Here’s a little known fact about the Alps: If you can hike it you can bike it.
Pick a trail – any trail – plonk your knobblies on it and ride off into the snow-covered cols – in my case.
Hikers, quite rightly, have right of way, but most I passed on the Tour Du Mont Blanc – also known as the TMB – happily gave way, particularly on the technical sections.
Not only that, the trekkers cheered and whooped when we rolled into mountain the mountain refugios. Banter and bonding continued over steaming hot chocolate you could stand your spoon up in.
Contrary mountain climates are a different matter and didn’t always play along – that’s when the real adventure kicked in.
Here’s five days of ‘summer’ Mountain Biking on The Tour Du Mont Blanc in video and pictures.
You might want to turn the volume down towards the end of the clip. You’ve been warned…
More Info on Mountain Biking in the Alps
Guided: Ride the Alps specialises in guided mountain bike holidays in the French and Swiss Alps
Best Time to Go: June to September
How to get there: We flew to Geneva. From there, it’s just over 100km by road to Chamonix and it takes a little over an hour by car or minibus. Shuttles charge approximately €50 per person for a one way transfer. A taxi will cost around €250. The train journey is 3 ½ hours.
Where to ride: Rule of the Alps – if you can hike it you can ride it, but note that hikers have right of way.
Info on the Tour Du Mont Blanc
Route: The Tour du Mont Blanc is approximately 170km (105 miles) and usually takes around five days to complete on a bike. There are a few different routes and the length can vary. It’s a circumnavigation of the Mont Blanc Massif – a mountain range made up of 11 major independent summits, each over 4,000 metres, straddling France Italy and Switzerland. The journey is named after the highest, Mont Blanc, at 4808 metres.
Terrain: Terrain swaps between double tracks and technical single trails, passing through alpine pastures, past glacial lakes, along deep valleys and over high altitude passes. The total ascent and descent is roughly 20,000 metres. A couple of climbs each day, averaging 1500 meters in total are rewarded with whopping descents ferreting out as many single trails as possible. There is a lift option on the first day, but most are closed in the summer.
Where to stay: Outside Chamonix, Accomodation on the TMB is mainly small hotels, chalets, guest houses and B&Bs. Most are family run. Refuges or mountain huts offer simple, no-frills, mixed dormitory style accommodation.
Weather Conditions: During the summer months, the mountain passes are usually free of snow-cover. But as you saw in the video this is not always the case. Temps in the valleys are 10°C to 27°C with up to 9 hours of daylight. Mountain climates are unpredictable so prepare for variable conditions including summer storms, which are common.