A cycling holiday in the Dolomites should be an unforgettable experience. Here are some tips to make sure it’s unforgettable for all the right reasons!
For route suggestions, downloads and everything else you might want to know about riding the Dolomites, check out our comprehensive ultimate guide to cycling the Dolomites.
Essential bike preparation for your Dolomites cycling holiday
1. Choose the right gearing
If you’re cycling the Dolomites, you’re going to be riding some tough, unforgiving climbs. Most riders will want a compact 50-34 chainset with a 11-28t cassette. A cassette with a 30 or 32 tooth sprocket would give you even more flexibility.
2. Get some training in before your trip.
You don’t come to the Dolomites to search out the odd bit of flat road. You’re going to be climbing and if you’re planning on riding the really hard passes, like the Giau and Fedaia, you need to be fit. Try and get some long miles in and make some of those in hills.
3. Check your bike before you go
If you’re taking your own bike, have it serviced before you leave. If you’re renting a bike, take a look at our questions to ask before hiring a bike.
4. Bring spares and know how to use them
There are bike shops in the Dolomites (more info here), but there aren't loads and they’re unlikely to have specialist kit. Even if you do find the right shop, is that really how you want to spend your Dolomites cycling trip?!
Following on from the point about getting your bike serviced before you arrive, bring essential spares with you including spare tubes, tyre levers, and a pump or CO2 canisters, plus a puncture repair kit and versatile multi-tool. Check out our packing list for more.
Riding mountain passes requires a lot of energy. Fuel before you start climbing and keep a gel or high-energy snack in your back pocket. If you're staying at a cycling hotel they may be able to help you (or raid the local supermarket). If you’re especially particular about nutrition, remember to bring your favourite bar with you. Most importantly, don’t leave eating until you’re starving: do like the pros and eat now for later.
6. Pack for all weather
The weather in the Dolomites can change very quickly. We always head out with a jacket and often also leg warmers and gloves for the long descents... The weather can be very different on the mountain passes to in the valley. Even if it’s not, a jacket can be a total lifesaver on a descent: windchill can be huge. For more information, check our ultimate packing list which has a checklist you can use.
7. Plan your rides before you visit
Our ultimate guide to cycling the Dolomites contains loads of information on the famous climbs of the Dolomites, what they’re like and what to expect.
8. Familiarise yourself with your route before you ride it
Make sure you know what you’re letting yourself in for!
Take a look at the maps and route profiles so you know what to expect and can be confident. Have a think about how long each climb should take, where you plan to refuel and any shortcuts or important parts of the route.
We're big fans of ridewithgps.com and use it to plan all of our rides.
The Dolomites are beautiful but they are far from being an unknown gem.
Due to the elevation of the mountains, the season is short and so the summer months are busy. You need to head out early if you want to avoid too much traffic. Or time your visit to coincide with the Sella Ronda Bike Day.
10. Road works
Due to the short summer and the fact winters are quite extreme, the road surfaces take a hammering. Don’t expect smooth asphalt perfection!
When we visited in July, there were roadworks on sections of almost every pass we road. This not only means you need to be prepared to stop but be aware that traffic bottles up behind the roadwork traffic lights and then comes through in one long snake.
11. Travel insurance
No one wants to think about the possible problems you could encounter on your cycling holiday, but we should. You might find our guide to travel insurance for cyclists useful.
12. Highway code
Be aware of the Italian Highway Code and the rules for cycling in Italy before you go. One particular point to note is the requirement to wear a high-visibility gilet if riding in a tunnel or outside town/city centres between dawn and dusk.
13. Beware heatstroke
Take sun cream and plenty of water out with you on the bike. And use them! Heatstroke can come on quickly and is very scary.
Another common problem when cycling in the heat is cramp. We always take electrolyte tablets for our water bottle; they really help stave off cramp.
15. Ride with a friend
Particularly if you’re new to riding in the mountains, it can be good to ride with a friend or group. That way if something goes wrong, there are people there to help you out.
If you haven't got any friends keen to ride in the Dolomites, consider joining a tour. We've got lots more information about picking the best cycling trip for you in this article.
16. Remember the essentials
We always suggest keeping a small rear light fitted to your bike in case you come across an unexpected tunnel or get caught in bad weather. Money (a small quantity of cash can be especially useful in the mountains!), ID and your phone are also essential.
Been on a cycling holiday in the Dolomites and got some additional tips? Please comment below!