So you’re itching to head up into the mountains and your legs are feeling game for some epic climbing. However, alpine cycling is a whole different ballgame to your average commute around London or Sunday ride out into the English countryside, so we have put together a list of things you will need to be safe, comfortable and speedy. At the end of this month we are lucky enough to be heading to Les Gets to watch our beautiful friend get married, so of course we just had to tack on a few days and make arrangements to take our bikes and get some serious exploring / climbing done! Even though this is essentially a packing list for us, we hope that you guys will find it useful too!
Please note that you don’t have to run out and spend thousands of your hard earned pounds / dollars / euros et al, but once you have decided on a budget that works for you, go out and find the best possible deals on the best possible quality items that you need and can afford, there are versions at all price points!
1 | First up, an obvious one. You will need a bike and not just any old bike. For any serious climbs you should definitely be on a road bike and you should be comfortable using clipless pedals and cleats. I’m sure there will be some crazy fool out there who has ridden up Alp D’Huez on a mountain bike but I really wouldn’t recommend it unless you are a total masochist! You don’t have to rush out and buy one, you can borrow or hire but I would recommend getting comfortable using the bike and pedals before you are facing off with a mammoth climb!
2 | A safe, good condition helmet. You might commute around London helmet-less (please, stop!) but if you’re even thinking of descending mountains at breakneck speed, I would strongly, strongly urge you to helmet up!!! I love the new Giro Mips Synthe helmet… This isn’t an ad, I just love it! It’s lightweight, aero and has great ventilation, keeping you nice and cool.
3 | A super sturdy, lightweight, rain proof, wind breaking all-singing-all-dancing jacket. You might set off from your gorgeous little ski village in the glaring sun but when your half way up the mountain who knows what the weather will be doing. I’m not saying you should expect rain at every turn (I’m far too optimistic for that!) but the weather will be very changeable in the Alps. The good news is that any bad weather tends to blow on over fairly quickly but whilst you are stuck in a freezing cold gale or downpour, a good waterproof jacket will keep you as dry and as warm as possible! It’s worth spending a bit extra here, if you can. A good jacket will last you years and save your bacon many a wintery ride out!
4 | Whilst on the subject of kit and changeable weather, don’t forget to pack arm warmers, long fingered gloves and I would also wear waterproof overshoes, just in case! (There’s nothing worse than a bad case of trench foot!)
5 | Navigation. Something to help you find your way around is key! Having a quick look at google maps before you head off most definitely won’t suffice and when you’re tired, hungry, ready for home and more than a bit lost, you’ll be so thankful for anything to guide you home. First up we would recommend some kind of Garmin Edge navigation system. They are ridiculously pricey (we don’t own one, yet) but they can be borrowed or even hired and the fact that you can preload a route and then actually get directions fed to you as you ride, as opposed to just following a map and hoping you don’t miss a turn, is the absolute ideal. There are very few other ways of actually doing this and if you really don’t want to run the risk of getting lost, this is for you.
6 | Next up, a charging device. Whatever you use, a garmin or just a good old smart phone… You will more than likely run out of juice completely. If not, you will at least spend a large chunk of the latter part of your ride anxiously watching the battery life drain from your device whilst seemingly not getting any closer to home! Whilst on the tech subject, we always pack these items in a sealable sandwich bag, just in case the heavens do open!
7 | Rehydration tablets. You won’t be short of fresh water when up in the mountains however you may also not be aware of quite how much you are sweating thanks to a combination of sun and wind keeping you dry. Failing to replace the electrolytes lost in sweat, or even the dilution of them from drinking too much plain water, can result in hyponatremia aka dangerously low levels of sodium. As well as all the rather unhelpful side effects of dehydration such as headaches, increased heart rate, slower reaction times etc, you will also be susceptible to muscle cramps, nausea and even death – in worst case scenarios! All the pros are known to carry rehydration tablets in their back pockets and it’s easy to see why!
This list kind of assumes that you have most of the basics covered, appropriate shorts, jerseys, fuel, inner tubes, tools etc etc, basically it’s by no means comprehensive. It’s actually nuts the amount of kit you can take away when you’re cycling abroad! If you have anything else to add to the list, let us know in the comments so that we can add it in!