There are an awful lot of different mountain bike rides that 10fifty now does in the Chamonix area. We don't actually understand how we keep finding new mountain bike routes when we have been biking here for years. The good news is though that we could keep you mountain biking for two weeks without straying far from Chamonix, on different mountain bike trails, and that without going on the epic Tour du Mont Blanc (Mountain biking through three countries to circumnavigate the Mont Blanc Massive).
So from this huge list of excellent mountain biking here are some descriptions of our, and your favourites, to get you excited.
The Possette Downhill
Usually the main course in a full day that sees people earning a downhill through sweat-equity rather than cable cars. Depending on the group of mountain bikers a number of different routes are taken up the Chamonix Valley past Argentiere. The prefered route then goes over into Vallorcine, and after a short downhill a monster climb takes you up to nearly 2000m.
Its the downhill though which makes it a favourite. The singletrack is smooth to start with as it undulates before committing itself to going down. Then the biking is rocky with waterbars specially designed to give you snake-bite flats. Unweighting the wheels as you cross them is essential, jumping the waterbars is preferable. The switchback corners are almost perfect, tight so they will punish the reckless, but almost hypnotic in the way that you can get in to a rhythm going in and out of them. And its the coming out of the switchbacks fast that is the key to really riding the top section well. Lots of lean on the bike and the right gear ready to power out of the corners.
After the rocky open top section you decend into the trees. The 10fifty guides will ensure you don't take the wrong turns and miss the best bits. In the trees the switchbacks get tighter and tighter. Slow speed control and good balance make the difference between clearing and dabbing, or worse, meeting the bushes face first. It doesn't matter how much you ride it, its never a walk in the park. The slow sections are nicely interspersed by fast smooth sections. The number of drop-offs increases as you go down until the final set allow you to get dangerously enjoyable air before the trail spits you out with a huge grin on your face.
The Corkscrew Descent
Its an old one, but still a favourite with many. After warming up with a trundle to the cable car you arrive thinking its all going to be downhill, its not, well not yet. Fast and furious on the early sections as the wide 4x4 track beckons mountain bikes to travel too fast and then a rather rude climb gives people time to recover from the brake induced arm pump.
The second downhill starts with a fast and fun 4x4 track again before cutting off on an easy to miss side trail. Another sneeky turn off gives the mountain bikers some of the slippest singletrack in the area and after the roots and rocks there is another 4x4 track to the main course. Probably the hardest to find track for enyone who hasn't ridden it before the Corckscrew is too big to be described as singletrack, but too small and too ridiculously steep to be 4x4.
The trail now loses a huge (around 600m) amount of altitude in around a mile and a half of trail. Its just a zig-zag of corners to speedway style around, brakes can only be let off for a matter of a few seconds before the speed has to be scrubbed off again. Absolute fun on a mountain bike; how fast can you go? You pop out at the end grinning and with your brake disks a different colour. Fortunately, having just a small group size means that we can usually fit in another up and down before the day's ride is over, but which will be the next trail to ride?
The Cornscrew's Little Sister
Its always hard deciding whether to do the corkscrew or its little sister. The Little Sister trail peels off the main track fairly early on having given the mountain bikers a good taster of its fun factor. For those looking to take a little more time, and take on a little more in the way of technical riding the sister is the one.
Always tight singletrack in the trees presents impossible looking corners that can actually be ridden, swoopy sections only inches wide hugging the mountain-side as leaves and branches stroke passing riders. The bridge section is the hardest technical challenge of the trail, combining a tricky climb up onto a little bridge and then an exit off that requires a controlled endo or a bit of hopping. If you still haven't dabbed its down through the damp rocks building up speed for a sharp climb with the one foot vertical section framed by tree roots. Yes it looks impossible and too many it is, but 10fifty is about the best mountain biking and about people who want to stretch their abilities - it is ridable and all who do it deserve a beer from those cheering them on. Its certainly a trail that will provide stories to tell later.
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