The French Alps are widely renowned for the events that take place on an annual basis in this little piece of heaven. Just think along the lines of Megavalanche held at Alpe d’Huez, which sees hordes of mountain-bikers stream in for the downhill race.
The truth is that France (more specifically the French Alps) is blessed with an abundance of mountain-biking trails, catering to the novices all the way through to the professional mountain-biking fanatics.
Armed with some kickass navigational gear, you’ll be able to take on single-tracks or downhill slopes. Want to know the best part about mountain-biking in the French Alps? You’ll have gravity as your support system, giving you the best opportunity to enjoy a fantastic descent after the chairlifts have done all the hard work for you!
Before you head out to explore the summery vibes on your mountain bike, there are a few things that you need to know about the French Alps. That’s why we’ve compiled a handy guide, to best assist you with ensuring a safe and pleasurable experience!
10 Top Tips for Mountain-Biking in the French Alps
1. Ensure you have a comfy ride.
Mountain-biking in the French Alps requires riders to be equipped with bikes that are willing and able to take on rocky terrain, and keep up the pace for long stretches at a time. Having a bike that sports 160mm on both ends would be ideal, but whatever makes you comfy will get the job done just as well.
2. Get some proper tires fitted on your bike.
Sticking to tires with a width of roughly 2.4 inches should suffice for mountain-biking the French Alps. Your tires should have thick sidewalls and a soft thread compound, but you also want to ensure that they’re suitable for gravity and downhill applications, meaning they should have a sturdy carcass.
3. Pack extra parts.
This one is essential because your bike will likely get a proper beating on the tracks of the French Alps. Make sure you’ve packed spare tires and tubes, a few chain links, and brake pads.
4. Suit up!
You have a pretty good chance of taking a tumble somewhere along the trails while you’re mountain-biking the French Alps, so make sure that you’re geared up to protect the vital parts of your body. Knee-and-elbow pads, a back protector, and a full-face helmet are standard practice for riders here.
5. Consider some goggles.
If you’re planning on doing mostly downhill riding, you want to ensure that you’ve got eyewear to match the terrain. You won’t need this if you’ve already got a full-face helmet, but with the amount of sunshine you’re likely to experience, you might just want to go ahead and protect your eyes with some dark lenses in order to keep glare down to a minimum.
6. Be prepared to self-medicate.
It’s not uncommon for bikers to suffer from sore bodies out on the French Alps, even more so after a few days of mountain-biking. Make sure you’ve packed a medical kit so that you can take care of any cuts and bruises you might sustain along the way.
7. Utilize the lifts wherever you can.
Most resorts in the French Alps are well equipped with modified ski lifts, which are perfect for taking bikers (and their mountain-bikes) up to where they need to be. You’ll also notice that most lifts have color-coded trail passes which can be purchased either online or at the ticket office on-site. Make sure you do your homework and find out what color pass will take you to where you need to be.
8. Find a good spot to stay.
The French Alps offers more than enough accommodation for the masses. You can either stay at a lodge or Alp resort. Most of them have restaurants and snack bars on-site, but make sure you grab a bite at one of the fine patisseries for a slice of pizza heaven!
9. Consider attending Passportes.
Passportes is a mountain-biking event which takes place every year in the French Alps. If you attend the event, you’ll be one of the hundreds of bikers attempting to complete the (mostly) downhill circuit. A perk of opting in for Passportes is the fact that you’ll get to enjoy the free food and drinks at the stops along the way.
10. Don’t stick to one location.
While it might seem tempting to mountain-bike in one resort – and stay there for the duration of your trip – we reckon that you should consider a few other areas to explore on two wheels. Spots like Chamonix, The Three Valleys in the south, Alpe D’Huez (which we mentioned earlier), and Les Deux Alpes are all well worth considering.
We hope that you have enjoyed reading the tips for a great experience in the French Alps, and that it has armed you with some information you’ll need in order to ensure you have the best and most memorable mountain-biking experience in a piece of heaven we call The French Alps!
About The Author
I’m Dan, and I’m the Editor in Chief of True North Athletics. I’m also an avid adventurer, digital nomad and traveler. I enjoy all types of outdoor sports, a good golf tan, and spontaneous weekend trips. I currently live in Brazil where I can be found frequently hiking the rain forest around my city!