Fuuuck I have been slow getting this out! Yes, the usual tradition is to do the decidedly marginal wrap up advice posts straight after the trip, before plunging balls deep into iMovie action. However, this time I just couldn’t help myself after all that French goodness. But its time to take a breather from the Shrediting lab and instead actually type some shit up for a change.
So, how do I sum up and give advice on what was a massively golden trip? Do a material cheat and split the fucker into two parts of course! Just like any good mini-series, we’ll have lots of life lessons, never as much shagging as you want to see and some dubious plot twists. Excited to climactic levels? Lets get rolling then. Part one, is all about the riding. And why fucking not:
But in the end, this isn’t just about Meribel riding. My original thought was that I would just be in that one location hitting the bike park, but man, how short sighted was that?! Imagine what I would have missed out on if I had just stayed put in Meribel and not headed out with the boys?! Yes, a lot of variety awaits you out there, hence my theme is about being open minded and mobile.
So, I have decided to make this advice post more about how to best structure a trip and also how to get the most out of one. For many this will be like “duh, obvious!“, but if it helps at least one shredder maximize in Europe then the job is done!
1. The logistics & locations
I had no real idea what I was doing when I booked this trip and happened to luck into it thanks to Spanky, TG Mark and the good riding in Meribel. Given I learn through experience, I now have a much clearer view on what I would do. Its simple:
- Mark out all the places I wanted to ride
- Pick the most reasonably central and cool place to stay that isn’t balls (harder than it sounds with French Accom)
- Hire a good rental car (Europcar gets my vote based on their Cycling sponsorship)
- Get busy hitting the spots around France/Italy!
Sure, it would require some moving around perhaps/most likely, but worth it. If you don’t mind being cunted you could even hire a camper van I guess? In terms of locations, here are some that I can thoroughly recommend go on the list – All with lift access and decent bike parks and/or maps:
- Les Gets
- Super Morzine & Chatel
- La Thuile (Italy)
- Pila – I didn’t go but the boys said it was maaaaaad (Italy)
- Alpe d’Huez
I am missing a WHOLE lot out here, so these are just some off the top of my head… So definitely research it up. What I’m getting at is pretty simple though:
There is so much good riding to be had, don’t wed yourself to one spot
Unsurprisingly, I would highly recommend planning or focusing your trip around either a World Cup DH or EWS round in the area assuming one is on. A few reasons:
- Built in days off – These are critical if its a long trip
- Will get you mega stoked to ride while resting up
- Lots of people to ask about riding spots or tips on what to hit
- All you can eat PRO stalking
Some important points and #dirtynomadtips that are worth mentioning around all this though:
The weather – So, this is probably an important point in terms of riding/trail quality… Intel had it that the Alps had been having a super SHIT summer, hence it was pretty fucking wet and a lot of the trails were munted from rain and indiscriminate shredding. This ain’t Whistler either, so not a big trail crew keeping things mint and in good order. As such, make sure you scope out the weather patterns and adjust accordingly… Local intel would be a plus if you can get it. Beware venturing into wooded sections when its been pissing down, its mega marginal!
Your two best friends – Without a doubt are a Roaming data plan/Local SIM card and Google maps. Yes, if you want to roam around Euroland and don’t fancy getting as lost as fuck (perhaps you’re mildly OCD/Uptight like me about being lost), then this is the combo that will see you right… Assuming that you follow the soothing voice of Google Maps instructions and the French haven’t put in any new round abouts, I got fucked on both at some stage. This combo however was the basic key to unlocking an awesome trip as it made it SO easy to get around, especially without a human navigator.
2. The riding and bikes
This one is simple really – What are your BRO’s/Sista’s riding whilst there? (hint – Its absolutely the type of place you want to be riding with a good group of mates) Coordination is the key (as Wolf will tell you) here. Basically you can get away with either of the following for a ripping time:
- The DH bike – I spent the week being punished by them, so its fair to say that its a solid option. The DH bikes never really got bogged down, but if you wanted to get into some exploring that was perhaps not FULL bike park action, it may be a struggle. Upside is the day after day hammering is going to be more forgiving on the DH bike… Ultimately it would have been nice to have the Dirty Demo for the World Cup DH course…
- The ENDURO bike – Also known as your trail bike… I wouldn’t want anything under 160mm’s to be honest, and the slacker the better. The Nomad 2 was absolutely awesome the whole trip, but I suspect that the new 3 would have handled the pummelling a lot better and the 65 deg head angle would have been useful.
Remember what I was saying about weather? Yeah…
So bike choice? If you want maximum shredding and its bike park/lift only – Take the DH bike… If you want to do a bit more exploring and be flexible, heavy duty trail bike, Excuse me, an Enduro bike, would be perfect. Just don’t forget your enduro specific gloves… And above all, alignment with your riding buddies on equipment is key. Oh yeah, take MINION tires, that part is pretty key, so good they’re basically mandatory.
The trails – Well, a bit of everything really and that should be coming through in the vids… Everything is covered off from rocky steep gnar, open alpine fields, mountain side roller coasters, bike park jump action and awesome wooded single track. Its France, so a SHIT load of switchbacks and berms added in. You’ll be able to find something to feed the dirt palette of the whole DH crew that will be foaming at the mouth to get out and ride. You’ll find most of the locations rammed with something for everyone.
My only advice in the French Parks, try before you buy on some of the big items, there were some trip ending features in Chatel and a few other spots, so scope it before you send it… Otherwise you may end up listening to that drum of the rescue helo approaching you. To be avoided.
A few more tips worthy of note:
- The riding can be quite spread out – Its not tightly packed like Whistler, so a flat could mean a BIG walk up or down, be prepared. Its big mountain terrain and you can cover a lot of ground, take food
- Maps – All the parks seemed to have them, so grab one for sure. The Meribel and La Thuile ones were spot on and well worth having on you to maximise
- Gear – I armoured up like a pussy, but you can probably get away with just knee guards. I ended up rolling the full face helmet and not once did I think it was overkill, so that should give you a feel. Wearing a pack with a neck brace does suck ass though, so still working on a solution there
- The lifts – You may have noted its single serve on the chair lift front, which is weird, but you get used to it. My advice is fake some bike faffing and be last of your crew up to avoid freezing your balls/tits off at the summit. Good news is, the lift passes are CHEAP man, so happy days there.
FFS… Wrap it up already!
Ok, so enough raving on… We still have part 2 to come on this wrap up, yes, it was THAT big… But in essence to put a cap in this, follow this synergistic, transformational, vertically integrated and holistically aligned plan for Europe in summer 2015 (can you tell I have been back in the Matrix for 2 weeks?):
- Get your crew together and find a cool World Cup/EWS event somewhere awesome
- Work out all the HOT places you want to shred, start with the list above
- Book Accom central to all of that action, leaning closer to the racing venue
- Lock down that Rental vehicle
- Get training!
- Have more fun than a Kate Upton administered oil massage.
Merci MF Beaucoup!