“Just for Fun”
Communication towers are often at the top of great cycling climbs. It makes sense, as it’s helpful for them to be high and have clear views in many directions. And they need a road up, so they can be maintained. Perfect.
My criteria for the best communication tower climbs:
- Big and challenging.
- Dominating views, hopefully 360 degrees.
- Visible from afar/below.
This list is not even remotely complete. Feel free to add your favourite in the comments.
Here are my favourites
The legendary dormant volcano Puy-de-Dôme is the most famous cycling climb in the Massif Central. For a LONG time, cyclists have had very limited access to this climb.
Last decade it was a couple of hours every Wednesday morning. Then in 2012, they opened a train that fills half the road on the final 4.8 kilometres and cyclists were permanently banned, except for ONE day a year. Details of that day here.
#2 Mont Ventoux
I know, you expected this to be number one. Le Géant de Provence is probably the most famous communication tower cycling climb. I’ve written quite a few posts on Ventoux over the years. Here are a few that might be of interest to you:
- Joining the Club des Cinglés du Ventoux by cycling all three sides in one day – see here.
- A more detailed look. Some Ventoux fun facts – see here.
- A brilliant 4th way: Gravel from Bédoin – see here.
- Ventoux Night Sessions: cycle in the dark to see the sunrise at the summit – see video here.
#3 Kitzbüheler Horn
This is easily the steepest 10 kilometre stretch of paved road I have ever cycled. Ouch. Details here.
#4 Mont Colombis
In the Hautes-Alpes Department, Le Cycle magazine calls Mont Colombis one of the toughest cycling climbs greater than 10 kilometres in France. Details here.
The views from the summit are beyond belief. Sorry, I didn’t seem to take a photo of the communication tower.
#5 Le Chasseral
The Mont Ventoux of the Jura Mountains? At 1607 metres, high above Bielersee (Lac de Bienne), Le Chasseral is the highest point in the north Swiss Juras and the highest non-alp in the canton of Berne. Details here.
#6 Mont du Chat
Towering over the largest lake in France (Lac du Bourget), Le Cycle also called Mont du Chat one of the toughest climbs in France. Details of west side here. East (lake) side here.
#7 La Barillette
Famous among Geneva-based cyclists, the wonderfully deserted forest ride up to the Swisscom tower at La Barillette (Jura mountains) is rewarded with a great view of Lac Léman (Lake Geneva) and the distant Alps. Details here. A challenging unpaved option here.
I like to ride this climb early in the season and keep an eye on a few Strava-friends that live just below to know when it’s possible (usually April or late March).
A good honourable mention would be the nearby tower atop Petit Mont Rond above Col de la Faucille. Paved to the tower, but then unpaved along the highest ridges in the Juras.
#8 Mont Vial
Deep in the Alpes-Maritimes, this gem of a climb is a tiny 7 kilometre extension above a high ridge road. Details here.
#9 Montagne de Lure
I’ve only climbed the less famous north side of this remote mountain in the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence department. Long, not too steep. Lovely. Tranquil. Details here.
#10 Pic du Midi de Bigorre
OK, I have only listed paved climbs until now. But this last ride is too good not to mention. Exactly at the summit of Col du Tourmalet is a gravel road that climbs all the way to the observatory (and communication tower) atop Pic du Midi de Bigorre (2877 metres). So while all the other cyclists congratulate each other at Tourmalet and then descend, you can keep going. Easily the most fun ride I’ve ever done in the Pyrénées. Details here:
I think that is a pretty good list of challenging, usually quiet, beautiful climbs. All with superb summit views. But there are endless climbs to communication towers. Please recommend your favourites.
FYI, here’s my wife’s favourite communication tower 🙂
Another excellent article Will. Your blog is such an inspirational resource for other cyclists. Of the ones not included, I would cite La Madonne d’Utelle as another favourite.
Thanks for the link (with communication tower photos too!).
It’s on the list but I’ve yet to cycle there.
Your stories always put a smile on my face and just a touch of envy. We are stuck here on Maui as the quarantine continues so we have been climbing Haleakala for fun. And saw the comet Neowise last night from 6500ft near a bunch of radio towers.
Hang in there with quarantine. Although Hawaii cycling? Sounds like things could be worse.
Another great article, thanks Will! Agree with the others that your blog/website is a big source of cycling intel & inspiration!
Another nice climb with antenna at the top is Musan in the Vercors mountains… surely you have been there?! Same thing as many others on the list… quiet, steep, beautiful.
Oui, je suis d’accord et oui je connais Musan. Avec un ami en 2012:
J’aime beaucoup Le Vercors!
great piece but aren’t there several climbs in colorado beyond anything on the TDF?
Do you mean higher? No doubt.
As I said, not a complete list by any stretch. Just my favourites. I have never cycled in Colorado – although a friend from there once sent me a great guide. Looks fun.