Bikepacking The Pennine Alps Between France and Italy

Jan 3, 2018
by Formula  



We had unfinished business. Tour des Combins is one of the most spectacular, but least known, trans-alpine routes in the Pennine Alps. With over 4,000m (13,650ft) of climbing along its 113 kilometers (70mi), the Tour is an intimidating exploit, and in 2015 an ankle injury to one of our party kept us from completing the massive bikepacking loop.


Tour de Combins


The same ankle that foiled our attempts at the Tour des Combins sabotaged a freeride experience 4 years earlier, in the mountains of Abruzzo. We were riding that Christmas Eve, after being enticed into the world of freeride through the pages of Pinkbike.

We had started a project called Clorophilla, a freeride video from 2005 entirely filmed in Abruzzo, Italy. Our vicarious passion was transformed into reality, only to be scuttled by an unfortunate crash that resulted in reconstructive surgery and an ankle full of screws and metal.

Despite the setbacks and injuries, our appetite for riding continued to grow.
Views: 1,539    Faves: 4    Comments: 1


Tour de Combins


Fuelled by fascinating stories, like the adventures of climber Walter Bonatti, we yearned to explore foreign and exotic trails. Thus, Montanus was born: a multi destination bikepacking quest, which included expeditions to the White Rim, in the Canyonland National Park, the Estonian Marshes, the Tour Du Mont Blank, in the Alps and the Kokopelli Trail in the Utah desert.


Tour de Combins

Tour de Combins
Tour de Combins


Two years after our failed attempt at the Tour des Combins, we were ready for redemption. We headed back to the Gran San Bernardo Pass on the border between Italy and Switzerland.


Tour de Combins
Tour de Combins


Nestled beneath the impressive 4,000 meter peaks, we couldn’t help but chuckle at the journey that lay ahead of us. Back in 2004 when we were freeride geeks, a 27 kg bike equipped with 3 inch tires was our preferred ride. A decade later, we still had 3 inch tires, but this time our entire ensemble including bike, tent, sleeping bag and provisions weighed less than the bike of our past.


Tour de Combins


We encountered a stunning array of terrain over our 3-day adventure, including 60 meters of Roman road dating back to 50 AD, perennial snow-covered peaks, breathtaking views, glaciers, defiant single-tracks, waterfalls, glacier rivers, precipitous climbs, mountain pastures and countless magnificent vistas.


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Nature demands respect and admiration. As we get older (or grow up if you want), we understand what a privilege is to do what we love, riding bikes all over the world driven by passion. In the end the bike doesn’t matter, freeride is just a state of mind, today, just like yesterday.


Tour de Combins


Words: Francesco D’Alessio
Photos: Giorgio Frattale & Francesco D’Alessio
Website: montanuswild.com
Facebook: MONTANUSthewildside
Instagram: montanus_thewildside


40 Comments

  • + 51
 Thank you PB crew for the bikepacking stories. Excellent work Francesco & Giorgio capturing the spirit of an adventure in the mountains. Very envious Smile
  • + 8
 Thanks!
  • + 16
 Wow. Everytime I see these articles I become super jealous. I have all the kit, I just need to get out and use it!! This year, this year....
  • + 2
 same.
  • + 3
 "The mountains are calling and I must go." as John Muir said!
  • + 4
 I still own the Clorophilla DVD and used to own a heavy Banshee Morphine. Interrestingly, the 3inch tires are making a comeback. The Monster Ts... Not quite so Smile However I still get the same excitement going into a jump or a drop with fancier, lighter modern bikes. Adventure is what keeps us wanting to go back at it.
  • + 5
 this is friggin amazing! Digging your bikepacking setup (and also the mention of Estonian Marshes obviously). Keep up th good job!
  • + 2
 Thanks @yxbix, the adventure in Estonia was incredibile! Check it out: www.montanuswild.com/swampthingtrail
We hope to ride a new trip (e.g. Saaremaa Island) in your amazing country! Ciao
  • + 7
 I wish I could do stuff like this. I just enjoy familiar toilets too much.
  • + 1
 Same!
  • + 2
 hahah so true
  • + 5
 Mountains are pretty. Everyone should have some mountains close to where they live.
  • + 1
 great article and photos, actually we already found it on bikepacking.com and planning to do the trip this summer. how technical is the terrain? Bikewise what's the best to bring? I want to pay a visit to the bikeparks nearby (la thuile,etc) after the trip so I'm thinking of bringing my AM/enduro bike and have minimal equipment to compensate the weight. Thanks
  • + 1
 Thanks @klake, we published the Tdc on Bikepacking.com with all details you need (gpx file included). The riding on the Tour des combins is challenging but not generally technical. There is a fantastic singletrack descent from the Fenêtre de Durand pass to the Drance du Bagnes river. Incredibly fun in the first part, however it becomes steep and technical in the latter half.
You can ride the TdC with your AM/enduro bike and travel light eating and sleeping in two "Cabanes" (a mountain huts with all comforts) along the route, but I suggest to you to live the outdoor using a stove and a tent /bivy and take the right time to appreciate the epic views on the Alps range! Bikeparks can wait!

Moreover the TdC can be easily connected to the most famous Tour du Mont Blanc (www.bikepacking.com/routes/tour-du-mont-blanc) to create an incredible and challenging bikepacking route.

Ciao and have fun!
  • + 1
 You can find informations here (in french): www.vttour.fr/sorties/grand-combin,467.html
  • + 4
 With all that gear and those fat tires, you guys are like Hannibal crossing the Alps with elephants.
  • + 3
 That air mattress looks very comfy - I'd like to have one in my office and take a nap underneath this desk.
  • + 4
 Beautiful!
  • + 1
 incredible landscapes and really inspiring adventure. Just one thought: they seems to carry too much equipment for a 3 days bike packing trip, or is it just me?
  • + 1
 Ciao @jurassicrider and thanks for your compliments. We carried a tent, sleeping bags, mattresses, night wear, rainwear jacket and pants, downs, bulky 27,5+ spare tubes, multi and bike toolz, knives, titanium cups and forks, headlamps, 3 days food, 2 cameras, extra lens, extra batteries, a tripod, remote control and some other paraphernalia.
We ride self supported multi-day trips with the same set-up, carrying more or less food and water as needed.

We certainly could have a lighter setup without all that camera equipment, but I doubt this article would come out. Smile
  • + 2
 Not exactly between Italy and France, but Italy and Switzerland. Very nice pix !
  • + 3
 Absolutely amazing scenery, and a well-told story. Thank's
  • + 3
 Bravi, sempre un piacere vedervi in foto o video. f
  • + 3
 Big up for the formula forks ha. Would love to do something like this soon
  • + 3
 Incredible yet brutal scenery. Great thread & photos!
  • + 3
 That was great, no words, just incredible pics. Amazing story well told.
  • + 3
 Awesome, thank you for sharing!
  • + 3
 Excellent!!! Marvelous scenery
  • + 2
 Super inspiring! Time to plan the next adventure.
  • + 1
 Cool Pics! also for me one of the best rides ever done: vimeo.com/137728688
  • + 1
 Cool Pics! Buuut, was the music in that short vid supposed to be some kind of Lord of The Rings joke.. lmao?!
  • + 3
 Yes, Lord of the Rings influenced us just a little bit in those days! ;-)
  • + 3
 @MONTANUS: Okay Okay~ Then you get the epic cool dramatic music award! :-p
  • + 2
 @Jaybirdy: hahaah! Frodo can't ride in that film since he injuried his right foot against a rock!
By the way take a look at our latest film "Tramontana", different music and different concept: vimeo.com/211092315
  • + 2
 Capolavoro!!!! Grandissimi!!!!
  • + 1
 Rad. This is good quality content. Thanks. Looks like a blackburn ad without any blackburn products. LOL!
  • + 2
 Thanks you guys are Knar Knar enjoyed it all
  • + 2
 I need to do this!
  • + 2
 Great trip report!!!
  • + 1
 Wow if only I had a wood burning ebike⛺

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