The Summer Cycle – A great alternative to the Med

Ten years ago, family summer holidays in the mountains were the best kept secret in travel. In more recent times, the penny has dropped for parents looking for an alternative to the Med. Morzine, Les Gets and Avoriaz have never been so popular for summer activity breaks and our valley includes a stack of unique characteristics that make it very worthwhile.

Meet Jo Pauly. Already a fully qualified ski instructor, Jo moved to Morzine in 2006, working with another local guide as part of a year long training programme to gain the national professional cycling instructor qualification. He started RideAbility, a mountain bike school specialising in downhill and enduro riding, having recognised the area’s summer holiday potential.

During the months of June and July, Jo’s clients are mainly groups of friends looking to explore the trails and bike parks of the Portes du Soleil, giving their riding skills a boost along the way. When the school holidays arrive, Jo is booked to coach and guide families who’ve been bitten by the mountain biking bug and want to ride together, making him the perfect person to answer our questions on what makes the perfect family mountain biking holiday.

What things should parents consider when they select a destination for their first mountain bike holiday?

The most important thing to think about is a comparison between the kind of trails your children are used to riding, and those available in the local area. Are they similar? Will they be fun enough and easy enough for your children? You should also think about whether you’ll find the appropriate bikes and safety gear to hire locally and the availability of professional local tuition that can combine technique development and local knowledge in a fun and safe way.

Why are Morzine, Les Gets and Avoriaz so good for beginners and families on bikes?

We tick all of the above! The recent development of green tracks on Super Morzine means we now have a better offering for families. Typically, I’ll start gently in Les Dérêches, then head up the mountain to Super Morzine before eventually going a bit further, to Les Gets for example.

What tips do you have for families when they’re selecting their kit for their first family MTB holiday?

For little ones under the age of ten years, suspension isn’t necessarily a great idea. Although bike brands are now starting to focus more and more on kids bikes, suspension can add a lot of weight to an already heavy bike. Instead, look out for bigger tires (AKA Fat or +) as they offer better damping and great grip. Also, make sure brake levers are easy to reach and use and the grips aren’t too big. Saddles should be low enough so that both feet can rest flat on the ground when sitting on the saddle. You’ll find children’s mountain bikes to rent in a few shops in the valley, and this could be an easier option than bringing your own over, especially if you’re flying. Also, don’t forget helmets, gloves, knee and elbow pads – these are essential, but make sure they fit properly!

Is it possible to just charge on by yourself? Or should you always hire a guide?

In my view, you should always hire an instructor, but of course you’d expect me to say that! Even if you know how to ride a bike at home, mountain biking and the local trails will be a whole different ball game. An instructor will get you off on the right foot and help to keep you and your family safe. Teaching is our job, we know the tricks that you don’t and we know where to take you to suit your ability level. Plus, I find the little ones seem to listen more to a stranger than their own parents! Well, ours certainly do…

Which trails are best for beginners?

The Dérêches in Morzine is a pretty safe place to start, try riding all the way down to St Jean d’Aulps and take the Balad’Aulps bus back up the valley. Super Morzine has the easiest green runs, but be careful; they are still full on downhill tracks! Historically, the ‘family’ track on Pleney has been carefully prepared for families with a decent level of skill and experience, but I know work has been undertaken on this trail recently, so look out for more updates on this.

Is there a limit to the amount of mountain biking a child can do in a day?

It all depends on age and motivation, but I’d usually recommend between two and three hours per session. Having a goal, plus lots of rests and snacks always helps

Jo is also a coach with the Morzine-Avoriaz VTT Club, which meets every Wednesday between mid-May and early September. They teach almost 90 local children to ride their bikes and their objective is to offer children the chance to enjoy the area’s MTB facilities whilst teaching them the right skills and techniques. You’ll find Jo’s bike school inside the FB Freeride shop at the bottom of the Plene y in Morzine. Head to for more details.

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