You might have done a lot of cycling around Europe, even in the French Alps, but if you haven’t been cycling in the French Pyrenees yet, it’s hard to understand how unique the experience is until you ride it!
The Pyrenees are not like any mountains you’ll have ever cycled in before. The passes that you’ll be cycling there were originally created by farmers and shepherds to move livestock and they often cut through woodland areas.
There’s hardly ever any traffic to contend with and the all-round cycling experience is a joy.There’s a huge cycling culture in the French Pyrenees. A big part of this is the Tour de France, which first passed through the Pyrenees in 1910. Over the intervening years, some of the Tour’s best moments have occurred in the French Pyrenees, cementing the location as a great cycling destination in the minds of fans and cyclists from around the world. There’s accommodation in the region that are aimed mostly at cyclists, emphasising how welcoming the region is to cyclists visiting it.
The French Pyrenees has lots of very popular cycling routes and climbs that you can explore. There are dozens of them in fact, but there are some in particular that are very popular and stand out as options that you should consider cycling when you’re there.
If what you’re looking for is a truly spectacular climb, you should definitely head to Luz Ardiden. It’s generally considered to be one of the most picturesque cycling routes anywhere in Europe. Although it is present in the Tour de France, it wasn’t introduced until 1985. It has a 6.9% gradient and is inconsistent throughout.
Col d’Aubisque is a legendary climb made famous by the Tour de France, and is today one of the most popular routes in the French Pyrenees because people want to test themselves against it and experience it for themselves. It’s a must for anyone who considers themselves a hardcore cyclist and stands at 2613m high.
At 6929 feet high, Col du Tourmalet is the highest paved pass you’ll find in the French Pyrenees. It’s not far from Luz Ardiden but it’s quite a different cycling experience. It’s part of the Tour de France and was the highest part of the 2010 race. It’s an ominous climb, and anyone who’s watched the Tour knows that so be prepared.
Cycling in the French Pyrenees is best done between the start of June and the end of September. This is when you have the best chance of good weather. There can be times when there’s plenty of good weather outside of that window of time but it’s certainly riskier because the weather is more changeable and you might be left unable to cycle. It’s certainly true that the weather is better for longer and temperatures to remain higher in the Pyrenees than in the Alps, so this is a big advantage.