It is the end of 2015 and a year that turned out to be very good indeed in terms of mountain biking. I’ve managed to ride in a lot of different places all across Europe, places I might even say I had only previously dreamed off turned into a reality this year, I rode with many old friends and met a lot of new people throughout the year along with plenty of solo rides enjoying the landscapes at my own pace. At least 150 days of the 365 of this year were spent in the saddle with well over 100,000m of climbing (and descending) done so the quantity was definitely there, as for quality well you can judge for yourself with the following photos but I certainly enjoyed it!
The year started out in London where I spent a final month of three working for an architects office there with several rides in the Surrey hills before moving back over to Norway where I did my second semester of an Erasmus study exchange (also studying architecture). I was then offered a job working for Ride Slovenia which I moved out to at the beginning of June where I stayed, and did a ridiculous amount of riding, until the end of August, it was then back to university in Grenoble for my final year of my masters degree, finishing off the year with a few soggy rides back home over Christmas and new year.
Right at the beginning of the year, which I can only just remember, to start things off we took ourselves on quite an epic ride in the Lake District which saw some fantastic weather and us riding right into the night, apart from this ride I did not venture too far in January. I have added some photos of a trip i did with my girlfriend up to the north west coast of Scotland as even though it is not mountain biking I think some of the photos deserve to be shared since the scenery was so amazing, We stayed just south of Ullapool and got every single kind of weather you could imagine, I took her there for the first time to show her how amazing Scotland is and it did not dissappoint, Assynt in winter is amazing.
After finishing up in London I took myself back over to Trondheim for the second semester at university, I came back to a dark and cold place and foolishly only brought my road bike with my mountain biking following a few weeks later, the skinny road tyres of the Bianchi made for some interesting riding in the snow and ice around the city. The snow and ice meant that not a lot of riding got done however I had to go for a site visit for my uni project which was basically a stay in a rustic candlelight norwegian wooden cabin in the middle of a magical snow covered forest, my brother came to stay and we went for a road trip to the Atlantic Road and Trollveggen and the northern lights made several appearances.
I was quite surprised how much snow and ice stayed around until now but I decided in the end I would go try some snow riding as I was having withdrawal symptoms from not riding. By the end of the month though the main area around Trondheim for riding, Bymarka, had a good few trails which were rideable since it is only about 4/500m high and Jan, Tarjei, Halvor and Michal were all more than happy to come out and ride. Near the end of the month we were treated to a spectacular show on northern lights above the city and a bit spur of the moment I decided to grab my bike and go for a night ride into the forest outside the city which resulted in a rather interesting ride which you can read about here.
Not a lot of riding was done during April, for my uni course we were designing and building a sauna down in the south of Norway in a village called Vang in Valdres which was about halfway between Bergen and Oslo, I have included a few photos of this place as it was such a fantastic location, I will have to return with a bike one day (the sauna is open to the public so if you are ever passing, feel free to drop in and use it!).
After a month of doing more uni work than riding in April, May turned out to be a month of a lot of riding with friends, I got out for several local rides near Trondheim with friends I had made whilst living there; Tarjei, Mats, Michal, Jan etc. Then later in the month Jonny came over from London for a 4/5 days when we rented a car and took ourselves on a trip around the mountains and Fjords of mid Norway on a trip that brought us some of the best riding of my life, if you ever get a chance you HAVE to go to Kaupanger to ride! We visited places like Oppdal, Sognfjord, Geirangerfjord and Fjørå, riding in some absolutely breathtaking scenery and I must say Norway will be very hard to beat in terms of riding experience, such an exciting and amazing place to travel through, if you haven’t been, you must! I have to say a big thanks to Tarjei for taking the time to put together our itinerary for the trip too, couldn’t really have asked for more.
After a sleepover in Copenhagen airport and a few hours in the city, a flight to Zagreb, a transfer to Ljubljana and a drive through the mountains I arrived in the tiny village of Luče in the depths of the Slovenian countryside and realised I had made a great decision to spent my summer here, it was a tiny idyllic village and I would be riding my bike or driving other bikers in the area most days of the summer. I was certainly made to work though, Jon (the owner of Ride Slovenia) had a particular way of running things lets say which certainly made things interesting at time but it was worth it for the people I met, the places we rode and getting to (almost, sort of) ride my bike for a living. If any of the people who visited us at Ride Slovenia over the summer are reading this then feel free to visit in Grenoble and was nice to meet you there!
After a few weeks of settling in and mostly driving/shuttling I started doing a bit of guiding, I knew certain trails from having lived over here a few years previously, I would of course almost always be given the slower groups to guide but you can’t complain when you are spending your days leisurely riding through countryside and scenery like this. One thing I will say though is that Israeli’s on holiday are stressful people.
We had some very entertaining groups across from England and a super enthusiastic group over all the way from the USA (everyone should be like these guys), they had the best spirit no matter how hard it was or how good or bad the weather was.
August was a bit quieter in terms of work that meant me and Jon and his friend Kev who came over to visit managed to get some exploring for new trails done. Then nearer the end of the month I all of my mates from around the continent came over to spend the week at Ride Slovenia, we filled the house with 15 of us and things got pretty lairy! 7 solid days of riding saw a lot of loose riding. The feeling of leading a group of 15 of your mates down some of your favourite trails is pretty cool, it also led to some pretty close calls as you can imagine with 15 people riding one trail and criss-crossing lines all the time!
We miraculously managed to avoid any real injuries all week with the worst probably coming from me with a pretty good crash down a steep rooty chute. Some even went as far as saying it was the best riding they had ever done.
In September I moved back to Grenoble for my final year of my masters degree in architecture. I originally decided to do my masters degree here as I wanted to live in the Alps and be a good location for some proper mountain biking, on coming back to the city I was reminded just how good it was in that respect, the mountains really do ride out of the city and it is pretty east to do a days ride from the city centre (at 200m) and get up above 2000m.
As soon as I was back I went out to check out how all the old trails were looking, a favourite of mine is to ride to the top of the mountain called La Moucherotte just to the west of Grenoble which sits at 1860m, from the top you have an amazing birds-eye view down over the city with Mont Blanc in the distance along with what I would guess it about a 8/10km/a good 45mins of descent back to the city taking in all types of trails.
My girlfriend, Ana, is living over in Turin which is only a couple of hours drive from Grenoble so on one visit to see her I decided to hire a car and drive to hers via Pila bike park in the Aosta valley, the lifts were closed so I rode to the top but it was worth it. Completely bizarrely and by chance I met two friends of someone I worked with in Slovenia who were from France and also on their way back from visiting said friend in Slovenia at the very top of Pila so I ended up spending the day with Francois and Nico shredding the trail all the way back down to Aosta followed by pizza and ice cream.
A lot more exploring trails around Grenoble was done during October, I realised that I had ridden most stuff that was just outside the city so I took a few weekends and went a little further afield, taking the bus out of the city and riding back via various cols and trails. Later in the month my mate Jonny came over for a long weekend of riding from London and despite the fact we got probably the only snow of the season so far that weekend we still managed a lot of riding, four days straight!
I think the highlight of November was the fact that it still seemed to feel like summer, still no snow and blue skies every day, I decided to take advantage of this good weather and plan an epic ride up into the Belledonne Massif which I had never explored. I planned a sort of dawn to dusk ride and tried to reach the very highest point of the range at 3000m, the snow line unfortunately stopped me getting to the very top but I still made it to 2500m. This kind of ride was exactly why I wanted to live in the Alps, some proper alpine riding high up in the rugged mountain tops. I descended down the Col de La Pra at the end of the day which if you love technical riding then you will love this!
I spent quite a bit of time at home in England during December as my dad was ill, the first time I was there I didn’t take my bike but I wouldn’t have wanted to anyway given all the flooding the UK got during this December! Meaning I didn’t ride too much this month. I ended up having to go back to Grenoble for a week to do a end of Semester presentation where it turned out to be almost like (English) summer, riding in shorts and t-shirt! So despite the deadline I managed to get out for a couple of hours a couple of times and explored a few new tracks near the city.
Coming back home for Christmas near Hexham in Northumberland I brought my bike and braved the seriously crap weather to ride on some of the old local trails, probably the worst conditions I’ve ever ridden in. The annual Christmas eve ride with some mates from back home took place down in Staveley and I even sneaked in a trip up to Glentress before the year was out!
After 12 months and 7 countries I think I have to say that this year took me to some pretty amazing places. What really makes me realise how much I enjoyed it is that several time during the year I said to someone I was riding with or to a friend afterwards that the places we were riding at that time were just like the kind of places I would read about in holiday brochures or in issues of MBR or MBUK magazine when I was a kid and think ‘oh I would love to ride there one day when i’m older’. And now here I am, older, and riding those places I dreamt of when I was a teenager.