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Your first alp

jimmerslimmerjimmerslimmer Posts: 63
edited November 2009 in Tour & expedition
What was your first alpine adventure? I'm think of having my first foray into the Alps next year and was wondering where to start. I'm used to 80+ mile rides over UK passes and climb a 1 mile long 12% hill most days but I still think it is best to start on a kindergarten pass rather than do something stupidly hard like the Stelvio or Galibier. Are there any good websites or books that people would recommend or any cycle tours that people have had good experiences with?



  • st68st68 Posts: 219
    go its superb been twice this and last year road madeleine ,glandon/croix de fere ,le deux alp, izoard, galibier, telegraph, ornon & alpe d huez there all tough rides but the scenery is stunning chris sidwells book tour climbs is good taking a camper van next year gonna spend 10 days in south of france pyrenees, massif central, cevennes & if i got time ventoux cant wait 8)
    cheesy quaver
  • Have a look at 'Cycling in the French Alps', by Paul Henderson, ISBN-13 978-185284-551-3

    Also 'Cycle Touring in Switzerland' by Judith and Neil Forsyth, ISBN-13: 978 185284 526 1

    Both are from the Cicerone group, and both offer advice re routes of variable difficulty and challenge.

    They should get you started.

  • rayboraybo Posts: 86
    I recently did a long ride through France. I both rode and drove through several river gorges. They are spectacular! I also drove a car over Mont Ventoux, which is another beautiful place.

    It was hard to imagine riding a bike up to and over Ventoux but I saw lots of bikers who were. The change in temperature and weather from the bottom to the top were drastic the day I drove over it.

    I rode through the Gorges du Tarn. The highlight of the whole trip! Here is a link to that day's ride in my trip journal. While the pictures show the grandeur of the place, they don't convey just how much my spirit was soaring during the ride.

  • As long as you're reasonably fit (and it sounds like you are) and you're willing to accept that these things take as long as they take then I see no problem with jumping in with both feet.

    Mrs Wakemalcolm did the Klausenpass in Switzerland as a 1st pass and she still rates it as one of her favourites. We spent a lot of the day on the ascent but we'd allowed time in our schedule for it.

    These climbs aren't steep, they're just long and quite often hot. I also have the Cicerone book and can recommend it.
    Cake is just weakness entering the body
  • schweizschweiz Posts: 1,644
    Come to Central Switzerland. There's plenty to choose from all within a days ride. From my house I have the choice of the Glaubenbergpass, Glaubenbielenpass, Brünigpass, Susten Pass, Furkapass, Grimselpass, Aecherlipass, plus countless others.

    Have a look at or if you speak any German,

    There was a thread about gear ratios a few weeks back to which I added my two-penneth:

    As you can see from that thread, I ride a triple. I'm not saying that you have to go triple if you're currently on a double, but you have to be honest with yourself as to whether you think you can ride uphill for 1-2 hours non-stop on your current gearing. I guess it depends on whether you're a spinner or a grinder. Like has been said, mostly the climbs aren't overly steep but are long. You sound pretty fit, so you'll be ok.
  • rhnbrhnb Posts: 324
    I can certainly recommend the place we just visited in September this year - Bormio.
    It's a great base for having a go at some legendary climbs, (Stelvio, Gavia, Mortirolo, Umbrail etc).

    As 'wakemalcom' said if you're reasonably fit (and if you're doing 80 mile rides regularly, you are) you shouldn't have a problem. You'll want to stop to take photos anyway as the scenery is bloody stunning so use that as an excuse for a breather now and again.
    If it's any help, take a look here at the write up / pics of our week long trip...

    Our climbs over here are quite different (ie use as little tarmac as possible!).
    I'm from the Lake District and I know which hills I'd rather climb :wink:
    Cycle tour reports and the home of \'Cycling Before Lycra\'
  • My first experience of the Alps was this year's Marmotte (Gladon/Telegraph/Galibier/Alpe d'Huez in a day) in June. I then returned to France in August for 3 weeks - first for a few days around Ventoux (managed to get up all 3 routes in a day), before heading to the Alps for 18 days. I stayed in Bourg d'Oisans for 12 days, and Bourg St.Maurice for the remainder. I went with a couple of mates and my sister. My sister had never ridden outside the UK before and she was concerned about her fitness and ability to ride the mountains prior to the trip. However, she had a great time, and managed 2 x up Ventoux, and several big climbs in the Alps - usually managing 2 per day - such as Glandon/Alpe d'Huez, Galibier (via Lauteret)/Les Deux Alpes, Iseran/Roseland/Les Arcs. The trick is to ride well within yourself, ensure you get some adequate rest (including eaasy days if you're staying for more than a week), and enjoy yourself.

    I managed to get a few extra days in and did several other rides including from Bourg d'Oisans up the Izzoard via the Lauteret, the Marmotte course backwards, a circular route over the Glandon to St Jean de Maurienne and back over the Croix de la Fer, Vaujany/Villes Recards (or somthing like that - the route from the base of Vaujany to Alpe d'Huez - beautiful), La Berarde (high recommended), Col de Madelaine,

    Sounds to me like you're plenty fit enough to enjoy these magnificent roads.
    We are all full of weakness and errors; let us mutually pardon each other our follies - it is the first law of nature.
  • I flew to Turin, first day cycled to Susa. Next day over the Col Du Fenestrelle which was awesome with the last three miles or so on a dirt track - lots of cyclists going over here on racing bikes. Then down into the next valley, subsequent days went to Sestriere, then Briancon, then Col du Lauteret. I was with my son and his friend who were sixteen and we then stayed in La Grave for a few days to recover, cycled up and down the valley watching the tour. Then back up Col Du Lauteret, over the Galibier, then up the valley and back over Col du Mont Cenis and into Susa. After going over the Galibier there are many other Cols in reach, and the same is true from La Grave. Depends on the weather and how you feel. We did all this with camping gear which gives more flexibility.

    It is good to be around the alps when the Tour goes through as the atmosphere is excellent. I am sure it would be great on a lightweight bike with some support, but I guess that puts the costs up.
  • pneumaticpneumatic Posts: 1,989
    It's all here:

    two of the most memorable experiences of my life.

    Fast and Bulbous
    Eddingtons: 80 (Metric); 60 (Imperial)

  • bahzobbahzob Posts: 2,195
    Done lots of trips to Alps and cant think of better place to start than getting in touch with Kings of the Mountain.

    Run by a great UK couple of cyclists situated to Bourg and many classic climbs.

    Based there you can go up the Alpe D'Huez/Galibier if you wish. But plenty of "unknown" minor climbs of every level of difficulty nearby to get practice on. Helyn and Guy who run the place will be happy to offer advice and go out with you riding/offering support + others staying there will be cyclists so you can hook up for rides together.

    PS. If you fancy Pyrneees later similar advice would be get in touch with, ditto to KOM run by UK couple with great local knowledge.
    Martin S. Newbury RC
  • certainly you can, i went there this autumn and i find a 50 mile ride about my lot and i'm mid fifties and not done anything like this before. i had an airnimal with low gears (bottom equivalent to 32 f /34 r ). just approach it senesibly it's a long time pedalling so start off gently and just try to get both a good pedalling and breathing rhthym going. don't, DON'T look ahead further than 25 ft, it's no good looking for the top it won't be there for an hour and a half. just settle into a rhythm that feels comfortable and realize that you can actually do this for as long as it needst . go up some gears when you have a rhythm going, if you want.
    psychology counts too, as you can feel in the first 1/4 mile that doing this for 2 hours is not possible. the only bad day i had was going up col du telegraphe which i thought of as just a pimple but suffered as i just hadn't done any psychological preparation
    i got up alped'huez (around 2 hours)and valloire to galibier summit non stop. it felt wonderful to have done it
  • FAUSTOFAUSTO Posts: 34
    I live under Alps :lol:
    Something special you want to know about this huge problems... for us :roll: ...winter, snow, winter tires on our cars, snow spade, cold, black frost, Jack Frost,... :lol:
  • Hi I have been cycling 20 passes now. And each one of them was great. I am putting all the information of each pass on a website. With video, pictures, bikemap, streetview(if available), profiles and 3D tours. So you can prepare yourself.
    Have a look
  • sampras38sampras38 Posts: 1,917
    First experience of the Alps was last year when a couple of us went out to Samoens near the Joux Plane to watch the Tour stage on the Colombiere. Ended up climbing the JP twice in a week, and also did the climb on the other side up to Avoriaz, once you descended into morzine. On Tour day we went up the Colombiere in the morning and waited for the riders to come up in the afternoon. Fantastic experience seeing the Tour up close and I'm going back next year to do the Alp d'uez and Galibier.
  • SDF64SDF64 Posts: 34
    Me and my Son went over last year for the first time to take in a few stages of the tour and do a bit of riding. We based ourselves around Le Grand Bornard for the first few days and climbed the Col de la Columbiere from both sides.

    The climb out of LGB on the south side is pretty easy especially compared to the climb out of Cluses. We decided to climb the north side the way the pro’s did so included the Col de Romme, now that’s a climb, especially in the heat of July. We were forced to stop off in Le Reposoir for lunch and a cool glass of beer :) (not sure Lance and Co. did this when they did it).

    The tour is going that way again this year so it’s not a bad place to base yourself if you want to do a bit of riding and take in a couple of stages. We’re going back ourselves to see stage 8 up to Avoriaz and then heading south to the Col de la Madeleine for stage 9.

    The plan is to hang around for a few days after stage 9 and take in the Glandon, Croix der Fer, Galibier, Telegraphe and Alpe D’Huez, all of which are close by. We stopped off to climb Alpe D’Huez last year on the way down to Mont Ventoux and found it easier than expected. Mind you I wasn’t exactly knocking on the door of Pantani’s time :) The only real problem was the heat, it was absolutely boiling at the time, probably due to it being early afternoon. Early morning or evening next time I think.

    As far as I can tell the main reason that a lot of Alpine climbs are rated as difficult is more down to the length of the climb rather than the average gradient. And don’t forget, you can always stop for a break and take in the fantastic scenery if things are getting tough.
  • Great cycling and mountain bike information for the Oisans region including Alpe d'Huez and the Galibier can be found at
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