Where To Ride: Morzine, France

Morzine is unquestionably the mountain bike mecca of Europe. Located in the heart of the Portes-du-Soleil mountain bike area, this French Alpine resort has a wide selection of mountain bike trails for all styles of riding. XC, Enduro and Downhill trails litter the surrounding mountains and extend into neighboring Switzerland. In total, there are 29 lifts that’ll give you access to some 650km of marked mountain bike trails. Here’s a breakdown of what to expect when holidaying in Morzine.

mountain bike holiday in morzine france
Morzine is the mountain bike mecca of Europe.

The trails

From the Pleney or Super-Morzine lifts (the two lifts that take you out of the village) you’ll be able to access a mix of Green, Blue, Red and Black trails that cater to all skill levels and age groups. From the Pleney lift, it’s a short roll (10 minutes or so) to the village of Les Gets which has World Cup XC and DH tracks to play on. However, the idea of this kind of bike holiday is to ride the lifts and take in the views as you climb and descend the hundreds of marked trails in the region.

All of the trails eventually feed you into a lift and drop you at the top of the next trail. Feeling adventurous? – pack a bag and ride the lifts high up into the mountains (topping 2300m) and drop down the other side into Switzerland on the famed Swiss National Downhill Track. From the valley, hop onto another lift that’ll drop you at the top of the famous Champery World Cup track – but be warned, skills are required to make it down this one. For the gravity shredders, a trip to Morgins is a must, as is Chatel.

You’ll take in some spectacular trails if you make the trip out to the Colorado trail, but it’s pretty remote, unmarked and advisable to take a guide or one of the many South Africans who frequent Morzine with you.

mountain bike holiday in morzine france
The Colorado trail on the Les Gets side has some incredible views.

What to bring

I counted five bike shops here in Morzine but have been told there are more. They are pretty well stocked with just about everything you’ll need but expect to pay more than what spares in South Africa cost – in some cases, a lot more. Tyres, for example, are sometimes twice the price as back in SA. Things to include on your spares list would be chain lube, tools, a spare back tyre, sealant, chain breaker, brake pads, tube, small bike pump, shock pump, foot pump and a hip or back hydration pack.

XC RIDERS | If you are not going to ride the lifts and are looking for a workout (of note) at high elevation then arrive here in shape and be prepared to climb, a lot. The trails are open to everyone so you won’t have to pay to ride them, but you will work to get up them.

TRAIL BIKE RIDERS | Knee pads, a 3/4 (extended protection helmet) and hydration packs are obvious essentials. If you intend to ride the lifts more often than not (which is usually the case) it’s a good idea to fit DH casing tyres to your trail bike to improve grip and durability. You’ll have a better experience with a trail bike that has at least a 150mm fork. Other things to consider are goggles, long pants and trail riding shoes.

ENDURO & DH RIDERS | Body armour, knee pads, full-face helmets and DH casing tyres are a must if you are riding the Black lines and infamous Pleney steeps (known by the locals as The Singles). If you are planning on doing a lot of riding you’ll need a softer set of grips to cushion the constant pounding on your hands and wrists. A couple of extra spacers to increase stack height is a good idea, or higher rise bars.

It’s a dry and hot region with occasional summer rain so other items to remember are allergy medication, sunblock, aspirin, Myprodol, a basic first aid kit, energy drinks that replenish minerals and assist with hydration. A rain jacket is also a good idea although it doesn’t seem to rain a lot. You’ll be smart to take out medical insurance that includes all the bells and whistles.

Accommodation, food, flights and lift passes

GETTING TO MORZINE | Choosing an airline that has bike-friendly policies like Emirates, Qatar etc is a good idea however it also means your travel time is a little longer as you connect through the gulf region. Flights range in price, but if you book early you should be able to find something under R10k return. Your destination airport is Geneva, from there a shuttle service by AlpyBus (cost of R800 each way) will transfer you into Morzine and drop you at the door of your booked accommodation, bikes and all.

ACCOMMODATION | On booking.com there are a host of self-catering apartments and hotels to choose from with rates starting from under R1000 per night. Student-friendly hostel accommodation rates are as low as R600 per night and then you’ll find the high-end villas that ramp up the opulence – and the credit card. You’d be better off staying within a 1km radius of the Pleney Lift and that will also position you inside the heart of the village, close to all the shops and restaurants. Staying inside the village also means you won’t need to hire a car for your trip.

FOOD | Eating out, you can expect to pay around R250 for a good burger and a beer. A crepe and coffee will set you back about R150. The most affordable eating plan is to cook in your apartment and the Carrefour supermarket has everything you’ll need with pricing on average perhaps around 10% higher than say a Woolies, Checkers or Spar. Nutella and Toblerone fans take note: you’ll pay less than half of SA’s pricing for your fix here in France.

LIFT PASSES | R2800 will get you a lift pass for seven days and that gives you unlimited use of the lifts for the same period. One day, two day or season passes are also available on sliding scale rates.

It’s not just mountain biking

mountain bike holiday in morzine france
The Alpine resort of Morzine is considered the mountain bike mecca of Europe but has a lot more than biking on offer.

The region regularly hosts mountain stages of the Tour de France. So if you are traveling in July, have a look at the Tour’s stages and book your trip to coincide with the pro-pelotons visit to the region. Alternatively, rent (or bring) your road bike to take on the big climbs in the region like the Col-de-Joux-Plane, Pas-de-Morgins and others. Bike rental rates per day are around R1500 and you’ll be able to ride just about any brand, including Specialized, Pivot, Commencal, Scott, Santa Cruz and so on. Rental options include road bikes, trail bikes, eBikes and Downhill bikes. Other activities on offer include tennis, rafting, hiking, swimming (there’s an Olympic size pool in the village), golf and caving. Off-the-bike activities also include shopping, bars and restaurants.

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