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Which mountains should you conquer with your road bike? 8 bucket list climbs

Ask any random passionate cyclist which mountain you really need to climb and you’ll get the most diverse range of answers. From the known classics to obscure Italian monsters. We listed 8 bucket list climbs for you in this blog. Such a list is far from complete of course, but you have to start with your bucket list somewhere…

Mont Ventoux: the barren mountain

The first mountain on this bucket list is the Mont Ventoux. Even non-cyclists know about this mountain. The mountain’s nickname “Barren Mountain” is due to the fact that the last bit of the climb is above the tree line.

For many people, the Mont Ventoux is the most familiar mountain.
For many people, the Mont Ventoux is the most familiar mountain.

The length of the climb, together with the gradient make this mountain a real tormentor. It won’t get extremely steep, but the climb doesn’t level out anywhere either. The Ventoux slowly demolishes you and will give many cyclists a hard time climbing.

Not to mention the ever-present wind. Sometimes the wind is so strong that the Ventoux is closed. You can enjoy over 21 km of climbing the Ventoux with an average gradient of 7.5%.

The Alpe d’Huez

The Alpe d’Huez is a really famous name for many Dutch people. First of all, the Dutch won some nice victories in the Tour de France. Additionally, the Alpe d’Huez is, just like the Ventoux, one of the most popular challenges for Dutch road cyclists.

The Alpe d’Huez counts 21 hairpin bends and might be the most popular climb of all. The real die-hards go up and down the mountain about 6 times in one day for charity.

The Tour de France sometimes plans a finish on top of the Alpe d’Huez. This was also the case in 2018, when the 12th stage finished on the Alpe d’Huez.

Kill two birds with one stone: the Telegraphe and the Col du Galibier

By name, these are two mountains. But if you’re there already, you might as well do both at the same time because they fit together perfectly. The Telegraphe could actually be seen as the predecessor to the Col du Galibier.

Between these two climbs there is a short descent of 2 km. But if you consider that the average gradient is 6% over more than 31 km, then you know that it is going to be a long road of suffering.

The most beautiful view from the Stelvio

The Stelvio is a climb that is not only very beautiful and quite tough, it is mainly known for the extremely beautiful view from the top. But before you get there, you first have to climb almost 23 km with a gradient of 8%.

But you’ll be rewarded with a beautiful view over the hairpin bends that you’ve just conquered.
But you’ll be rewarded with a beautiful view over the hairpin bends that you’ve just conquered.

A long and tough one: the Col de la Madeleine

The Madeleine is a long, tough climb. Over 18 kilometres with an average gradient of about 8%. One of the benefits is that the Madeleine is a fairly evenly surfaced climb. The gradient varies only slightly and very gradually.

While climbing you can to take a moment and enjoy the view (and relax).
While climbing you can take a moment and enjoy the view (and relax).

One cyclist might benefit from the even surface, for others it could be wrecking. Starting off slowly and preventing overexertion is key to conquer the Madeleine.

The Tour favourite: Tourmalet

The Tourmalet is an iconic climb in the Pyrenees. This one really should not be missing on our list of bucket list climbs. You would not think so, but the Tourmalet is the most climbed mountain of the Tour de France.

The Tourmalet has been conquered ever since the early days of the Tour de France.
The Tourmalet has been conquered ever since the early days of the Tour de France.

Nearly 17 kilometres of suffering with an average gradient of almost 8%. It may not sound so grueling, but the climb is getting steeper and steeper the closer you get to the mountaintop. So it’s extremely strenuous.

The impossible Scanuppia

Whether this mountain belongs on this bucket list is something you can decide for yourself. Because the Scanuppia is a real monster. The toughest, most difficult and dangerous climb of all.

A bad road surface, a large stretch with a gradient well above 25%. An on top of that even a few extreme bits with a gradient of about 45%! Yes, that’s right, 45%…

Sa Calobra doesn’t come near these extreme gradients, but it is a tough climb.
Sa Calobra doesn’t come near these extreme gradients, but it is a tough climb.

Not really the type of mountain you’d go for a ride on with your compact bike. In fact, officially you’re not even allowed to cycle on the Scanuppia. And if you made it to the top, a nerve-racking descent awaits you.

You know, give it a try to cycle up these gradients in the other direction and even disc brakes will fall short. This last mountain on our bucket list is one only the real fanatics dare to climb.

More climbs for your bucket list?

When it comes to the most beautiful view, another climb is the Gotthard Pass.
When it comes to the most beautiful view, another climb is the Gotthard Pass.

This selection of challenging, stunning or grueling climbs is of course only a selection of the many places where you could cycle. For an overview of worldwide climbs you can have a look here climbbybike.com.

And another picture of the Stelvio, just because it’s stunning. Is this one already on your bucket list?
And another picture of the Stelvio, just because it’s stunning. Is this one already on your bucket list?

There you will not only find as good as all climbs, but you will also get a good insight into how tough and how beautiful each climb is. So you can finally prepare your holiday plans for next summer.

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Olle Vastbinder

Olle Vastbinder

You can find me on a bicycle almost every day. I commute each day from my house to work and back. Often on my road bike, and during the winter on an old crosser. And if that isn't enough, you can find me on my bike during most weekends too. On my trusty road bike or my mountainbike. And if you can't find me outdoors riding my bike, odds are I might be riding on Zwift

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One thought on “Which mountains should you conquer with your road bike? 8 bucket list climbs”

  1. Great list, just the thought of doing the list makes me happy. I’ve done the Alpe d’Huez on a Koga GlobeTraveler with a kid in the Chariot CTS. That was my strongest day ever. Anyway, I’ve been to Hawaii and climbed Mauna Loa (from Waikoloa Beach, without support). That’s a bucket list mountain! Not too tough, but super long; hot and humid at the bottom, potentially cold and windy at the top. I’m guessing one goes through at least 5 climates. Very very very beautiful and special ! Mauna Kea is possibly the toughest climb (too tough for me).

    Stelvio and Tourmalet have been on my list for decades …

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