If I’m being honest, when I agreed to spend a morning mountain biking in Les Gets I didn’t really know what to expect. I have spent many summers in the Portes du Soleil region and think of the Morzine Les Gets area as a second home. I have hiked the walking trails, swum in the lakes and tried myriad other Alpine activities including foraging, paragliding and sleeping under the stars in a hammock. But I had never tried mountain biking, until this summer.
Disclosure: I was a guest of Les Gets tourism for the purpose of this review. All opinions are entirely my own. This post may contain affiliate links. I have been or could be if you click on a link in this post compensated via a cash payment, gift or something else of value for writing this post. See our full disclosure policy for more details.
Les Gets is the most popular mountain biking destination in the French Alps and host to the MTB World Cup. Positioned at the heart of the Portes du Soleil network of resorts, Les Gets has access to 650km of trails. The resort itself has 128km of marked trails, 13 downhill tracks, 1 Freeride track, the Les Gets bike park and and a kids’ zone. Les Gets also boasts Enduro tracks (a kind of cross country type of mountain biking) and electric mountain biking tracks.
So, it’s fair to say that there are a lot of cycling options in Les Gets and on summer days the mountains are busy with mountain bikers racing down bike trails from the moment the ski lifts open until closing time.
And yet, despite having spent summers surrounded by mountain bikes and bike trails, I hadn’t really given much thought about what mountain biking involved. This, as it turned out, was my first mistake.
Learning to ride in Les Gets
I was part of a press trip discovering all the best things to do in Les Gets in summer and mountain biking in Les Gets was planned for our second day.
Our group of seven meet in front of Intersport on a rather grey and drizzly morning. Intersport sits in the heart of Les Gets village and offers everything you need for mountain biking, including bike hire. I’m given a crash helmet, kneed pads and a chest and back protector and, looking like a knock-off Transformer robot, head with the group to meet our guide at the bottom of the Chavannes Express chair lift.
Once there, we flip our bikes onto their back wheels and push them through the lift line and onto the chair lift; during summer months, chair lifts have secure bike racks on them. Hooking your bike onto one of these racks is relatively straightforward although lift assistants are on hand when novice riders need a little help.
It’s while I’m sitting on the chair lift making my way slowly to the top that I begin to question what I’m doing. Beneath me downhill trails snake their way through the trees and riders hurl themselves down at breakneck speed. What’s more they are doing it while standing up.
Before this particular morning I thought mountain biking involved riding along trails and occasionally cycling down them, standing up only if you were going to jump. Downhill mountain biking in Les Gets, however, involves manoeuvring down narrow, winding dirt tracks upright.
The bike tracks in Les Gets are classified like ski runs: green, blue, red and black runs. A white checkerboard marks the most difficult trails. Our group is split into two and the beginner group heads off down a green trail. I say beginner but I’m the only person in our group of four that has never been on a mountain bike before.
As we make our way slowly down the green trail it’s clear I have no idea what I’m doing. The instructor explains how to find a neutral balance and to keep your gravity low. She then runs through a series of drills designed to make us more comfortable and confident on the bike. We ride around coloured cones, practice going over small dips and are instructed on how to use our brakes.
And then we’re off again.
We finish the green run and start immediately down a blue run before branching off through the forest, which is where I have the first of several falls. The ground is damp and I brake too hard going over a tree root causing my back wheel to spin out beneath me. I fall to the ground not for the first time.
We try a couple more runs, I fall a couple more times and we then stop for lunch. I make my way nervously down one more run and then decide that it’s time to call it a day. I return my bike to the shop and then collapse in a heap.
As far as first time experiences go, this wasn’t the best. However, I am determined not to be beaten and decide to try another lesson but this time with the kids.
Mountain biking in Les Gets with kids
A couple of days later I take my eldest two kids along for a private two-hour lesson with Les Gets Bike School. Our instructor Antoine is brilliant. We don’t even go up the mountain during this class, rather we stay at the bottom of the slope where Antoine takes the time to teach us how to use the bikes. Given that most of our cycling experience to date has been cycling around North London parks, this basic introduction to the workings of an MTB is invaluable.
Antoine teaches us how to balance, how to ride up small inclines and go downhill. We’re taught how to use the brakes and how to turn. At the end of the two-hour lesson I feel so much more confident on the bike. The kids also feel ready to tackle the mountain.
Unfortunately, however, we run out of time but we leave the class determined to join the other mountain bikers on the downhill trails next time we visit Les Gets.
If you’re thinking about beginner mountain bike lessons then definitely take a look at Les Gets Bike school. Intersport are planning a week-long mountain biking camp for kids in the summer 2021.
For all the fun of mountain biking without the gnarly tracks, I highly recommend trying an e-mountain bike.