BikeSolutions with Gallic Flair
27 Apr 2013
By David Scorer
A rolling BikeSolutions trail in the heart of the French Alps. Image: BikeSolutions & andyparant.com.
Based in Grenoble at the foot of the Alps in Southern France, the BikeSolutions' team was built with some key core values: skill, passion, and innovation. Co-founders Yannick Menneron and Yohann Vachette launched the adventure in 2007. Since then they have been joined by Max Higel and Florian Gerard, and this permanent team of 4 guys is fully committed to developing awesome mountain bike experiences! We caught up with Yannick to find out what they have going on and to get his thoughts on the industry as a whole...
WBP: What are some of the projects that Bike Solutions has lined up for 2013?
YM: Well, we have plenty of projects “in the boxes”, but not too many confirmed and signed yet… It’s always the same at this period of the year. Anyway we are expecting good news very soon. Among the projects, which are for sure, we will continue our partnership with Tignes to give them guidelines to develop their bike park. We are also running three pretty big studies about MTB parks/trail systems development in [the] Maurienne Valley, in Metabief (a famous name!), and in the North of France on big slag heaps! Always different projects, it’s never the same so it’s always good motivation.
WBP: What are a few of the most notable projects that Bike Solutions has worked on in the past?
YM: Lots of projects we are proud of, but maybe the most notable are those where we are involved for a long time because it’s easier to see the results. Maybe Tignes and les Saisies ski resort are these ones. Both of the two resorts trust us to guide them [extensively] on the way they should run the entire project. They have a committed and brilliant team: it’s an ultimate condition to make our “exterior” job really efficient. Today, economic success is there, managers and mountain bikers are happy, [and] so are we.
The "Lovely Woods" trail at Les Saisies Bike Park in France. Image: BikeSolutions & andyparant.com.
WBP: How did you come to work in this segment of the industry?
YM: We have been in this “world” for a very long time. Some years ago, we just opened our eyes and our ears. It [became] clear to us that some territories needed [a] professional approach and counseling to develop their mountain biking offerings. We managed to find complementary skills with Yohann [who] is a co founder of BikeSolutions with me, so we started the company in 2007. It was not easy at the beginning but now it’s OK for us, BikeSolutions is a team of 4 persons full time dedicated 100% to develop the best MTB facilities for territories who need it! We are happy of that.
WBP: Where have you seen the most growth/expansion in mountain biking over the past decade?
YM: In France, of course we see DH mountain biking growing a lot, in the ski resorts. We don’t have exact [figures], but it’s sure that more than 1 millions runs occurred last years on the French slopes… All the resorts, which are developing their mountain bike park seriously, increase their summer business. It’s a fact! But what we see in ski resort is just one face of a global phenomenon: now people want to play with their mountain bike, they don’t want to suffer [by] pedaling anymore. Look at the bikes that are sold today: full suspended, large bars, big tires, sloping frames, multiple settings…bikes made to play! Trails should go in the same way, allow people to have fun, while being as safe as possible. We are also keeping a careful eye on electric mountain bikes : they may play a bigger role in the future.
WBP: What are some of the similarities and differences in the riding scene in France when compared to North America?
YM: In France we have a strong culture of competition. In Downhill, the first permanent trails were old competitions or training tracks, that’s why only experts had fun on them. On the other hand we have a lot of historic trails, for hiking (most of the time long, steep, technical) or old farming gravel roads (wide, boring…). So it’s hard to convince land managers to invest in new trails because there are already so many existing ones! So we are in lack of good trails, suitable for all riding abilities, fun for everyone and secure. Except [for] the miracles, they don’t exist in the nature. On the contrary it seems so easy and natural in the US! The huge work of IMBA is one of the keys of that. That’s also why BikeSolutions tries to be involved in the IMBA Europe program, because we believe in it.
Yannick on tour in New Zealand. Image: BikeSolutions.
WBP: How does working in Continental Europe influence your trail design and construction? What are some of the advantages and disadvantages?
YM: Well, actually we just work once in Switzerland, even if we rode in lots of European countries, on various trails. When we travel, we see different laws, different ways of managing territories, [and] different ways of thinking… What does that mean? It means that when you see something really cool in one country, it doesn’t mean it can be done again in another one… On another hand, from a technical point of view, when we see good trail sections, nice wooden or rocky features or other cool stuff, of course it can inspire us and it can be adapted easily directly on the trails we design. I think all the trail builders do the same.
WBP: Where do you see influences from other sports seeping into the MTB scene?
YM: In France, [the] influence of skiing has been really strong. Maybe too much, because even today, some resorts don’t hesitate to tell their customers that ski runs are available for mountain bikers in summer… Fortunately, this kind of horror tends to disappear! Today, maybe the influence of outdoor leisure is the most important one. We try to include the notion of playing in every trail we design, more than the notion of sport. Like I already told you, I think that’s a global tendency, people want to play, and the future of mountain biking is there for us: making trails where every kind of mountain biker can have fun on!
The guys get to work building a wallride on a DH trail at Les Saisies. Image: BikeSolutions & andyparant.com.
WBP: What does the future of park and lift-access riding look like in your neck of the woods?
YM: I think [the frequency] will still increase in the next 5 years. After that, the resorts that will do the [best] will be the ones with good trail system of course, but also good services and marketing. These last two key points are very often underestimated and it’s an error. In the future it can make the difference.
WBP: What is your favourite MTB related memory/story?
YM: Hard choice! Discovering a stunning new trail, thrilling in competition or having fun with mates are often good times! If I could choose 3 of them, I would say -
The first time I run A-line in Whistler, because all the legend you imagine about this trail before riding it...
A night ride I had in Whakarewarewa Forest in new Zealand with local people : the trails were magic and the natural ambiance was unreal...
Maybe the start of the Megavalanche in 2006, I passed about 200 people in just a few seconds, a big thrill!
Digging huge berms high above the village at Tignes Bike Park. Image: BikeSolutions & andyparant.com.
WBP: Any other thoughts/comments/shout-outs/etc?
YM: Maybe a message to all the riders: respect the trails, the other trail users and the rules in bike parks. Our freedom is fragile and we see, from where we are, that one big obstacle in trail development is the bad behavior of some riders who cut the trails, go in forbidden areas, don’t respect hikers, built unauthorized trails, throw garbage in nature… So that’s it: one part of mountain biking facilities development is in the hands of mountain bikers themselves, enjoy the trails, but keep that in mind!
Interview by Matthew Lee
http://www.bikesolutions.fr (French Version)
http://www.bikesolutions.fr/en_index.htm (English Version)