The Alps

Jbish Posts: 17
edited August 2010 in Road beginners
Hello all,

I've recently (and with a very very heavy heart) had to turn down a trip to The Pyrenees and The Alps. Obviously I was properly gutted to have to turn it down and now the seed has been sown I can't stop thinking about going to the continent to do some big hills!

The plan is to get a trip sorted for next year. But obviously before planning I would like to know what the best way of doing it will be and Ive got a few questions;

The first question is when is the best time of year to go? I was thinking spring or very early summer. I have been in late August on a family holiday and it seemed like it could be pretty difficult in the heat. Any thoughts?

Next Question is where to go?! I was thinking possibly Lake Annecy. I know the area a bit and there seems to be a good range of hills in the area and not to far away, from monsterous to...not as monsterous! Dont want to sound like a massive wuss but for a first trip riding there, I dont want to have a bad time on vicious accents. Am I right in thinking that annecy will provide some of the less monsterous hills? Or is there a better area to ride for a first trip?

I suppose this is related to the previous question but does anyone know of any good and inexpensive places to stay? and where are they? Whats the riding like there?

Finally; is there anywhere else on the continent thats worth visiting to take in some decent hills before hitting the alps? I was considerng the south of spain. I've got access to an apartment near Marbella and I know theres some good hills to the north of there but dont know anyone who's ridden the area and Ive got no idea what the riding is like! Thoughts?

Any help and information anyone could provide would be brilliant. I want to get planning now so that the whole idea dosnt die on its arse!


  • Ands
    Ands Posts: 1,437
    Spring can be cold in the Alps - the ski season goes on until the end of April and some of the higher cols aren't even open until the end of May or early June. What sort of accommodation are you planning? If you are camping, be prepared for cool nights and early mornings. Even last week, the temps were down to 4 degrees at night where we were staying (700m altitude). I have been twice in early June and it has been scorching in the daytime, but very cool at night. I have been twice in July/August - last year we were sleeping with just sheets; this year we had 5 blankets! The thing with the mountains is that the weather can be unpredictable. I did my rides this year in the early morning and it was fine - sometimes only about 12 degrees when I went out (needed arm/knee warmers) but warmed up nicely by mid-morning.

    As for looking for smaller climbs, there are plenty of those even in areas of big monsters. I did Alpe d'Huez and the Croix de Fer this year as my first time of riding in the Alps and it was no problem with a reasonable level of fitness behind me. I also did some shorter climbs (Vaujany, Oz). There is a good mixture.

    I have been to Annecy but can't comment on the riding as I didn't take my bike. THis year I went to Bourg d'Oisans. I got a brilliant cycle route brochure from tourist info which lists 30 rides - some hard, some easier. It's online here:
  • rc856
    rc856 Posts: 1,144
    I've only been once and if I remember, we went late May/early June. Some cols hadn't been open long but we didn't have a problem.
    Hired a gite in Allemont which is about 6miles from Bourg d'Oisans so a great base for Alpe d'Huez, Glandon/Croix de Fer and like Ands, I also did Vaujany and Oz as 'smaller' climbs.

    I didn't have many miles in my legs at all....about 500!!!...but we were there for 2 weeks so we seemed to improve as the trip went on.

    From our base, we were able to go along to Les Deux Alpes and jumped in the car to drive closer to the Telegraphe and Galibier.

    We had driven down from Glasgow.

    Well worth and would go every year if circumstances allowed it.
    Planning a trip to the Pyrenees next year though :)
  • Jbish
    Jbish Posts: 17
    Cheers for that. Thats handy. I might leave Annecy and try Bourg d'Oisans instead and maybe do the Alpe. Hmmm decisions decisions....
  • daviesee
    daviesee Posts: 6,386
    I don't have personal experience but 2 guys from the club are doing the Raid Alpine this week.
    From their blog, it was snowing on the peaks yesterday, 15th August.

    Trying to avoid the cold may be more difficult than avoiding the heat :shock:

    This may give you an idea, if it is open to non-members...... ... php?t=1787
    None of the above should be taken seriously, and certainly not personally.
  • Ands
    Ands Posts: 1,437
    Jbish wrote:
    Cheers for that. Thats handy. I might leave Annecy and try Bourg d'Oisans instead and maybe do the Alpe. Hmmm decisions decisions....
    Is it a family holiday? I have to say that for children, we have never struggled to find loads to do round Bourg d'Oisans (and perhaps less to do around Annecy). There is so much going on up at Alpe d'Huez & Les Deux Alpes. This year we did outdoor ice skating and the summer luge (plus there are indoor pools at the Alpe & Vaujany for those wet days). Next year my daughter wants to go to mountain bike school. I did think the cycling path at Annecy was very good for giving the younger children somewhere to ride off road, however, and they always love going on boat trips.

    Daviesee, when we were there at beginning of August, we had a couple of really bad days - non-stop torrential rain for 36hrs and it was about max 12 degrees all day at lower altitudes. There was 25cm of fresh snow at 2700m. We took the children up in the cable car so they could have a play in the snow! It was 34 degrees two days later.
  • I've been in September and last year firtweek of October. I reckon it's the best time as French holidays are over and most visitors are cyclists, usualllyn dutch . It can still be decently warm but not too hot and not too cold on the tops.
    I reckon hill repeats are the nmost useful training I have done. Low gears of course help If you go for the longer climbs my recommendation is St Jean de Maurienne; if you do search for it i have posted before. Hotels are cheaper than Bourg d'oisans as it is not as touristy. I stayed at hotel Bernard. Clean , simple and great value. Also hoteld'europe is not too pricey and the owner is a cycle enthusiast.
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous Posts: 79,667
    I went in June...

  • giant_man
    giant_man Posts: 6,878
    Look at the size of his ar$e! lol :wink: only yoking although I have to say was it worth it? Bloody hell the snow content so much ....
  • 1_reaper
    1_reaper Posts: 322
    Just out of interest. What gear selection were used. ie compact and what sprocket ratios on the rear?
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous Posts: 79,667
    It was only the last section at the top of the Galibier from the tunnel to the summit that was like that. It was well worth it!

    The day before we did Alpe d'Huez. I was only in summer gear with arm warmers and it was snowing with strong winds on the top. It was -5. Never been as cold in my life (or ripped off! Had to go in to the bike shop to buy a hat, legwarmers and gloves just to be able to get back down!).

    I used a compact 12-27 but didn't need bottom gear. I'm a DREADFUL climber. Really bad.
  • Deegs
    Deegs Posts: 74
    Hah, yes. Galibier on 15th August this year was 4C and sleet, v cold. Alpe D'Huez next day was much better until vast thunderstorm arrived lol.

    There is a lovely place to stay here

    which our group thought was just great