Bikes for the Alps and Pyrenees
We do not provide or hire bikes. Nor do we arrange the hire of bikes. On the fixed base holiday in the Pyrenees, it is possible for you to arrange bike hire through the hotel. Unfortunately, most bike shops think that everyone hiring a sporty bike is an aspirant Tour de France rider and the bike gearing is only suitable for Bradley Wiggins. We recommend a triple chainset with a low ratio back sprocket. Neil rides a titanium frame with 50, 40, 30 on the front and a 13 – 32 cassette. On some of the Pyrenees climbs he has found that to be acceptable – just! Neil regards himself as an average fit rider, so a good club rider may get away with higher ratios, but the standard 52, 34 compact on the front with an 11 – 27 cassette is asking for pain and a walk up hill in cycling shoes!
Even Alberto Contador used mountain bike gearing on climbs in the Vuelta and the Giro. The sensible Cycling Magazines are writing that most Brits are over geared for long days in the Alps. It’s better to spin than push. Be warned! Whatever bike you take, carry spare spokes (they can go in the van) as we can be a long way from a bike shop. There are usually some riders skilled in bike repairs around to help to true wheels.
All carbon and most Titanium and Aluminium bikes have replaceable gear hangers. The gear hanger is a sacrificial part designed to break under stress to save the frame. They can, and do break under normal cycling conditions. A spare gear hanger is a useful spare and replacement is a roadside repair.
Touring Bikes and Touring
Touring on an unsupported Tour means carrying your own luggage. It’s better the less you carry. So it is always a balance of easier cycling versus comfort in bad weather and suitable clothes for the evening.
Touring bikes are usually a little heavier and sturdier than a sporty road bike. All of our holidays are hotel or hostel accommodation. Neil and Gerry ride with about 10-12 kg of panniers, but that includes additional “stuff” which leaders need. You can get it down to 8kg or so. Some experienced tourists aim for 10% of their body weight. That means you can ride a light Audax or similar type bike which can accept pannier racks. (Many manufacturers do light tourer/commuter bikes off the peg). Expedition type bikes which are designed for taking the weights required for cycle camping are not needed. If that’s what you’ve got, fine! We have many customers who can go all day up alpine passes on these bikes. For most of us, they are too heavy for comfort.
For touring, Neil rides a cyclo-cross bike which takes panniers. This is a growing trend as cyclo-cross bikes are strong but light and have more tyre clearance for larger tyres (good for touring) and hence more heel clearance. There are good “off the peg” cyclo-cross bikes available which fit this bill.
Helmets are a personal choice but we strongly recommend that you wear one, as our Leaders do. In some countries they are a legal requirement. On Alpine, Corsican and Pyrenean roads descents can be steep and twisting. A fall without a helmet can result in life changing head injuries. Please WEAR A HELMET.
The growth of internet shopping has seen the demise of many local bike shops throughout France and Europe. When touring you can be more than a day’s ride from a good bike shop.
You should be competent to repair a puncture on the roadside, or always cycle with someone who is! Our Tour Leaders are competent at roadside repairs and can offer help. You must carry spare tubes and tyre levers with you on the road on all of our holidays.
When touring you may need to carry out minor repairs, such as brake adjustments and gear adjustments. The Tour leader can often help with these, but remember you may be separated from the Tour Leader.
Recommended Bike Repair Kit
- Multi tool
- Spare Tubes x3
- Puncture repair outfit
- Tweezers (useful for getting thorns out as well as eyebrow plucking!)
- Tyre levers
- Spare spokes (one for each different spoke length on your bike – i.e. Front, rear drive side, rear non-drive side).
- Spare gear hanger if replaceable (not needed on a steel frame and some titanium frames).
- Chain Quick link
- Gear cable – long will do for front or back
- Brake cable – long
- Folding tyre (optional)
Where the Tour has van support and luggage transfer, you can put spares in the van and the van usually carries a track pump, additional brake and gear cables, quick links, brake blocks and bolts.