_14 Longest MTB Ride Ever – St. Nizier x 2

22/02/14

Route map here

This weekend Jonny came to visit from London, bit of a spur of the moment decision but being sick of the constant rain he decided to come and ride some less muddy trails out here, he picked a good weekend for it. We were really lucky with the weather, we seem to have had a weather front coming from the south the last few days which has meant 15-20 degree temperatures and some clear blue skies.

I had planned out two routes, basically the two that I knew best so that we would not waste time faffing around the maps and potentially getting lost, and saturday was supposed to be the easier of the two days, well we ended up doing 74km and 2600m of climbing… not such an easy day after all. We had set out early so had plenty of time and did I mention it was sunny? so we made it round without losing motivation, I imagine it would have been a very different story if it had been raining.

The plan was to ride from Grenoble up to a village called St. Nizier du Moucherotte twice and take two different routes down, which both end up right back in the city.

Little detour off from the main road to Tour Sans Venin for a view over the city
Little detour off from the main road to Tour Sans Venin for a view over the city
Big sweeping hairpins on the road from Seyssins and St. Nizier du Moucherotte
Big sweeping hairpins on the road from Seyssins and St. Nizier du Moucherotte

The ascent from Grenoble up to St. Nizier is relatively gentle when you compare to the hills in the UK (which Jonny, and I last year, normally ride) however it is looooong, I think around 10-12km of constant spinning uphill. It did not take us so long to reach the top as it was our first climb and we were feeling pretty fresh.

Top of the Ferme Durand descent, on a good day you can see Mt. Blanc in the distance
Top of the Ferme Durand descent, on a good day you can see Mt. Blanc in the distance
Stoked to be RAD for the descent
Stoked to be RAD for the descent

A quick stop up top for a ‘Pee with a view’ and to strap on the Go Pro (watch out Jonny is threatening to make a little film, so you might get to view my crappy riding skills) before hitting the very long descent back down to the edge of Grenoble.

Jonny negotiating one of the many steep sections (does it look steep in the photo? No, probably not)
Jonny negotiating one of the many steep sections (does it look steep in the photo? No, probably not)
Pause to rest the arms
Pause to rest the arms

Half way point and we have already done; a super fast open, fireroadesque, top section with some washed out part and sharp corner, some dreamy winding singletrack through the trees with the sun shining through, some steeper rocky sections, some even steeper, almost unrideable rocky sections and some soft slidy corners. All that after half a descent and we were surprised to find the trails almost bone dry on the side of the hill that does not really receive the sun at this time of year.

Hey dude, just hop on the bike for a second, make it look like you rode it out for the photo yeah...
Hey dude, just hop on the bike for a second, make it look like you rode it out for the photo yeah…

Probably the hardest section to ride down here, we both made it down in one piece except for one jammed finger between brake lever and rock!

Looking back up the descent, when you stand at the bottom and look back up you have to wonder how you just rode down there, it looks super steep from the bottom.
Looking back up the descent, when you stand at the bottom and look back up you have to wonder how you just rode down there, it looks super steep from the bottom.

The bottom section is very fast once you know what is coming, with a good gradient thats not so scary to just let the brakes go, some great technical sections and what feel like natural berms to catch you on every corner, we reached the bottom in no time.

Quaint little french village for lunch in the sun
Quaint little french village for lunch in the sun

We stopped for lunch before heading back up again in the village of Sassenage. ‘Relaxing’ in the sun, I say ‘relaxing’ as I was struggling to sit down normally, at the bottom of the descent I had managed to get my front wheel stuck in a rut and come to a dead stop, I managed to dismount without injury however right after, whilst standing next to my bike, I performed a rather comedy ‘banana skin slip’ type fall and landed right on my coccyxs. We had a good long lunch and set off again back up the hill, luckily my ass was not too sore riding, still in the bright sun!

Sweet wheelie man. The road was nice and quiet all the way, LOL jk, it was freakin busy!
Sweet wheelie man. The road was nice and quiet all the way, LOL jk, it was freakin busy!
Having a lie down at the side of the never ending hill! (in the sun though)
Having a lie down at the side of the never ending hill! (in the sun though)

This was the bad idea of the day for sure, I decided that we would be incredibly bored dong the same ascent again, especially as it was so long, so we should take the road around the back of the hill, I had never done it before however so had no idea how it would be but I thought it must not be any worse than the first and it was more in the sun that the ascent form the morning.

So off we went, it was LONG, around 20km long! It was no especially difficult but it just seemed to never end, we didn’t make it all the way to the top on the road as we got sick of it and decided to take a shortcut. The path cut off a large section and instead of going all the way to Lans-en-Vercors we cut off up a footpath that followed a stream up the mountain bringing us almost directly to St. Nizier. Most of it was not rideable but it was much more interesting than the busy road, suddenly the ride felt a bit more like an adventure and you had no idea you were so close to a large city.

I think we managed to keep our feet dry, as slippery as the river crossing was
I think we managed to keep our feet dry, as slippery as the river crossing was
These were the most slippery bridges I have ever come across, they clearly never got any sunlight to dry out
These were the most slippery bridges I have ever come across, they clearly never got any sunlight to dry out
Little bit of hike-a-bike for good measure
Little bit of hike-a-bike for good measure

A little bit of hike-a-bike, a few little river crossings and some challenging rocks sections later we were at the top and just below the snow line.

It felt like you could see almost all the way to Lyon form the top, a looong view
It felt like you could see almost all the way to Lyon form the top, a looong view

We joined Steve at the top, who was too lazy to get up early in the morning, who had cycled up the same ascent we had done in the morning to join us at St. Nizier for the 2nd descent of the day. We were all out of energy and were glad the cafe was still open for a coffee and some cake. A quick refuel and we set off to the start of the descent just about the village for an almost 900m descent.

The first part of the descent was covered in snow which proved interesting as it was rather compact snow and was also the first time Jonny had ridden on snow. After we listened to and ignored the oh so common warning of  ‘ohh you will never ride that, it’s far too steep and difficult’ from a walker in the car park we set off down towards the city.

Sun setting over Grenoble, looking down from the old ski jump that is from the 1968 winter olympics
Sun setting over Grenoble, looking down from the old ski jump that is from the 1968 winter olympics
The last few sections of singletrack back down towards the city
The last few sections of singletrack back down towards the city

The descent is a good variety of all sorts, we started in the snow, then onto some very fast rough open sections which crosses a small road and onto a section it seems like has been maintained and even built a little bit by local mountain bikers, a few jumps, drops and berms found in various corners of the trail. The trail comes out onto the road where the very first picture is taken.

A quick rest and flat traverse over the hill to a singletrack down through the trees which is much more like a walkers track, thin, twisty and rooty, much more like you might find in the UK, unfortunately it was the only part of the ride which was muddy! Typical, right at the end.

Just before we dropped back into the city we stopped to admire the sunsetting over the city, perfect spot to reflect on the ridiculous ride we had just done
Just before we dropped back into the city we stopped to admire the sunsetting over the city, perfect spot to reflect on the ridiculous ride we had just done

By the time we arrived home it was dark and we were absolutely nackered, I don’t know how we managed to gather the energy to cycle back into the city later on for a meal and a beer… Maybe the thought of not having to make our own food was strong enough.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s