Journal

Road Biking in the French Alps

29 Mar 2017

They say road biking offers something for everyone; a sport that allows you to discover the Alps in a truly unique way. But if ascending a mountain currently seems out of your comfort and fitness zone, Mark from Velovation is here to tell you why you are most definitely wrong.

 

ROAD BIKING IN THE FRENCH ALPS


VELOVATION


Mark Taylor loves bikes. It’s fair to say, he probably dreams about them. His passion for all things two-wheeled led him to set up Velovation 5 years ago, a road biking company that offers supported cycling tours around the Alps and beyond. His success has been huge. As have some of the peaks he has ascended with his loyal dedicated clients. But he insists that discovering the Alps on a road bike is something everyone can, and should, do. We were dubious but wanted to find out more.

The Big Idea


I started Velovation 5 years ago. Originally I was more of a mountain biker although I would sometimes road bike in the UK. But when I moved to France I started to road bike in the Alps and I became addicted, almost immediately! I wanted to do more and more of it but I couldn’t find a way.I’d go with groups of friends and we’d cycle from Geneva to Nice, or Barcelona to Bilboa, but one of us would always have to drive the bus and organise all the logistics, always missing out on some of the cycling. I decided we’d have more fun on a pre-organised tour so decided to do it myself!

4 reasons why road biking in the Alps is so good 



  1. It’s incredibly sociable. That was one of the things I started to enjoy the most. You meet such great people.

  2. I also love the travelling. You start your day in one place and you end it somewhere else. Whether it's a one day tour where you are driven back to your hotel at the end of the tour, or a multi-day tour where you stay somewhere different every night; every minute you are seeing new landscapes, discovering something new and sometimes even crossing country borders.

  3. The fitness from the mountain climbs! It feels amazing to make your way up a mountain pass, however slowly, and no matter how many times you might need to stop. Many people get addicted to the endorphins from the exercise and from the high of quite literally getting up high!

  4. The adrenaline, from the decent, and that is definitely my thing. The downhill can be magnificent and is worth every second of the up. In my opinion you are either No.3 or No.4. You like the up or you like the down but either way, alpine road cycling is addictive!


Let's talk fitness. Will I be able to do it? 


Road biking is as easy or as hard as you want it to be. It really is your choice. In terms of Velovation, we pre-organise tours and routes to suit your individual level. We are not going to take you to a steep gradient if that’s not your bag. We are focused on opening up road biking and the mountain to you, and making it as enjoyable as possible. It is a sport so you are going to get your heart going but it should be fun.

Top Tip - Get a good bike!


My top tip would be to hire or buy a relatively good bike. You can get a basic bike for about 500- 600 pounds but any less than that, in the mountains, and the bike will make it hard work, because you’ll be on a bike with a heavy frame and inadequate gears. So even if you were destined to be the next Mark Cavendish, you’ll quit because the bike will make it too hard! We can help advise what and where to rent a bike if you just want to hire in the first instance. One particularly important phrase when buying a road bike is:
"Compact chain set and large range cassette (11-28 tooth)."

Say this to whomever you are buying or renting a bike from. Followed up with "22 gears"

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Why go on a supported tour?

Quite simply, you’ll go much further, literally, metaphorically and physically. We know the route, the stops, the destinations; we understand the type of food your body needs to eat at breaks and lunch; we know the route home at the end of the day, or the best hotel to stay before the next days riding. All you need to do, is show up. Whether it be for a one day tour, a multi-day tour, your first time on a bike or your annual cycling holiday, the beauty of a support road biking tour is that you don’t have to think about anything because everything is taken care of. We pick you up at the beginning of the day and drop you home at the end of it and we organise everything in between.

Velovation’s summer plans?

On a personal note I am off on a 3 week road cycling tour from Paris to Moscow. It ‘s actually a 6 week tour in total but I am lucky enough to be able to join for 3 of those weeks. It’s magnificent to see the world this way so that is my treat to myself this year! Professionally Velovation have organised a bespoke tour for some returning clients from Bilbao to Barcelona which I couldn’t be more exited about! And how could I not be exited about Le tour de France which is once again coming through our home of Morzine, France.

Tell us about Le Tour

Megeve to Morzine is the one of the final stages of the Le Tour de France and its one of the most incredible routes of the race. There are 4000 meters of climbs, some of the toughest in the world, and its where Lance Armstrong nearly lost the tour (on the Joux Plane in Morzine). Being around the energy of the tour never gets old and to have a stage running through our home is amazing.

Is Velovation involved?

During the tour we are supporting some clients who are riding in the Etape de TourThe Etape de Tour allows amateur cyclists to race over the same route as a Tour de France stage. It is not for the faint hearted and we are very proud to be involved.

Ok, so road cycling has peaked our interest, but how do we get started?

Buy a bike. Go for a cycle. That’s what I did. You can get a bike fairly inexpensively. Remember the golden rules above. Just pick a route and go and enjoy. Start small and work from there, or come and join us for a day and we can organise it all for you. But if you are not sure, just get in touch. In case you haven’t noticed, we love to talk about bikes!

 

Author: Claire Garber



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