How to climb that iconic mountain, the one you’ve dreamed of

For cyclists, there always seems to be one climb that has eluded them, and which figures highly in the imagination

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It might be one you have seen on TV – Pantani gliding up Alpe d’Huez, the Joux Plan defeating Armstrong, or Wiggins soaring to the top of Montee de Semnoz. It might be a climb you have read about, or even heard tall tales about over coffee on club rides. It might even be a climb that has defeated you before, leaving memories that make your hands stick to the bar tape.

These climbs fill our cycling dreams and inspire us to ride out, in what is often less than inspiring British weather. Using our site, you can conquer those demons, and fulfil those dreams.

Our site features over 55 climbs, from the Alps to the Sierra Nevada via the Pyrenees, the Dolomites, and even some lesser known cols in the Cantabrian mountains. We have compiled experts’ views, first-hand accounts and essential information, which will be particularly useful for first-time climbers. From our website, find your dream climb and begin to plan your ideal cycling holiday.

Our bucket list of climbs to conquer:

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Stelvio

One of Italy’s greatest geographical landmarks; the famous 48 hairpin bends provide arguably the purest, most exhilarating high mountain playground accessible to European road cyclists. Magnifico!

Stelvio info

Ride the Stelvio from £485pp for 3 nights

Tourmalet

The highest major pass in the Pyrenees and the most used climb in the Tour de France: if the aura and the cycling heritage aren’t enough to lure you, the scenery is unbelievably beautiful and there plenty more cols to bag nearby.

Tourmalet info

Ride the Tourmalet from £290pp for 3 nights

Alpe d’Huez

Probably the most famous climb in cycling. The fabled 21 bends has been a part of the Tour de France culture since the climb first featured in 1952. It’s also in the heart of great road cycling terrain.

Alpe d’Huez info

Ride the Alpe from £345pp for 3 nights

Pico de Velet

Towering above the Sierra Nevada national park, at 3395m above sea level, Pico de Veleta is mainland Europe’s highest road climb: a monster. From the top, you can see another continent; at the bottom, the wonderful city of Granada.

Pico de Veleta info

Ride the Veleta from £185pp for 3 nights

Col du Galibier

The legendary Col du Galibier (2638 m), in the Dauphiné Alps near Grenoble, is renowned for being one of the toughest Alpine climbs. This extraordinary high mountain road has been in use since the middle of the 18th century, providing the backdrop to everything from salt smuggling to a Spanish invasion. It has broken a few cyclists too.

Col du Galibier info

Ride the Galibier from £345pp for 3 nights

Image: Bikecation

We have compiled a few tips, to help you realise your climbing dreams:

Train hard

To enjoy your trip to the high mountains, apply yourself to training. Make sure you can do an hour to 90 minutes of hard, sustained effort in training, to imitate the climbs. If you haven’t got a serious mountain near home, ride smaller hills repeatedly.

Prepare your bike

Make sure your bike is ready. Get a bike shop to check it over if you are unsure: replace cables and brake pads, and fit the bike with climbing-friendly gearing. We recommend a compact crankset (50/34) and at least a 28t rear cassette. A 32t cassette will make it even easier. You can, of course, rent one of the very good hire bikes we have access to in most destinations.

Check the weather

Inevitably, mountains attract weather. Be aware that it can change suddenly. Get a good weather app on your phone; study the meteorological data to get a sense of what to expect; and when you get there, ask in your hotel about local conditions. If the weather gets really bad, don’t be afraid to change your route to avoid high passes.

Take all your riding gear

Pack most of your cycling wardrobe, so you can adapt it to the weather each day. Be creative: if you are heading out for a long, wet day in the mountains, perhaps pack a black bin liner and some cut-down washing up gloves. If you get really cold and wet, they will keep you warm.

Don’t go riding without a jacket

The Bikecation office rule: below 1400m, take a windproof jacket as minimum; over 1400m, carry a waterproof jacket and long finger gloves.

Image: Bikecation

In bad weather, don’t stop at the top

If you have to wait for someone, ride down to a place where there is good shelter.

Drink lots

Carry two large water bottles with you; top them up at every opportunity when you are climbing. Be wary of cramp and heatstroke; consider taking electrolytes in your water.

Descend with caution

Descending from an Alpine col is a very different experience to whizzing down a hill in the Chilterns. Easy your way into big descents and remember, it’s not the Tour: the roads are not closed.

Spares and tools

Carry a pump, tubes, spare chain link, basic tools, food, some money (for cafes – we can tell you where the good ones are), some food and a phone (in a waterproof case).

Don’t go overboard the night before

We understand you are on holiday and want to have a good time, but alcohol dehydrates the body dramatically.

Take lights

Inexpensive, blinking LED lights will do; cloud on high mountain passes, even in summer, can significantly reduce visibility, while plenty of climbs have tunnels. In some European countries, bike lights are mandatory in tunnels.

Image: Bikecation

Study your routes and climbs

We have a wealth of information on the site about the major climbs and routes up them. Understand what you are attempting; know where the ascents get harder and easier. This knowledge will significantly help you pace your ride.