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Si and Cathy 's HomeMountain Biking in FranceThe Bike Village Experience, Landry


Mountain Biking in France

The Bike Village Experience, Landry |

Having lived in London for a year without a mountain bike, it was the first thing to get packed when I returned to NZ for a holiday in April. Having managed five rides in 5 months since returning to London we decided it was time for some punishment in the Alps anyway. What we hadn’t done on the bikes we’d tried to replicate in the gym by attending one hour spin classes twice a week. We had intended to be a lot fitter but London just isn’t conducive to getting outdoors and into the hills (only two of the five rides actually contained a hill). Time would tell if spin classes made a damn bit of difference. Never mind, how bad could it be????

We flew to Geneva from Gatwick on Saturday, up at 4am, in a taxi at 5am, first problem, tight fit with the bike bags. As the driver ummed and aahed Simon shoved and I climbed in on top of one of the bike bags before he could say he wasn’t going to take us. Jumped on a train at Victoria and arrived at Gatwick with two hours to spare. Heaps of time you’d think…. WRONG. Join the only queue that is about 300m long, and then when they call the Geneva passengers out we end up at the back due to the cumbersome bike bags, which then have to be delivered to another area once checked in. Then join the same 300m long security queue and discover that Si had packed a number of liquid things in his carry on luggage… duh!!! One by one the security staff member pulls them out and confiscates his roll on and eye drops but lets him away with all the prescription stuff. We ended up running to the plane 5 minutes after it was meant to leave, Si with shoes and belt in hand and jeans half way down his bottom.

We arrived in Geneva a little frazzled but pleased to find Sam and Tom from Bike Village waiting for us. We threw the bikes into the van and headed off on the 2.5 hour drive to Bike Village Headquarters in Landry, France. For those of you, like us who have no idea where that is, it’s between Albertville (the winter Olympics were there once) and Borg St Maurice, or for the skiers, between Les Arc and La Plagne. As we got close we started to realise what we’d got ourselves into. The hills (no, they were mountains) were big and looked steep.

On arriving at Bike Village HQ, we were greeted by Lyndsey (Sam’s wife, and the person who was going to keep our energy levels up for the week with her amazing cooking) and the three resident cats. By the time we assembled our bikes, the others had arrived, including another couple and 5 Welsh guys, some of whom had been before (one three times). Hmmm, the girls were somewhat outnumbered. We got to know each other over the first of Lyndsey’s dinners – by the end of it we were looking forward to the rest of the dinners if nothing else.

Sunday morning saw us up, fed and ready to go by 9.30am. The first ride was to test out our abilities and fitness. Simon and I kept quiet about our five training rides in hope that we could fake it, for some of the week at least. We climbed up into the clouds (admittedly they were quite low) and then split into two groups, Sam taking the faster group and Tom who was nursing a bug taking the gentler ride. Us having survived the first climb stayed with Sam and the speedy Welshmen and climbed some more, and then descended down fabulous single tracks back to Landry. It was still a 6 hour ride though including two lunch breaks – standard practice which we were very thankful of.

The weather was a bit grim on day one and two with low cloud and showers. To try and stay under the clouds and rain we did 3 smaller climbs on Monday. Given their fantastic knowledge of the area, we were able to ride tracks that weren’t so affected by the wet. We were able to stay dry pretty much the whole day by staying in well covered forests. The only time we were exposed was when we climbed on the roads and luckily for us we missed any showers that were passing.

On Tuesday the sun came out, and since Wednesday was going to be a rest day Sam and Tom had plans to make sure we were too stuffed and sore to actually have any energy to do anything after Tuesday’s ride. We had two options; the first was to climb for a long time, and the second, for an even longer time – to either 1700m or 2400m. The five training rides were starting to show so Simon and I decided to go for the mellower of the two. For a moment we both considered the longer but decided the extra hour on steep access track might be the final straw for us. We might not have had such spectacular views as the Welshmen but the single track descents were still superb, involving lots of switchbacks mixed in with long stretches of fast downhill.

We were pleased that Wednesday and the much looked forward to rest day had arrived. We headed off on a late morning excursion to Albertville, after a good sleep in. It gave us a break off the bikes and an opportunity to see a little bit of the area while there (and a chance to eat French pastries). It also gave us an opportunity in the evening to fix up anything broken on the bikes and give them a bit of a service before the remaining punishment they were going to receive during the rest of the week. Fortunately, Sam has a huge basement with a workshop and is pretty handy at making any bike work again.

We woke on Thursday to another glorious day. Not Si though, he couldn’t make it out of bed. The three days biking had taken their toll and he decided to roll over and go back to sleep for another three hours. I wasn’t giving my lack of fitness away though, but did decide to go with the mellower group instead. We headed up towards Les Arc and did some great traverse tracks and then finished off with a couple of great tracks back to Landry which varied between rocky, rooty and straight out fast.

Friday, final day, and from comments earlier in the week we knew we were in for a big day. I decided to do the big ride and Si had no choice as he had already lost face with the unscheduled day off on Thursday. Off we went, climbing and climbing - 1600 m of it to be exact. Once we were there though, we felt like we were on top of the world. The chapel on the mountain was breathtaking, especially when we hadn’t seen the Southern Alps for such a long time. Although the climb had been long, it had been diverse, and Tom had thrown in a couple of lovely single track traverses to keep us sane. It was then broken to us that we were going to take the technical way down and undertake the most technical riding of the week, starting with the “cheeky monkey”. Si stacked within the first five meters after making the first drop off but catching another rock soon after. Only a small amount of pain for him but it was enough to put me off riding the majority of it. It was a rock garden that was steep and to me pretty much unrideable – I managed only about 10% of it. Once at the bottom I checked to see how the rest had faired, Glynn (a Welshman) had ridden it all, but not without falling off a couple of times. The other three had all walked parts. That made me feel much better. That was followed by a fantastic traverse track that was much more up my alley. But then came the next technical nightmare, only marginally more rideable than the first. This time it was switchbacks that psyched me out. They were tight and steep and once again only one person managed to get all the way down. Glynn again. As we descended down the mountains, the tracks became less technical and faster, finishing with a blat down the valley.

The last supper at Bike Village HQ included pavlova (must have been for us especially) and an awards ceremony which is given out each week, for the best equipment malfunction, the best crash and the cleanest riding. All the awards were picked up by the Welshmen - no surprises there.

Overall it was a fantastic week of biking and I can thoroughly recommend Bike Village. It was great to go out and make the most of the area without having to look at maps all the time. Sam and the other guides know it like the back of their hand.

To have a look at their website go to

Locations Visited: London, Geneva, Landry, Albertville, Geneva, London

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