By Sean Badenhorst
I’ve never seen myself as a person that would spend a holiday at a Club Med resort. My perception of Club Med is not too dissimilar from those old Peter Stuyvesant cigarette adverts we would see at the movies in the 80s and 90s.
Idyllic destinations that seemed only reachable by yacht; sugar-white beaches with impossibly clear blue well-behaved seas; perfect looking well-groomed couples that had the confidence of the wealthy. That’s what Club Med was to me…
Maxime, our guide, showed great patience with our group.
My son, Cade and I on arrival, enjoying the incredible Alpine views.
A committed cyclist likes to earn his or her beach time, lying in the sun for a few afternoon hours at a holiday resort is the reward for a few hours of morning pedal toil and bike-riding fulfilment. It’s a balance sheet that only cyclists can relate to.
An avid cyclist, my idea of a great holiday is riding bicycles each day AND relaxing – somewhere safe. Somewhere with good weather. And good mountain bike trails. And lots of food. And beer and wine.
When we were invited to join a media launch (all expenses covered) of the Club Med Les Arcs Panorama in the French Alps in late June, I was very hesitant.
Firstly, there’s no way I’m going all the way to the French Alps and not ride a mountain bike. Secondly, we have a 13-year-old son. He’s going to be bored stiff at a Club Med resort…
“We have mountain biking and Club Med is very family focussed. Your son will love it,” came the response to my initial sceptical email reply.
My wife, Joanne, loving one of the descents!
Chairlifts are a novelty for South Africans. But oh so useful!
We all know that you get ‘mountain biking’ and MOUNTAIN BIKING. What kind of mountain biking and what bikes do you have? Was my next question.
The answer came back with links to the riding and the bikes. Hmmm. Now we’re talking!
Because I have ridden a number of eBikes, I understand and appreciate them. Club Med Les Arcs Panorama has both normal ‘Trail/All mountain’ bikes and ‘Trail eBikes’ for hire.
So, we went. We being me, my wife Joanne and our son Cade.
We climbed to over 2200 meters where the views were simply superb.
We were hardly going to be disappointed by the cuisine in France!
We experienced mountain biking like we’ve never done before. I have ridden mountain bikes in the Swiss Alps a couple of times which wasn’t too different from this. But what I truly loved was that I could experience mountain biking in the Alps with my wife and son.
We all rode eBikes, which evened out any major differences in strength between us on the climbs. We got to ride on chairlifts, which in itself, for South Africans, is pretty cool. We got to ride beyond where the chairlifts go because we were on eBikes. This allowed us to all enjoy a loop that would never be possible had we all be on regular mountain bikes.
The signage of the trails is impressive. It has to be, this is the Alps!
The bikes were 150mm-travel full-suspension eBikes. Apparently Haibike, an established German brand. The bikes were superb. When you’re riding in high mountains, the descents can be gnarly in places (the trails are IMBA-graded so you can choose your level according to your skill), so that amount of travel with relaxed geometry may seem a bit much when you’re ascending a gravel road, but you appreciate it all completely when you’re heading back down…
Club Med Les Arcs Panorama outsources the mountain biking to a local mountain bike trails company that employs highly skilled and experienced guides. Their local knowledge and ability to quickly asses the skill/fitness levels of their groups impressed us.
So many trails to choose from – for all levels of mountain biker…
You can do your own rides at Club Med Les Arcs Panorama, but they also have pre-arranged guide-led rides (usually one in the morning and one in the afternoon) that you can join.
If you spend money regularly on mountain biking experiences, such as stage races, and are looking for a fresh mountain biking experience in the South African winter of 2020, Club Med Les Arcs Panorama is highly recommended.
Our guide, Maxime, giving us a pre-ride briefing.
Mountain biking isn’t the only mountain activity. There are some incredible hikes on offer too.
10 things that stood out for us:
- The Alps are more incredible than you can imagine!
- The mountain bike trails in the area are sublime!
- The mountain bike group leaders are ridiculously skilled and knowledgeable.
- France is one beautiful country! We discovered this on our airport transfers by road.
- Club Med is very family focussed.
- You don’t pay for anything at Club Med while there. It’s all part of the original payment. This is refreshing.
- The food is superb, both in variety and quality.
- The Club Med Les Arcs Panorama hotel is spacious without being impersonal and classy without sacrificing the feeling of comfort.
- The staff at Club Med Les Arcs Panorama are friendly and warm and speak English with cool accents.
- The Alps are more incredible than you can imagine! We really had to say this twice.
For more information on how you can book your own trip to ride in the French Alps and stay at Club Med Les Arcs Panorama, head over here: https://www.clubmed.co.za/r/Les-Arcs-Panorama/s