This latest episode of Bike Magic Trail Guide TV takes us to the mountains around Chambery in the French Alps with a regular contributor to Bike Magic, Mr Clive Forth.
Clive Forth has been living and riding around Chambery for some time now, as you’ll read in his story below, and every time we communicate he comes back with amazing tales of singletrack and untouched terrain. We had to find out more and to explore the possibilities that the new breed of all-mountain bike has opened up for riding outside of the classic Alpine ski resorts.
Mark Huskisson was in the area so took the chance to spend a couple of days chez Cleeve and the result, we think you’ll agree, is really rather special. Enjoy.
Chambery Tales and Amazing Trails
Words: Clive Forth
I’ve lived on and off in the area around Chambery, France, for around two years now after my wife Daria got a job here. In that time we’ve had plenty of opportunities to get out in the mountains and search out some sweet trails, hours are spent browsing over maps and plotting routes on Garmin Base Camp before we head out on what have become legendary “Mellow Saturdays”, beats the crap out of a day in Ikea! I ride pretty much every day, as does Daria, and we have racked up thousands of kilometres on trails as well as countess metres of climbing.
The mountains here are often just a view from the car window as you haul through on the Autoroute to a lift station up the valley (if you’ve raced the Mega then you’ve probably peered at the slopes wondering what goes on up there), it’s such a shame that so many people miss the opportunity to ride the trails here but then again that is part of their charm.
When Mark from Bike Magic Trail Guide TV contacted me for a “catch up” and spot of filming my brain went into overdrive, having worked with Mark previously on his films “Home” and “Find” I knew exactly the type of thing that would press his buttons both as a rider and film maker. Daria suggested several other options to add and it seemed the only option was to get kitted up and hit the trails that evening.
We headed out on another mini adventure but this time in search of good light and great back-drops; so many options out there with some trails working in the morning light and others in the evening. Another 1000 metre climb ticked off that night and a great bird’s eye view of the area left us with no doubt that a trail we know as “The Tunnel” would be a perfect choice.
Mark arrived en-route back from a family holiday and was eager to get out on the bikes, we headed up to the tunnel at Pas de la Fosse then climbed up the service road (gravel road built to construct the massive pylons) to a singletrack trail not marked on any maps. The opening section gets you warmed up nicely for the high-speed sections further down.
The trail joins into the main GR96 path and drops down a rocky gully, this section is like nothing else in the area and is a real blast: high speed, banked turns and loose rocks on the bed rock require your full attention. The trail then tracks the ridgeline and a few “ramps” link into another fast section of descent. Here you get chance to look back to Mt Granier and the Belle Donne region of the main Alps, snow capped peaks in the distance give you that big mountain feel even though you’re just ten kilometres out of town.
Throughout the final sections you have various trail options: A narrow unmarked singletrack climbs up slightly before descending next to the cliffs and a major junction, the main GR hauls down the hillside through a series of wide open switch-backs. We rode the steep stuff and kept to singletrack before the main intersection at Passage de la Cochet, here a small climb links to more unmarked trail past the cross and back down to the southeast side of town.
The trail is not insanely technical or severe in the surface but the high speeds add a level of technicality that is rare in this area, most of the trails here are technical with rough, gnarly bedrock poking out of the floor grabbing wheels at every opportunity and gradients that are so steep you struggle to keep your eyeballs in against the braking forces, it’s nice to be able to let the brakes go for a while and feel the breeze.
If you fancy a trip to the region there are plenty of hotels, camp sites and Gite’s for you to stay in, Chambery has all you could need, although the locals do not speak much English! You will also need a good set of lungs and some strong legs as there are no chairlifts here, if you want the lift action then there are several resorts within a stone’s throw and the major resorts of Morzine, Les Arcs and Les Deux Alps are within easy reach.
To sum up in a Jerry Springer style:
More single-track trails than you can shake a stick at.
Great logistical base.
Riding all year round thanks to keen walkers piste bashing singletracks for us.
Nearly every trail here ends next to a boulangerie or patisserie!
Clive Forth. MTBSkills, Transition Bikes.