Located in southeastern France, the French Alps are the perfect destination for keen road cyclists looking for a challenge.
This mountainous region features some tough climbs, such as the famous Alpe d’Huez and is also the location of several cyclo-sportives for those who enjoy more competitive cycling.
While some are happy to plan their own trip to the Alps, perhaps using our guides to cycling the French Alps (here and here), others are looking for an Alps cycle tour. They want the extra support of having someone on the ground to provide assistance if things go wrong, book accommodation and tailor routes.
In this article, we share some of the things to think about before booking a cycling tour in the French Alps. We've also picked a tour from nine of the bike tour operators we'd be happy to travel with and shared the details. We don't receive anything from these organisations for including them here - we're just keen to give you an idea of the kind of Alps tour that's out there. We hope it's useful; let us know in the comments below!
Full disclosure: unless stated below, none of the tour operators have paid to be listed here and we receive no financial benefit if you book one of their tours.
DIY or self-guided versus guided Alps cycle tours
There are lots of reasons you might be looking for some support with your cycling holiday in the Alps. If you’re new to cycling in high mountains, you might want the comfort of knowing someone’s there if the weather gets nasty, your bike breaks or you’re not quite as fit as you thought! Alternatively, you might be time poor and want someone to take the hassle out of booking accommodation, picking the route and (especially if you want to complete a point to point journey), transferring your baggage.
It’s also worth bearing in mind that cycling in high mountains is a bit different to cycling elsewhere. There aren’t as many people around as there are in other parts of the world. Towns and villages are often few and far between, and those there are may not have a shop or restaurant open when you need it. If you’re cycling alone, a guided tour gives support to cover these kinds of issues, but also camaraderie.
For more information on the different kinds of cycling trips (guided, self-guided, fixed base etc), read this article.
For questions to ask before booking a tour, read our tips here.
What kind of Alps cycling tour do you want?
Before you delve into the detail of which tour operator to use, make sure you’re clear on the type of tour you’re looking for.
Yes, it’s a road cycling trip to the Alps, but are there particular climbs you want to conquer? Are you looking to base yourself in one area and tick off the classics or do you want to go to an area that’s a bit less famous? (You’ll find both options within our selection here).
Alternatively, are you looking for support to complete a particular event or have you got the urge to do a point to point through the Alps?
How we picked these Alps cycling holidays
In deciding which tours to include, we’ve based our suggestions on companies that have been recommended to us over the years. We’ve tried to include a mix of companies, from large international outfits to smaller one-man band operations.
The things they've all got in common is that they’re all tours we ourselves would like to go on - and no one has paid to be featured here.
1. Alpe d’Huez cycling tours
(and classic climbs of the Alps)
These cycling tours are aimed at those wanting to ride Alpe d'Huez and the classic Alpine climbs.
Marmot Tours is a cycling holiday company which has been running tours for over 15 years. The company offers guided cycling holidays in the Alps as well as other European cycling hotspots.
The Alpine Classic Cols tour is a guided bike tour of some of the most challenging cols in the Savoie Alps. This seven-day circular route includes all the classic Tour de France climbs including the 1,845-metre Alpe d’Huez climb. If that’s not enough, each day there are optional extra routes, making this an ideal cycling tour for couples or groups with different fitness levels.
Bike Weekender is a small company made up of five expert cycling guides who offer guided and self-guided cycling tours from their base in the French Alps. With over 15 years’ experience in cycling in the Alps, they specialise in 4-day weekend cycling breaks.
The Northern Alps cycling tour includes famous climbs such as the Col des Aravis, Col de la Colombiere and Col de Croix Fry. Then, it’s on to the shores of beautiful Lake Annecy with a climb up Semnoz to appreciate the stunning Alpine scenery.
We ran a Q&A with Bike Weekender – you can find out more about them and their favourite Alpine routes, here.
La Vie en Velo
La Vie en Velo is different to most cycling companies in that it is a one-man operation run by host Angus Parker. Angus has been organising group holidays to France for over 20 years and now specialises in french cycling tours. He’s a friendly guy who’s ready and able to transport cyclists and their bikes all the way from the UK and back in his mini-bus and custom-fitted box trailer.
La Vie en Velo offers a 4-day weekend Alps cycling holiday. Routes can be tailored to suit the group but typically include Alpe d’Huez and the iconic Col de Galiber.
2. Sportive tours in the Alps
This kind of cycling tour focuses on completing a specific sportive. The packages tend to include entry into the relevant Alpine sportive, as well as everything you need around that, from accommodation to transfers.
Sports Tours International
Established for over 45 years, Sport Tours International is one of the UK’s largest sports travel companies. They take participants and spectators to events all over the world including professional and amateur cycling events, sportives, marathons and triathlons.
One such event Sports Tours runs trips to is La Marmotte, an annual one-day cyclo-sportive event in France. The event is named after the ‘marmot’, a type of ground squirrel which inhabits the slopes of the final climb to the finish in Alpe d’Huez.
All Things RIde
All Things Ride is a relatively new entrant to the market offering people supported trips to sportives and cycling holidays across the UK and Europe.
One of the events they offer trips to is L’Etape du Tour, the world’s most famous sportive which allows amateur road cyclists to race over the same route as the queen stage of the Tour de France. The 2020 Etape du Tour starts and finishes on the Cote d’Azur and includes three famous French Alps climbs - the Col de la Colmaine, Col de Turini and Col d’Eze before finishing back in Nice.
Haute Route offers 3- and 7-day cycling events across the world. Aimed at amateur road cyclists, Haute Route events are organised to deliver the experience of a professional road race.
The Alps 2020 sportive is the flagship event of the Haute Route cycling series. The route features famous Tour de France climbs including six cols that top out at over 2,000 metres above sea level. The event starts in the heart of the French Alps in Megève and finishes in Nice on the Cote d’Azur.
You can find more of our favourite European sportives in our pick of the best 2020 sportive challenges, here.
3. Point-to-point cycling across the Alps
A point-to-point tour is a great way to spend your French Alps cycling holiday, as it allows you to cover a lot of ground and experience a range of destinations within the Alps.
Colconquerors is a small company run by Rob and his wife Karen. They offer supported cycling tours to some of the most popular destinations in Europe. Rob, Karen and their highly-qualified cycling coaches accompany guests every step of the way, riding with them in small groups with at least one staff member for every four cyclists.
Touted as ‘The Ultimate Alps Cycling Holiday’, Colconquerors’ Col du Galibier To Ventoux cycling challenge is a fantastic French Alps tour. This action-packed week begins with three iconic climbs on the first day – the Col du Galibier, Col d’Izoard and Col de Vars. On subsequent days, as you continue towards Provence you’ll ride past fields of lavender and sunflowers before climbing through the spectacular Gorges de la Nesque and then the toughest challenge – Mount Ventoux.
Trek Travel is a large US-based company offering all kinds of cycling holidays in iconic destinations across the globe.
Their ‘Tour Cycling Vacation’ follows the most famous climbs of the Tour de France on a 9-day adventure through the French Alps and Pyrenees. This french bike tour starts in Lourdes, close to the border with Spain, and finishes with a climb up Alpe d’Huez. Along the route you’ll experience famous climbs such as Mont Ventoux, the Col du Lautaret and the scenic Col de Suzette loop.
DuVine is an award-winning international cycling and adventure company with a focus on the local history, culture and gastronomy of destinations across the world.
The ‘Alps Journey Bike Tour’ promises an epic week of adventure as you ride through the heart of the French Alps from Geneva to Nice. You’ll conquer the toughest climbs in the region including Alpe d’Huez, Col du Galibier, Col de la Bonette and Col d’Izoard. Along the way, sampling Alpine fare such as fondues, raclette cheese and fresh Alpine lake fish, as well as local drinks like Pinot Noir from Savoie and French craft beers.
We'd love to know what you think of our selection. Have you travelled with any of these operators? What was your experience? Let us know in the comments below!
We've got loads of in-depth articles on riding in the Alps, from the in-depth guides to the Alpe d'Huez and Col d'Iseran regions that we mentioned above, to route guides in each of these areas and tips for cycling in the French Alps.
Head over to our France cycling destinations page for more inspiration!
and La Bérarde,