Bucket list recommendations for European cycling ventures

Questions about bike hire abroad and everything light bike related. No off-topic chat please

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Mr.Gib
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by Mr.Gib

I have cycled most of the major mountainous regions of western Europe. I have come away with the conclusion that the best memories come not from the famous cols, but rather from smaller, lesser known passes and roads that are too dangerous or small to host grand tours and so they remain uknown. For example, many people get excited about Alpe d'Huez yet very few are familiar with the Col du Solude on the other side of the valley. It provides 10 times the adventure.

Europe and in particular France is full of hidden gems like this. The Vercors area, although relatively famous, is rarely on anyone's radar.
Image

As for the well known stuff, for me the best is Switzerland.
Image
Image
Last edited by Mr.Gib on Tue Feb 01, 2022 1:00 am, edited 2 times in total.
wheelsONfire wrote: When we ride disc brakes the whole deal of braking is just like a leaving a fart. It happens and then it's over. Nothing planned and nothing to get nervous for.

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de zwarten
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Location: belgium

by de zwarten

I wonder why no one has mentioned Tuscany? OK, you don't have that many big climbs (Monte Amiata isn't the most scenic / spectactular / famous), but you have so many smaller climbs (around 5 kms to the hilltop towns), great food, culture,... So it should be amazing for your wife if she loves scenic towns, and global highlights like Firenze and Siena.
You have the cycling atmosphere brought by the strade bianchi. Best time of year here would be april / may (imho), as the landscape in springtime is most beautiful with all the flowers, but September should be pretty ok as well (and allows for visits to the beach).

Last but not least (and actually the first thing that came on my mind): you could try to arrange a visit to the Tommasini factory in Grosseto (and pick up another one while you're there :D

Besides Tuscany, I can recommend some places not yet mentioned here, like the Morvan, Cevennes, Ardeche (all popular holiday destinations for e.g. Belgians and Dutch, as it's a driveable distance with the car, most people tend to rent out holiday houses and enjoy the combination of good weather in summer, tranquil roads, family time + some riding...), Mallorca (maybe better in winter though, too crowdy in Summer!), the Western Pyrenees / Aspe Valley and surroundings (think col de Marie-Blanque, Larrau,...) = unbelievably green and beautiful (so could be wet anytime :wink: ), but I feel all of those won't have much for your better half.

As a Belgian: don't come to Belgium unless you are a bit sadomasochistic and like riding bad roads, or unless you happen to be around in April, and want to experience the whole atmosphere around the races.

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Mr.Gib
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by Mr.Gib

de zwarten wrote:
Mon Jan 31, 2022 9:36 am
I wonder why no one has mentioned Tuscany?
Spent many weeks in Tuscanny, stationed in various spots - Chianti, Lucca, Firenze. It's great, but I liked the Langhe in northwest Italy more, at least for the riding. Particularely the vinyard regions of Barolo and Barbaresco. The best non-big mountain riding I have done - stunning landscapes and great small roads. The towns are not quite as historic as Tuscanny, but good enough.
wheelsONfire wrote: When we ride disc brakes the whole deal of braking is just like a leaving a fart. It happens and then it's over. Nothing planned and nothing to get nervous for.

ducman
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by ducman

de zwarten wrote:
Mon Jan 31, 2022 9:36 am
As a Belgian: don't come to Belgium unless you are a bit sadomasochistic and like riding bad roads, or unless you happen to be around in April, and want to experience the whole atmosphere around the races.
We have plenty of mud & cow shit on out little country roads/cobbles now, what's not to like!? :lol:

wobbly
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by wobbly

Mr.Gib wrote:
Tue Feb 01, 2022 1:06 am
de zwarten wrote:
Mon Jan 31, 2022 9:36 am
I wonder why no one has mentioned Tuscany?
Spent many weeks in Tuscanny, stationed in various spots - Chianti, Lucca, Firenze. It's great, but I liked the Langhe in northwest Italy more, at least for the riding. Particularely the vinyard regions of Barolo and Barbaresco. The best non-big mountain riding I have done - stunning landscapes and great small roads. The towns are not quite as historic as Tuscanny, but good enough.
Just booked an Easter break there. I can recommend it. And some very steep hills.
Wife on ebike, me and the boys on pedal power.
We were there for the truffle week last year and a neighbour of the agriturismo saw my Colnago and said it was the one model (Ex C) he does not have. He claimed to have 40. He didnt show me where they were stored :)

wobbly
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by wobbly

Mr.Gib wrote:
Mon Jan 31, 2022 5:44 am
I have cycled most of the major mountainous regions of western Europe. I have come away with the conclusion that the best memories come not from the famous cols, but rather from smaller, lesser known passes and roads that are too dangerous or small to host grand tours and so they remain uknown. For example, many people get excited about Alpe d'Huez yet very few are familiar with the Col du Solude on the other side of the valley. It provides 10 times the adventure.

Europe and in particular France is full of hidden gems like this. The Vercors area, although relatively famous, is rarely on anyone's radar.

As for the well known stuff, for me the best is Switzerland.

Image
Which col is this Mr G. ?

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jdecraene85
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Location: Oudenaarde, Belgium

by jdecraene85

wobbly wrote:
Tue Feb 01, 2022 5:58 pm
Mr.Gib wrote:
Mon Jan 31, 2022 5:44 am
I have cycled most of the major mountainous regions of western Europe. I have come away with the conclusion that the best memories come not from the famous cols, but rather from smaller, lesser known passes and roads that are too dangerous or small to host grand tours and so they remain uknown. For example, many people get excited about Alpe d'Huez yet very few are familiar with the Col du Solude on the other side of the valley. It provides 10 times the adventure.

Europe and in particular France is full of hidden gems like this. The Vercors area, although relatively famous, is rarely on anyone's radar.

As for the well known stuff, for me the best is Switzerland.

Image
Which col is this Mr G. ?
I think it is a view on the little town Gletsch about 1 km from the top of the Furkapass, with Grimselpass on the right of Gletsch and the start of the Furkapass on the left. If you're going for cols, this is probably the nicest spot in Europe. Grimselpass, Furkapass, Sustenpass, Nufenenpass, Passo San Gottardo and Grosse Scheidegg all next to each other, all fantastic.

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micky
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by micky

de zwarten wrote:
Mon Jan 31, 2022 9:36 am
I wonder why no one has mentioned Tuscany? OK, you don't have that many big climbs...
Good point.
Just think of Monte Serra with its epo forged roads!
How many stories if that climb could speak!

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Mr.Gib
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Location: eh?

by Mr.Gib

Yes, that is the Grimsel viewed from the Furka. Whole place is amazing. The scale of the landscape just seems so much more massive and spectacular than elsewhere. Bring lots of money though. Either that, or ride near the Italian border and cross over anytime you want a coffee. :D
wheelsONfire wrote: When we ride disc brakes the whole deal of braking is just like a leaving a fart. It happens and then it's over. Nothing planned and nothing to get nervous for.

n1ey
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by n1ey

Donegal & ulster!

smartyiak
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by smartyiak

I didn't see it in this thread, but anyone spend time riding in/near Aosta? I've been thinking of a cycling vacation in summer '23 instead of a ski vacation...I dunno why, but I've always wanted to go there and it looks like there's plenty of roads to climb.

basilic
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Location: Geneva, Switzerland

by basilic

Valle d'Aosta has some nice riding, but I would not rate it the highest as a cycling base. A lot of the rides will be up a valley and back, there are relatively few opportunities for loops. Busy traffic in the main valley, but there are cycling paths. Many people ride through Aosta as part of the tour du Mont Blanc, using the Petit and Grand St Bernard passes. Some nice roads besides PSB and GSB: colle san Carlo from Morgex (esp in the fall), the balcony road from Avise through Saint Nicolas to Aosta, the Valpelline (but I haven't seen it all).
Then from the South (Noasca), the fantastic colle di Nivolet, but you can only descend into Aosta/Valsavarenche a few km, then it turns into a hiking path. That one is worth a trip.

Nejmann
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Joined: Mon May 06, 2013 6:25 pm

by Nejmann

Le Bourg Oisans is only an hour from Grenoble. So go there and do the all the bucket list mountain first when it's your first time..

We are talking

Galibier (My favourite got damn it's a beauty and though)
Alp d' Huez
Telegraphe
Glandon
Telegraphe
Croix d fer
Lacets Montvenier

Another time

Bormio in italy and the Mighty stelvio, Gavia and Mortirolo..

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jdecraene85
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Location: Oudenaarde, Belgium

by jdecraene85

Cortina d'Ampezzo, Arabba and Corvara are all superb starting points for well-surfaced multi-col loops in the Dolomites.

This, together with the rectangle Meiringen-Gletsch-Andermatt-Wassen in Switzerland (see comment above) are in my opinion the two best spots in Europe if you particularly want to focus on mountain passes.

And I've done almost every reasonably well known (and a lot of lesser known) mountain pass in France, Italy, Switzerland, Austria and to a lesser extent Spain, so that means something I think.

I agree about the Aosta valley. Too many of the nice roads are dead ends. And the ones who aren't are big roads. Not to say it isn't nice, but it wouldn't be my first choice.

Lesser mentioned but very nice possibilities:
- Tuscany (sorry but Tuscany is really nicer than the above mentioned wine region of Piemonte, not talking about the high mountain parts of Piemonte though)
- Picos de Europa in Northern Spain
- the mountainous region of Norway (Dalsnibba, Tindevegen, Sognefjellsvegen,... in love with this region)

- I personally find the Pyrenees overrated, apart from some little gems. Overcrowded in summer, generally shit accommodations especially compared to the Dolomites and sorry but also the general hospitality in France (without wanting to generalize).

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WilliamDove
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Joined: Mon May 30, 2022 11:00 am

by WilliamDove

Hello, all these suggestions are good. As to where is 'the best place' to go, I would not torture yourself. You will have incredible fun where every you go. The Dolomites, Italian or French Alps, the Jura or Vercors in France, the Austrian Alps, the Pico Europas in Spain, the French or Spanish Pyrenees are all incredible places to cycle where you will have a blast. The single most important thing to remember perhaps is that the coffee is best in Italy by a long shot.

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