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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.