Planning a Cycling Tour: The French Alps

For any keen cyclist, a French tour involving the Alps stirs up images of great Tour de France champions racing up the legendary lung burning passes such as the Galibier, Izoard or Madeleine. Many weekend warriors plan to follow their tracks someday albeit at a much slower pace! No matter how long a mountain climb takes, cycling over the summit of a major pass in the French Alps is a fantastic experience.

Planning a cycling tour is time very consuming it pays to be as prepared as much as you possibly can. Aside from the physical preparations, there are a few key pieces of information that we feel every up coming French Alp tourer should take into consideration:

  1. The ‘cycling season’ in the Alps generally runs from mid April to mid October and from mid May to the end of September each year.
  2. The months of July and August typically enjoy the driest conditions.
  3. September is a favourite time of year to take on the Alps as the weather is a little cooler and perfect for cycling.
  4. Most rainfall in Summer is mainly due to mid-afternoon storms that appear quite quickly and vanish within a few hours. It pays to be prepared or perhaps even off the road by this time of day.
  5. When on an ascent you should expect a change in temperature decline of around 6.5 Degrees Celsius for every 1000 metres you gain in altitude.
  6. With the large range in temperatures and sometimes-unpredictable mountainous conditions, a flexible multi layered clothing arrangement is essential. Consider a light base layer, a mid-warm layer and waterproof outer layer.
  7. Dehydration is a real risk when cycling in the Alps. Things are much worse at altitude due to the decreased pressure, resulting in deeper and faster breathing. More gas exchange means that more water vapour is lost, as it is a waste product of breathing. As a guide be sure to drink at least 1 litre per hour whilst you’re in the saddle.
  8. Don’t forget your bike lock, they definitely come in handy and put your mind at ease when you make a brief pit stop on your day’s ride.
  9. Be sure you have the right gearing ratios fitted on your bike as this is crucial for riding in the Alps. A low gearing arrangement will provide the most comfort. A compact chainset with a 27 or 28 tooth large sprocket, or a triple chainset would be the best set up for most cyclists.
  10. Before traveling make sure you have Comprehensive Travel Insurance in place and verify that it covers Cycling and also includes a benefit that provides ‘emergency evacuation or repatriation if deemed necessary’.

Our cycling tours in France live by these simple planning rules and we hope they’ve helped you.

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