Tips for your first cycling trip to the Pyrenees

If you have ever considered packing up your steed and heading over to the Pyrenees, here’s some info about what to expect on a Bike France cycling trip.

What sort of riding will we be doing?

We ride approximately 5-6 hours a day covering anything from 70 – 120 km in distance. Each day features at least one climb with options for stronger riders to do a second climb on most days. Although the climbs are challenging and will test riders of all abilities, they are all achievable for riders with good cycling experience and a solid level of fitness. We find that all guests ride the climbs at their own pace and there is no pressure to keep up with those up front. All rides will have a guide rider and access to a support vehicle should you have had enough for the day.

All rides start and finish at our accommodation base so there is no need to worry about checking in and out of hotels etc. We will also include a rest day for those wanting a day off the bike yet there is no pressure to ride on any given day.

How long and steep are the climbs?

The Pyrenees ‘Cols’ feature each year in the Tour de France and are used as a part of the mountain stages in the overall race. Although not as high as the Alps in the east of France, the Pyrenees are renowned for being a little bit steeper and (arguably) more picturesque. Each climb is different and we have set up the itinerary to ‘ease’ you into riding in the mountains starting with the shorter, lower gradient climbs first then building toward the longer, steeper climbs such as the Col du Tourmalet.
The climbs vary from short 5km climbs with our longest day of climbing being up 30km (don’t panic some of this is flat!!), with anything from 400m of elevation gain through to 2000m+. The gradients on most of the climbs are fairly consistent, and the good thing about riding in France is that there are markers each km indicating how far it is to the summit and the average gradient for the next km.

What sort of training do I need to do?

Rest assured that just about any cyclist with a intermediate level of experience would be able to complete each day’s itinerary. However, the effort required and the ease or difficulty you do the rides will depend on how fit you are, how much training you have done and how much weight you have on board! (As a big fella I can assure you its not easy at 100+ kg going up long climbs!)

From experience I have three pieces of advice to prepare for riding in the Pyrenees.
1. Ride as many hills as you can – if you can’t do anything else you’re your training then just RIDE
HILLS. Then ride them again (and again). For those who know the climb up Mt Donna Buang in Victoria, this climb is similar distance to the climb up Col du Tourmalet – approx. 17km in length. The Tourmalet has a little bit steeper gradient 7% average vs
6.4% average (don’t be fooled by the 7% average as the last 12k of the Tourmalet has an average of around 8.6%!)
2. Get light – every 1kg you don’t have to carry makes a huge difference – especially up mountains. (I always have some work to do on this!)
3. Build your base – Try to do at one long ride (around 100km) once a week in the months leading up to the trip to build a base in your legs.

See our 2018 ride itinerary here

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