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Les Arcs MTB

Playing with the Parrot

As I mentioned earlier this year, I managed to accidentally buy a drone with Matt W, namely a Parrot Bebop 2 which was intended for use in Les Arcs to maybe, just maybe, get some “non-standard-GoPro-hammering-down-the-trail-holding-on-for-grim-death” type footage.

The basic idea was that the Bebop would be small enough to carry in our packs and stable enough to not get blown away by sudden alpine gusts of wind at the top of Mont Jovet on Saturday.

However, with a rapidly diminishing number of days to go before wheels down in Les Arcs 2017 I realised there was a slight flaw in this well thought out plan – basically neither of us have tried:

a) actually carrying the drone in our packs

b) actually trying to film bikes

So, this weekend a few of us headed up to the Punchbowl with the Parrot neatly tucked into Matt’s pack (tick) and with the Parrot’s “Follow Me” functionality installed and ready to go (tick).

Basically what this allows you to do (trees and other obstacles permitting) is get the Parrot to focus on the person carrying the controlling phone and it’ll try its best to auto follow you down the trail, keeping you in focus as best as it can.

There were a couple of “holy crap” moments as the Parrot sailed VERY close to a couple of trees but essentially all was good. You have to ride quite close together if you’re trying to get a group shot and I’m not sure how the Parrot is going to handle if speeds get very high. However, I’m genuinely impressed and it bodes quite well for trying to film above the tree line in the Alps at any rate.

Checkout the our first attempt below.

Les Arcs MTB: The perfect bar?

It was clearly meant to be.

So the other day Mark T did a Google Streetview of Peisy Vallandry and quietly raised concerns he could not find a bar using this technique. I reassured Mark that it would be fine as we all know he’d have no problem finding a bar in Vatican City (never mind a French Alpine resort – he has “skillz” in the locating a bar department).

However this afternoon while I was interwebrowsing I happened to visit the Piesey Vallandry website and saw a link to “Bars and Tearooms” (cos you know, tea is important…).

And what do you know, there among a fine array of establishments was “Le Mojo Bar“.

There you go Mark. Clearly they are expecting you, having only gone and named a bar in your honour.

And maybe we could ask the owners if they’d consider renaming it to “Le Mojo/Geometron G13 Bar” over the first couple of beers!

15 days chaps

The Foam Tour: Les Arcs MTB 2017

So we have 21 days.

Woooohooooo. That’s 3 weekends, 3 TFITs and three paltry weeks until wheels down for the TFITers Les Arcs 2017 MTB extravaganza – “The Foam Tour”.

Thought I’d raise a couple of things for general group consumption:

The LAVOJ

The freshly named LAVOJ (Les Arcs Van of Joy) will be packed as per last year at Matt W’s place on the evening of Wednesday 5th July. We will be gently inserting bikes and “hold luggage” so if you want it with you in Les Arcs (spares, beer, foam, suncream, whatever) either fit it on your bike or bring it with you.

Packing will take place from 18:15 on 5th July onward. The intrepid driving partnership that is the “Double D’s” will be heading out very early Thursday morning so lets get it done nice and early if possible. Then we could have a pint. Maybe…

Check-in to your Flight

If you haven’t, get checked in to your flight and confirm travel details. You don’t want to get to the airport and look like a muppet now do you!

Extra Car of Joy

So as there appeared to be 50 bazillion of us trying to squeeze into Steve F’s 7 seater to get to Gatwick I have decided to drive back to Witley (I’m taking a half day – huzzah) so have space for three in the CGCOJ. Seating at the moment is:

CGCOJ

  • Chris G
  • Bob M
  • Malcolm W
  • Mark T

SFCOJ

  • Steve F
  • Tim W
  • Matt W
  • James G
  • Andy T

Not sure if Andy C is going to be in Witley or going straight from London? I’m planning to leave as soon after 2:00 as I can – Steve I think is intending to head off at 3:00.

Driving in France

So this is for me, James and Matt as designated drivers. Don’t forget to get (and bring with you!) a DVLA Licence Check Code.

They are valid for 21 days and you can get them here from today onwards I guess. Oh yeah, don’t forget your driving licence chaps! Let’s be honest, everyone is other than us is gonna be partially / completely full of beer!

Insurance

It’s entirely up to you, but if you haven’t I’d consider getting some “get off the mountain please” insurance for this trip, particularly as we are doing some back-country stuff. I’ll be doing something with Snowcard as per normal but “other insurance companies are available”…

Dress Code

Lastly a massive dollop of Foamy Kudos needs to go to Matt W and Steve F for sourcing and delivering highly appropriate clothing for our Les Arcs shenanigans – yes, the “Foam Tour 2017” tshirts have arrived! Gaze upon their glorious foaminess below:

 

TFIT tonight anyone?

Trail Gold in the Maritime Alps — The Inside Line, Emily Horridge

What does a Pro MTB Guide do on a rare day off? Well, if you’re Les Arcs MTB Guide Emily Horridge you go riding in the Maritime Alps! Check out Emily’s latest post on her site via the link below:

 

I was recently asked what fascinates me most about mountain biking. My answer: the places my bike takes me. Years ago I ended up in Graz, Austria because of bikes. Heard of it? I hadn’t. This amazing city full of gothic looking architecture was a complete unknown to me. There were also some sweet-ass dirt […]

via Trail Gold in the Maritime Alps — The Inside Line

Les Arcs MTB 2017: So what MTB do you take to the Alps?

The Alps. They are beautiful, they are awesome, they are total-and-utter-shit-grin-inducing-fun.

They can also be bloody scary!

Particularly if like me (and I suspect most normal riders) you spend 99% of your time on local trails which, with the best will in the world, are mostly ‘hilly’ rather than ‘mountainous’.

I can still remember my first Alpine (Morzine) MTB adventure and the feeling of total joy when we all got to the end unscathed. Tim W and I exchanged a look at the bottom of the last run and exhaled in simultaneous relief. How in the name of holy bananas, we had thought, that had been managed was an utter mystery, because if I’m honest the kit we rode and the skills we had were frankly not up to the job!

I for example did Morzine 1 on my Giant XTC 26er – that would be Giant’s super light, short travel, narrow bar sporting XC bike with precious little suspension up front – dear God.

However to put that in perspective, Andy C did it (and another subsequent trip) on a RIGID On-One HARDTAIL! But he’s not human, so that’s to be expected.

Anyway, enough reminiscing – in 30 days (yep, that’s one calendar month chaps!) the TFITers are wheels down in Les Arcs for “The Foam Tour” 2017 and with this incontrovertible fact in mind I thought I’d take stock of the steeds we’ll be taking with us this year and also the kit they run. If you are Alps bound for the first time this year and are wondering what it is everyone else rides, hopefully this will help.

Bikes and Suspension

Our bikes, they are many and they are varied. We have MTBs from Transition, Specialized, Mojo/Nicolai, Whyte, BMC, YT Industries and Orange. They are all awesome in their own way and the kit they dangle does the deed week-in, week-out for our normal rides. But they are, in essence ‘trail’ or ‘Enduro’ focussed (whatever that actually means) bikes and not downhill monsters by any definition.

As per normal we are taking the usual “Cove” of Transitions. This year we have a 50/50 split of David D and Matt W on the Transition Smuggler with me and Bob M on the Transition Scout. The Smugglers have 140mm travel up front (up from the stock 130mm) via a Rockshox Lyric and a Rockshox Pike with 115mm at the back coming from Rockshox Monarchs. The Transition Scouts have 150mm Pikes at the pointy end and 125mm from a Monarchs at the back.

Mark T will be unleashing his Mojo/Nicolai Geometron on the mountains this year which is just a mostly terrifying concept. After having been “rudely unseated” from his Spesh Stumpy last year it should be an interesting ride for him. Mark’s Transformer Geometron (although this is subject to change – or rather it depends which button he presses or something) will be running 130mm at the back and 150mm at the front provided by Fox Float X Evolution and Fox Float 36.

Stephan F will be back on his Specialized Stumpy FSR with “enhanced tail end bounce” – after having riding a couple of donor 29ers during his ‘chainstay-gate’ episode, Steve has upgraded his rear to run a 130mm Rockshox Monarch RCS Plus in conjunction with his 140mm Rockshox Pike at the front.

James G will be back on his YT Capra with it’s “monster / more than capable” suspension, 170mm front and 165mm back provided by a Rockshox Lyric and a Rockshox Monarch plus. Arguably the most ‘Enduro’ of the bikes we ride, James’ steed is very much at home sprinting down the side of the most vertiginous Alpine mountain.

Malcolm W will be back for the second time on his Whyte T-129 with a crazy maniacal grin on his face no doubt. Malc rides the shortest travel of the TFIT 29ers with the Whyte equipped with 120mm from a Fox 34 Float at the front and Fox at the rear but that was no hindrance to his enjoyment in last year’s trip.

Andy T on the Carbon 27.5 Stumpjumper,  RockShox Pike 150mm, Fox CTD 140mm and complete with the SWAT opening to hold beer, pasties and painkillers (and some would say a small nuclear power plant to make him ride that fast…)

Both Tim, Tig and Craig will be on their trusted Orange 5 Pro 26ers. As Orange say, if aint broke, it don’t need fixing. Nimble and solid, trail absorption comes from 140mm Fox at the front and rear.

Lastly Andy C will be back on his now very familiar BMC Trailfox riding like a proper hooligan once again no doubt, enjoying the benefits of suspension like no other mortal man has deserved (having ridden the Alps three times on a rigid forked single speed On-One!). Bounce is provided from a Rockshox Pike RCT3 160mm up front and a 150mm Crane Creek DB Inline at the back.

Tyres

Best post-ride pub topic ever? Possibly true, but whereas Rockshox seem to be winning out in the suspension of choice at the moment for TFIT rides, tyres, well let’s just say the choices are many (and ever evolving – I suspect there may be edits here):

  • Specialized Butcher Grid front and back for both me and Bob M
  • Specialized Butcher Grid front and Slaughter back for Stephan F and Matt W
  • Maxxis High Roller front and Maxis Minion SS rear for James G
  • Maxxis Minion SS front and Forekaster rear for Mark T
  • Maxxis Ardent EXO up front and Ardent Race rear for David D
  • Malc, Bob, Tim, Tig, Craig, Andy T, Andy C I have no idea – but they will be tyres. Probably

Brakes

“There are many MTB brakes, but this one is mine…”

The variety in brake choice is less varied here but the requirement is the same – good stoppers with a reluctance to fade under descents of up to and indeed over an hour! It still amazes me how those pokey little brakes from Shimano, SRAM, et al actually manage it, but they do. That said I will never forget being behind David D in Morzine as the “stopper-pots” boiled on his Gary Fisher. Hysterical (with hindsight) and terrifying in equal measure!

The brake choices for the TFITers are pretty much uniformly Shimano XT, with one set of Zee’s, James G’s SRAM Guide RSC 4 pots, Matt W and Tim W running Hopes and rotor sizes ranging from 180 mm up to 200 mm.

Helmets

To full-face or not to full-face – that is indeed the question! Most of us (I suspect because we are all so devilishly handsome – *cough*) will be opting for full-face lids just because you’re in the Alps and it’s fundamentally a good idea. Bob has recently purchased the latest incarnation of the Bell’s Super helmet, the Bell Super 3R which looks cracking and feels lighter than the Super 2Rs.

Bell Super 3R/2R converts include David, me, Matt, Mark, Andy C, Steve F, Andy T, James, Bob and Malcolm with chinguards “very much” attached. Craig and Tig have their proper full-face lids and Tim is the last of us hard enough to brave the trails with his normal helmet. Cos he’s hard. And a bit mad…

 

So there you have it – a variety of kit on a variety of bikes with an extreme variety of riders. In summary it seems that Rockshox are the mostly favoured of forks and shocks, with 140mm or more travel the norm up front but a wider variety of shock travel to suit the individual bikes geometry.

It will be interesting, once again, to see how our very much “trail” focused bikes hold up in the Alps. We’ve come close but they’ve not yet been overfaced in Morzine/Les Gets/Chatel (yet) but what about on the back-country trails of Les Arcs? Only time will tell.

Les Arcs MTB: Emily Horridge, La Varda and Mont Jovet

We have 93 days until Les Arcs 2017 and so it’s very timely that James G sent me a cracking link last night to a video he found of Emily Horridge, our guide on the Saturday of “The Foam Tour” as we head up to (and down) Mont Jovet.

The video shows Emily absolutely hammering down another highly fabled trail in the region “La Varda” and having seen a couple of other YouTube specials of this trail, all I can say is just “OH MY GOD”. Aside from clearly being awesome on an MTB I’ve also decided Emily is 183.2% cooler than I already thought she was due to the Transition Bikes logo at the start of the vid (these things matter…!). If you’ve got 10 minutes and you want to appreciate just how hard Emily is riding the trail, watch the video and then compare to the (highly respectable) video of the same trail on the DirtMountainBike article below. I think the word I’m looking for here is “commitment”…

This sent me on a quick Googlespasm and I came across this great article on DirtMountainBike:  “Here are another three amazing Alpine tracks that you’ve got to go and ride” which quotes TrailAddiction boss Ali Jamieson listing three amazing videos (at least one I’ve posted previously by Lars Thore Aarrestad) and what do you know – the article has both La Varda and Mont Jovet listed. The La Varda trail is described “Technical, scenic and exposed” and Mont Jovet as “Out and Out the longest, best and most varied flow-fest of a trail, ever

Wow!

Les Arcs: 100 days to go

Woop Woop there’s 100 days to go. That, by any definition, counts as a good day.

Yep, in 100 days from today the TFITers will be wheels down in Les Arcs for the “2017 Foam Tour” and the next 100 days cannot go quickly enough in my book. To slightly focus the mind of the TFIT massive – that would be 14 weeks and 2 days in old money.

Working on the principle of 3 rides a week thats only 42 rides until the Mont Jovet climb of pain…. *gulp*. However, the clocks have changed and we are in the realm of post-work rides so this is only a good thing.

So, what else do we need to know seeing as time is getting short? Over to our “man in the know”, Steve F for the details:

Super Important News

The 2nd Deposit of £200 due from everyone (excluding drivers) by 5th April. No excuses please. This will leave a final balance of £185 due around 15th June.

Other Important News

  • There is still a bucket load of snow on the hills – check out the webcams here
  • Steve is fully in control of all things Les Arcs – but ping him any questions if you’re in doubt
  • James G is now coming to the party after initially denying any interest and then swooping in at the last minute. It’s all about the “Foam Tour” t-shirt methinks. Anyway, we have now cancelled one of the hire cars and James has booked two smaller cars instead. Bottom line is we can all now fit in and this is a good thing
  • Emily has promised not to break any of us. Actually, no, she hasn’t
  • In terms of the new bike front, Matt has got his new Transition Smuggler, I have just taken delivery of my new Transition Scout (it’s large, black and a total trail nutter). Steve F has a mended and enhanced Specialized FSR and a certain Mark “Foam King” T has just taken delivery of one Mojo/Nicolai Geometron frame…
  • Mr F has produced an excellent tour logo – “The Foam Tour” and Matt “T-Shirt Inc” W is getting these onto t-shirts, I am contemplating a tattoo on my left bum cheek. Yes, it’s that good!
  • Don’t forget to get insurance for the trip. I used snowcard last year and found them ideal for what we are doing. Others are available.

So, if you’re chomping at the bit like me and just for your general perusal, enjoy the following nuggets of “Les Arcs Goodness” from the interweb and thanks to Anant Patel, PJ Channel and Vincent Pernin for sharing the love.

Les Arcs MTB 2017 – The Foam Tour

Just simply massive kudos to Stephan F today. With 128 days to go until wheels down in Les Arcs for the annual TFIT excursion, Mr F has circulated for our general amusement – a tour logo.

Although even though I’m 100% sure it’s simply stylised “saddle icon” that small purple “shape” bottom right looks… well… ahem.. you know… “a bit meat and two veg”

Anyway, “The Foam Tour” (for the uninitiated) is in honour of two TFITers who have attained a certain “respectable number of birthday years”. OK, they’re both 50. There, I said it.

So expect to see a full range of merchandising material available for purchase soon on the site soon. You know, t-shirts, hoodies, mugs, foam making machines and of course DIY slightly foamy French girls.. that kind of thing.

Foam-Tshirt

Whoops! I’ve bought a drone

So, hand’s up, I’ve been known to make the occasional ‘accidental purchase’ of MTB kit in the past. In fact I’ve got quite a bit of “previous” in this department as the long suffering Mrs M will confirm (e.g. one set of Hope Rims… *cough*).

But I think I’ve reached an all time high this week because I’ve only gone and bought a drone.

Yep, me and Matt W are now the proud owners of a Parrot Bebop 2 (courtesy of eBay) that we’re jointly buying. Personally I 100% blame Matt as all I really said was “I think I might be interested in getting one later in the year… maybe“. Matt thankfully (??) did not hear the words “might” or “maybe” (perhaps he knows me better than I think) and pinged me a text a couple of days ago about an uber bargain he’d spotted.

A flurry of emails / texts later and the drone was ours. Now to be fair Matt has a genuine motive for buying a drone bearing in mind the work he does with the frankly awesome Surrey Search and Rescue people and the practice it would afford him. Me on the other hand, I’m simply mad as a box of frogs with misplaced pretensions of the “Kubrick”. Highly misplace pretensions some would say in truth.

However, in my world there are some Surrey Hills trails that I would dearly love to see from an “aerial” perspective as the TFITers ride them. There are two in particular (Marbles and Flat out Fun) that I’ve “visualised” riding for years from a kind of drone’s perspective in a bid to ride smoother and quicker. I’ve had some success in that department but I still know my line choice is not great, my cornering could improve, my body position is wrong etc, etc and maybe just maybe this thing will help to show me where I can improve.

I’d also (although I’m unsure of how practical this is going to be) like to get a “top of the mountain” shot when we head to Mont Jovet in Les Arcs later this year. That would be a Les Arcgasm moment for me.

What I’m also hoping for is that this is a bit of kit that it’s feasible to take with you on a ride – kind of a GoPro+ as it were – without weighing as much as a small micro-pig in your backpack. I’m not 100% convinced yet if this is in realm of a vague possibility but that’s not diminishing my all round excitement.

So, watch this space for some utterly appalling piloting / filming skills in the near future as well as a general all round review.

Oh yeah, if you live in Surrey and you hear a buzzing while out on your bike – my advice is to duck and run for cover.

UPDATE:

parrot-has-arrived

It’s arrived. Nice. AND it matches the colour of my Bandit…

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