Adequate training and preparation
L’Oisans has the most beautiful and most popular mountain passes, but they are also the hardest ones in the history of cycling. According to the locals of Oisans, « even chicken need to wear crampons! » So, in order to make sure that each steep ride up a mountain pass does not become like « the way of the cross », good training and preparation are vital!
First of all, you should make sure that your bike is equipped with a chain-wheel with 39 teeth and a minimum of 25 or 26 for the rear one. Practise on steep hills, pedalling regularly, remaining seated, with your hands on top of the handlebars. Make sure that you modify your saddle height in order to find a more economical and comfortable climbing style.
Practise your mountain climbs on flat roads with a series of five exercises of several minutes each, with times of active recovery (relaxed pedalling) in between, maintaining a pedalling frequency of 100 turns/min. When beginning to climb each mountain, start off slowly in order to save your energy for the end. Maintaining a regular rhythm helps to avoid major variations in heart frequency.
Be careful: as your body will be overheated when you arrive at the top, you will be very cold when you go down! However, if your body is well hydrated, potential injuries of your muscles and tendons will be reduced by about 20%. An athlete may lose up to 2 litres of sweat per hour of exercise. Your body sweats in order to evacuate the heat. Hence, it is necessary to make sure that you make up for this by drinking at regular intervals, and you should drink before you even begin to feel thirsty. And remember that this loss impacts on your performance and leads to increased heart frequency.
Come and cycle round l’Oisans at any time of year!
You can cycle round l’Oisans at any time of year! In summer, of course, you will have endless opportunities of cycling through l’Oisans, taking in the fresh mountain air, away from the heat of the summer, while spring and autumn, both delightful and intimate seasons, will have many a surprise in store for you. Autumn awaits you on deserted roads, with a little powdery snow on the neighbouring mountain peaks, while its clean fresh air will fill you up with fresh energy! In winter the mystical passes of Glandon, La Croix de Fer and Galibier are closed, though they sometimes teem with cyclists on detour from a road that has been warmed up by the beautiful sun of Oisans. Also, the whole area of Isère provides beautiful itineraries.
Equipment and Material
The mechanics of your bicycle
A bicycle in good condition, lubricated and well adjusted, will reduce the rubbing coefficient (the equivalent of a slope of 1% for a good bicycle). Make sure that your derailleur gears are well adjusted. In addition, worn chains might crack in the high mountains and you may be stuck in the middle of nowhere. Check your air pressure before each tour: it should be between 7/7.5 kg in wet conditions and 8/8.5 kg in dry conditions. You should also carefully check your brakes and wheel mountings.
The essential cyclist’s kit
- A small repair kit.
- Your bicycle flask, so you can always take water (there are many fountains with fresh water in the villages of Oisans).
- One or two snacks in order to avoid hypoglycaemia.
- A windbreaker and a warm jacket
(there may be sudden changes in temperature).
- A mobile phone.
- A few euros for a drink on the mountain pass.
Excellent maps of Oisans can be bought from Tourist Information Offices. For example, Michelin map no. 333 of the local area of the Département Isère (Savoy) covers the whole region. For more detailed information, we recommend maps with a scale of 1:25,000, such as top. 25 Bourg-d’Oisans and l’Alpe d’Huez 3335 ET, top 25 Meije Pelvoux 3436 ET, top 25 Les Deux-Alpes 3336T
A crash helmet, glasses and gloves are absolutely necessary. You only need to get a fly in your eyes, which might cause you to fall, with disastrous consequences if you fail to wear a helmet and gloves. When cycling downhill, reduce your speed and never cut any bends. As a cyclist, you do not have the protection that you have when sitting inside a car. Therefore, your best protection will be by making yourself visible. You should wear bright colours, high-visibility or reflector bands to put round your ankles and on your back, as well as reflectors on your bicycle. Even during the day, with the changes between sun and shade, you may not always be visible as a cyclist for drivers. So always make yourself visible and indicate when you want to change direction.
In order to cycle in complete safety
You must also abide the highway code. Anticipate your mistakes and those of others! Do not cycle with several persons next to each other at the front and remember to check that your bike is in good condition: air pressure, brakes, etc.
You will also be well advised to check the weather forecast before leaving (phone 08 36 68 02 38 or check bulletins from Tourist Information Offices).
Cycling at high altitudes
Alpe-d’Huez: 1,860m, Sarenne Pass: 2,000 m; Galibier: 2,600 m. At over 1,500 m, you can already feel the impacts of less atmospheric pressure: you may be out of breath and beyond that you may even begin to suffer from ’acute mountain sickness’ with headaches, dizziness or abnormal fatigue.
The higher you get, the lower the atmospheric pressure will be, with reduced oxygen supply, which leads to a decrease in the quality of oxygen and blood exchange. Fortunately, however, the body improves its oxygen-exchanging capacity within a few days and increases its oxygen-carrying capacity. For your information: Alpe-d’Huez is 1,860 m high. Your maximum VO2 is between 2 to 8% lower than at sea level. On the summit of Mount Everest, this may even decrease by 90%!
In the case of an accident
Three important things to do: Protect, secure, alert
- Before making the phone call, mark the location of the accident, then take the numbers of the location in order to precisely indicate the location of the accident to the rescue team.
- Call the rescue team
- While you are waiting for them, do not move the injured person(s) and do not give them anything to drink. Cover them up and comfort them
- Medical emergency: 15
- Fire engines: 18
- General emergency from mobile: 112
Your civil liability is in most cases included in your householder comprehensive insurance or sports license (check expiry dates). With your cycling license, you will have civil liability, defence, the right to appeal and personal liability for physical injuries, irrespective of the use of your bicycle.
Fédération Française de Cyclisme
Bat. Jean Monnet – 5, rue de Rome
Tél : 01 49 35 69 00