Best way to cross the Alps?

Cycle-touring, Expeditions, Adventures, Major cycle routes NOT LeJoG (see other special board)
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WillBalhatchet
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Joined: 30 Dec 2011, 9:50am

Best way to cross the Alps?

Post by WillBalhatchet »

Hey,
Me and friend are half way through planning our first proper european touring trip for april next year. Being a considerable amount of time, maximum of 2 months, were trying to take everything into account. As much as we've been able to find out plenty of information for routes in france etc. the big decision is the best place to cross the Alps, which seems a fairly daunting task with carrying a load of kit. So really just wondering if anyone with some experience might have some advice for taking this on. Our initial intention was to cross into switzerland and go directly down to Milan, but if there is a more suitable route on the french border that would be alot of help!
Many thanks,
Will
nirakaro
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Joined: 22 Dec 2007, 2:01am

Re: Best way to cross the Alps?

Post by nirakaro »

Crossing the Alps isn’t as daunting as you think: by the time you’ve ridden across France, you’ll be used to climbs of a few hundred metres, and you’ll be well fit. Most of the main passes are at around 2000m, and you’ll be starting from maybe six or seven hundred, so you’re left with a climb of maybe 1300m. The roads are generally well-engineered with steady gradients, so you just settle in for four or five hours of steady pedalling in bottom gear. Stop and rest. Walk a bit if your knees complain; it's only a problem if you rush it!
In late April/early May some passes will still be closed; the higher ones may not open until mid-June. You may find atrocious weather near the top, so make sure you’ve got warm clothes, gloves etc, even though it’s a pain carrying them for weeks for an hour or two’s use.
If you go through Switzerland, you’d probably use the Simplon for Milan; if you prefer France, details about the state of French passes are here:
http://www.sport-passion.fr/parcours/etat-cols.php
WillBalhatchet
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Joined: 30 Dec 2011, 9:50am

Re: Best way to cross the Alps?

Post by WillBalhatchet »

Thankyou,
I think we will head for the france-italy route, choosing which cols is going to take some thought however. At the moment i'm considering the croix de fer - mount cenis route and whichever cols in between. But i don't know if this is too much of a climb or out of bounds for later april, would it be too ambitious compared to some of the other routes that could be taken? Fitness wise i think i could manage it but not knowing a huge amount about alp crossing, i don't want to rush into a route that maybe isn't really best for touring cycling.
nirakaro
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Joined: 22 Dec 2007, 2:01am

Re: Best way to cross the Alps?

Post by nirakaro »

http://www.ctc.org.uk/resources/route_s ... rinf10.doc

is the best information I’ve found on Alpine passes: it looks like your options in April are either Mont Cenis or Montgenevre, but I wouldn’t bank on either of them. Keep an eye on the ‘etat des cols’ as you go through France.
Fallback positions if everywhere is snowed up are –
Frejus rail tunnel (though I can’t find any evidence that you can take bikes through it)
Finding a ride through the Frejus road tunnel in a van or something
Heading right down to the coast at Nice
Going through Switzerland and the Simplon tunnel.
I’m planning to do the same crossing a month or so later, in the opposite direction. Have a great ride!
Brains
Posts: 29
Joined: 22 Dec 2007, 11:08am

Re: Best way to cross the Alps?

Post by Brains »

Frejus rail tunnel (though I can’t find any evidence that you can take bikes through it)

You can, just get on a train at Modaine and get off t the other end

There is a camp site in Modaine, above and the the east of the train station

However I would have thought the best Alpine crossing is the Via Claudia Augusta
http://www.tyrol.tl/en/mountain-biking- ... gusta.html
Gearoidmuar
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Joined: 29 Sep 2007, 7:35pm
Location: Cork, Ireland. Corcaigh, Éire má tá Gaeilge agat.

Re: Best way to cross the Alps?

Post by Gearoidmuar »

A chap from Carthage, some time ago used elephants. The Romans battled with him but he ate their livers with a light Chianti, cnuff cnuff cnuff..

Let that be a lecter to them..
Brains
Posts: 29
Joined: 22 Dec 2007, 11:08am

Re: Best way to cross the Alps?

Post by Brains »

Hanibal and Napoleon both used the Mont Cenis pass which is above Modane and the Frejus tunnel.
It's a bit over 2,000m and is do-able on a bike if you are fit but I would not like to try it on a loaded tourer, I think you would be doing a lot of up hill walking!
That said, as long as you picked a nice day and started early I think you could do the top by mid day.
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ConRAD
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Re: Best way to cross the Alps?

Post by ConRAD »

Hi Will,
in September 2010, during my trip “from Sweden to Milano”, coming from France I entered Switzerland west of Basel.
Once over there I then managed to avoid crossing the Rhine and at the same time to enter in Basel downtown. (I don't like towns !)
From Basel I then followed the North-South Swiss Cycling Route No. 3 .
From Basel to Lucerne it’s a sort of a continuous sequence of short stretches of cycling lanes among cultivated fields as well as commercial and industrial areas, very often totally anonymous places.
The rest is represented by normal roads, often “quite high traffic roads !”.
From Lucerne to Göschenen (the little village where begins the St. Gotthard tunnel) it’s a bit better.
From Göschenen to Andermatt (where begins the road to the Gotthard Pass) it’s a real hell!
Cars, hundreds of motorcycles, trucks, tour and line buses!
From Andermatt to the Gotthard pass and then down to Airolo (Canton Ticino) it’s just a normal road, never steep indeed ... but nevertheless a long a winding road.
From Airolo to Bellinzona and then from Ponte Tresa to Luino and Sesto Calende on the shore of Lago Maggiore, again, you have to follow a normal road.
From Sesto Calende you can finally reach Milano through a very nice cycling path.

Sholuld you wish more information, I can post your thread on the Italian forum where, for sure, some other people might advise you on alternative routes.

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Svizzera, uno scenario “magico” sul lago di Lucerna, ferry Beckenried-Flüelen

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Svizzera, alle prese con il Passo del Gottardo

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Svizzera, il Passo del Gottardo

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Svizzera, il Passo del Gottardo

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Svizzera, tratti di pavè prima di Airolo
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WillBalhatchet
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Joined: 30 Dec 2011, 9:50am

Re: Best way to cross the Alps?

Post by WillBalhatchet »

Thanks for all the help!
Thrown up alot of options too consider, would love to tackle some of the cols, but just depends on how weighty the bikes will be when we set off. If not then the frejus rail from Modane isn't a bad fall back, would still be a challange going from Rochetaille-croix de fer route. Thanks again for all the advice!
ConRAD, cheers, if there is any other routes they might know about would be great to hear about it.
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familyonabike
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Re: Best way to cross the Alps?

Post by familyonabike »

Like others have said, don;t be daunted by the Alps, they are majestic and beautiful with plenty to distract you from the exertion of ascent. And the roads are well engineered with most gradients quite rideable, albeit slowly, even on the most heavily laden bike, as long as you have a good Granny gear are not too proud to walk if you need to. We managed to ride over them on the Via Claudia Augusta on tandems with kids as stokers pulling trailers! It took us an age but was perhaps all the more enjoyable for the snail like pace. Choose your route well as a busy route with lots of traffic can really spoil the experience! Those photos just make me want to go back and do it all again.
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ConRAD
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Re: Best way to cross the Alps?

Post by ConRAD »

WillBalhatchet wrote:...if there is any other routes they might know about would be great to hear about it.

Be confident about it Willy ! ... from now on you are also on the Italian forum http://www.ilcicloviaggiatore.it/forum/viewtopic.php?f=84&t=3218
Cheers
ConRAD
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massimo
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Re: Best way to cross the Alps?

Post by massimo »

Hello WillBalhatchet
I have crossed alps (between Italy and Switzerland) few years ago:
http://viaggibici.altervista.org/Europa/svizzeratedesca/svizzeratedesca.html

Anyway I am afraid that many passes will be closed in April.
You can see the following site:
http://www.motorbike-passion.it/Passi_Alpini.htm
It is not traslated but it is very simple to use:
There are country flags that can help you.
"Valico" means "Pass"
"Alt.m" means "maximum altitude"
"Conduce da/a" means "From/to"
"Aperto da/a" means "Opened from/to"
"sempre" means "always"

and the months:

Mar = March
Apr = April
Mag = May
Giu = June

Set = September
Ott = October
Nov = November

It is very simple!
nirakaro
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Joined: 22 Dec 2007, 2:01am

Re: Best way to cross the Alps?

Post by nirakaro »

The pass I used was the col de Larche. It probably won't be open in April (though it's shown as open today), but if it is it's a very pleasant ride: 1990m iirc, nice gentle open scenery, 5% gradient all the way, friendly little cafe at the top to welcome you to the land of superb coffee.
marisket
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Joined: 27 Jan 2012, 9:54am

Re: Best way to cross the Alps?

Post by marisket »

If you go through Switzerland, which is a brilliant idea since in Switzerland there are a lot of signposted cycling routes, you can plan your itinerary by visiting http://www.veloland.ch/en/welcome.cfm
Maria
james-o
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Joined: 11 Jun 2008, 10:27am

Re: Best way to cross the Alps?

Post by james-o »

At the moment i'm considering the croix de fer - mount cenis route and whichever cols in between. But i don't know if this is too much of a climb or out of bounds for later april,


In late April you'll not get over the higher passes on tarmac easily, I've been turned back part way up the Galibier in late May and the Croix de Fer is 2000m+ so it may be closed then too - the day before I was in freezing sleet onand patchy snow on the CdF. Fun, to a point.. My diversion off the Galibier was back down and over the Mont Cenis into Italy and back over the Montgenevre that were all open then. Fantastic roads though, wherever you go it's stunning riding but April is early for aiming at the high passes. Good luck )
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