Think of the Tour Divide in terms of adventure but with amazing technical singletrack and much better cheese. That’s the AlpPacker! Sam and BV guide Huw have spent a few years working on a bike-packing traverse of the Alps. Whilst a ton of fun, adding some uplifts, support and a few hotels and mountain refuges takes it to another level. The route takes in the juiciest bits of France – the Savoie Alps, the Haute-Alps and the Mercantour Alps, dodging marmots, national parks and soap all the way to the seaside.
To give us the time to really make the most of all the amazing trails along the way, we have split the trip into 2 one-week segments, imaginatively named Stage 1 and Stage 2. Creative genius.
AlpPacker Stage 1: Savoie Alps into the Hautes-Alpes
Need to know:
When: Saturday September 9-16th 2017 (1 week)
Where: Starting on the shores of the beautiful lake Annecy, all the way down through Briancon and into the mythical Queyras Hautes-Alpes.
Distance: Around 265km – it varies slightly depending on route options.
Climbing: + 7500m over the week
Descending: +16000m over the week
Uplifting: 1-2 uplifts a day to help us on our way, gaining roughly 1000m each time.
Holiday Cost: €1595, which includes:
- full guiding with a dedicated professional guide
- uplifts, whether from your dedicated uplift driver or using cable cars etc.
- accommodation in twin rooms/refuges
- all meals
- vehicle support (carrying your kit and spares between overnight stops so you can ride light)
All you really need to add is money for evening drinks, post cards and any bike spares.
Flights: Just get yourself to Geneva by 4pm on Saturday 9th and book a flight home after 2pm on Sat 16th.
Booking: Just hop over to the regular booking form and fill it in, selecting the AlpPacker dates.
Riding type: Everything the Alps has to offer! This is technical alpine riding at its finest. You should have experience of riding natural technical singletrack in the Alps however – we will often be hike-a-biking up and riding tight switchbacks, steep rock gardens and every other delight mother nature has to offer on the way down. If you are at all unsure then we heartily recommend you come on a ‘normal’ BV trip first to prepare yourself for the AlpPacker.
Riding altitude range: from up to 3200m right down to 400m. Huuuge!
What bike to bring: a modern, 130-160mm travel trail/endur0 rig will do nicely. An ‘enduro’ hardtail would work fine too. Tough tyres over light ones will save you endless heartache.
What kit to wear: we advise knee pads. Beyond this it’s up to personal preference. Lightweight elbow pads certainly aren’t overkill so long as you don’t mind wearing them all day.
What will the weather be like? The most likely scenario is sunshine with cool mornings and afternoons into the mid-high 20s. Ideal for mountain biking. However, whenever it rains in the mountains it is cold and in 16 years of Bikevillage we have ridden in snow every single month of the year. Be prepared for the cold and wet so that if it happens we can still have fun!
How technical is it? We have kept the route as flowing as possible but loads of the best trails in the Alps are quite techy! The majority of climbing is on double track or mellow singletrack, without too many hike-a-bikes over 30 minutes. The descents are simply mind blowing and totally rideable with the odd hop in a tight corner and a certain ease in steep terrain.
Will it be too tough/technical for me? If you love the UK ‘big mountain’ classics like Snowden, Helvellyn, Kinlochleven, Nan Bield etc then the AlpPacker will be right up your street.
What else to bring – basic bike spares – brake pads, spare mech hanger and rear mech. We carry a selection of spares including tyres, cables, brakes etc but with the recent-ish explosion in standards we can’t cover every mech/axle/wheel diameter/tyre width option. Don’t worry though, we’ve mapped out every bike shop between here and the moon. The show will always go on!
For the nights we spend in a mountain refuge, you will need to be able to carry:
- A second day of clothes, or just fresh shorts or just go full grot-bag and wear it all again.
- Toiletries, including sun tan lotion.
- A super-light pack towel – they have showers.
- Something warm for the evening – tights, hat (one that fits under a helmet is a good double-up item) and warm LS top/lightweight down top as a minimum.
- Any extra snacks for day 2.
- We will also give you sheet sleeping bags to carry, unless you bring your own.
- A 20l+ riding pack is pretty much essential to carry all this comfortably. Think about options to stash some weight on your bike too.
- Your OCD – go light! You want enough kit to cope with weather extremes but beyond that the less you have on your back the more fun your riding will be. When we say pack towel, we mean pack towel not beach towel. When we say sun-tan lotion, we mean a tiny bottle rather than a family pack. Chop the handle off your tooth brush, weigh your hat collection. Go nuts! 300g saved at home will have a real impact on your trip.
- A head torch and LED rear light. Lightweight over power, they’re for emergencies and finding your way around the refuges in the dark.