Heading off your for your first mountain biking holiday in the Alps? Riding in the big mountain environment is an incredible experience, but it can be tough on your bike, equipment and body. These insider hints and tips will make sure you are prepared for every eventuality!
Don’t forget to check our Ultimate Mountain Biking Holiday Checklist to ensure you pack everything you need.
If you can think of any more insider tips, we’d love to know. Please add them in the comments.
Spare spare spare – Bring as many spares as you can, as although you’ll probably be able to get replacement parts out in the Alps, it can be expensive and time-consuming. This goes as far as even bringing a spare pre-bled brake set if you have one.
Mech hanger and rear derailleur – While we’re on the subject of spares, you should always bring a spare mech hanger (the piece that the rear derailleur hangs off) with you. This is a ‘sacrificial part’ – if you bang into a rock, this is designed to break before your more-expensive derailleur does. However, every make and model of bike has a different mech hanger. Order one before you go. You can also bring a whole spare derailleur if you have one just in case.
Take a day off – It’s exciting to be out in the mountains, and it’s hard not to want to go and ride every day, but it’s worth taking a day off mid-week. Unless you’re used to doing long days on technical terrain back-to-back you’ll find you are wiped out by the middle of the week. Riding while you’re tired increases your risk of making a mistake and injuring yourself. Take a break, relax, swim, enjoy being in the mountains, then you’ll be ready to go again the next day.
Tools and cleaning kit – if you are staying in a bike chalet or with a bike holiday company, then they will usually have access to a workshop with a wide range of tools. However you should still bring out the essentials to carry in your bag while out on the mountain. If you are doing a DIY trip, you’ll need to bring a basic tool kit.
Rent a bike bag – A purpose-made bike bag or box is the perfect way to transport your precious mountain bike and protect if from knocks, bumps and baggage handlers. If you don’t want to fork out and buy one, there are plenty of places online where you can rent one for your trip.
Train before you go – If you can, it’s worth trying to up your exercise and fitness regime in the weeks before you go. Riding in the Alps can be physically hard work as the climbs, descents, terrain and environment is a lot harder than most UK riding. The fitter you are, the more you’ll get out of it.
Washing your kit – You’re going to get through a lot of kit in a week, especially if the weather is bad! If you can find a place with washing machines, or if your chalet will let you do a wash during the week, you can dramatically cut down the amount of kit you need to bring.
Glasses – Glasses are a must for keeping dust, insects, branches, flying stones and of course the sun out of your eyes. If you can get them, glasses with interchangeable lenses are a great idea as you can have shaded lenses for bright sunshine, clear lenses for grey days and even orange or yellow tinted lenses for overcast days where there is little contrast.
Zip ties and duct tape – These two items are absolute lifesavers! There’s very little you can’t fix enough to roll home on with some zip ties and duct tape. Things come loose in the mountains pretty quickly after you’ve gone down a some loose, rocky, bumpy descents.
Service your bike before you go – Your bike is going to take an absolutely hammering in the Alps. Little knocking sounds or slightly loose bolts will become major issues after a few days of hard riding. Make sure your bike is in tiptop condition before you go; so think about checking it in for a service to make sure.
Insurance – read the small print and make sure your insurance covers you for mountain biking. Some insurance policies may list mountain biking, but in the small print it will state that they won’t cover mountain biking off-road or lift assisted mountain biking. If you are doing a mountain biking event or race, you’ll need high-level insurance, and you may need to look at an adventure insurance specialist like DogTag.
Have a look at our Guide to Cycling Holiday Travel Insurance for more info.
Insurance part two – You also must make sure that you have your insurance details actually on your person when you go out. This means both your EHIC card, and your private travel insurance details. Some companies provide a little card with your details on; if they don’t make your own, laminate it for protection and keep it in your wallet, pocket or bag.
Snacks, gels and bars – If you have any dietary requirements, allergies or are just a fan of a particular brand of energy product, it’s worth bringing a stash out with you. There may be limited shopping options, so you might not be able to buy your fave when you’re out there.
Cash and currency – Make sure you have some cash on you for emergencies. A sudden desire for ice-cream when passing a shop in hot weather counts as an emergency.
Bring a small bike lock – a small lightweight lock is handy to have with you. It won’t stop a series thief but it will prevent someone half-inching your precious steed while you stop to fill your water bladder.
Warm clothing and waterproofs – Up in the mountains the conditions can change quickly, and at high altitude it can be quite cold even if the sun is shining. It’s essential that you carry a warm layer and a waterproof with you when you go out for the day.
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