Trans Provence…is waiting for you

Another year of the Trans Provence is done. I was working as part of the Mounatain Staff again, pre-riding the route and timing the special race stages. You can check out the excellent TP videos for a taste of what the event is like and to see the occasional cameo from me. Here’s one from Day 3.

MAVIC® TRANS-PROVENCE 2012 ::: DAY 3 from Trans-Provence on Vimeo.

Highlights for me this year were the mind blowing trails, feeling static from a close by lightning strike, duck in honey and peaches and the sight of sun rising in the mountains. I’m writing a longer blog on my experience, but for now here are a few photos.

Dates and prices are already up for the spring 2013 Trans Provence 3 day skills and riding breaks that I run with Ash the organiser of the TP. These are aimed at riders wanting to progress their all mountain riding skills for trips to the Alps, Pyrenees and other bike holiday locations. It’s also a great opportunity to escape the grim of northern European winter for an early taste of the south of France.

Many people choose to do the Trans Provence in a more relaxed and accessible way than the race. Those booking the TP guided trip might be interested in doing the Great Rock UK ‘Alpine Prep’ course which looks at and develops some essential skills for riding alpine style. Feedback has been good from the many individuals and groups who did this training and went on to enjoy the TP guided trip.

MRP Bling Ring & Micro Chain Guide

I’ve been sold on the 1×10 gearing set up for a couple of years now. The security of not having the chain fall off the chainring, combined with the protection of a bash plate is really important to me. On my 26er I was happy running a 32t chainring with a 10 speed 11-36 cassette most of the time in the UK. However when I started riding a 29er, the same 32 / 11-36 gearing with bigger wheels was giving me gear ache! It was just too hard to climb big hills especially when I was riding longer days, particularly on my trips over to the Basque country and the Alps.

I was due to go to the French Maritime Alps to work as part of the Mountain Staff for the Trans Provence race. This means riding for 7 days in the Alps with 10,000m of vertical ascent and 15,000m of descent on properly technical trails. I was therefore overjoyed to discover, thanks to a bit of tweeting (thanks @chainlinephil) that there is now a solution to the problem. The MRP Bling Ring is a very smart single ring specific chain ring that comes in 28 and 30 tooth sizes (as well as 32, 34 and 36). I chose to go for the 28t as this is the equivalent to a 30t chainring on a 26er.

The chainring fits directly onto the splines of the new SRAM X9, XO and Truvativ AKA cranks. This means you can do away with the spider altogether for a lighter and neater solution. For chain security I fitted the latest version of MRP’s Micro chain device which is adjustable to fit a range of 28-32 chainrings. The chain is fully enclosed by the upper guide and has a sturdy lower guide with pulley wheel and a strong bash plate. This device is available in ISCG 05 and ISCG standards.

Gearing with the 28t ring was spot on for the climbs and I was glad I’d gone for this over the 30t ring, even though it seems ridiculously small, especially when viewed next to the wagon wheels! I was worried that I might spin out in the higher gears, but when on singletrack trails there was no problem at all. Only when riding sections on the road or on boring tracks was I under geared, a compromise I’m happy to make.

Blinged & Microed

I never once lost the chain, didn’t feel any drag and was pleased that the device was quiet. Maximise your performance pleasure by also fitting a clutch type short cage rear mech. Downhill bike security with trail riding friendly gearing makes this set up a winner and gives a genuinely practical 1×10 option to the 29er rider.

More details including pricing on the MRP and Ison (UK distributor) sites.

Trans Provence Skills

Here’s the edit from the recent 3 day skills holiday trip to the French Maritime Alps. We still have a couple of places available for the next trip on 13-15 March. Check the Trans Provence Skills tab above under Courses for more details.


Alpine skills

Just back from the south of France where I’ve been running a 3 day Alpine skills course with Ash Smith the organiser of the Trans Provence race. We started by looking at how to develop a better body position on the bike and improve cornering technique and the skill of pumping the trail. Day 1 was spent on flowy trails with plenty of corners as well as some techy rock sections.


On Day 2 we upped the game and went to Special Stage 25 of the Trans Provence race, out by the coast near Monaco. The trails here are rocky, steep, sometimes with exposure and really quite technical. This is big mountain riding for sure. After a full day in the mountains we descended all the way down to the beach in Monaco for beers and a look at how the super rich do things.


Day 3 we rode a fantastic loop which had it all: flowy hard packed trail, rocky tech and balcony singletrack. The skills part of the day saw us tackling difficult switchback turns like you will find when you go riding in any alpine area. The trip finished with a return to the fast flowing trails of Day 1 where the group could really get a sense of how far their riding had progressed.

There are lots more photos on Flickr. Just click here.

The next course is on 13-15th March. See the Trans Provence Skills tab under Courses above.

Ice Cast

Here’s the latest news from Great Rock. I was going to shoot a riding video out my local muddy trails, as a way to illustrate how I’m looking forward to heading off to all the foreign destinations that I’ll be working in this year. But everything was covered in freezing rain making Calderdale pretty much unrideable. Instead I got Victor, our new dog, to do an introduction, then previewed the foreign trips and finished with some product reviews.

Included are Endura MT500 jacket, On One winter soft shell, Teko socks, Gore Oxygen bib 3/4, Continental 2.4 Rubber Queens, Maxxis Beaver 29, plus previews of other kit that will be getting used and then reviewed soon.


2012 International

This year is set to be a big one for Great Rock. As well as the popular trail centre and natural trail UK courses, I’m heading off with my bike in the EVOC bag to lead several European skills holidays. If you meet my wife you might just explain to her that this is a job and not just one big holiday.

Although all the trips have mountain bike skills as the core element, there is a lot more going on as well. I’m keen that all the trips are good holidays in their own right and the locations are actually places that I want to go to. It’s not all school and we have a lot of fun riding our bikes all day in the big hills with the assistance of experienced guides.  When the riding’s done we can relax in good places and our accommodation and food is always of a high standard. Sometimes we drink a beer or two.

The riding in all the areas has lots of quiet singletrack trails. It’s all proper mountain biking with the right balance of technical challenges as well as magnificent views. Because the areas I go to are a bit quieter the riding is not all uplifted. There is some pedalling although all the trips also include uplift to get the most fun out of our riding time. You will not have to queue to ride and neither will you have to suffer braking bumps. Details of all the trips are here on the site under the Courses tab above.

Trans Provence

First up are the February and March, 3 day Trans Provence skills breaks in the south of France based at Sospel. I’m running these with Ash, mastermind of the notoriously technical Trans Provence race. In September I’m off again to work as part of the mountain team for the TP race itself.

Basque country

Building on the success of last year’s Basque skills and guided riding holiday, I’m pleased to be collaborating with Doug from Basque MTB again in July this year. NW Spain is a lovely area with great, quiet trails. There is mountain, coast and forest there and the riding often has lovely views out to the Atlantic coast. The Basque country has a unique culture and my favourite part of that is the excellent food.

August sees a return to the south of France for my first collaboration with trailAddiction for a backcountry skills week in the Areches-Beaufort or ‘Destination X’ area of the French Alps.

Hopefully I’ll get a trip to Greece in the autumn as well after several journeys over there in the last couple of years. These trips have been for Greek mountain bikers so far, but there are plans in the pipeline for Greek riding holidays.

Maybe see you out there somewhere!