5 issues I learnt driving a hardtail throughout the Alps

Five things I learnt riding a hardtail across the Alps

Common readers might need noticed quite a few references to the Marin El Roy on BikeRadar, whether or not that be images popping up with elements for First Look Friday bolted to it, many mentions in The BikeRadar Podcast, its review, accounts from enduro racing, or common look in MBUK journal (it’s, in spite of everything, my long-term bike).

Evidently, I really like the El Roy. A lot in order that, regardless of a storage and workshop filled with lust-worthy full-suspension trail and enduro bikes, I took the El Roy on my summer season vacation to the Alps. 

The top objective: the ocean!
Sam Morris / BikeVillage

Sure, for 2 weeks full of full-on alpine driving, I eschewed new-fangled rear suspension and packed my non-springer into the again of my van and headed to Briançon for a six-day traverse of the Alps all the way in which to the Med, with my buddy Sam from BikeVillage, dubbed the AlpPacker, earlier than per week again at his place hitting up some alpine tech close to Les Arcs.

Ten rides later, I emerged from the mountains with my wrists nearly intact. I actually learnt a couple of issues. 5 issues, the truth is.

Fashionable bikes are nice, even with out suspension

Whereas I is perhaps contractually obliged to have a wholesome curiosity in new bike tech, trying again through the years I’ve ridden within the Alps, and the bikes I’ve accomplished it on, makes me actually recognize simply how good issues are actually.

Cornering on a mountain bike

Who wants a spring on the again when your bike is so lengthy and slack?
Sam Morris / BikeVillage

Regardless of having no give in the back of my bike, the El Roy was capable of deal with completely the whole lot in its path. 

When lengthy, low and slack geometry first emerged, many questioned whether or not they’d nonetheless be capable of get around the tightest of switchbacks. Seems, it’s my method that’s holding me again, not the bike.

Rocky goat tracks are the litmus take a look at for the path bike and its elements. Regardless of driving the whole lot as quick as I might, I solely punctured as soon as, on one of many rockiest tracks I’ve ridden in a very long time – and that’s with tyre pressures erring on the facet of grip and luxury, somewhat than rocky warning.

Sure, a sturdy DoubleDown Maxxis tyre may weigh the identical as a small household automobile, however you may give them as a lot abuse as you want.

sram AXS

Wi-fi shifting, 1x gears, sturdy tyres – issues have by no means been higher.
Tom Marvin / Quick Media

Then there are drivetrains. 

I bear in mind driving 1x drivetrains again earlier than they have been a ‘factor’. Chainguides have been an absolute necessity, chainslap was deafening and shifting efficiency declined with each kilometre ridden.

Marin El Roy

My Marin El Roy, chilling out within the river.
Jon Woodhouse / Quick Media

SRAM’s digital AXS drivetrains may not attraction to purists (that’s one other column), and the worth isn’t precisely bargain-basement. However the ultra-reliability they supply, together with a clutch that quietens the whole lot down and retains the whole lot super-secure is mind-blowing. 

Tune up your strategies


There’s a particular method to getting spherical steep, rocky corners.
Sam Morris / BikeVillage

If, like me, you get your kicks from edging down tight, twisty pure trails, there are tonnes of strategies that may assist get you down as easily as attainable.

Whereas we have now some tight corners within the UK, there can’t be many locations with fairly so many densely packed tight switchbacks. There’s undoubtedly a method to getting them proper – trying the place you’re going, rotating your hips to level along with your stomach button, and trusting the entrance wheel to stay when it feels as if you’re about to be projected over the entrance.

However by god, it feels good whenever you get it proper!

With regards to rattling down an Alp on a hardtail, sooner is sort of all the time higher. Yep, you’ve obtained to be quick to be clean! The difficulty comes whenever you get drained, as you find yourself going slower, which makes the whole lot more durable! See lesson quantity three!

hike a bike

It’s not all the time enjoyable, however carrying your bike means entry to path gold.
Paul Mugenyi Banyagi

There are additionally the much less enjoyable strategies to get a deal with on. Carrying a motorcycle within the Alps is sort of actually going to get you locations you in any other case wouldn’t handle. And there’s a particular method to getting it proper. Evidently, I carried my bike lots!

  • Stand on the non-driveside of your bike with the left-hand crank pointing down.
  • Crouch down and seize the crank and the fork decrease.
  • Elevate over your head, and relaxation the down tube throughout your shoulders.
  • Stabilise by holding fork and/or crank, with the load both in your shoulders or the highest of your pack (my most popular location).
  • To get it off, raise again over your head, and place the rear wheel on the bottom, after which the entrance.

All good issues should come to an finish

marin el roy on the rocks

The El Roy proved extra succesful than my wrists!
Sam Morris / BikeVillage

Ultimately, one thing has to offer, although. And on this journey, that was my wrists.

The primary 5 days of our alpine traverse have been dreamy. Bike and physique working in excellent unison, absorbing the hits, conserving calm and steady, and residing our greatest lives.

However by the sixth day, I’ll maintain my fingers as much as say that I turned a shell of my former self.

It seems that repeated, more and more rocky tracks do take their toll on the hardtail rider, and I began struggling to carry on.

descent to river

Hidden valleys litter the Alps.
Sam Morris / BikeVillage

My brakes have been simply as highly effective as that they had been all week, my tyres simply as supportive and suspension as supple. However, by mid-way down a 40-odd minute rock-fest of a observe I couldn’t journey greater than a few minute with out having to cease, shake my fingers above my head, and pray for the structural integrity of my wrists.

Whereas, visually, the suspension fork appears to droop the bars and the body the legs, there’s loads of janky roughness transmitted from body to bar, and so with the again wheel yielding no give, finally the quantity of chunder we rode over began to make its presence felt up-front.

Surprisingly, I didn’t really feel fairly so fatigued in my legs. The hardtail is actually extra tiring than a full-suspension, with the legs having to take care of the majority of the path’s impacts, in addition to supporting your weight and serving to muscle the bike round.

rocky alpine trail

Rocks, rocks and extra rocks. No image of me driving it exists, however I promise I did!
Sam Morris / BikeVillage

Nevertheless, as one of many physique’s largest muscle teams, I managed to get by way of the week comparatively recent within the legs division. Nonetheless, life would have been a hell of lots smoother with a shock tucked underneath my prime tube!

There’s loads of Alp on the market

hidden valley

Hidden valleys within the Alps.
Tom Marvin / Quick Media

There are bits of the French Alps that appear inundated with British mountain bikers from season opening to season closing – Morzine and the Portes du Soleil, and Les Arcs/La Plagne are the 2 that spring to thoughts.

And that’s nice! The driving these areas have to supply is unbelievable – from world-class downhill runs and gnarly bike parks to a few of the greatest pure driving round.

However having spent per week driving throughout the mountain vary, one realises that the Alps are huge, and it solely takes somewhat further planning, and maybe a bit extra effort on the pedalling entrance, to journey tonnes of tracks that you may assure you’ll barely see one other rider on.

a long way up

A good distance up means a good distance down…
Tom Marvin / Quick Media

Many ski resorts have rising path networks, with not less than a couple of lifts open that can assist you get excessive.

Even if you happen to do keep inside the confines of extra recognised resorts, if you happen to’re prepared to hoik your bike onto your shoulders, you’ll be capable of entry tracks that the overwhelming majority of riders won’t ever see.

It’ll take some effort, and using a information might be an excellent thought, however in terms of pints spherical a pub desk, you’ll have some tales to inform.

alpine dog

Sam Morris / BikeVillage

The meals (and drink) is unbelievable


Journey gas…
Tom Marvin / Quick Media

Earlier than you do something, you gotta eat, proper? It seems that France’s cheese recreation is ridiculously sturdy. 

Everyone knows France does cheese nicely, however have you learnt how nicely? It’s not simply Président Brie, Saint Agur Blue and Boursin, however a complete wealth of domestically produced cheese that you simply’ll by no means see on even probably the most gentrified excessive road within the UK.

On our traverse from mid- to Southern Alps, we have been by no means various kilometres from a cheese producer, with each valley having its personal distinctive vary of varieties and flavours. From nutty Tommes to creamy blue ewe’s cheeses, it feels completely attainable to eat a distinct fromage from one path to the subsequent.

Delicious cheese.

Scrumptious native cheese.
Sam Morris / BikeVillage

Add in freshly baked French baguettes, an nearly as bewilderingly huge vary of saucisson and a few of the plumpest, sweetest tomatoes I’ve ever had, and also you’ve a lunch made in heaven.

With regards to consuming, you’re not often left quick both. Whereas it’s all the time prudent to hold loads of water, if you happen to’re driving by way of comparatively populated terrain you’ll discover public basins in each village, pouring out crisp, cool mountain-filtered water 24/7.

cutting cheese

A little bit of cheese, some cured meat, a knife and a flat piece of rock. Lunch is served.
Paul Mugenyi Banyagi

When you like your drink somewhat extra yeasty, the Alps appears to be filled with micro breweries, and we’re not even going to the touch on France’s wine checklist… Evidently, France does food and drinks very, very nicely.

So, there we have now it! The 5 issues I learnt rattling throughout the Alps. Massive because of Sam from BikeVillage Holidays for placing collectively such an superior journey!

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