Les Balcons St Chaffrey…

Thought I’d do this pretty extreme 25km route (Les Balcons St Chaffrey – trail #30 on the Serre Chevalier Mountain Bike Piste Map) to test out some replacement parts/upgrades that I put on the bike.

The Shimano Deore 11-34t 9-speed cassette was worn out & the jockey wheels on the Shimano Deore LX rear mech looked more like sharks teeth.  The chain was new(ish) but as I was changing to a 10-speed set-up so this needed to be replaced too.

I fitted the new bits (Shimano XT rear mech, 11-32t cassette, XT shifter & SRAM chain) in the morning and drove up to the Col du Granon – a pass at over 2,400m high

Col du Granon

It’s pretty amazing riding up at that height – no trees or vegetation, just rocks covered in lichen.  More like a Lunar or Martian landscape.  At that altitude, once again the trail in places was still covered with the remnants of the winter which made for some sketchy, scree/snow sliding with the bike next to me.

Steep Scree

As I dropped down to around 2,000m things started to get pretty exciting with some very fast, rocky sections of fire road and some nice singletrack and again more places where I was forced to leave the trail because of snow.  Some places the trail split into two with no signs…obviously I took the wrong path but instead of doubling back on myself chose the cross country route which involved crossing streams, stumbling across a heard of chamois and disturbing marmottes (sorry – no pics of any of the wildlife, I’m far too noisy on my approach)

I’ll take the high road…but I should have taken the low road

After crossing a few more fast melt water streams and hitting some pretty scary 60km/h rocky tracks, the actual descent into Monetier is awesome.  More like a World Cup Downhill track with lots of steep, fast switchbacks and plenty of roots, rocks and water bars to get over – my XC bike was definitely running at (or very near) its limits.  By the time I got into Monetier village my arms, hands & fingers were aching, my feet were soaking and I’m sure the brakes were steaming or smoking (or both!)…but I had a massive smile on my face…happy days 🙂



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