Serre Chevalier

A Decidedly Hairy Schedule…

THE lifts are closed so the winter season is officially over…it’s been an insane season for snow, it seemed to be dumping every week this year. ¬†Already been riding the bike for over 2 weeks now and it feels very good to back on the trails ūüôā ¬†Been doing weekly running too (6-10km) for a month now so feeling pretty fit and been doing the superfood, protein shakes and salads since the end of last year so feeling extremely healthy and full of energy so it’s shaping up to be a good summer ūüôā

But there’s a few hurdles I’ve put in the way that will push me to my limits – well that’s the idea anyway…

May :  Vélo Vert Festival, Villard de Lans

Velo Vert Festival, Villard de Lans

Signed up to the Enduro race for this weekend of mountain biking. ¬†It’s a couple of hours drive from Serre Chevalier and I’m hoping it’s gonna be a pretty easy¬†race¬†– it’ll be the first Enduro event I’ve taken part in so¬†we’ll see…still not sure what bike I’m gonna need to bring for this one as ideally a 140-160mm AM bike is what’s required…I don’t have one…yet ūüėČ

So it’s either the 12kg, 120mm hardtail or a 16.7kg 200mm full-on DH race bike. ¬†I’m inclined to go with the hardtail as anything more that a short, gentle climb (not many of these in The Alps) on the DH bike and I’ll be out of the saddle and probably pushing it on foot but if there’s any bigger hits, jumps or drops I could find myself way out-of-depth (and maybe over-the-bars) on the hardtail. ¬†Gotta couple of weeks to give that some thought

June :  Tough Mudder, Winchester, UK

Tough Mudder

“Tough Mudder events are hardcore 10-12 mile obstacle courses designed by British Special Forces to test your all around strength, stamina, mental grit, and camaraderie” – not sure about this, I guess it will be a good laugh and¬†definitely¬†worth doing but it just looks like absolute carnage!

July : ¬†Megavalanche, Alp d’Huez

Talking of carnage – take a look at the video above. ¬†This was the start of the 2012 race! ¬†If I get any further than that I’ve got an hours worth of extremely gnarly DH trail with a bit of a nasty climb thrown in for good measure. ¬†They call this a (the biggest) Downhill race but it’s¬†definitely¬†an Enduro event if you ask me.

starting on the glaciated summit of the Pic Blanc (3,300m above sea-level) and descending to the lush meadows of the valley bottom at Allemont (720m), after some 2000 metres down and 30¬†km along” this is a test of bike, body and mind…if anyone of those three things fails…I’m farked!

August : ¬†Looking for a full-on Downhill race to enter in August. ¬†Italy would be nice. ¬†So if anyone know’s of an event in the area then let me know in the comments at the bottom of the page. ¬†Cheers ūüôā

September :  Les Tenailles, Névache

The only trailside spectators at Les Tenailles have big horns!

My nemesis and a killer of an event!…I signed up to the Long race last year and there’s no way I was completing it. ¬†At 40km of backcountry trails and 2,600m of positive altitude gain (that’s three big mountain climbs in one day!) it’s no mean feat and it was more that I could handle. ¬†I changed less than half way ’round and do the Short race¬†instead which was hard enough and pushed me to the very edge of my physical and mental limits at 24km and only 1,700m of climbing (2 big mountain climbs). ¬†But I’m not one to lie down so I’m coming back for more this year – as Daft Punk would say Harder, Better,¬†Faster,¬†Stronger¬†and basically more determined than before…bring it! ¬†– tbh, my legs hurt just thinking about it :/

Categories: All Mountain, Backcountry, Competition, cycling, DH Mountain Biking, Downhill, Enduro, Europe, Events / Races, Health & Fitness, Megavalanche, Mountain Biking, Mountains, Serre Chevalier, Single Track, XC Mountain Biking | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Making of a Tough Mudder…update


Salomon Speedcross 3 CS Trail Running Shoe

ALORS, at the end of last week I broke the 10km barrier and under the time I’d set myself of 50mins so I’m obviously moving in the right direction with this clueless training program I’ve set myself. ¬†I did it in 48:40 so not much to spare but I’m not sure if I’ll get any faster than that because it felt like I was pretty much flat out for the entire distance.

What it does mean, is that my goal of being able to run 12km in under 60mins by the time of the Tough Mudder at the beginning¬†of June (well – end of May actually, as apparently you should rest up with no hardcore training for the week before a big race/event like this) is still on…like Donkey Kong ūüôā

And even better news…is that those bad boys in the photo above turned up today! ¬†And. They. Feel. Awesome!¬† Lots of support but very flexible and a serious tread pattern (is that only for tyres or can you use that for shoe soles too?) that looks like they’ll have me eating up these Alpine trails with no problem at all…well that’s the idea. ¬†And everyone knows red stuff makes you go faster anyway ūüėČ


1st 10km run!

1st 10km run!

Categories: Briancon, clothing, Design, Europe, Events / Races, hardware, Health & Fitness, Other Sports, Photography, Running, Serre Chevalier, Tough Mudder | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

How to get from Serre Chevalier to Turin Airport…

…with a little help from the Jungle Brothers ūüėČ

Categories: Europe, Mountains, Movies, Music, Online Viewing, Photography, Serre Chevalier, Video, Youtube | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Double Down, Part 1…

Looking east from Le Mélezin, 1,880m alt.

IT had been a week since my last ride (sounds like an AA meeting), although been hacking ’round town & skatepark on the Nukeproof most days – but not a proper off-road shred in the mountains and that is what’s required for a peaceful mind and happy body. ¬†So on Friday afternoon I decided to go for a big one, and what turns out might’ve been the last high altitude shred of the season…

I went to tackle the Double Descents of Col Des Ayes & Le M√©lezin which when I look up at them today (3 days later) are both covered in fresh snow after the first pre-season dump that’s reached its icy hand below 2,000m

First dump to reach below 2,000m

When I say Double Descents that obviously means Double Ascents too! ¬†I set out at about 14h00 at the usual fast pace down to the river then through town to Villar-St-Pancrace and then you climb. ¬†It’s a nice easy fire road all the way up to the little hameau of Les Ayes which sits at about 1,750m alt. ¬†After Les Ayes you get up to a nice clearing/pic-nic spot where you cross the river and continue onwards and upwards…the higher you go the worse the track gets and there’s some pretty steep sections but nothing to testing

Les Ayes, 1,850m alt.



Continuing up the trail and checking my watch I realise I have now done over 1,000m of vertical ascent and as I hadn’t done this route before I don’t know much higher I have to go. ¬†There’s obviously amazing views everywhere you turn but when you come across animals it’s always a good excuse to stop, take a some photos and have a breather for a minute or two…thank you cows bulls ¬† ¬† ¬†:-/


That young black bull wasn’t feeling me at all and I’d left my matador gear at home so thought it was time to continue up the trail and see how high it would take me. ¬†After about another 100m of vertical I reached a small gite and some little¬†shepherds¬†huts and a bit after that and three hours after setting out the trail stopped at about 2,300m alt. ¬†Time for a drink, an energy bar and try to find the top of the Col des Ayes descent so the fun part could begin ūüôā

Trail head, 2,305m alt.

End of Part 1…

Categories: Briancon, Mountain Biking, Mountains, Photography, Serre Chevalier, Snow, weather, Wildlife, XC Mountain Biking | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Descente du Galibier…

Panoramic from the summit of Col du Galibier

WHEN someone offers to drive you and your bike to the top of one of the highest mountain passes in the Alps, there’s only ever gonna be one answer…oui s’il vous pla√ģt!

At 2,645m altitude the¬†Col du Galibier¬†is the the sixth highest mountain pass in the Alps. ¬†It’s also the natural border of the Haute-Alpes and Savoie d√©partements, in our little corner of France. ¬†And when included in a stage is the highest point on Le Tour…if you’re that way inclined ūüėČ

But more importantly, there’s an awesome 30km trail from the summit down to my front door…happy days ūüôā

Département frontière

From the the road it’s a little hike with the bike up to the actual¬†summit which¬†is about 50m alt. higher, obviously with an amazing 360¬į panoramic view across the this part of the Alps. ¬†It wasn’t exactly warm at the top and there seemed to be some clouds building up from the west so I didn’t hang around admiring the view for too long, put my gloves on and got to the business at hand, of riding down a mountain…fast

At the summit. 2,685m altitude

There’s some real sketchy, steep, rocky stuff coming down off the summit which had me carrying the bike a couple of times but once you hit the trail it’s fast and fun. ¬†Although you’re soon squeezing the brakes as you have to cross the tarmac that runs up to the top. ¬†But after that you’ve got an¬†uninterrupted¬†5km of fast, rocky descent with some nice big switch-backs as well as the odd local hanging out on the side of the trail

Lucky they mooooved out of my way :-p

After that section you have to cross over the road that goes up to Col du Lautaret and climb over a gate and then you’re into the best part of the descent. ¬†A very fast, loose and rocky track where you really have to look way down the trail, pick and stick to your line ‘cos a crash there is gonna be very, very painful indeed. ¬†There are lots of nice features to hop over including streams and rocks as well as little sections of flowy singletrack next to the main trail that you can cut through. ¬†Because of the rain last weekend the trails are nicely damp which gives your tyres some much appreciated¬†additional grip



That continues for probably another 10km before you link up with a mixture of tarmac and singletrack weaving it’s way through villages, woods & fields as you slowly descend toward the ski villages of Serre Chevalier. ¬†It’s a nice run as it involves a fair bit of peddling too with some short uphill climbs and some pretty hairy rock gardens where you’ve just gotta stay loose on the bars and let yourself go, skittering over the top of the constantly moving surface and trying to avoid the big stuff. ¬†When you get through that lot things chill right out and you’ve got time to enjoy the scenery a bit¬†more as you wind your way further down the valley, towards home…



Categories: Mountain Biking, Mountains, Photography, Serre Chevalier, Single Track, Wildlife, XC Mountain Biking | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Col du Granon…

Col du Granon 2,413m altitude

This was a hard ride.  I set out from home at about 10h45 to meet a friend in Villeneuve.  Together we were going ride to the Col du Granon via the gravel track and then hit one of the amazing singletrack descents back down again.

It was a sunny but windy day and I knew it was going to be a tough one when I’d already run out of low gears on the main road to Villeneuve! ¬†The wind was blowing straight at me with the odd big gust from the side, making riding tricky from the start. ¬†I arrived at the meeting point 10mins late and already breathing hard…and we hadn’t even begun the ascent yet…this didn’t bode well

looking east, snowy peaks

When you take the gravel track up to the col from Villeneuve, it starts off fairly tame (by Alpine standards) but before you know it, your bums on your seat and you’re dropping to your lowest gear and just spinning your way up trying to not count km’s or metres above sea-level. ¬†It gets pretty steep in some places and the chat and banter seem to peter out the higher you climb. ¬†I was sorely missing the 11-34t cassette that I used to have before I upgraded to a 11-32t. ¬†Those 2 teeth would’ve made my life just a little easier right then…


The gravel track is about 6km long and in that time you gain about 550m in altitude. ¬†We got to the top of the track in about an hour and that’s when the real fun began :-/

Strava stats for gravel track ascent to 1,900m…KOM baby!

At the top of the track the only way up to the col is to join the road for the last 5km. ¬†Sounds easy hey? ¬†Well it’s not. ¬† It’s very steep & very exposed and it was very windy and very hard work. ¬†The roadside signs telling you how high you are and how many km to the summit seem to take a lifetime to come along even though each sign is only 1km apart…

Those 5km took us nearly an hour to cycle and in that time you gain another 500m in altitude. ¬†My maths is terrible but even I can work out that that averages at a 100m altitude gain for every 1km of tarmac your tyres roll on. ¬†That proved hard work at over 2,000m up in the sky and for half the time into a very strong headwind. ¬†As you follow the road your direction changes and for the last couple of km the wind is behind you which is a relief. ¬†By that time my legs were begging me to stop but I pushed on for the last couple of km and got to the summit feeling good ūüôā

Watch showing 2,415m alt. bang on

So we made the top but we still had the¬†traverse to do. ¬†It’s a pretty amazing little trail, nothing more than what looks like a goat track in some places and continues up and down for another 4km of rocky, exposed singletrack but with amazing views down across the valley and beyond to the south east where the mountains continue to the horizon…


South East vista

The descent has got to be one of the best mountain biking trails in the area.  Just awesome.  Very technical and steep with lots of rocks and sketchy bits and plenty of tight switchbacks and trees but also some amazing fast, flowy sections where you can just let go of the brakes and rip it!

All in all, an amazing loop – about 30km from start to finish and if you’ve got it in you to do that climb you will be rewarded with some very special stuff on the way down ūüôā


…of course if you haven’t got it in you to do that climb, you can just get someone to drive you up…but that’s cheating ūüėČ

Categories: All Mountain, cycling, Endomondo & Strava, Mountain Biking, Mountains, Photography, Serre Chevalier, Single Track, weather, XC Mountain Biking | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

First Custom Build – Part #5 (the first ride)…


So Рtook the Urban Dirt Bomber out on her first proper ride.  About 7km of tarmac to the BMX & Dirt Jump tracks on the other side of Villeneuve.  It turns out the only wet & muddy mountain bike trails in Serre Chevalier are on the BMX track and the dirt jumps!

More like claggy clay than mud

I was a bit worried that the treads on the Schwalbe Table Top tyres would get clogged up with this muck but they shed the sh1t¬†remarkably¬†well. ¬†The bike was awesome on the BMX/pump track but as it’s a Four Cross (4X) ¬†frame this wasn’t really a surprise. ¬†I’m no dirt jumper that’s for sure but I had go, hitting the small and medium sized jumps and again the bike felt light and poppy off the jumps but also stable on the landings..some grippier pedals might be in order though.

Rode the 7-8km of fast, flowy singletrack back through the woods and again the bike was great. ¬†The frame seems to soak up the bumps and bigger hits amazingly well (well better than my other hardtail). ¬†And the tyres are basically fine for the usually dry or at worst only damp trails ’round here. ¬†They provide plenty of grip for climbing too…which was obviously hard work and an out-of-the-seat affair given the 34t single ring configuration. ¬†In fact I wonder with a 2×9 set-up and some playing around with stem & handlebar combinations what this little bike couldn’t do.


All in all – it was about a 20km loop covering a load of¬†different¬†terrain and riding styles. ¬† With a more suitable fork – maybe a 120mm DJ fork I’d be tempted to hit some downhill trails with this next summer…think it could be fun ūüėČ

All shiny again

Click here for Part #1

Categories: 4X (Four Cross), BMX, Briancon, Components & Hardware, Custom Build, Dirt Jumping, Mountain Biking, Photography, Reviews, Serre Chevalier, Single Track | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

New Rubber…

Continental Black ‘Chili Compound’ 2.2″ MTB Tyres

Time for a set of new tyres for the Rockhopper. ¬†Even though they had last season off and hardly saw any riding at all during 2009/2010 the 6yr old Specialized Resolution’s that were on the bike were literally falling to pieces, the rear one was nearly bald with a torn sidewall and the front wasn’t much better…

…in step the Germans. ¬†Continental’s Black Chili Compound Rubber Queen¬†– not sure about the name ¬†:-/ ¬† & Mountain King II tyres as a front and rear set up for some time so I eventually pulled the trigger.

Continental Rubber Queen 2.2″ Black Chilli & Mountain King II 2.2″ Protection 2.2″ Black Chilli

These tyres retail for between ¬£40-¬£50 each in the UK so was very happy to get them from the German online store Bike-Discount for ‚ā¨35 (¬£28) per tyre. ¬†They went on the Stan’s Arch EX¬†extremely easily – tyre levers not required. ¬†And they make a satisfying loud pop! when you inflate them as they get seated in the rim.


I went for the Protection version of the Mountain King II for the rear to try reduce pinch flats and ward off some of the nastier, razor sharp Alpine rocks that seem to be common over here. ¬†Never sure what pressure to go for when fitting a new tyre. ¬†The side walls have no minimum but max. pressures of 65 psi. ¬†I started with 31 psi in the front and 35 psi in the rear and took them for a killer of a ride. ¬†It starts with a very steep climb up rough, rocky fire roads til you get to 1,757m alt. (that’s 500m alt. gain in 6km of trail…steep enough)…

Les Eduits 1,757m alt.

…followed by a very fast decent that drops you probably over 150m in about 1km of trail. ¬†Then it’s into the forest for some pretty techy, steep & narrow singletrack with streams to cross and even the odd patch of mud to deal with. ¬†Then a hike with bike up a steep and sketchy track next to the¬†Casse du¬†Boeuf chair lift before more forested single track and eventually you break the forest and get to the highest part of the ride for the second time of 1,750m and then an awesome.¬†extremely¬†fast & rocky descent into¬†Villeneuve and more single track¬†through woods & fields all the way home..

…So basically the tyres got a bit of everything

German engineering…there was never a doubt in my mind

In a word…these tyres are Awesome! ¬†Fast rolling on the hard stuff yet super sticky for big, fast turns and plenty of grip when climbing steep, loose trails. ¬†Also tight, fast Alpine switch backs are no problem either and the rare mud patch they encountered was dealt with easily too and they didn’t bring the wet stuff with them they left it on the trail where it should be, not clogging up the tread.

But the main thing I noticed with this setup compared to the Spesh Resolutions (and Schwalbe tyres I’ve tried); ¬†with the Resolutions you could push them pretty hard but then they would just let go, with no warning and that generally results in cuts, bruises and even the odd trip over the bars. ¬†When you push these tyres a little to hard (or in my case, just using bad technique) they give you a warning that they’re about to wash out and you have time to adjust and this one thing i.e ¬†knowing your front wheel isn’t suddenly gonna go from under you improves your confidence a hell of a lot on the trail.

Rockhopper with new rubber

It’s all about the Black Chili, baby! ūüėé

Categories: All Mountain, Components & Hardware, Enduro, hardware, Mountain Biking, Mountains, Photography, Reviews, Serre Chevalier, Single Track, Technology, XC Mountain Biking | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

First Custom Build ‚Äď Part #4‚Ķ

Nukeproof Snap Urban Dirt Bomber

Fully built and ready to ride :

Nukeproof Snap Urban Dirt Bomber!

Ready to roll (and stop)…SLX brakes turned up for the Rockhopper so the Snap build finally got its hand-me-downs in the form of a set of 2006 Shimano Deore M-525’s along with a 180mm rotor on the front with a new set of Superstar Kevlar pads and a 160mm on the back with a new set of Superstar Organics they’ll have more than enough stopping power for the local streets, carparks, stairs, riverside trails and BMX & Dirt Jump tracks.


Swapped out the lightweight Carbon Matrix stem¬†(that was fitted in the previous post) for the more substantial & solid looking Kona BO unit. ¬†Don’t know whether the Kona stem is actually stronger but it looks the part and gives the impression it is. ¬†In my experience, bike riding is mainly down to confidence in yourself and in your bike and when you’ve got a nagging doubt in the back of your mind that a certain component could fail – that’s when mistakes happen


Fitted the new Schwalbe Table Top Timo Pritzel Series¬†tyres and they are seriously grippy! ¬†They’re rated to go upto 65 PSI – I’ve got the front at 40 and the rear at 44 PSI and they were easily holding onto the dry, loose, stoney trails down by the river. ¬†They’re advertised as a dirt/street/BMX tyre so should be perfect for the job in hand…


Also – just found out the local DJ track that was built for a comp last month is staying and free from next month. ¬†It’s right next to the BMX track so when the lifts close and the local DH season ends at the¬†beginning¬†of next month I know where I’ll be playing ūüėČ


There are still are few more blingy bits that will be going on but probably not for a while. ¬†And then there’s the long term plans of upgrading forks & wheels to more suitable components for the type of riding the bike will be doing but for now…



NukeProof Snap ‚ÄėUrban Dirt Bomber‚Äô

Frame:  2011 NukeProof Snap (Regular, Yellow) @ £200 from

Fork :¬† 2006 Marzocchi MX Comp (Air, 105mm) ¬†–spares-

Tyres :¬† – Schwalbe Table Tops (2.25‚ÄĚ) @ ¬£40 from

Wheels : Sun-Ringle DS2-XC (23mm, 32-hole, 6061 Alloy)¬† –spares

Brakes :  Shimano Deore M525  -spares-

Crankset :  Truvativ Hussefelt 1.1 (Ltd. White Edition) @ £40 from

Bottom Bracket :  Truvativ Howitzer XR M12 @ £30 from

34T Ring :  Blackspire Mono Veloce @ £30 from CRC

Chain Device :   Plasma Chain Device @ £50 from Superstar

Rear Mech : 9sp Shimano Deore LX ¬†–spares- (new jockey wheels @ ¬£15)

Stem :  Kona B.O (2008) @ £20 from CRC

Handlebar :¬† Easton EA50 Monkey Bar 25.4x685mm ¬†–spares-

Headset:  NukeProof Warhead 44IISS @ £40 from CRC

QR Collar :¬† Specialized (Black) ¬†–spares

QR Skewers :¬† Shimano (Black) ¬†–spares

180mm Front Rotor:¬† Superstar ‚ÄėVibe‚Äô¬† spares-

160mm Rear Rotor :  Shimano  -spares-

9sp Cassette :¬† Deore 11-34 –spares-

Pedals:  Wellgo B0-87spares

Grips :  NukeProof Element Half Waffle Lock-On (yellow) @ £15 from CRC

Chainstay Protector :  NukeProof Logo Chainstay Protector @ £10 from CRC

Cable Outer :  Goodridge (white) 2m @ £5 from CRC

TOTAL COST : £495.00

Click here for Part #5 (the first ride)

Categories: 4X (Four Cross), BMX, Components & Hardware, Custom Build, Dirt Jumping, Mountain Biking, New Bikes, Photography, Reviews, Serre Chevalier | Tags: , , , | 3 Comments

First Custom Build ‚Äď Part #3‚Ķ

NukeProof Snap Urban Dirt Bomber Рdriveside.  Skull seat

We’re getting there now ūüôā ¬†¬†Handlebars, grips and shifter fitted…

Front end

…as well as bottom bracket, full¬†drive train,¬†pedals, chain device and chainstay protector


Also got the decals (nearly straight)¬†on the forks ūüėČ ¬†and the seat, post & Q/R clamp installed


Also have a couple of upgrades/changes to make before the bike is even fully built!

…a pretty¬†very heavy but much more substantial Kona B.O¬†Stem to replace the eXotic Carbon Matrix unit that’s fitted now. ¬†And another set of (new) Schwalbe tyres to replace the (used) Schwalbe tyres that are currently fitted. ¬†Found very good deals on both the new stem and street/dirt Schwalbe Table Top tyres so will have these fitted by the next instalment…


I have ridden the bike and it seems to ride great although it’s impossible to really test it without any brakes!…I’ve found out that a solid pair of skate shoes and exactly 3 bottles of Heineken give the best combination of performance and stupidity when testing a bike with no brakes ūüėČ

Brakes will be fitted in a couple of weeks as well as the new stem and tyres shown above. ¬†Got a brand spanking set of Kevlar brake pads ready to give the old Deore’s a bit of a new lease of life when they are fitted…


Apart from that, Project Urban Dirt Bomber should be shreddin’ the BMX track, dirt jumps, streets & trails¬†de la vall√©e de Serre Chevalier within a couple of weeks…happy days ¬† ūüôā

NukeProof Snap Urban Dirt Bomber – non-driveside. ¬†No brakes…yet


Click here for Part #4

Categories: 4X (Four Cross), Components & Hardware, Custom Build, cycling, Dirt Jumping, Mountain Biking, Photography, Serre Chevalier | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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