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Cycling Alpe d’Huez
(and surrounds):
your ultimate guide

cycling ALPE D’HUEZ AND surrounds: CYCLING’S MOST FAMOUS COLS

The French Alps are the motherland for many road cyclists. They are home to the iconic climbs you see on TV and magazine centrefolds. They are synonymous with legendary climbs, unbelievable feats of endurance, crowd filled roads, the brightly coloured peloton and the circus that is the Tour de France.

Of all the Alpine big hitters, one name is more famous than any other: Alpe d’Huez. If you love cycling, cycling Alpe d’Huez is one you just have to do. And while you’re in the area, why not pit yourself against the other big names: the Galibier, Glandon and Croix de Fer to name a few. If you’re looking for French Alps cycling and want to feel close to cycling legend and get a taste of the suffering, pain and glory, this is the place to come.

Everything you need to cycle the french alps

In this guide you’ll find information on rides, accommodation and bike hire that’s all accessible from charming Bourg d’Oisans. The town sits at the base of Alpe d’Huez and close to Col du Glandon, Col de la Croix de Fer, Col de Sarenne and  Col du Galibier.

If you’re looking for riding from other Alpine towns, head to our other French Alps guides:

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    Col de l’Iseran (and surrounds) covers the Isère Valley, including climbs such as the Col d’Iseran and Cormet de Roseland.
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    Provence and Ventoux covers Mont Ventoux and the beautiful Luberon hills.
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    Nice covers the unmissable climbs of the southern Alps close to the Côte d'Azure.

Planning some cycling in the Alps? Drop us a line; we’d love to hear from you!

Cycling Alpe d'Huez: Routes

The challenge in the French Alps is not finding rides (there are so many!) but finding the best ride for you, the one you'll never forget. So, what motivates you?

The famous Alpine cols? The best Alpine cycling climbs? The most epic landscapes? The hidden gem? Pushing yourself to the limit or taking time to enjoy the scenery?

We’ve got routes that tick all these boxes, including some of the best climbs in the Alps, all within easy access of charming Bourg d’Oisans.

Top tip: Don't miss the car-free days during July and August each year. Plan carefully and you can ride the big names (including Alpe d'Huez, Croix de Fer and Col de Sarenne) without the hassle of cars! More details:

Alpe d’Huez

  • Distance: 14km
  • Elevation: 1,120m
  • Difficulty:
  • Epic rating:

Croix de Fer and Glandon

  • Distance: 42km
  • Elevation: 1,650m
  • Difficulty:
  • Epic rating:

Col d’Ornon Loop

  • Distance: 111km
  • Elevation: 2,540m
  • Difficulty:
  • Epic rating:

Lauteret and Galibier
(from south)

  • Distance: 48km
  • Elevation: 2,390m
  • Difficulty:
  • Epic rating:

Saint-Christophe-en-Oisans and La Bérarde

  • Distance: 33km
  • Elevation: 1,250m
  • Difficulty:
  • Epic rating:

Col de Sarenne

  • Distance: 57km
  • Elevation: 1,980m
  • Difficulty:
  • Epic rating:

Villard-Reculas loop

  • Distance: 34km
  • Elevation: 910m
  • Difficulty:
  • Epic rating:

Family cycle routes in the French Alps

This area isn’t ideal for family cycling, especially with young children. It’s difficult to avoid the mountains and valley rides are along a main road.

Older children who are confident cyclists may be able to tackle some of the less ferocious routes mentioned above, perhaps La Bérarde after St-Christophe-en-Oisans or the Col de Ornon. But take it easy. You don’t want to put them off!

Accommodation

This section includes details of hotels and villas we have either stayed in or which we think look great. Full disclosure: if you click on a link and make a booking, we may earn a commission, at no additional cost to you. Please read our disclosure policy for further information.

The rides in this guide are grouped around Bourg d’Oisans. This is where we stayed, and we think it’s one of the best towns in the Alps for excellent riding. From Bourg d’Oisans you’ll find the following rides within easy reach: Alpe d’Huez, Col du Glandon (south side), Col de la Croix de Fer (south side), Col de Sarenne and Col du Galibier.


Our choice: Chalet Ribot, Alpe d'Huez (half board)

Chalet Ribot is a 300 year old farmhouse perched in a tiny hamlet half way up Alpe d’Huez. It’s a spectacular location with far-reaching views over the valley. The steps up to the house pass dilapidated buildings - but once through the gate, there’s a warm welcome from Letty, Harun and Denzil (the Bernes mountain dog) and you know all will be well. For us, this was a truly special place to stay. 

Chalet Ribot bedroom
View from Chalet Ribot on Alpe d'Huez
Delicious food at Chalet Ribot

What we loved

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    How much Letty and Harun care. Letty is super helpful with bike ride planning, from which mountain tunnels are lit (for those that may have forgotten their bike lights…) to offering her opinion on the most exceptional routes. She also goes out of her way to ensure you have a wonderful stay. After a day out she was usually on hand on our return to ask how it was and offer a drink. She provided us with a cot and highchair, daily housekeeping and washed and dried our clothes too.
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    • Food. Harun is passionate about food and our evening meals were truly excellent. He also cooked a 6 pm tea for the children, which worked brilliantly as it meant the children were in bed while the adults ate at 8 pm.  Our son happened to mention his favourite food was pizza - and guess what appeared on the table the following night. We also enjoyed the complimentary Nespresso available in our rooms and the living room!

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    Service with a smile. Back to Letty and Harun again! Nothing is too much trouble. We asked for the children’s tea to be served at a different time each night and were late twice! They may have been seething behind the scenes, but seemed totally relaxed.
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    Relaxed vibe. The vaulted ceilings of the living/dining room give a cosy, homely feel which is complemented by the honesty box in the well-stocked bar.
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    Excellent bike garage and wash down area. These cycling friendly facilities are no passing gesture, there’s everything a cyclist might need. You can even buy extra gels, inner tubes etc. at a very reasonable price.
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    • Lap pool, jacuzzi and sauna. The lap pool is ideal for young children that want to splash around. The facilities are also excellent for adults and with the lovely sun deck too, there’s enough for a non-cyclist that wants to spend a morning/afternoon relaxing while their partner is cycling.

Swimming pool and outside decking at Chalet Ribot
Bike workshop at Chalet Ribot
Denzil the dog at Chalet Ribot, France

Things to be aware of

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    • Location at bend 12 of Alpe d’Huez. This could be a positive or negative depending on your perspective. Not being in the centre of a town has its drawbacks, as does having to cycle halfway up a mountain at the end of a ride. On the other hand, you get to know cycling’s most famous mountain, you get superb views, you’re in an excellent position to ride routes you might not otherwise get around to (for example the Pas de la Confession loop), and you’ll undoubtedly be a better climber by the end of a stay!

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    Comfortable rather than super smart. Come with that expectation and you won’t be disappointed.
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    A short walk to the car park. Chalet Ribot is not a good choice for anyone that doesn’t like steps; there are a couple of flights up from the road to the chalet, and more from the chalet to the bedrooms. That said, our 1.5 year old was fine.

Conclusion

We felt very well looked after and thoroughly at home throughout our stay at Chalet Ribot. Letty and Harun were charming hosts and a major part of the reason we’d recommend Chalet Ribot to anyone looking for cycling accommodation in the French Alps.

Other options

There’s a lot of accommodation suitable for cyclists in and around Bourg d’Oisans, but we found it hard to find many places up to Epic Road Rides standards! Notable exceptions are where we stayed (of course) and the three B&Bs on our long list: Chalet Saskia, Chateau d’Oz and Chalet Morville.

Chalet Saskia

A beautiful ski chalet in the small, pretty village of Vaujany, about 19km north of Bourg d’Oisans. It’s halfway up the Col Sabot (on the way to the Col du Glandon from the south) - but they say they will come and pick you up at the bottom of the mountain if your cycling legs have given way!

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    East and a west wing both sleeping 10-13 people. They have family rooms.
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    Offers bed and breakfast and six days a week you can also have afternoon tea and dinner. The chef’s food is a highlight.
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    Sunny terrace with great views, a spa with hot tub and sauna.
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    Washer and dryer and daily housekeeping.
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    Games room to keep kids (and grown-up kids) amused: table tennis, bar football, board games, toys.
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    200m from Vaujany’s excellent leisure centre with swimming and gym complex, ice skating rink and bowling centre.
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    Bike garage with work station, pumps and tools.
Chateau d’Oz

Chateau d’Oz is in Oz en Oisans, about 14km north of Bourg d’Oisans and well placed for the major climbs of the area.

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    Probably the most simple accommodation in our list of suggestions, but it makes up for that with good facilities, well-sized bedrooms and kitchenettes for those that might want them. Breakfast and evening dinner are available on request.
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    You’ll find your hosts knowledgeable on the best routes in the area.
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    Games room with children’s toys.
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    Well-equipped, locked garage for bike storage and maintenance.
Chalet Morville

One of the more luxurious options, Chalet Morville is in the medieval village of Venosc about 15 km south-east of Bourg d’Oisans, on the road towards the Col du Lautaret and Galibier.

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    The chalet is in the village, with shops, bars and restaurants within a couple of minutes walk of the chalet.
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    It has smart decor, five large bedrooms, daily housekeeping and impressive facilities: a drying room, fitness and massage room, games room with pool and table football. There’s also a cinema room, and they can provide childcare equipment including cot, high chair, baby monitor and stair gate.
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    Outside, there’s a terrace, hot tub and sauna.
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    Food is top notch, with breakfast, cyclists’ tea and dinner all available. There’s an honesty bar, and they also offer separate children’s evening meals.
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    The bike storage room is well kitted out, with bike stands, track pumps and plenty of tools.

Bike hire

There are plenty of options for road bike hire around Alpe d’Huez, both in Bourg d’Oisans at the base of Alpe d’Huez and in the village at the top of the mountain. Cycles et Sport is the most prominent name you’ll see in Bourg d’Oisans, though our hosts at Chalet Ribot recommended Cycle Huez over Cycles et Sport.

Town centre Bourg d'Oisans

Beautiful Bourg d'Oisans

Bike hire Bourg d'Oisans

Bike hire at Cycles et Sports in Bourg d'Oisans

Boulangerie in Bourg d'Oisans with bicycles

Even the boulangerie is pro-bike in Bourg d'Oisans!

We didn’t need to hire on this trip so can’t say either way. It will probably come down to whichever is more convenient for where you’re staying.

This information is offered as an indicative guide only: we periodically update it but prices, services and bike brands may change. Please let us know if you find anything that is incorrect.

Company

Bikes and Services

Cost

Bourg d'Oisans 

Cycles et Sports, Bourg d'Oisans

Place du Docteur Faure

+33 (0)4 76 79 16 79

A good variety of bikes from BMC, Scott and Specialized to Pinarello F8 Dura-Ace and Dogma 65.1. You can also stock up on kit, energy food and there is a repair shop too.

From 39-90€ per day, depending on the bike.

Au Cadre Rouge, Bourg d'Oisans

20 rue du Général De Gaulle

A small shop in town. Their website is poor.

Please enquire.

Prompt, Bourg d'Oisans

18 Rue du General de Gaulle

+33 (0)6 44 73 08 38

Has a selection of 36 bikes of different sizes and qualities to meet most needs.

Please enquire.

Alpe d'Huez

Cycle Huez, Alpe d'Huez

Route d'Huez, Place Joseph Paganon, Quartier Le Vieil Alpe

+33 (0)9 70 40 59 21

Wilier GTR 2017/2018, carbon, shimano ultgra compact groupset, 11-22 cassette.

Bikes are supplied with a saddle bag containing a spare tube and tyre levers, a pump mounted on the frame. All have two bottle cages (except the XXS frames).

Also provides bike servicing and repairs.

  • 1 day - 40 euro
  • 2 days - 80 euro
  • 3 days - 110 euro
  • 4 days - 140 euro
  • 5 days - 170 euro
  • 6 days - 195 euro
  • 7 days - 220 euro

Rocky Sports ShopAlpe d'Huez

Rue du 93ème RAM

+33 (0)4 76 80 63 02

Lapiere Sensium 500, carbon bikes. 

1 day - 45 euro

2 days - 80 euro

3 days - 115 euro

4 days - 145 euro

5 days - 175 euro

6 days - 200 euro

7 days - 225 euro

Saint Jean de Maurienne

SPORT 2000 / Espace Mondo Vélo

Av du 8 mai 1945

Also has mountaineering and other equipment rentals, as well as sports and fashion items for sale.

1 day - 19 euro

Weekend - 35 euro

Week - 70 euro

Tips:

Undecided on whether to hire a bike or bring your own? Read this now.

When to go

Read our article, Cycling in the Alps: when to go for full details.

Tips and articles

This section includes details of products we have either used and liked or which we think look great. Full disclosure: if you click on a link and make a purchase, we will earn a commission, at no additional cost to you. Please read our disclosure policy (which includes our Amazon Associates disclosure) for further information.

Maps and books

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    IGN has a useful map covering Bourg d’Oisans and Alpe d’Huez at 1:25,000 scale. It doesn’t cover all the climbs you’ll want to do (e.g. Galibier, Glandon, Croix de Fer). Click here to check prices
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    If you want to see the whole region, the Michelin Rhone-Alps map is helpful, at 1:200,000 scale. Click here to check prices
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    For an awe-inspiring sense of the history and grandeur of the mountains, take a look at Friebe and Goding’s Mountain High and Mountain Higher. We've reviewed Mountain High, here.

Good to know

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    Cycling the French Alps (and Alpe d’Huez in particular) is demanding and should not be underestimated. Read our cycling Alpe d’Huez tips before you go.
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    The Alps fall into eight different countries: France, Austria, Germany, Italy, Switzerland, Slovenia, Liechtenstein and Monaco.

Enjoyed our guide?

We'd love to hear from you - comment below or drop us a line.

Want more? Don’t miss our guides to the best cycling routes in the Alps and other articles on the French Alps, below.

Want to check out some other destinations? Search by the month you want to travel or cycling destination you want to visit, here

(Banner photo credit: Kartouchken/Shutterstock.com)

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