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Alps Roseland

Ultimate Guide to Cycling in the Alps

Few places compare to the mystique of cycling in the French Alps on the same roads as biggest cycling stars, both stunning in it’s natural beauty and extremely challenging at the same time. The Alps are a must tick for any cyclist.


Thanks to the Tour de France you will be familiar with many legendary climbs in the Alps with Alpe d’Huez among the most famous as well as Col du Télégraphe, Col du Galibier, Col de la Madeleine which regularly feature in the Tour de France. 


If you are thinking of ticking of some Alpine Cols - continue reading for our complete guide…


When should I go?

The best time of year to visit the Alps for cycling are from June to September although some of the higher climbs like the Col du Galibier at 2,646m, do not open until mid June, depending on winter snowfall. Even after June the weather can quickly change as witnessed in a recent Tour de France where they had to cut the stage midway through. 


In the summer months in the valleys temperates can reach 30 degrees, but you need to be prepared for much cooler temperatures at the summit of climbs where conditions can change very quickly.


Also bear in mind that the Tour de France passes through the Alps every July, so if you come at this time of year you need to be prepared for large crowds, although this can be easily avoided.

Where to base yourself?

The Alps are 125 miles east to west wide and 750 miles north to south. So it is important to decide which Cols you want to prioritise so you can base yourself close to those climbs. We have identified a few places around different parts of the alps and named the Cols within riding distance…


Location: Southern Alps

Major Cols: Col de la Bonette (2802m highest paved road in France), Col d’Allos, Col de la Cayolle

Closest airport: Nice


Bourg d’Oisans

Location: Central Alps

Major Cols: Sarenne, Col du Galibier, Alp d’Huez, Col du Glandon

Closest airport: Lyon



Location: Central-northern Alps

Major Cols: Galibier, Glandon, Madeleine and Croix de Fer, Lacets de Montvernier, Col de l’Iseran

Closest airport: Turin



Location: North Alps 

Major Cols: Col de la Colombière, La Semnoz

Closest airport: Geneva



Location: South Alps

Col d’Izoard 2,360m, Col du Galibier, Col du Granon


Closest airport: Turin


Location: North Alps

Col du Joux Plane, Col De Ramaz, Col de la Joux Verte

Closest airport: Geneva

Alps map zoomed out

Must do climbs in the Alps

Alp d’Huez

Category: HC

Elevation gain: 1048m

Distance: 12.09km

Average Gradient: 8.6%

Segment on Strava

Col de la Bonette

Category: HC

Elevation gain: 1461m

Distance: 21.88km

Average Gradient: 6.7%

Segment on Strava

Col du Granon

Category: HC

Elevation gain: 1,036m

Distance: 11.26km

Average Gradient: 9.2%

Segment on Strava

Bike Prep  - your bike, gearing and what to take

While riding in the Alps is very beautiful, it can be a challenging place to cycle where the mountains reach as high as 2600m 4 times as high of what you will find in Yorkshire. Because of this you should make sure you have adequate gearing to ensure you are not left stranded. We would recommend a 11-28t cassette and maybe a compact 50-34t chainset depending how strong you feel. It can also be handy to have a physical map to help you plan routes. 


If you need to any new equipment or a new cassette we would recommend Wiggle.

Useful Links


Try not to climb most iconic Cols at weekends. The better known Cols like alp d'Huez get very busy, try these during weekdays. Climbs which end with a dead end are best tackled at weekends if possible.

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