Early this summer we ran a competition with new alpine company The Search, who offered a riding trip of the winner’s choice lasting a day as the prize. We headed over in the summer to see for ourselves what these trips have to offer.
Set up at the beginning of the 2008 summer season Nick, the man behind the name, quickly snapped up some sponsorship from Solid bikes giving him a machine capable of riding these tracks for the season. Nick brought a tried and tested van, the Mercedes Vito and customised a trailer to get you and your pride and joy to some amazing places efficiently and in comfort. With these tools and some spare parts supplied by Morzine bike shop, Dert, The Search is ready to pick you up from your chalet, transport you to the trail centre of your choice and show you the pick of the trails before dropping you back in time for a night out.
Before we went on the trip Nick was asking what I wanted to ride – well for all of the holiday so far we had been searching for untouched trails and hitting as many off piste tracks as we could, so finding something along these lines with as many technical natural features was top of our list. He suggested Chamonix, and looking back it was a great decision.
Nick and Paul Aston (Solid Team/The Search rider) picked us up from our chalet in the morning, loading our bikes into the trailer for a hour journey to Chamonix. The Search ran smoothly but we didn’t, half way there Carl perked up with the fact that he had left behind his helmet, in a bag, which of course had the rest of his riding gear in. So after a quick stop in a Chamonix bike shop to hire some very nice looking kit for young Carl and we were off to the first track off the day.
The lift pass works just the same as those used in the Portes with a chip card letting you on all the lifts in the area. The weather was touch and go up to this point and at the top of the first gondola the mountain cloud left us with limited visibility. With a new track in our sights though this didn’t hinder a thing as we blasted straight into the track.
I have ridden a lot of downhill tracks in the UK be it in races, uplifts days or just being shown around but when in France I have never ventured further than riding distance within the Portes. Coming to Chamonix I feel like some of this time has been wasted, this downhill track was amazing. Apparently the fast guys get down it in 7 minutes, I’m sure our first time down must have taken us near on double that with stops. The track had everything to offer with flowing berms in the top section leading into a few nice doubles and drops before dropping into well maintained rocky trails with a range of corners to take at all sorts of speeds, as well as fast sections, steep sections, extremely technical sections, roots, rocks, it was all there!
After a few more runs Nick was asking what sort of trails we wanted to ride next, ensuring we were all riding exactly what we wanted to. The prospect of riding 20 minutes of downhill single track came in to the equation so we jumped back in the van and went to another lift station five minutes up the valley. This was a larger gondola for 50 people, which took us high up the mountain with lots of walkers (there wasn’t another rider in sight). Then a minute down a fire road and Nick was pointing down some steep single track, which looked amazing to ride. Sadly bike failures do still happen even when you’re paying a little extra to ride, but a quick tube change on George’s cracking Turner and we were heading down the track. This track was actually a walker’s path but mountain bikers are allowed to ride down them, without receiving grief from the public or being confronted by the police at the bottom of the trail – as happens when you ride the ‘good’ trails in the Portes… tennis courts anyone?
This walker track was around 20mins descent with quick locals doing it in around 16mins knowing all the lines. It was a great fun track to ride, completely natural littered with rocks and roots from top to bottom. The track was dry and we were riding pretty fast for a first time down. Switchbacks were plentiful as the track wove it’s way down the mountain. The track was what you made out of it which I liked, you could have fun riding it slow or (provided you paid attention) hitting it flat out.
Straight back up the same mountain eager to see what’s next, and we were faced with The Sick Track. Interesting name, I wasn’t sure what to think but was informed it was technical so down we went. It soon became apparent how it gained it’s title, I had never ridden something so full on from top to bottom! Again the track was riddled with roots and rocks, or boulders in a lot of cases around very tight corners and to make it that little bit harder some of it was very steep. It defiantly pushed my riding skills to the limits as the amount of crashes I had showed, way in the double figures! This track just didn’t stop, it needed constant 100% concentration and as soon as you were over and around a ridiculous corner you were faced with something completely different. It really made you think about the riding you were doing and worked us extremely hard. It was a real sense of achievement when we got to the end, we wanted to ride it again but didn’t think we could face it straight away.
We finished off the day with a second run down the first walkers track before packing up and heading back to Les Gets. Returning to Les Gets left us looking at the Chanvane in amazement as too how small it is, Chamonix really showed us some truly amazing riding and if we had the money we would have headed back the next day. I’m sure we will all be heading back next year at some point and more than likely with Nick on another mini tour to another fantastic riding location. It was a great way of finding tracks I would never have been able to find or know how to get to without guidance and The Search gave this and more and I – along with everyone who came along on the day – would recommend it, branch out from the Portes and there is some eye opening riding to be had.
The Search can take you to a many destinations, a few include Pila in Italy, Morgin and La Cluzas in France and Dorenaz in Switzerland.
For bookings and more information on The Search check out the website or even join the Facebook group for latest updates.