatelard

And the Vallorcine track? It’s getting a bit rutted in a few places, but nothing anyone who can ride the rest of the track can’t handle! The severity of the course has probably been what’s saved it from the braking bumps and skid trenches that beset easier tracks. Once again, big thanks out to the Vallorcine Mairie for creating this awesome run.

Grand Montets trails

Elsewhere the trails seem to be fairly quiet for bikes, and busy with walkers. Grand Montets has tyre tracks in the puddles, but I’ve not seen anyone up there, which is a shame as it’s the most “natural” of the official VTT trails during July & August. The track is in good condition, although there are still 2 trees down in the middle section. The 1st is duckable for the VERY short, and the 2nd now has a strategically place stone to let you ride over it.

Swoopy natural trails off the lift, what's not to like?

Flegere is a bit lost without its upper trails. They’re still there, but it’s not worth the pedal up to ride them. The lower track is holding up ok, but the puddles are definitely getting deeper when it’s rained

Prarion, not ALL tech....

Finally, hoping to find some nice steep riding away from the crowds, I took a look up the Prarion gondola at Les Houches. I certainly found the technical trails, though I also met a few walkers all of whom passed some form of “you’re mental” and “good luck” comment. Although this isn’t exempt from the bike ban, I don’t think it’ll ever suffer from excessive use. The trail is mostly very technical, with sections verging on pure trials, and others where, if you were very very lucky, a slip would only leave you very hurt and without a bike. It’s too tight to be able to just jump the hard sections on a big bike, so that option’s out as well. On the off chance then that Chris Akrigg (watch this if you’re not sure who or what I mean) reads this and needs a challenge…..