This is very steep, mainly unpaved, loop starting from Sallanches that leads to Col de Niard. A place FAR better known by hikers than cyclists. It feels like heading into a secret Alpine high valley. Beautiful.
It’s paved until roughly 1000 metres as it weaves up a quiet little road with nice chalets and the occasional farm.
As the paved road ends the route heads higher through a forest. Be warned. It gets extremely steep, and on a slippery gravel surface I spent much of the ride pushing. There is one short stretch that must be 30%. But again, so quiet, and beautiful. Apart from a few hikers, I saw no-one. Sorry, I don’t have any good “steep” photos as I was too busy staring at the ground and pushing my bike up while breathing heavily.
Getting above the tree-line, things gets spectacular.
It’s a “road” almost the entire way, but becomes a trail just short of Col de Niard (1801 metres). I did briefly get off the road at the last chalet, following a hiking sign instead of riding through the farm. But I soon rejoined this road.
From the Col, the route actually heads higher to just over 1900 metres.
At this point I realised I had a problem: My disc brakes – recently adjusted by a mechanic – weren’t working. At all. I asked the locals for help but they had no clue.
I had phone service so I tried tweeting for help. Not certain why a few people “liked” the tweet. 🙂
Help. At top of long, steep, unpaved climb. Disc brakes barely work. Pads fine. Anything I can do to adjust? ? pic.twitter.com/WzJnOWpb7N
— cyclingchallenge (@cyclingalps) August 30, 2016
Despite some ideas from kind twitter people, I realised I better start hiking. I of course kept taking photos and below the dust is from me desperately trying to brake with my feet – I had to jump off bike as I wasn’t stopping (but nice views of Mont Blanc).
I had reached the steep stretch and would have been walking here anyway, so I relaxed and enjoyed the surroundings. At roughly 1250 metres the paved road begins again. At this point one of my brakes was sort of working. So, no worries, I gently descended back to Sallanches (550 metres or so).
I must admit, I am struggling with disc brakes. I have them on my hybrid and this mtb. Due to all the descending I do the pads need to be changed relatively often. And despite studying various You-Tube videos I have yet to successfully change them myself – always ending up at a LBS for help (yes, I am technically challenged).
Which direction is better for this loop? Either way works. The way I descended has a 1.5 km stretch that I doubt even a pro could pedal up. So either way, there will be hiking.
Anyway, no harm done. I still enjoyed this truly off-the-beaten-track ride. An amazing place. But again, if you don’t like some pushing then avoid. On the other hand, it looks like I have a Col de Niard “Will” Strava hors categorie KOM (a KOM where no-one else has ridden the route) that will be easy for you to beat. Are you up for the challenge?