Has anybody ever been XC mountain biking in France? If so, was it on a guided trip or self-guided? If the latter, how did you get the info for your trip (topos, accommodation etc) or did you just make it up using a map?! I'm not talking about DH mountain biking in places like les Gets where you get an uplift for an adrenaline-fuelled descent, by the way. Would be interested in hearing about people's experiences.
In reply to dinkypen:
When we were in morzine the first time in 1998 the whole dh thing wasn't really there and only 2 lifts were open for walkers mainly. We took the lifts to the top then traversed dozens of miles up and down the valley. This was done on old mostly rigid (i had 2 inches of front suspension but the rest of the group had nothing) so there wasn't a massive amount of hammering down hill. We bought a cheap map in the resort and that was plenty to entertain us for a week.
I've done a XC race called the Roc d'Azur near Nice a few times. Frejus is where the race was based. The race takes you up into the hill/mountains inland and back to the beach. Amazing riding round there and no reason why you couldn't get a trail / 'OS' type map and just head for the hills.
We used to stay in a town called Saint Raphael with good restaurants and bars beaches etc.
Yes, I have heard of Roc d'Azur. Races like the Trans Provence are also very popular. But I am more interested in whether people actually go on mountain biking holidays to France and if so, what resources they use. How do they get info about XC trails and what kind of accommodation they stay in, that sort of thing.
Was that partly on the waymarked Chemins du Soleil mountain bike route that starts from Thonon-les-Bains and ends up in Nice via Chambery, Grenoble, Gap, Dignes les Bains etc? Looks like a stunning route, pretty technical in parts. We did some of it in the Champsaur Valley area. Did you carry your own stuff?
People mostly seem to gather info by asking on internet forums... I've replied a few times here, on BR and on STW to requests for information.
There is definitely interest in XC rather than uplift/bikepark stuff, but there isn't really an easy way to find out what is out there. Most brit-orientated bike holiday operators (White Room, Bike Verbier, BasqueMTB and so on) seem to cater mainly for uplift/freeride stuff - although I'm sure that they can advise on some of the superb XC riding around them.
My standard response to requests for info is to point people at the FFC centres (with the caveat that they are all different, with some labelling loops as black based on length and some based on technical difficulty), then to the GPS sites like utagawa vtt (with the caveat to watch out for private property) and finally a recommendation to look at the organised Randos (mostly listed on vetete.com or velovert).
You're somewhere in the Ariege aren't you? Do you know Martin & Jenny at La Dressere in Formiguères? Martin has a SMBLA qualification and I think that they have quite a few road and MTB groups staying with them.
It was a great week and I'd thoroughly recomend them. I think that Saddle Skedaddle also do trips. Their idea of VTT seems to vary around the country though, I went to the parc VTT in Andernos (near Bordeaux) and it was pants, just stuff that the local kids had built in a tiny wood!
We were in the Ariege Tim, but are now living near Aspet.
> There is definitely interest in XC rather than uplift/bikepark stuff, but there isn't really an easy way to find out what is out there
This pretty much confirms what I already thought I admit that my post is a result of some business ideas that are currently rattling around my mind, as there are absolutely masses of XC VTT possibilities over here that the Brits just don't know about!
I know that Trail Addiction to a number of what they call back country weeks before and after the lift season, which involve a minibus lift, and are very much more XC orientated than their lift assisted weeks. Drop them an email, they are very helpful, and if there is a reasonable group of you (4 ish) I expect they'll do something very XC based for you even when the lifts are open if that's what you are after
Thanks for that, but I am not looking for a holiday myself. I'm more interested in whether other mountain bikers go on mountain biking holidays in France and if so, how they get together the info that they need, particularly if they want to go self-guided rather than on an organised holiday with a company such as Trail Addiction.
Thinking more about it, the fact that there isn't much info easily available, and the prevalence of the word "uplift" on the websites of the companies I mentioned above might indicate that actually there isn't much demand for XC-type holidays.
If you accept the stereotype of most mountain bikers being slightly chubby IT workers with rather more suspension (and less fitness) than required, then the majority of the mountain biking market with disposible income is going to be looking for thrill-based gravity-assisted riding rather than all-day XC epics. People who go off and do european races (Grand Raid/Transvesubienne/Andalucia Bike Race etc) are in a minority (and will generally build holidays around the events).
Also, don't people usually want to do something a bit different on holiday, or at least a better version of what they usually do? XC riding is what most folk do all the time - uplifted trail riding or big bike parks are the fun bits.
Mind you, all that is based on very little real experience, so it's entirely possible that proper market research might prove me wrong.
> the fact that there isn't much info easily available....
There is MASSES of info available about XC but you need to speak/understand French to get to it ;-)
> Also, don't people usually want to do something a bit different on holiday, or at least a better version of what they usually do? XC riding is what most folk do all the time - uplifted trail riding or big bike parks are the fun bits.
You haven't done much mountain biking in France, have you! It is immensely varied, often on challenging singletrack in some absolutely stunning and breathtaking locations. The network of waymarked tracks and trails is fantastic. But then, I am biaised ;-)
> (In reply to TimB)
> There is MASSES of info available about XC but you need to speak/understand French to get to it ;-)
It's easy to find out if there's something, but it's hard to find out if it's any good!
> You haven't done much mountain biking in France, have you! It is immensely varied, often on challenging singletrack in some absolutely stunning and breathtaking locations. The network of waymarked tracks and trails is fantastic. But then, I am biaised ;-)
I haven't done much mountain biking at all - I only started a couple of years ago and outside a couple of summer holidays in the alps most of what I've done has been on the network of unmarked but fabulous trails around where I live, just north of Montpellier...
Just got back from 4 weeks in France, did a few solo circuits , 3 hrs max. I just go into the local tourist information and get or look at and 'borrow' a VTT guide for that area. Most rides are fairly well marked, green easy, red medium, black hard. Not got lost yet and didn't use any lifts either.
In reply to dinkypen: Just remembered that the Alpes Maritimes tourist people used to give away a free colour guide to xc routes in that area, divided into high mountain and littoral areas.Worth finding out if these are still available. I might actually have two copies.
Yes, I think I picked up every VTT map/brochure that I could lay my hands on when I was up in the area the other week, although come to think of it, I think they were for the Hautes Alpes rather than Alpes Maritimes department.
Around the eastern end it's mostly fireroads through the vineyards and garrigue - very pretty but not particularly challenging. The best riding around Montpellier is not waymarked (but can be found on GPS sites and increasingly on Strava).
After La Caylar on the Larzac plateau it apparently changes to use a lot more singletrack. I haven't ridden much of this part, but I've crossed some of it during the "Larzac Brebis Tour" VTT rando.
I don't really know anything about the western parts, but judging by the leaflets here : http://www.herault.fr/sports-loisirs/publication/reseau-vert they're much the same. The whole thing is based on the "Reseau Vert" which is intended to be usuable by walkers, mountain bikes and horses so it can't be too technical.
The waymarking is excellent - instead of old, faded and often hidden plastic signs there are green metal posts at all junctions (one before, one after. It's not impossible to get off the route (ahem..) but anyone not going flat out should be OK.
I have occasionally crossed what look like school groups doing sections. With a little imagination it would be possible to do a very civilised multi-day trip staying in a mixture of gites and refuges.
Actually, the FFC-VTT centres that Larzac-Med crosses through are quite a good example of what I was talking about earlier: The Salagou one is excellent, with some varied and challenging circuits, but the Bessiles one is mostly loops of varying lengths through vineyards and IMO is not really worth travelling to.
Thanks for the link to the GT Larzac-Med - it's a new one for me and is now safely bookmarked! But for 188k on a VTT I reckon a good couple of days would be needed, unless you are dead hardcore of course ;-)
> (In reply to Seymore Butt)
> Whereabouts did you go? Sounds like you were based near once of the mtb centres?
Seymore was based near us - I kicked his ass climbing too.
It's awesome riding round here but like you say - poorly publicised. There's a local guy has a hotel here: http://www.aubergede30pas.com/
Might be some useful links on there.
The mountain biking round there in the Baronnies is amazing.
I've noticed in the last few years money being spent on this in the Bedoin / South Ventoux area.
They built a downhill park just behind Chalet Reynard on The Ventoux ustilising an old ski-lift.
But more importantly on the southerly slopes of Ventoux there's lots of new VTT signage for specific routes.
In reply to dinkypen: Yeah the Hautes-Alpes has some good booklets too, great area. I just remember thinking the AM booklets were good enough to buy, A5 in full colour. The Drome/Barronies area suggested is worth exploring, better weather than the big mountains. I really must get that apartment bought out there! Presumably you are thinking of a VTT guiding setup?