Cycle the Alps Traffic-Free: Here’s How (2019 Edition)

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Edelweissspritze cobbles – Grossglockner Bike Day 2018

Many of the most famous climbs in the Alps have days when they are closed to motor traffic, reserved solely for cyclists. Excellent. Here is a 2019 list of almost a hundred “Cols Reservés,” car-free days in France, Switzerland, Italy, and Austria. I’d be grateful for any comments indicating other car-free events.

Let’s be clear about these special days:

1) They are NOT cyclosportives or races.
2) For most, there is no need to register, and they are free. Show up, start whenever you want.
3) There is a mix of cyclists of all levels, ages, sizes. Most riding leisurely.
4) The ambiance is great. Everyone is in a good mood.
5) There is usually a free drink and snack stand or two. Perhaps even (minor) entertainment.
6) Usually, it’s surprisingly uncrowded (but then these are big roads).
7) Check details: Usually the roads are only closed in the morning and often only the top half of climbs are closed.
8) There are some Granfondos/Sportives held on closed roads (eg. the Maratona dles Dolomites) but I have excluded these. This is a list of uncompetitive social rides.

Use the search bar of my site at the top-right for more details on most of these roads from my rides over the years. Or see the provided links below for the specific event details.

Col du Glandon Car-free day 2012. Hear the silence.

FRANCE
HAUTES-ALPES

Col du Granon Bike Day 2018

The Hautes-Alpes department is the clear leader here holding 30 events, many on legendary climbs like Izoard, Agnel, Galibier, Granon, etc. See here for my write up of the 2014 Izoard event to get a feel for one of these great days.

The official site for every event is here. I expect them to add more details soon. But note, Montagne de Lure (Mondays) and Col d’Allos (Fridays) run events throughout the summer.

JUNE
Sun 9th: Col de Pontis
Sun 16th: Réallon
Sun 23rd: Pré de Madame Carle

JULY
Wed 3rd: Col du Granon
Thur 4th: Col du Galibier
Fri 5th: Col d’Izoard
Mon 8th: Montagne de Lure
Tue 9th: Puy St Vincent
Fri 12th: Col d’Allos
Mon 15th: Col de Vars / Montagne de Lure
Tue 16th: Risoul
Fri 19th: Col d’Allos
Sun 21st: Col Agnel
Mon 22nd: Montagne de Lure
Fri 26th: Col d’Allos
Mon 29th: Montagne de Lure

AUGUST
Fri 2nd: Col d’Allos
Mon 5th: Pommerol / Montagne de Lure
Tue 6th: Chabre
Wed 7th: Col du Granon
Thu 8th: Col du Galibier / Col du Noyer
Fri 9th: Ceüse / Col d’Izoard / Col d’Allos
Mon 12th: Montagne de Lure
Fri 16th: Col d’Allos
Mon 19th: Col de Vars / Montagne de Lure
Tue 20th: Risoul
Thu 22nd: Les Orres
Fri 23rd: Col d’Allos
Sat 24th: Orcières
Fri 30th: Col d’Allos

SEPTEMBER
Sun 8th: Col Agnel

OISANS COL SERIES

Every Tuesday morning in July and August, the Oisans region – home of Alpe d’Huez – will close a climb for a bike-only event. See here for details. Most are between 9am and noon, but there are details for each ride in the above link. I can especially recommend Col du Sabot, and Col de Sarenne.

Col du Sabot – higher and quieter than its more famous neighbour Alpe d’Huez

July 2nd: Cols Glandon / Croix de Fer
July 9th: Col de Sarenne
July 16th: Oz-en-Oisans
July 23rd: Villard Reculas
July 30th: Col du Sabot
Aug 6th: Alpe d’Huez
Aug 13th: Col de Sarenne
Aug 20th: Auris-en-Oisans
Aug 27th: Col d’Ornon

For details of above climbs and a few more (great) lesser known ideas in the region see this post: Beyond Alpe d’Huez: The Best Cycling Climbs from Bourg d’Oisans.

Col de Sarenne

THE MAURIENNE VALLEY

The Maurienne Valley is home to perhaps half of the top 20 climbs in France. It is sponsoring a number of events under the Mountain Collection name: See here.

See here for my post: The Maurienne Valley – 15 of the Best Climbs in France.

Les Lacets de Montvernier

This is a brilliant list of bike days. If you don’t know Plan du Lac, author Daniel Friebe once called it a candidate for best “unknown” climb above 2000 metres. And above Orelle it’s possible to reach 3000 metres – see here.

June 23rd: Col de l’Iseran
June 27th: Lacets de Montvernier -> Col du Chaussy
July 1st: Col du Mollard
July 2nd: Glandon / Croix de Fer
July 6th: Col du Grand Cucheron
July 7th: Plan du Lac
July 11th: Col du Sapey
July 16th: Col du Mont Cenis
July 18th: Lac de la Grande Léchère (beside Madeleine)
July 28th: Valmeiner (near Télégraphe)

Aug 1st: Col de la Madeleine
Aug 7th: Valfréjus
Aug 8th: Moncenisio (Italy)
Aug 11th: Orelle (mountain bike)
Aug 14th: Col d’Albanne
Aug 29th: Col du Galbier

A sexy hairpin to Plan du Lac

I’ve done the Iseran bike day a few times with my wife – it’s the highest paved mountain pass in Europe and stunning on both sides. A few photos from the 2017 event (blog post with map here):

Col de l’Iseran bike day 2017

Haute Savoie

There are a couple of days scheduled on the north edge of the French Alps:

July 28th: Col de Joux Plane
Aug 18th: Col de la Ramaz

Details here.

Col de la Ramaz Bike-only day – 2014.

PYRENEES

Luz Ardiden

The Haute-Pyrénées will again hold a week-long series of bike days on some of the most famous climbs in the Pyrénées. Col de Portet (2215m) was in the 2018 Tour de France for the first time. Higher than Tourmalet, the top kilometres were gravel – but then paved for the Tour. I rode it on gravel – see here.

July 22nd: Col de Peyresourde / Val Louron Azet / Col de Portet (details)
July 23rd: Col d’Aspin (details)
July 24th: Col du Tourmalet / Luz Ardiden (details)
July 25th: Hautacam / Couraduque (details)
July 26th: Col des Bordères (details)

JURA MOUNTAINS

The Jura giant, Le Grand Colombier featured in the Tour de France in 2017. From June to September, on one Saturday of each month, the road will be closed to cars for a bike day up the best (most scenic) side starting in Culoz. Details here.

June 15th, July 13th, August 10th, Sept 14th.

My silly Grand Colombier video from last year:

Grand Colombier at dawn

MASSIF CENTRAL

June 23rd: Puy de Dôme Bike Day

This legendary cycling climb to the top of an extinct volcano is now forbidden for cyclists. EXCEPT one day a year. I rode this event in 2018 and had too much fun – details here.

It’s limited to just 300 participants and is unfortunately probably already sold out. Details here.

Steep and narrow beside the new train track

SWITZERLAND

There are a few events this year in Switzerland.

Susten Pass Bike Day 2018

May 25th: Susten Pass (details)
June 10th: Chasing Cancellara (Vaud Alps – details)
June 16th: Lukmanier Pass (details)
June 29th: Ride the Alps Vaudoise (details)
Sept 1st: Slow-up Albula Pass(details)
Sept 15th: La Désalpe Reichenbach – Lac d’Emosson / Col de la Gueulaz (details)
Sept 15th: Flüela Pass (details)

Road to Lac d’Emosson

Albula Beauty

ITALY

Some truly amazing events in Italy for 2019.

MONTE GRAPPA BIKE DAY

May 18th – 6th annual Monte Grappa Bike Day
September 19th – 3rd annual Monte Grappa Bike Night

Details for both events here. See here for my experience cycling the first ever Monte Grappa bike day in 2014 – it’s one of the most interesting mountains I know, full of history and many routes up.

First ever Monte Grappa Bike Day – 2014

DOLOMITES BIKE DAY

June 16th: From the web site (here): Third edition: three legendary mountain passes, 51 km roads closed to traffic!

For the third Dolomites Bike Day, bike enthusiasts will have the possibility to cycle on 3 legendary mountain passes in the heart of the Dolomites UNESCO World Heritage. It will be the perfect opportunity to ride on the pass roads that have made the history of great cycling. The passes Campolongo, Falzarego and Valparola will be closed to motorized traffic from 9 am to 3 pm. The roads linking the Ladin valleys Val Badia, Arabba/Livinallongo and Ampezzo will be reserved for cyclists for a total of 51 km.

Passo Falzarego

SELLA RONDA BIKE DAY

June 22nd – The beautiful 55 km Sella Ronda Route climbs four passes: Pordoi, Gardena, Sella, and Campolongo.
Details here.

Passo Sella

STELVIO NATIONAL PARK BIKE DAYS

This is exciting. There will be eight days this summer where passes in the National Park will have bike-only days. This includes not just the legendary Stelvio, but three other great climbs. Full details here.

June 20th: Mortirolo
July 7th: Mortirolo
July 8th: Lago di Cancano (via the Torri di Fraele)
July 9th: Passo Gavia
July 21st: Passo Gavia
Aug 30: Lago di Cancano (via the Torri di Fraele)
Aug 31st: Passo dello Stelvio
Sept 1st: Passo Gavia

View from I Torri di Fraele

Passo Gavia

Stelvio

September 21st: Mendelpass Cycle Day (details)

COLLE DEL NIVOLET

My favourite paved climb in the entire Alps. So Beautiful. The highest point in the Giro Italia this year (after Gavia stage canceled) ended at Lago Serrù. But the road goes 6 kilometres higher to the Colle. And every Sunday from in July and August the road is closed to cars for these 6 kilometres from Lago Serrù to Colle del Nivolet. Pure magic. Details of the bike days here. Details of the climb here.

Lago Serrù is the far lake in this photo:

30 second timer!

Located in the Parco Nationale Gran Paradiso. Paradise indeed.

Nivolet

AUSTRIA

June 2nd: Grossglockner – details. I rode this event in 2018 – details. Truly amazing. Details here.
And make certain you register for the version that takes the Edelweissspritze cobbled extension above the paved road to 2571 metres.

Edelweissspritze

Grossglockner Bike Day 2018

The Grossglockner also has a July 13th event that looks like a Time Trial open to all. Details.

July 6th: Mooserboden – details

Final Thoughts

I’ve been to a bunch of these events over the years and they are always fun. Quiet, friendly atmosphere, stress-free. Highly recommended. Again, I’d appreciate you leaving in the comments any events that I have missed.

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Happiest while cycling uphill.

10 Comments

  1. Hi Will. Just a small correction, in Switzerland they’re riding the Grimsel pass this year, not the Susten.

    • Hi Pete,

      Thanks for the help. Do you have a link to more info? As the link I have says Susten for 2019.
      (I’d prefer Grimsel) . 🙂

      Regards

  2. Truly agree – I did the Cormet de Roselend (quite) a few years ago on one of these days and it was special. Local cheeses and some music at the top. And no cars. Awesome.

    • Hi,

      I would expect Galibier to be closed from somewhere around Plan Lachat on the north side and Col du Lautaret on the south side. Izoard somewhere roughly 10 kms from the top on each side I expect. Remember, it is likely only the morning.

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