July 29th, 2012

Mountain Bikes + Mountains = Awesome

In March, I publicly announced I wanted to get fit enough to go snowboarding and have fun. In May, I talked about how I’d rekindled a love of mountain biking that I had before I moved to Sweden.

Soon after that, my fiancée and I decided to take our mountain bikes on a planned summer trip to the French Alps. I’d been saving for a new bike for a couple of months, and ended up going into crunch mode to try and get it before we left. I was successful, and a couple of weeks ago we set off to France with my shiny new yellow bike strapped to the back!

It didn’t stay this shiny for long!

2,400km each way. Totally worth it!

What greeted us after over 24 hours of driving over two days was, well, stunning.

Beats flat old Sweden any day.

Les 2 Alpes

Some of the ski resorts turn into mountain biking parks during the summer, and we were lucky enough to have one within a couple of hours of where we were staying. The general idea is that you rock up to the resort, pay for a lift pass and you get to fly down the fun descents while having lifts escort you and your bike bike up to the top again.

We ended up spending two days at Les 2 Alpes, which gave some of the most awesome bike riding I’ve experienced. It was a lot more technical than I was expecting, and on one of the routes were were thinking “This is a green run?!” a lot of the time.

As I’m helpfully pointing out, you can see some of the lower courses carving their way down the opposite mountain.

A rest stop halfway down one of the more difficult “green” runs.

It sucks to have to stop to adjust stuff, but at least there’s a nice view while you do it!

I also took my new GoPro camera with me, and we had fun attaching the camera to various bits of our bikes and ourselves. I’m really pleased with the result!

If you’re interested in a less editied version, here’s a complete run down the shorter green route at Les 2 Alpes, Vallée Blanche. Warning: There’s some horrible noise from my brakes in this video, which is discussed below!


Unfortunately, everything has a weakest link. Much like a lower-end MacBook Pro might be held back by a crappy graphics card, my bike’s weakest stock component is widely known to be its brakes. Keeping a larger-framed gentleman such as myself in check down mountainsides generates a lot of heat, and two days worth of downhill work caused my brakes to start shrieking in pain, vibrating at the exact frequency to send a horrible resonance through my whole bike.

A day’s work of braking causes heat discolouration on my bike’s brake discs.

This is a well-known problem with the brakes (Avid Elixir 7) my bike was kitted out with from the factory, and while there are elaborate ways people have found to fix (or at least mitigate) it, I decided that I’d rather replace them entirely than have a set of brakes that I’d never be 100% confident in.

Thankfully, unlike a MacBook Pro, upgrading components on a bike is fairly simple, and I fitted some beefy Shimano XT brakes to mine when I got back to Sweden. These bad boys are well known to be tough, and even have heatsinks on the brake pads to help dissipate heat better.

Wait, there was an original goal?

Right! Snowboarding. The original plan was to get fit enough for snowboarding. I’ve already cycled over 550km this year and I’m aiming to hit 1,000km before the Swedish winter makes cycling too cold and/or dangerous to do. I genuinely feel a lot fitter already and think I’ll be physically fine when I hit the slopes without wheels.

As always, you can follow my efforts on Strava as I slowly make my way towards my goal.