This was going to be different. We now had a camper.
Even thought we’d tried to sleep in the old van, a transit connect isn’t the biggest when you have bikes and kit taking up most of the room.
The new van had everything we needed.
Space for the bikes, a bed that could be set up in 30seconds. Storage, cool box, water supply and music that could be left on for as long as we wanted.
We were quite ambitious this trip with timing and had planned to go Friday night straight after I finished work.
Setting off at 15:00 we drove down the country getting to the tunnel in good time at getting the train at around 23:00.
Arriving pretty late (or early?) into France, we drove for a few hours before testing the new bed for the first time. Within 5 minutes of stopping, we were in bed ready to sleep.
We did have one problem. The heat.
It was hot. Real hot.
I still slept pretty well and we woke up early and continued to drive through France heading for Morzine.
As the day went on, the heat kept rising and at one point showed 39 degrees on the cars thermometer. Without A/C it was a real test. Strange enough I opted out of buying a van with A/C to go for something silver rather than white. You don’t really need A/C in the UK, but I was really wishing I had it now!
As always, the French toll roads were pretty quiet and with an addition of the ‘T’ pass it made things a lot easier. No more handling change and leaning out the window. Just drive straight through leaving everyone else waiting in queues.
We got to around an hour from Geneva, less than two hours from Morzine and we hit a traffic jam. There were road works on a hill and with traffic being moved down to a one lane. It all backed up and we were in a standstill for a few minutes. It was still really hot and I turned off the engine, wound down the windows and sat back to relax for a bit.
Cars started moving again so I went to turn on the engine. I heard a snap from the bonnet and as we set off, a ‘STOP’ and battery light came onto the dash. My heart sank.
Luckily we were driving past a lay-by with SOS phone so I pulled in to check it out.
The alternator belt had snapped.
We arranged breakdown to collect us and within 5 minutes we were on the back of a truck heading back the other way down the hill we’d just climbed.
They didn’t speak any English and my French was useless.
My European breakdown cover sorted everything though and we were told we couldn’t get a new belt until Monday. The breakdown cover organised a hotel close by and booked a taxi to get us there with all our kit and bikes.
It was Saturday evening at this point and after arriving at the hotel we had a shower and went out for a meal.
The next day we went on a walk up to a lake we’d seen on a map. The lake was at just under 1000m and was a perfect 25 degrees in the water. It was again another hot day. Way too hot to bike. We had a nice relaxing day hoping that the van would be ready the day after.
Monday came around and at 15:00 I finally heard back from the breakdown cover. The van was still at the recovery site and had not been to a garage. We had to wait another day. Everything was paid for so we took it on the chin and enjoyed another relaxing evening.
Tuesday came and we decided to go on the bikes. I received a call again at 15:00 telling me that they wanted to replace the alternator and cambelt. It wasn’t cheap either. I wasn’t pleased. I’d just had the whole van sorted before we went away with a friend from Lancaster who has his own garage. I gave him a call for advise.
We ended up getting it down so that they only replaced the alternator belt and pulleys.
The garage ordered the parts and said it would be another day till they’d arrive and would be fitted.
We spent one more night in the hotel and then were shuttled off to collect the van on Wednesday afternoon.
It was such a good feeling to get the van back and we were off once again.
We headed straight to Chamonix to meet Natalie (Ex inov-8 marketing) and Robbie (ex inov-8 athlete) who had moved out for the summer. We had a little BBQ with a few other runners and had a really nice evening relaxing knowing we were back on track.
The following morning we set off for Morzine at 7am. It only takes an hour from Chamonix.
We parked up at the supermarket in Morzine, got the bikes and kit ready and set off for a day of riding.
We got two lift passes for the portes du soleil and planned to get around most of the area.
It was another hot day and both needed a few stops to refuel. Conditions were really dusty and loose. Really fun and fast.
After a full day on the bikes, we were pretty tired.
We arrived back to the van, picked up some food and drove up to lac mondriond for a dip in the lake. The temperature was now bearable and we sat down with a few beers and cooked dinner as the sun set. No campsite, but it was perfect. We were making the most of the new van.
We enjoyed the riding so much we extended the stay there for another few days and concentrated on the area around les linderettes. Marin’s skill level and confidence grew really fast and she finally got the hang of corners. Something that we’ve been trying to nail for a while now.
The days were again really hot and dusty.
We only had one mechanical while we were there. Marin ripped a sidewall on her high roller on the back. We were running tubeless so I fixed it with a tyre boot and some duct tape. It wasn’t ideal but it held up. We looked at getting a new tyre (it’s the first year I’d not taken spare tyres – typical!) but we found it hard finding 26″ tyres! Everything has gone 27.5″ crazy. I had more choice of 29er tyres.
After a few days riding, we had a ‘rest day’ and went for a run.
Even thought it was refreshing, it was painful seeing all the bikes go by.
Having the van to go back to on a night was a godsend.
We decided to move on and headed for Lake Garda. One of our favourite places.
This year we wanted to try something new. Via ferrata.
We had a day of rest when we arrived booking into a campsite and trying out hookup for the first time. We had everything on charge and the cool box was keeping the beer really cold. Perfect.
The following day we set off early heading to the access route for the iron road.
It was pretty amazing and we both enjoyed it massively. Defiantly something we’re going to do more of.
After a few more runs and swims we left for Les Arcs with a few days of the holiday left. It’s somewhere we’d been recommended to go by a few people for the riding and had a local map with the best trails marked on.
We drove through the night and arrived in the morning for breakfast at Arc 1800. A stunning way to start the day. Everything was so quiet. Hardly any riders. We spent the first day using the lifts and checking out the area with the marked trails. We tried a few and ended the day on the blue enduro route which was marketed as the longest enduro downhill route in Europe. We were disappointed as it was all, apart from the green downhill at the top, mainly fire road.
The next day we tried some more routes including the red enduro route. This was awesome and Marin really loved it. It was steep, loose, natural Singletrack. Really challenging and I was really surprised Marin like it. It pushed her skill level up a notch. She was carrying some good speed through really technical sections.
And that was it. Two weeks went so quick.
On our last night it rained. It was so nice. It had been so hot for the two weeks and the rain just settled things. We slept really well.
We set off the next morning back home not wanting to leave.
The new van had been excellent. Even if we did have the initial problem.
There was only two things we need now.
1) a way to keep it cool at night. As it was so hot, it was hard to sleep. We won’t have that trouble in the UK but it was almost unbareable trying to sleep in 30 degrees.
2) we need more little storage for phones and sunglasses on the walls. We ended up using the spare seat for most of this when we were stopped and it got a little messy. Not a big thing, and luckily not expensive.
Everything else worked out pretty good. Having the bikes separate in the back was a huge help and kept them secure. Most of our kit was in the back also out of the way which freed up a lot of room. We did take a lot of cookware which I won’t take next trip. You only really need one pan for everything.
So what’s next? I’m now in the USA on a two week ‘business trip’.
I’ve just moved house and looking forward to getting back and sorting things out.
We’re then back out to the Alps for the CCC. My second attempt at the race. Hoping to go under 17hrs this time and have a more comfortable race. Looking forward to it.
Then hopefully things will get back to normal and getting back out on the singulars. Maybe a new bike is on the horizon also.