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Old 02-02-06, 03:47 PM   #1
tblendell
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TdF climbs with a loaded rig?

hi! thinking of touring france in june solo. i want to ride the loire and perhaps burgundy but i'm also really excited to ride a couple of the high cols eg. alpe d' huez, mt. ventoux etc. there is a tour in the lonely planet guide that includes some of these climbs and rates it as "hard-very hard." it doesn't mention, though, if its crazy to attempt these rides no matter what or just with a loaded bike.

aside from alpe d'huez which i think can be made a day trip from the town below, i'm wondering if anyone has attempted/can comment on the difficulty of riding the high cols with a loaded rig.
or if its better to just give in and pay the extra $ to a tour company to haul my stuff around for me.

any other touring suggestions are def. welcome!
thanks
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Old 02-02-06, 05:19 PM   #2
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Haven't done the Alps or the Pyrenees, but I have done fully self-contained tours through the Sierra Nevadas (Cal/Nevada, not Spain) and Rockies. Can you do those TdF climbs on a fully loaded rig? If you can do them without killing yourself without touring gear, you can do them with touring gear - but significantly more slowly, in lower gears, with more rest stops, and probably not more than one or, at most, two of the big monsters in a day. Don't even think of trying to do that four pass, Aubisque-Peyresourde-Tourmalet stage in one day.

I have driven up Mont Ventoux (the southern approach, the side that killed Tom Simpon in 1967) and that climb would be hard at any time. It will almost certainly be hot, windy or both. If you have seen photos that make it look like the top kilos are a moonscape, they are - more so than pictures can convey. The memorial to Simpson is tres cool, though, especially if it has been a while since anyone has cleared off the cycling gear that is piled up like offerings to the cycling gods (hats, tires, water bottles, etc. - there was even a trashed frame when I was there). Also, it will not take long to descend off the Ventoux to civilization. Same for L'Alpe d'Huez. Not true of a number of other major climbs, though. A Michelon map will clue you in very quickly.

Your trip sounds like a little slice of heaven to me. Go for it! Just don't hurt yourself trying to bite off too much at a chunck. That's the beauty of fully loaded bike touring - you do not have to get there fast, you just have to get there - and what constitutes "there" can change almost at whim.
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Old 02-02-06, 06:48 PM   #3
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Look up the grades of the climbs you are considering. Then go find a similar climb near you, if possible. Load up the bike, go climb your "Alp de pseudo-Huez", and find out if you can do it.
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Old 02-02-06, 07:02 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tblendell
hi! thinking of touring france in june solo. i want to ride the loire and perhaps burgundy but i'm also really excited to ride a couple of the high cols eg. alpe d' huez, mt. ventoux etc. there is a tour in the lonely planet guide that includes some of these climbs and rates it as "hard-very hard." it doesn't mention, though, if its crazy to attempt these rides no matter what or just with a loaded bike.

aside from alpe d'huez which i think can be made a day trip from the town below, i'm wondering if anyone has attempted/can comment on the difficulty of riding the high cols with a loaded rig.
or if its better to just give in and pay the extra $ to a tour company to haul my stuff around for me.

any other touring suggestions are def. welcome!
thanks
I think it would be a lot more fun to ride the mountain stages, particularly the one-way stages like Alpe d'Huez unloaded as a day trip from your planned route. Do them more in the style of which they are done in the race (from what I hear you'll have lots of company on any given day on any of the classic climbs).
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Old 02-02-06, 07:38 PM   #5
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I have driven up Mont Ventoux (the southern approach, the side that killed Tom Simpon in 1967) and that climb would be hard at any time.
It's all about motivation


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Old 02-02-06, 08:08 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tblendell
hi! thinking of touring france in june solo. i want to ride the loire and perhaps burgundy but i'm also really excited to ride a couple of the high cols eg. alpe d' huez, mt. ventoux etc. there is a tour in the lonely planet guide that includes some of these climbs and rates it as "hard-very hard." it doesn't mention, though, if its crazy to attempt these rides no matter what or just with a loaded bike.

aside from alpe d'huez which i think can be made a day trip from the town below, i'm wondering if anyone has attempted/can comment on the difficulty of riding the high cols with a loaded rig.
or if its better to just give in and pay the extra $ to a tour company to haul my stuff around for me.

any other touring suggestions are def. welcome!
thanks
Define "loaded rig". Are you carrying camping gear, or will you be credit card touring and staying in hotels?

I did some credit card touring around the French Alps and the Pyrenees in 2001 and climbed a few of the big cols, some I did with my gear (Galibier, Croix de Fer, Telegraph, a few others) and some I did as day rides, leaving my gear in the hostel for the day (Alpe d'Huez, Aubisque,others). I remember being very glad that I didn't hae camping gear with me in the Alps and the Pyrenees, and if you're going to carry camping gear make every effort to keep weight to a minimum. If you've got good low gears on your bike and don't mind moving at a very slow pace, all the big cols are very scenic. Be aware that France can be very hot in June, even the Alps. I used the Lonely Planet cycling guide to France, the "High Cols of the Tour de France" route is excellent as are the Pyrenees routes.
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Old 02-02-06, 08:17 PM   #7
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As long as your loaded rig is geared properly it shouldn't be a problem.
I can practically winch myself over anything with 18 gear inches carrying 50 lbs of gear.
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Old 02-02-06, 08:37 PM   #8
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Over the years, I've done 24 tours in the Alps from the Col de la Bonnette to the Grossglockner, all with panniers (hotels, not tents.) and handlebar bag.
Of course, it might be easier with a luggage vehicle and the Mavic neutral support vehicle for good measure, but self contained works. Yes, it's slower and takes more energy, but if you were looking to set a personal best climbing record, you probably wouldn't be in this Forum.
I'd worry less about climbing and more about the descent. You need to take the time early on to test the packing on your bike for best handling and as well that the weight distribution in loaded mode does not induce shimmy in the bike as your speed increases. It's not hard to hit 45mph on a straight descent.
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Old 02-02-06, 08:55 PM   #9
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My wife and I incorporated that Lonely Planet route in our tour 18 months ago. We cheated a little and left our rear panniers at a camping ground at Bourg d'Oisans and rode with just a light load (front panniers on the back) and went up over Galibier down to St Michel de Maurienne where we stayed in a hotel, then did col de le Croix de Fer the next day returning to the same camp site. Whatever you do don't miss oiut on Galibier! We went there in early June and found heaps of snow still at the top and the most awesome views (dare I say it quite a spiritual experience). We had a photo from the top enlarged and takes pride of place on our living room wall! Since then we've done plenty of climbs (Bonnette, Stelvio, Tourmalet etc) fully loaded, but on a loop like that if you can lighten the load (or join a tour if that's what you like) why not? We found the Galibier climb not too hard. It's long but not very steep. The last 8k's is a bit harder but by then you're agog with the stupendous views so much you forget what your legs are doing, plus you're kept busy saying bonjour to all the other cyclists!

Have fun!

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Old 02-03-06, 01:14 AM   #10
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now THAT is a loaded rig! (sorry).
thanks everyone for the suggestions! i love this forum!
i was looking at the tour operators esp. the "self" tour plans and a map of france. i guess i didn't realize that so many of those climbs are so close to each other. now i'm thinking of travelling to grenoble by train probably, and riding to bourg d'oisans and, like nomad and the mrs., camping or possibly cheap hotelling, and just doing some of those climbs as day rides sans gear. bicycle france ( i believe was the name) has this as a self tour including some meals and hotel and directions and maps to make life easier for around $650 which probably isn't too bad for a 4 or 5 night stay...that combined with the loire and or another area...getting excited!
any DO NOT MISS bike trip routes in france?
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Old 02-03-06, 01:53 AM   #11
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Originally Posted by tblendell
now i'm thinking of travelling to grenoble by train probably, and riding to bourg d'oisans and, like nomad and the mrs., camping or possibly cheap hotelling
There is a very nice municipal campground in Allemont, just outside of Bourg. It's at the base of the dam, surrounded by forest. A pretty setting:

http://www.camping-leplan-allemont.com/index-uk.html

Below is a photo from our campsite, during the 2003 Tour de France.
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Old 02-03-06, 09:11 AM   #12
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Shouldn't this be posted under "Mt. Ventoux moonscape" or under the "Calling All Fans of Thin Chamois!!!" on the Road Bike Form
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Old 02-04-06, 05:57 AM   #13
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I climbed Mont Ventoux (south side) a few years ago on a loaded bike (bike + luggage =~ 40kg), lowest gear 28/28. It certainly was one of the hardest climbs I've done, but it is not impossible in any way. I also did a few more high climbs (Stelvio, Izoard, Galibier, ...) and they are all good . Speaking of camping grounds, how about this view of Ventoux...

Final hairpin:
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Old 02-04-06, 09:55 AM   #14
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Originally Posted by The Fixer
As long as your loaded rig is geared properly it shouldn't be a problem.
I can practically winch myself over anything with 18 gear inches carrying 50 lbs of gear.
+1
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Old 02-04-06, 10:12 PM   #15
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great pic! thanks also for the campsite reccommendation. i looked it up and will see about reservations as soon as i make my final flight/date plans...there's just so much to DO!
thanks for everyone's response!
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Old 02-06-06, 12:20 AM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bikepacker67
It's all about motivation


If she was riding in front of me, I suspect I'd find reserves of strength and climbing ability that I have never before shown.
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