Bikecation's Top Tips for riding in the Mountains


Maybe you have seen the pro's soar up the Dolomites in the Giro, or you are dreaming of riding in the Alps like the Tour, the mountains are beautiful. Riding in the mountains however can be daunting. They are big and high! Wether you are going to the Pyrenees, the Alps, the Dolomites or the Sierra Nevada's our top tips can be applied!



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1. Be prepared

The best way to enjoy your trip to the big mountains is to do some training. The best training to do is to make sure you can do an hour to an hour and a half of hard sustained effort to replicate the fact that you will be climbing for an hour to an hour and a half. It is also worth riding up smaller hills repeatedly. You use your muscles slightly differently climbing than you do on the flat. 

2. Prepare your bike

Make sure your bike is prepared. Get a bike shop to check it over if you are at all unsure, and treat it to new cables, and new brake pads. You should also make sure you have climbing friendly gearing. We recommend a compact crankset (50/34) and atleast a 28t rear cassette. A 32t cassette will make it even easier. Alternatively you can rent one of our wonderful hire bikes we have in most destinations. 

3. Check the weather. 

Get a good weather app and ask the hotel you are staying in what they think the weather will do. The weather in the mountains can change suddenly and you need to have the right kit on and with you.

4. Take all your riding gear

Expect the weather to be anywhere from 0-25 degrees and from brilliant sunshine to hail! It's worth taking all your cycling wardrobe with you on holiday so that you can adapt it to each day. 

5. Don't go riding without a jacket.

Here at Bikecation we go with the rule that if the peak is below 1400m we will always make sure we have a windproof. If the peak is over 1400m, carry a waterproof, long finger gloves and a hat! 

6. Pack washing up gloves, a black bin liner and 2 plastic bags

If the weather is looking wet, tuck a black bin liner, cut-down washing up gloves and 2 plastic bags (for your feet) in your back pocket. If you get really cold and wet these items will keep you dry and warm and once you hit the valley floor are very disposable.

7. Get your clothing right.

See below for a great video from GCN. NB: there are other brands other than Assos out there! Clothing such as Gillets, arm warmers and knee warmers are really versatile and good. It is just as important to be dressed for the heat as it is the cold. So make sure you have some thinner jerseys and base layers too. 

8.Don't stop at the top if the weather is bad.

If the weather is bad at the top don't stop. Drop down a handful of hairpins and you will be more sheltered. Plus if you ride over the top you won't get chance to get cold immediately and can put your jacket on in a more sheltered spot. 

9. If the weather is extreme don't be afraid to abandon. 

If there is thunder or lightning make sure you are in the valley and if the weather is against you (either extremely hot or extremely cold or wet), don't be afraid to abandon your plans. 

10. Drink lots

The mountains can be hot as well as cold. In either case and especially when it is hot, you will be working very hard and sweating. Make sure you have two large water bottles with you and if you see a fill up point it's always worth topping up. Be wary of cramp and heatstroke and make sure you are taking on electrolytes as well as water. 

11. Descend with Caution

I feel like this is, do what I say, not as I do, but don't ruin your holiday on the first descent of the day. Unlike the pro's there are no closed roads and coming off hurts! 

12. Carry some spares and tools 

Make sure that you have a pump, spare tube, spare chain link and basic tools with you. 

13. Pace yourself 

Riding in the big mountains is hard. Often like the hare and tortoise, those that can pace themselves do much better! 

14. Keep fuelled

Make sure you keep eating. Carry some emergency bars (bars are better than gels) and a bit of cash  with you and know where the cafe's are en-route! (book with us and we'll tell you where the best cafe's are!)

15. Don't get too drunk

We understand you are on holiday, and want to have a good time, but drinking dehydrates you and you can start a ride on the back foot before even turning a wheel in anger. 

16. Ride with a friend

Apart from making it more fun, riding with someone else makes riding much safer. 

17. Take Lights

Fit some cheap blinking LED lights. Lots of the climbs have tunnels and cloud on the summits can make visibility difficult. A little LED light front and rear makes it easier for other road users to see you.

18. Know how to use your cycle computer

Chances are you have a Garmin. Take some time to read that manual and it can be a wealth of knowledge to answer all those questions you have, such as 'how far to the top? Where's the next turn? And are we nearly there yet!?'

19. Study your route and climbs

We have a wealth of knowledge on the site about the climbs and routes. Knowing what you are tackling and understanding where it is harder and easier, will really help you pace your ride

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