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14 October 2011

Milan at Dean Lane
Big Bike 
Small Bike

Due to busy schedules there had never been a convenient time to meet Andy outside of our annual Alps trips. However after careful planning and with a break from employment I was off to Bath, in the rain, to spend the next few days riding downhill and skateparks. 

Day one
Bad weather has a tendency to dampen moods. Waking up to the sound of rain drops before setting off on a riding trip is no exception, but forecasts predicted that it was dry further north so I switched my focus to the riding ahead. I parked up at Sidwell Cycles for opening where Frank replaced the last shoddy part on what was a wrecked Orange 223. With a new fork, brakes, bearings and paint job the 223 was rammed into the boot and taken up the M5. 
Andy, rock garden
When I eventually reached Andy’s house (I don’t recommend coinciding a journey with Uni students moving in) I was greeted by two highly enthusiastic riders and improving weather. Without time for a sandwich we were off to the first spot. 
Pushing up the slippery path was grueling and a technical challenge in itself. I became apprehensive about the culmination of a difficult track and a dusty DH mind set in high-speed Alps mode. Seconds into riding my anxiety transpired into a tree encounter as I missed the first turn. To add to my lack of technical riding ability my brakes, fresh from the box, barely worked. After a repeat scenario on the following few corners and with Andy and Ben quickly out of sight, I rode down whatever tracks I slid into. Eventually I found my hosts and we walked back up for another go. 
Despite my intent to avoid a repeat cock-up I binned it in the exact same spot. Fortunately though this time round I Kept Andy and Ben in sight, who showed me a brutal looking short and steep rock garden covered in moss and wet roots. It proved to be the wake up call I needed and riding it out boosted my confidence. I began to finally take control of my bike and enjoy the remaining and subsequent run, where Ben slammed in the first corner after the words ‘I want to make it down without putting a foot down’. 
As time moved on so did we to a completely different type of track; an empty gully filled with dry rocks and boulders. As the slope had a fairly mellow angle the only way to hold speed was to pick a smooth line and avoid the larger rocks, which was easier said then done. After Ben left I took the Gopro out to record some helmet and self filmed footage. Several hours later, and gutted that the battery had ran out literally seconds before we hit the last and fastest turn, we drove back as dusk was setting in.
Day two
Andy at Dean Lane
First stop was Dean Lane, the oldest skatepark in Bristol. After fixing a tube and clearing some glass the session got underway. We filmed some clips then drove to the other side of the city to check out St George’s. The park is vast and spread out, so the best way to ride it is to blast around pumping in and out of the bowl into the other sections. Half an hour and a volcano to bowl transfer to near skateboarder collision later we were done and made our way back to meet some other riders. Unfortunately as soon as we arrived in Bath it poured with rain so the evening session was called off. Frustrated we went back and watched ‘Taken’ (brilliant film) and Earthed. 
That night Andy’s housemate was playing at a club so we headed into town. We were among the first through the doors but a few Jagerbombs later the place was rammed. In the crowd was a girl we referred to as Gums. Despite her oral misfortunes she was with a different guy each time we saw her. Must have been fresher enthusiasm... By around 2am we were done. Andy managed to annoy an impressive number of people on the way out of a busy fast food joint and we made it back in time for five hours of sleep before alarm bells. 
Day three
I woke up feeling remarkably OK. Soon after a large breakfast and many glasses of water we were pushing up the track I was introduced to on the first ride. The downpour the previous evening ended any likelihood of less treacherous conditions. On the long walk through the forest the previous nights alcohol consumption and lack of sleep crept in. 
Andy doing a table
There was another section of track around the hill with a rock section and a couple of jumps where we warmed up and commenced filming. The following few hours consisted of pushing, falling, recording, sliding, sliding some more and nearly hitting a dog. 
We passed Gums on the way to the supermarket, bought food, changed bikes and went to Andy’s local (park). To his astonishment there was a high turnout. The park has possibly the worst jump box I have ever ridden, with a short transition and steep flatbank landing ending with a harsh bump. The park is also home to a terrifying 10ft ‘mini’ ramp. I started filming Andy when he had the idea of helmet camming some airs. On the first air he landed to flat but somehow rode it out. He was uncomfortable with the helmet, but managed a couple of runs with it on. After a session on the smaller mini-ramp it was time to say bye. 

Big Bike Small Bike video click here

12 September 2011

Milan, Bar End
London Way: Roadtrip

Flapjack; pretty much the only thing I bake and perfect for long trips. It's tasty, keeps well and is an excellent source of energy. I was getting ready for another road trip. This time round I was driving, the focus was on skateparks, Alex had promised to shoot footage on the JLC camera and we were leaving early...

Day 1
I woke at 6am, got ready and packed the car before picking up JLC local, Alex. Despite previously working a morning paper round during school days and a cleaning job before college, I hate early mornings. I'm really bad at them, usually in an almost semi-concious state until around 2pm. However it was great being two and a half hours away from home with a bike at a perfect set of trails by 10am!

Alex told me that he had wanted to visit Bar End trails for years since he had first caught a glimpse of the spot through a computer screen. While I ruled out the possibility of riding trails since it had rained relentlessly throughout the previous week, the spot was on our way and I was intrigued so we made a stop. 

Part of the bowl!

It was difficult to register what I was seeing. This was one of, if not the most impressive and extensive set of trails I had ever visited. As well as numerous lines branching off deep into the forest, there was a bowl with hips and a volcano, and a set with hips connected by a vertical berm that led into an opening of a 270' berm that came out over the entrance before continuing. Madness. Expertly sculptured madness protected from the elements under blankets of tarpaulin and carpet. 

Thanks in part to the covers and the canopy of the forest, the trails were rideable. We were apprehensive to ride as no locals were present (it was a Thursday morning), but with a spade in hand we decided to have a short session on one of the lines, so we cleared the jumps from leaves and smoothed out some of the bombholes after removing a thin layer of damp clay. 

Milan, euro table Horsham
I had never hit trails blind before (Milford doesn't count). I rely on watching others and hearing feedback before dropping in. However Alex had just recovered from an injury, and I had recently been a trails trip, so after working out the run-in I hit the first - a steep opposite hip. First attempt felt good so after a couple of runs I removed the covers from the remaining jumps in the line. After some runs of the set we recorded some footage and shot some photos, before concealing our tyre marks and ensuring the jumps were how we found them. 

Stoked on an unexpected trails session we were back on the rode to Horsham to check out the newly renovated skatepark that looked exceptional in photos. More skateparks need to be like this. Each section fitted well together so the park had a lot of flow. With a large stretch of the dreaded M25 to contend with, we left after a good session to our accommodation for the night, arranged through Alex's housemate. When we finally arrived an hour late due to traffic we were greeted by a warm welcome and a hearty meal in a posh suburban house. 

After a shower we made our way to the tube station and took the line to Travalgar Square where we were meeting Alex's other Uni housemate. Unfortunately though there were conflicting interests in the group. While Alex's friends were set on a night out drinking into the morning, we simply wanted a relaxed drink before a night of sleep after our first exhausting day to set ourselves up for the next. I decided to keep a clear head so after one pint I stuck to water. We moved on from a Wetherspoon's to a Murphie's bar, a clear favourite among middle-aged men and suits. After 12am I realised that we wouldn't be leaving any time soon, and if I drank any more water I would drown. In an effort to hide my exasperation I accepted rounds of shots. It finally became clear to our hosts after 2am that we didn't want to be out anymore, let alone go to a club, so we made it to a bus stop after wondering around in the rain in search for the right one. What followed was an extensive wait, an even longer bus journey and a lengthy walk back where we got in around 3 or 4am. I had been awake for 22 hours. I was not happy.

Day 2
Milan, table air out of 9ft at Crawley
We tried to catch up on some sleep in the morning but couldn't sleep past 9. Feeling better after a strong coffee and a Wetherspoon large fry-up, we stocked up on energy drinks and said bye to Simon. I drove down the M25 as fast as possible, only slowing for speed cameras, in a bid to conserve as much of the remaining day as possible. 

Rolling out of the car park towards Horham skatepark I knew it was going to take a substantial amount of effort to ride. Alex looked in a similar state. It wasn't until after a lengthy warm up session, a lot of Lucozade, and mid-way through filming that I felt good again and able to do some smooth runs. We left at 3pm, with another skatepark to ride ten miles east.

Alex, Crawley
Crawley bowl was one of the first bowls we had ridden, and it showed. However it was incredibly fun to pump around with an over vert bowl corner and a 9ft steep quarter. We sessioned it for a while and worked out a couple of lines. A local kid told us that BMX legend Chase Hawk had visited a week ago, which must have been astonishing to watch. After recording some bowl clips I decided to try some 360s over the box, which due to the odd roll-in was difficult enough to clear jumping straight. It went well enough to record before it was time to drive to our next destination.

At 9pm we reached the Hunting Lodge hotel, a half price special in the middle of no-where that I booked the night before the trip. Despite my twin bed request being ignored, the hunting paintings and comfortable room made up for the cosy sleeping arrangement. 

Day 3
In the morning we had no idea where we were staying that night. All we had was a plan to visit a newly built indoor park in Hemel Hempstead the next day before returning home. After a lavish breakfast we went on a computer hunt to formulate a plan. We weren't in luck. The hotel no longer had computers, our phones were five years too old to use Wi-fi and the only Internet cafe in town had closed down. We made the short drive to our next spot regardless with the hope of conceiving a solution later in the day. 

It was 11.45, and we were in a queue for a skatepark that wasn't yet open... Forty minutes later we were finally through the doors of Adrenaline Alley, Corby. Despite being a renowned park, this was our first time. I rode straight into the main box area and got to grips with the section. Riding in heat indoors with no ventilation is strenuous. Every few runs I had to have a ten minute break to cool off slightly. The only time you really cooled down was when you went outdoors. We sessioned different areas of the park. Alex rode his first spine and volcano, and I found a nice bowl wall ride section to play in. I put together a run worth filming composed of wall rides, a toboggan air and a three fakie. After filming Alex in a different area we had some lunch, still unsure about the night ahead. 

Milan, wallride at Corby
For a while I was taken by surprise at people's northern accents, until I remembered we were two hours up the M1. Back in the main box section, I tried putting together some solid runs, which was difficult as I was having trouble airing the end large steep quarter without landing near the bottom of it. After a 360 session with another MTB'er I asked Alex to get the video camera out. At 7pm we still didn't know where we were going that night but we had found a computer. However it was locked to the skatepark's website so we couldn't search for cheap accommodation. We concluded that as we didn't want to pester Alex's Uni housemate again, or ring Ben two hours away in Hampshire who I had only met the week before where I stayed for three nights, our only option was to drive home. While our plan had changed from another day of riding to staying at Corby until closing then driving through the night after three full days of riding and sleep deprivation, we were content. We had ridden in four exceptional places, including a set of trails, and despite our fatigue we wanted to keep riding that evening.

There was a line in the box section that I wanted to try: hitting the step-up backwards into the quarter, which cut out the long pedalling section following the volcano after dropping in. During the first couple of runs I landed the step-down to flat, but then I was more consistent and it felt better not pedalling before the quarter. During this time Alex had the bowl in a separate area to himself and mastered opposite hips and progressed with airs. We left the park at 9pm on a high.
Part of me couldn't believe I was about to drive for hours in the state I was in. Loud music kept me awake until the M5 services south of Birmingham where I enjoyed a Chicken Legend meal with coffee and a free Mcflurry. Driving slow to save on fuel, we eventually got back to Exeter where I dropped off Alex, drove home and went to bed at 3am. 

Freddy, old school
Eight, five, one: Trails Roadtrip
Eight spots, five days, one trip
It started with a Facebook event invite; a plan to ride as many spots as possible over a few days, all of which new to me, in Milton Keynes and Hampshire. (Photos taken by Mike Elkington - aka Elky - at Woburn)
Spot one
After Jamie picked me up we floored it to Bristol, chasing the receding sun. We made it in time for a half hour mini ramp volcano session at Horfield skatepark, which was a great warm up for the trip ahead.
The following morning, when the car was finally rammed with bikes and bags and Elky had been picked up, we headed east to meet Dave and Fred who had camped the previous night at our first trails spot. A night on pine cones was clearly not conducive to sleep, as they looked pretty beat. However their early rising had ensured that by the time we arrived the jumps had been repaired and ready to ride. 
Spot two
We were at Woburn, about to hit the main line. After recording some footage and getting tired of missing landings we rode the hip line and sessioned some tricks. Fred clearly has his twists dialled, getting them dumped and flat. Jamie got comfortable upside down and I pulled some combos. 
As the light faded we left en route to Hampshire where we were staying for the night. We stopped off at a Mcdonold's in Farmborough for a nutritious meal then Elky suggested that we ride the floodlit skatepark where he spent much of his adolescence. 
Milan, toboggan
Spot three
I wasn't sure whether I had the energy to ride anymore but after rolling around I realised that this was my kind of park: A smooth wooden mini ramp and a main section that had a volcano in-between a wide quarter at one end and a couple of small quarters with a double kinked flat bank in-between. 
Soon enough we had to leave as it was time to find our accommodation for the night. After a while of country road driving we eventually pulled into a drive. A guy I later learnt was called Ben showed us an annex next to his dad's house. This was road trip luxury! The dart board drew our attention and we played until someone hit treble 20. It was late when eventually Fred put us out of our misery and we could go to bed.
The next morning we were treated to a hearty breakfast of well done meat and not done black pudding (nice Jamie!), before setting off to the first trails session of the day.
Spot four
We were at 4a. It took a few runs to get used to the smaller main line. The top section had a series of tight small jumps and a tricky hip before some larger doubles. Fred then took us to the top of a roll-in which led to a step down into a fast descent to a large racer that fed into another before a trick jump. On one run I did a simple whip on the trick jump, but the bike didn't come back round and as I tried to bail I got caught in the bar which tattooed a nice shape into my stomach. Unimpressed with the original line we rode, I spotted a diversion from the top section into a six pack of steep doubles, more my style. Ben showed me the line and we trained some runs. During filming Ben bailed right in front of me, but he managed to run out the way just in time as I shot past, fun times!
Spot five
Jamie, superman
The clock was ticking so it was time to go to our final set of trails for the day: Sheet. I was in awe as we walked around, the jumps were big and perfectly sculpted, and there were numerous lines crossing and turning between and in-between each other. At the start was a tight step-up step-down section which took some concentration to get right. Afterwards a couple of set up jumps and pumps led into a series of steep doubles, hips and step ups with huge bomb holes in-between, before a tricky set up jump coming out of a berm that led to the final set of jumps. An injured local agreed to take some footage on the Gopro, capturing trains of riders flowing through the trails. The spot was so much fun that I rode until it felt like I could no longer keep my feet on the pedals or my hands on the bars. After the session we helped dig a new landing until dark. 
We dropped into Tesco on the way home. I was so exhausted it was difficult to think about purchases. I left it to the others and followed them around in a half-asleep zombie like state. Elky managed to forget about our 3-for-1 pizza offer and payed for two pizzas. After a long winded explanation as to why he needed to be refunded for one pizza while receiving an extra for free we walked out and drove home. We finally made it back after the satnav decided to play games and send us in apposing directions. 
Spot six
After meeting at a Tesco car park and stocking up on (riding) fuel we drove to the days spot: Holdshott trails. Upon arrival we got straight into digging, helping to finish a large berm. As the composition of the soil in the region is mainly sand it doesn't take long to construct dirt features, especially when so many spades are out! 
We then picked up our bikes and started riding a line of slightly hipped doubles with pumps in the landings and a tight berm into the finishing jumps. As usual I had some difficulty not overshooting landings, but then got used to lazily pulling up and not pumping. Fred sent some 360s and we dug some more.
Milan, hip whip
I was intrigued to ride the line that currently ended with the berm that by this point was looking close to completion. Fred went through then on his next run Jamie followed him into the line. What he didn't realise was that the take off being used for the set was not the obvious one. Instead it was the lip of another line that you had to jump sideways to make it into the right landing. As soon as Jamie took off it was clear he was coming up short so he pulled the eject button. He laughed off his fall but something was wrong with his wrist so he stopped riding. By this point the rest of the group had also put their bikes down as the exhaustion from the past few days had drained everyone's energy. 
However I still wanted to ride the line despite being apprehensive about the entrance into it. After a couple of pull-outs I stayed off the brake and went through the whole line into the finishing berm. I was stoked as the set fitted together just right, with non of the over-shooting issues that I had with the previous line. I had a few runs training Tom, the local, before suggesting riding it with the Gopro. By this point I felt comfortable on the set, so didn't think it would take long to film a decent run. Unfortunately I kept overshooting the first jump, which required a smooth landing and a pump to carry on through the line. Time and time again I made mistakes, and the pressure of the group leaving the trails meant that I had to quit with no solid run recorded. I was frustrated we couldn't stay for longer but with Jamie's injury and everyones sinking enthusiasm to ride replaced with excitement over the prospect of a BBQ we left. 

Spot seven
Jamie, no foot one hand
Jamie hoped that his wrist would be OK the following day, but in the morning it was obvious that he wouldn't be able to ride despite the makeshift support of bandage and gaffer tape. Something was seriously wrong with it. We thought for a while about where to ride, deciding in the end to check out Milford, a location regularly featured in old dirt jumping videos. 
After a local showed us the right way out of the car park we had a look at the trails with great disappointment...  What had once been a renowned spot was now a weak line of small jumps. At the start was a berm which spat you in the wrong direction for the first jump, causing you to brake then steerer and pedal before the first jump. The rest of the set followed suit with landings that may as well have not existed as you sailed straight over them, and a final trick jump which felt like any regular double at the start of an average line. It was the kind of trail that wouldn't look out of place on a slow section of a downhill run or in a cross country trail centre: definitely not 'trails' in the dirt jump or BMX sense. 
Eager to ride somewhere good on our final day, I called Tom from Holdshott to see if the locals were around, however his phone was off so we headed to 4a. Elky swapped his BMX for Jamie's 26' for the trails, and was looking comfortable straight away. When we got to 4a we were alone, which didn't create a great vibe. As I had previously sessioned all the ridable lines it wasn't long until I was done riding. Elky however was having fun riding a couple of lines for the first time and putting in some solid runs. Soon it was time to drive back to Bristol.
Freddy, flatspin
Spot eight
On the drive home Elky suggested riding Yate skatepark, which apparently is one of the oldest skateparks in England. While the original bowl was fun to pump around and use as a fly out, the newer section of the park was so slippery that it was too unpredictable to ride. After a 360 flyout session (neither of us had span round in a long time) we packed the car and I was later dropped off at Bristol Temple Meads to catch a train home. 
Despite the disappointment on the last day, we had ridden so many spots over just a few days that overall the trip was a great success (Borat voice). We even had good weather! Sheet trails had been the top spot in my opinion, followed by Holdshott and Farmborough skatepark. Woburn could have been on top if the infamous, and pretty large, Busline had been running. Let me know when it is...
Healing vibes to Jamie, who has a suspected scaphoid fracture in his wrist. Hope you're riding again soon!

What the Trails video click here

Thanks to Jamie for making the trip happen, Ben for accommodating us and the locals for letting us ride their spots. Hope to see you again soon! Milan

3 August 2011

Alps 2011: Not Gone to Plan

The previous year had been one of our best; we rode hard throughout the whole holiday and surprised ourselves with what we stepped up to. This time round, after watching numerous videos of the area including those filmed during the FMB Chatel event, we arrived with high expectations, and even a plan of what to film on my new camera. 
We were greeted with a couple of days of sun before a wave of rain which persisted throughout the majority of the holiday. We remained hopeful as weather forecasts provided positive outlooks, but these often materialised into cumulonimbus clouds and increasing disappointment. Below is a selective account of our experiences.

"I looked up to see Andy grinding down the landing on his side. It was a harsh place to crash, as sharp rocks protruded the berms rugged surface."

Day 5
It had taken me a while to get properly warmed up and feeling quick this year, but during the previous afternoon something clicked and flowing down mountains felt natural again. 
The sun was out while we were training each other on Chevanne barely touching the brakes. I took the Gopro out for the first time on the bike and filmed our favourite section. On the first take I had to haul on the brakes to avoid going into the back of Andy, then on a subsequent run I almost came out the top of a high-speed berm! This is what it was all about though; getting lose! Afterwards we headed over to the Bike Park, filmed near the top, then got lairy overtaking each other on runs t-boning round turns and taking alternative sections in a race to the bottom. In definite need of food, we rolled down to Snack Attack, to find that not only did it no longer exist, but what stood in its place was a huge crater! After a cheeseburger at Snack 412 we took the rode to Morzine. 
When we got back to the apartment to pick up our things for the lake, I saw a missed call from an unknown number on my phone, and after listening to my voicemail, realised I had been invited to a job interview for the following Monday when I was still in France... Before chilling at the lake we decided to session the infamous berm jump and record some footage. After two runs Andy pulled out as he was exhausted. I rode it again, then on my way back up I looked up to see Andy grinding down the landing on his side. It was a harsh place to crash, as sharp rocks protruded the berms rugged surface. This combined with my missed interview opportunity drove our moods into a drastic U-turn from the high we were on earlier, although I couldn’t help but smile when Andy realised at the super market checkout that he had forgotten his wallet! Back in the apartment with a very basic meal, we remained positive about our plans for the next day: Chatel, followed by Desberados and Status Quo who were playing on the Harley Davidson European tour of 5000 motorbikes which had stopped off at Morzine for the weekend.

Day 6
I woke up to beaming sunlight pouring into the apartment, which got me pumped on the day ahead. While I was eating breakfast Andy broke the news that he was in agony from his foot so there was no way he could ride. This was probably the lowest point of the trip. The misfortunes of the latter half of the previous day were blown over by the prospect of an amazing day of riding, which had now vanished. The news was a huge blow, especially as it was due to rain heavily the next day. I slumped back into bed for a while demotivated to do anything, until I decided to go and have some runs of Pleney. 
It felt good to be riding, despite being gutted about not being in Chatel, there would be other opportunities. I talked to a guy on the telecabin from the UK with a totally beat 222 who shared his recent Megavalanche experience. I followed him down the tech wooded sections splitting off from the main track for a few runs before he headed off. I had a couple more runs to record some footage. 
After lunch Andy’s foot had healed enough to allow him to ride to Les Gets, so we went to the lake before drinking and hitting the town. Morzine was completely packed, mainly with leather clad men on the wrong side of 50. We caught the end of Status Quo’s set then went into a rammed bar fighting to order drinks until half 2 in the morning.

Day 8
The previous sunny evening and clear night sky raised moral as we anticipated good weather the following day for the trek to Chatel. Upon awakening, the first sound was a car splashing through a puddle. We couldn’t believe it, it was raining again... After lazing about reading magazines for the umpteenth time, we put the mud tyres on and messed about outside the apartment. Then I spotted a steep, wet and overgrown slope with a tree near the top of it. Thinking about riding down was a daunting prospect, as it was treacherous enough on foot! I decided it would make for some interesting footage though, so returned padded up with the Gopro following some bike adjustments. I hit the ‘track’. Several near tree/Andy misses and an over the bars comedy crash later I was done. We headed out to the chairlift and rode through puddles on the way to Chevanne. Andy’s foot was out of agony and it felt great to be training runs again.

Day 9
Our last day of riding... The night before we had high hopes but low expectations towards good, or at least dry weather. After previous false alarms, looking out at 6am to blue skies provided the green light for Chatel. I went back to sleep stoked on the day ahead, then woke a couple hours later to clouds. We decided to go anyway. 
It was a relief to finally be taken up the mountain by the Super Morzine lift. Along the way to Chatel the ground was soaked in most places, but we held onto the fact that the Mountainstyle course was out in the open. With plans to ride the top and bottom sections of the track, we cruised over the roadgap on the run down to the end of the course. What followed was another series of disappointments. The jump and the monstrous step-down we intended to ride had been shut off as areas were wet. We ventured up the track to find something else to session, stopping at a new roadgap that had been built before the huge step-down. We sussed it out and retrieved our bikes. While the gap itself looked smooth, the run in was steep and rough, and it was anyones guess as to where to roll in from... 
We were both checking out the gap and I started clearing some of the rocks from the run in, but it soon became apparent that neither of us wanted to go first, as there was some debate over the speed required to hit it. Then it began to rain. Taking cover in a nearby cave, our enthusiasm washed away. When it became clear that neither of us were up for it, we left planning to film the roadgap on the other track.
While ascended the lift the rain became harder, and the focus shifted from filming to getting back. We rode back to Morzine down the long winding rode, getting hammered by raindrops and slowly freezing up due to the bitter wind that persisted throughout the torturous 40 minute trip.  With one full day remaining, we clenched onto our last opportunity to go back to Chatel and film some riding, but when the forecast came in it was clear our riding was over. 

This panned out to be the worst Alps trip we’d experienced, but hopefully now the worst is over. How will 2012 unfold? Who knows, but one things for sure, we’ll be making the most of the sun and (still for us) untapped riding opportunities. 

Grey Goose Alps 2011 video

22 September 2010

Endless DH runs, chairlifts and Slopestyle stunts: Ten Days in the Alps

Milan, X-up over Chatel roadgap 2007
After a year out I was stoked to be returning to the mountains with my mate Andy for our annual ten-day shred. Despite sticking to the small bike in the UK, I feel at home surrounded by vast mountain scenery ripping through berms and over jumps, so it was great to be back. This year we stayed in Morzine, as apposed to Les Gets in previous years. This is a diary of encounters from our time in downhill paradise.

Day 1. Sun

 Up at 5.a.m we caught a ride to Bristol airport with a taxi driver whose life accounts are fit for a comedy sketch, “At the pub they had two-for-one on meals, so I had three and the missus had one”. Unbelievably our Easyjet flight was on time!

We got to the hotel by, with bikes together by half past. After some faffing around to get lift passes (remember to bring I.D when you get yours), we caught the Pleney lift and cruised over to Les Gets.

It felt good having the 223 between my legs again. As usual for the first day our cornering was shamefully slow, but we quickly got used to bouncing around, hitting all the jumps first run. A few hours drifted and it was time to head back.

Day 2. Sun

After a satisfying breakfast we set off to Les Gets. On our last evening two years ago we nailed the infamous Berm Jump on the 4X section at the bottom of Chevanne. We took from where we left off training it full speed, which definitely added excitement to an otherwise bland section of the track! From the run in all you see is a view of the town, which makes it pretty scary, but then you’re in the air and it’s plain sailing.

Milan, berm jump 2008
In the afternoon we headed to the Les Gets Bike Park. First time down the black run we checked out what was on offer; a small jump over a berm, a 10 – 15ft drop, tight berms, a wallride, scattered jumps, a fly out jump and some fast wooded sections. The following run we hit all the stunts. I went pretty fast off the drop landing near the berm, then launched nearly too flat from the fly out, crazy!

In the rush from the hotel to reach the chairlift before closing to get to Les Gets, Andy forgot his lift pass. Luckily the lift operator wasn’t paying much attention so he sneaked through. From the top we ripped to the lake in classic speedos style!

As the evening wore on Andy noticed a pain in his ankle, which got progressively worse over the course of the evening. When we got back to the hotel he was in agony. The next day was not looking promising…

Day 3. Cloud

Andy’s OK! This was great news after such low spirits the night before. Today we were moving out of Les Rhodos hotel into an apartment. Andy ankle braced up and we set off to Chevanne. We found the ‘Forest Gump’ run, which is definitely recommended!

Fuel stop over we sessioned the Pleney, where Tracey Moseley and Chris Kovarik were also present. What a track! This is pretty much a faster, longer, more intense version of Chevanne. We soon incorporated some alternative lines to spice things up.

While I replaced a tube, Andy found eight spokes dangling from his wheel… Lucky for him I punctured when I did, as another run could have ended in carnage!

Day 4. Sun

Following a slow start I got out the trusty Orange to find a flat tyre. Bastard! Not bothered to undo a few axle bolts, I hastily put a patch over a small slit. One run later low tyre pressure indicated a morning mechanics fail, so new tube it was.

Second run at 2 p.m over we met Pierre from Reading, who apparently trained us the previous day on Chevanne. He joined us for the a few runs. The heat was really picking up so we got our bags and rolled to the lake, then shredded a Desperados and bacon butty before racing home like idiots.

Day 5. Sun

It was a beautiful day consisting of Pleney and Chevanne runs, gear cable fixes, an evening lake session, Desperados, table tennis and table football, steak and sleep.

Day 6. Sun

We met up with Pierre bright and early for a day in Les Gets. Couple of runs on Chevanne later, Andrew from Portugal joined us. We followed him down the Golf Course where what seemed like a good line between two trees ended in branch rape to my arm and chin. Andrew set off to work and we rode Les Gets 2.

After a standard run we checked out the black route, previously a WC track. This turned out to be super steep, where in comedy fashion Andy’s used a tree as a brake. Since the telecabin wasn’t much fun in high temperatures, we took Pierre to the Bike Park. After describing the track he followed us and hit everything on his hire bike!

There is a turn on the track before a short upslope. I hate pedalling. My style is to pump and flow tracks. What is it with pedalling in mellow sections before braking suddenly shortly afterwards? It looks crap and it can’t feel much better… Anyway, I didn’t want to break this trend here, so one run I tried to power through the turn, but ate sh*t.

Pierre headed back to the rental shop and Andy and I had our standard lake cool-off. Later on we went to Pierre’s mates crib. What a place! Two stories of luxurious apartment, perfect! After a few beers, including 12% polar bear beer, we hit the town. In this sense ‘the town’ in Morzine consists of a short street with sleazy looking bars and under-age girls… After some drunk pool antics and Pierre’s catch up with the punch bag machine we called it a night.

Day 7. Sun

Milan, Chatel roadgap
Chatel day! Well, after we eventually struggled out of bed and I had my gear issue resolved (again). Seven Euros poorer we were on the Super Morzine lift on route to the Swiss border. We rode the Pre la Joux run, cruising the road gap half way down.

Since the last time we were here the locals have been busy building new lines of jumps and gaps to accompany the north shore sections. We checked out a sizeable step up and saw a 25ft river gap from the lift, which we managed to miss on our consecutive run.

A huge feature at the bottom of the Chatel slopestyle course drew our attention as the lift approached the top. Out of curiosity we pushed towards it with no actual intention of riding it, until we witnessed someone send it. Wow… We had a look.

Andy, Chatel slopestyle drop
Andy was super keen so he set himself up minus four spokes, while I was prepared with my camera still in disbelief at the 20ft monster drop. He nailed it! Great! Now it was my turn…

Sat on my bike on the run-in was the most scared I’ve been in my life. From here all you see is the bottom of the valley. Surprisingly to me it was of little reassurance that my mate had just ridden it. Something I don’t recommend before hitting your biggest drop is thinking about how it could go wrong… When I started rolling in I knew there was no return. I lifted up, thought sh*t nose heavy, and landed. It’s OK! I dropped it once more for the camera, a little nosed again and still pretty freaked.

Milan, Chatel slopestyle drop
There was only one thing left to hit, a Desperados! After a drink at the café looking onto the course, and still pumped, we took the lift out of Chatel.

The day of torment wasn’t over. Most of the way down Super Morzine is super steep, tech, and off camber, with a section down a rocky stream for good measure. We came out the bottom buzzing and relieved, right next to the apartment!

During a well-deserved lake session Andy fixed his wheel. On the way back we rocked the Berm Jump, which felt like nothing. A full ten seconds after we set off from the bike wash a jockey wheel escaped from my derailleur. Luckily we found the parts and made it back in time for Supermarches closing. 


Day 8. Cloud, rain and the jump

Pumped after an ACDC wake up call, we went straight to Chatel. The drop we did the previous day is followed by an even bigger jump. After thinking it through, I knew I had to shoot to thrill.

Andy, Chatel roadgap

The morning however didn’t go as planned. Waiting at the bottom of Avoriaz, I wondered where Andy was. It turned out he came off head first into a rock face! He was slightly concussed but after a breather we were good to go. To say the least he wasn’t feeling it, but after a short photo session on the Chatel road gap he was back on it.

We rolled over to the top of the slopestyle course to look at the other stunts, which includes two monster ladder drops at the top and some big jump lines. We were only really interested in the last jump so we rode down.

Sussing out the jump, it was difficult to comprehend actually riding the thing! The gap is around 40ft. However with a mellow wooden kicker and a big landing I deemed it safe.

Milan, Chatel slopestyle jump
With Andy waiting in anticipation with the camera aimed between take off and landing, and a “you’re definitely doing it right?” there was no way out. So I did the drop, cruised, couple of pedals and bang!

Done, smooth. What a rush! After I rode it again minus the dead sailor Andy was super keen and did it too.
Suddenly the weather turned grim so it was time to leave. Going up the lift in thick fog, we were on a high. We rode down the course on the other side of the lift in the rain and waited at the bottom of the valley for the rain to stop and the lifts to re-open. Neither occurred so we took the road past the goat village (Les Linderates) back to Morzine, where we eventually ended up at the skatepark under the Super Morzine lift. Nice 8ft mini ramp, anyone up for posting my small bike over next year?
When we got back to the apartment it rained harder so we hit the bar. Props to me for hitting the yellow, white and black two minutes into a game of pool…


Chairlift in the fog

Going through goat village

Andy, Chatel Slopestyle jump
Day 9. Last day. Rain

Despite forecasts the night before predicting only a 30% chance of rain, we woke up to heavy showers. We were not exactly super stocked over the prospect of riding in the rain but this was our last day…

Andy riding Chevanne in the mud
The weather was looking promising as we set off to the chairlift but half way up the heavens opened. The ride to Chevanne was interesting. No Berm Jump today… The way up the mountain was miserable! Every couple of minutes the lift stopped during outbreaks of thunder, while we were getting progressively more wet. At least we witnessed a comedy bail as a rider went over the bars (he was OK). Finally at the top, we had a nice run to slide down. After a few photos we rode to the bottom, barely able to see through mud and rain-splattered goggles.

“C’est bon!” reassured the lift operator, so despite being drenched we decided to have another run in the heavy rain. The lift up was a long one to say the least. I made the last run of the holiday a good one, managing to ride out of some super sketchy situations with severely limited visibility.
We got back to the apartment with hours of cleaning ahead of us. The holiday drew to a close over the free table football at the Cavern bar.


Travel information


Morzine is a great central hub for the main tracks in the Portes Du Soleil area. We stayed in Les Rhodos hotel (30 euro pppn), and then in Studio Plein de Soleil S2 (350 euro for the apartment over seven nights), booked through Morzinelets. This worked out well as budget accommodation, and the staff at Les Rhodos hotel were great at helping us out when we moved.


Flights from Bristol airport to Geneva return all in including bike and hold luggage cost £150 per person booked in advance (March). Airports from most major cities fly here.

Best time to go

If you have a fear of braking bumps (they usually aren’t that bad on a 9’ travel downhill bike) go at the start of the season in June. July, when we went, is probably the best time to go weather wise. The season runs until the end of September.


I have ridden here on a hardtail, a mid travel bike and my current downhill sledge. Definitely bring a downhill bike if you can. I would also opt for reliability over lightweight, as local bike shop prices are super high. Don’t have a downhill bike or a spare 4k? Look second hand. I bought my 223 for a grand. Most of the numerous bike shops do hire bikes, but at 60 euro a day for a mid range fr bike, and around 100 euro a day for a nice dh set-up, this comes at a price.

Eating, Drinking and nightlife

Eating out isn’t much more expensive than in the UK, but bar drinks are, with a pint at around five euros. In contrast food and drink from supermarkets is relatively cheap, and shop bought meat is very good, so you will save if you stay self-catered. Don’t expect much if you’re a party animal, as there are not many bars, few clubs and much fewer women (if you are a woman, expect to be looked at as if you are an endangered animal). However considering the drink prices and the fact you will want to get up early to ride, this shouldn’t be a problem unless you’re a northerner...

More information at

Milan Recknagel