[with pics] The best adventure, best ride, ever – (GR5 TransAlp)

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  • [with pics] The best adventure, best ride, ever – (GR5 TransAlp)
  • Premier Icon jameso

    Is that on the Menton finish Juan?


    Boxelder – email sent

    Premier Icon stevomcd

    There was also a Scottish guy there who was in Les Arcs for the season guiding. He was genuinely helpful, giving us encouragement for the rest of our ride.

    That was me! Glad to hear you made it!

    BTW, I haven’t set foot (tyre?) in the Vanoise on a bike and wouldn’t recommend that anyone do so! I can understand the appeal of sticking to the pure GR5 line and might do the same in the circumstances – you can always push the bike.

    Going up the road in the valley isn’t much fun, but you could use the lifts at Les Arcs to reach Villaroger and then Sainte Foy without much effort, then take the Sainte Foy uplift to the top and use the height gained to ride some nice trails across to the Tignes dam – would have suggested this at the time, but I think the SF uplift closed for the season on the day I chatted to you, so it was academic by then. There’s also a reasonably pleasant trail (mix of doubletrack and singletrack) running from Villaroger to Tignes les Brevieres, although I’ve only ridden it downhill. Fair bit of rock on it in the singletrack sections so might not be very rideable uphill.

    EDIT: None of the trails in the park on which bikes are allowed are much use. They are mostly (all?) doubletrack out-and-back routes to refuges. The park rules specifically state that you can’t combine them to allow you to cross the park on a bike.


    Hi Steve,

    Hi Steve,

    Good to hear from you and to have a chance of saying thanks for the encouragement you gave us a couple of weeks ago. We did as you suggested and took the double-track down into the valley from the top of TransArc. The start of the smaller path was hard to find and when in the valley we couldn’t really make out which way it would thread down the very steep valley side (cliff!). The refuge (above Les Bettieres) at the valley head though is first class, well worth staying there.

    I have emailed my maps and other bumff to about 12 different people (who asked for it) so hopefully some other people will be making similar journeys and having great experiences next year.

    Thanks again


    jameso, no sorry mate it’s just a 25 ish minute downhill ending in St sauveur

    Premier Icon MadBillMcMad

    awesome read – I wonder if I could pull this off for my 50th


    All the info sent to you Andy, let me know if you got it.

    Just started planning the 2012 trip, looks a bit longer (yikes!!)


    Premier Icon boxelder

    All the info sent to you Andy

    Who, me?

    Premier Icon FOG

    Missed this when it was 1st posted but it really brought the memories flooding back. A few years ago we used to tour the Alps on big trail bikes [XRV70s, GSs etc] riding the easier tracks. Every year we used to stay at Marmora which is definitely remote but an excellent place.
    I have been getting the old maps out and planning a return by pedal not 85 bhp bike.

    Premier Icon Bustaspoke

    Thanks for the inspiring post,I missed it first time.
    I’ve been to Morzine a couple of times & wondered if people did XC multi-day routes using the refuges.
    Fog,I’m planning on doing the Stella Alpina (motorcycle rally outside of Bardonecchia),2nd sunday in July on my trusty XT600 & I’ll be exploring the gravel roads / quiet trails


    inspiring for new year!!!!!


    Nice write up…there are a few of those high alpine routes I would like to do.. firstly I need to finish planning my trans ligurian tour..

    also when you hit Mercantour you can pass over into Italy…there is a an excellent refuge on the ridge and you can basically do a 60km trail that finishes in ventigmilia, just over from Menton..

    Yes I missed this first time. Great write up and thanks for posting…


    Same here, missed this one.
    Great adventure, it reads really well.

    Just out of interest, what bikes and gear did you bring?
    I can see a cannondale with a lefty in one pic, you wouldn´t find many spares for that out in the mtns.


    I had the Scalpel, a bike I’ve had for years and a veteran of many such trips, Pete had a Blur, again something he’s had for years, done the Transalp race on, et etc and Gary had a hardtail titanium thing, like a Litespeed but no (if that helps!). Carrying spares is one thing but riding so you don’t break your bike is better! You need to resign yourself to the fact that if you break a wheel (badly), a frame or a fork you need to buy a new one and carry on. Luckily that’s not happened yet but past trips have shown you’re more likely to break a collar-bone or a leg than a frame. And you can’t carry sapers of them!!



    And for those really sad guys, here’s my kit list
    2no shorts (1 wear, 1 carry) 145+220g
    2no cycle shirts (1wear, 1carry) 159+164g
    2pr thin socks (1wear, 1carry) 35+45+46g
    1pr longs 307g
    1 base layer 163g
    1 cycle coat 307g
    1 helmet
    Gloves 75g
    2no inner tubes 2x94g
    Pump 93g
    LED micro light 28g
    Micro red light on bike 15g
    Puncture patches 6g
    Set spare brake pads (2 prs) 2x18g
    Pen and notebook 60g
    Mobile phone 137g
    Shades 19g
    Contact lenses 15x4g
    Ear plugs, 4pr 4x1g
    Razors (6) 43g
    Small sun cream 120g
    Tooth brush & paste 14 + 12g
    Soap 12g
    Camelbak 249g
    Paraglider line 5g
    Passport 35g
    Credit cards & cash
    BMC card 2g
    Activcard insurance card 5g
    Energy bars
    Isostar powder 195g
    Chain oil 81g
    Maps 377g
    Micro USB charger for phone 19g+13g
    Space blanket
    Compass 16g
    Contact list
    Tube Sudacrem 38g
    Bike computer
    Clip for map on handlebars
    Whistle 10g
    Boarding card for return
    Bin bags (for packing bike in if argued at airport)
    Labels for bike return
    Spare spokes (specific Mavic UST) 21g
    Spare headtorch batteries 7g
    Warm gloves 49g
    Spare jockey bearing 7g
    Solar charger 70g
    Tyre levers 2x12g
    Buff 34g
    Tissue (toilet) 27g
    Winter gloves 51g
    Fleeces 240+260g
    Disco pants 168g
    Contact lens mirror 7g

    bike 11050g

    Shared equipment
    Multitool, 1 between 2 104g
    Spare 5mm and 2mm alen keys
    8mm Allen extension 8g
    Selection cable ties (incl some massive ones) 51g
    Michelin map(s) yellow series for overall area 87g
    Cassette removal tool 30g
    Selection bolts nuts etc 92g
    2 spare chainring bolts
    First aid stuff 1 between 2 incl steristrips, loads steriwipes 137g
    Spare spokes 28g
    Sewing kit
    Shock pump
    Spare gear cable 19g
    Spare chain links plus 2 spare Sram connectors
    French and Italian phrase books
    Roll insulation tape
    1m gaffer tape 17g
    Spare phone battery 29g

    Premier Icon boxelder

    And for those really sad guys

    You can get lighter puncture repair patches you know, and .5m of gaffer tape would save 8.5 gms.

    Disco pants?


    Disco pants – a pair of specially made cotton pants, very light, just for wearing in huts etc (or a disco!)



    Cool, thanks for the info. It must have been a nightmare to decide what goes in the pack and what stays at home.

    Since I live so close to the Pyrenees I´d love to do
    something similar but from east-west or vice versa.


    Also missed this first time – stellar!

    Premier Icon jameso

    Thread revival.. a quick post to thank ChrisE for the original post that spurred me into digging up my GR5 guidebook and making the ride a reality.. and to post some pics from a fantastic ride. 3 of us just had 12 days of amazing riding, a really incredible experience. We used the GR5 Geneva-Nice as a basic direction and followed the trail closely (too closely at first – days 1-3 are tough going) up to / around Briancon and went off-route again either side of the Mercantour, places where we started taking more diversions on interesting looking trails linked by high cols, exploring more and heading for the main legal route through the Mercantour (thanks to ChrisE for the homework there)

    We carried all we needed so were able to be quite loose with our route. For me it worked out at about 14-15lbs of kit plus water + food, not too bad, even so it made the climbs hard and the carries even harder but after a few days you acclimatise and adapt anayway. Plus, the best rides aren’t ever 100% rideable.. We often took trails that looked good on the map or that we saw branching off our current route – we found some absolute gems doing this, some of the best trails I’ve ridden and just as good as the best of the GR5, better to ride in places but often less dramatic in setting compared to the Crete Gittes for example. One section of the ride stays in my mind as trail perfection – the setting, terrain, the flow, it was THE dream ride and what I hoped to find along the way. The fluid route-planning made the most out of the bikepacking way of riding, we felt like we found our own way, rode our own trails and lucked out regularly by not getting quite as off-route or lost as we were prepared to be.

    It was a tough ride, but at no point was it too much, just long days, steady pacing and a readiness to carry your bike or ride a road col here and there is all you need. I ended up 8lbs lighter but that was down to ultra-lighting too far – we needed to carry and eat a lot more along the way, bivi food is rarely that plentiful and the steak and frites with pepper sauce on arrival at the Med stays in my mind as the most appreciated food I’ve eaten in years – perhaps ever.

    Lessons + notes from this trip? Eat more next time. You only need duplicate socks, 1 of everything else is ok. You don’t smell as bad as you expect after a week. Your bike can’t have any weak spots or odd / fiddly to fix parts. Really big tyres rock, as do high-air volume sleeping mats (neoair). Gear your bike lower than you think is sensible. Bells are good to have. Make sure it’s comfy to carry for 30mins or more at a time. The Jones really is a fantastic bike-packer as well as a great rigid bike – total bike-love there. Buy maps as you go, they help you find the good stuff or get back on track after following the good stuff a bit too far, plus you’ll want to use them for another visit..

    Premier Icon Clink

    Have seen your pics on flickr, but even so WOW! 😀

    Premier Icon DoctorRad

    @jameso – Fantastic stuff. I think I would need to takes some spare clothes as I sweat like a b@stard at the best of times. What was the heat like in the high mountains?

    Premier Icon jameso

    Drrad, thanks. If you avoid civilisation no-one can smell you anyway ) really, it’s not that bad, after 3 days it doesn’t get any worse. A couple of tops and a pair of shorts can be a kilo and after a few carries you’d be keen to shed that. The salt tide-marks on my top were pretty major by day 10 but a hot day means wearing a wet top rinsed in a stream is refreshing. Heat was no problem, generally comfortable, gets warm south of Briancon. Pretty cold before dawn over 2000m tho and Nice / Med coast was crazy hot, near 40 on sat/sun.

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