When you’re cycling in the Alps, the weather is very relevant to your enjoyment (and safety!).

To help you decide when to visit, we’ve set out:

  • four key things to consider; and
  • our at-a-glance guide to when to cycle the Alps

When to cycle the Alps: 4 (crucial) things you need to consider

1. Is it cycling season

If you visit a town out of cycling season, you may find that many places are either shut or still focused on winter sports (and so can’t offer services like bike hire, guiding and repair).

Our rule of thumb for cycling season in the Alps:

  • Below 1,500m – middle of April to the middle of October
  • Above 1,500m – middle of May to the end of September

Obviously, it will vary a bit, so once you’ve decided where you want to visit, check they’ll be open.

2. Will the routes you want to ride be open?

Many mountain passes close during the winter. Another rule of thumb:

  • Lower than 2,000m usually open from April/May to the end of October.
  • 2,000m to  2,500m usually open from late May/early June to late October.
  • Above 2,500m usually open from early/mid-June to mid-October.

This is a very general guide. The dates cols close vary and depend on conditions. Your closest tourist office should have information. Or these resources may help:

  • Savoie Route provides a map showing road incidents (including closed mountain passes)
  • Bike Oisans tells you which mountain passes in the Oisans area are open.

3. What’s the weather going to be like?

The weather changes quickly in the high mountains (both day to day and year to year). It’s possible you’ll hit adverse weather at any time of year.

That said:

  • July and August give the best chance of sunshine and low rainfall. When it does rain, it’s often as violent thunderstorms in the mid-afternoon.  Even in summer, there may be snow on the mountaintops.
  • November to March are usually too cold to make cycling enjoyable.
  • For every 1,000 m additional altitude, the temperature drops by 6.5℃. It can be even more, particularly when you look at the difference between the valleys and high cols. For example, if it’s in the 30℃  in the valley, it could be 10℃  at the top of the mountain. It can feel even colder if the wind is blowing and you consider the windchill factor when you descend.
  • Just because it was sunny yesterday, don’t expect it to be sunny today. The weather can change a lot, very quickly.

Check the weather forecast before you set out for the day. We like the Met Office and Weather Pro. Or if you happen to be around Chamonix, the Chamonix website gives a great mountain forecast.

4. Are there any events on/how busy is it going to be?

The Alps get busy. Here are some things to bear in mind:

Summer holidays. The Alps are a major summer holiday destination. The busiest time of year is from the beginning of the second week in July to the end of the third week in August.

Closed road events. Follow us on our Facebook and Twitter accounts to find out the days that cars will be banned on some of the Alpine cols during the summer season (the dates change each year).

The Tour de France. Whether you’re timing your trip to see it or to avoid the circus and closed roads that accompany it, plan accordingly.

Major sportives in the area. The Alps hosts some of the world’s most famous sportives, with thousands of people descending on the start towns:

  • La Marmotte: 174km and 5000m of climbing (first weekend of July) and  7,500 participants – La Marmotte sportive route is the same each year and gives you the chance to ride the Col du Glandon, Col du Telegraphe, Col du Galibier and Alpe d’Huez all on closed roads. It’s one of the most famous and difficult sportives in the world.
  • L’Etape du Tour: around 181km and 3500m of climbing (mid July) and over 11,000 participants – the sportive is organised by the ASO, the organisers of the Tour de France. The route is different each year as the sportive allows cyclists to test themselves against the same route as a Tour de France stage, on closed roads. It’s generally held on one of the important mountain stages in the Alps or Pyrenees. It’s so famous it’s now a festival of cycling, rather than just a one-day event, spread out over a long weekend.
  • Haute Route Alps: 896km and 22,200m of climbing between Nice and Geneva over seven days (mid-late August) – this is the original event of the European Haute Route sportive series, and it’s one of the hardest sportives on the international calendar.
  • There is also a plethora of other cycling sportives in the Alps. For example the Col de la Loze sportive from Brides-les-Bains.

 

At a glance guide to cycling weather in the Alps

January No good for cycling: the skiers and snowboarders are in charge until mid-April.

  • Average highs: 12-24 ℃
  • Rainfall: 28-37% chance of rain/snow
February
March
April
May You may get warm sun or you may get rain – these months can be unpredictable. Depending on winter snowfall, some of the cols over 2,000m may be closed until early/mid-June.

  • Average highs: 27-31℃
  • Rainfall: 31-39% chance of rain 
June
July All the cols should be open. It can get busy. If you prefer to avoid lots of people, don’t visit during the weeks around the Tour de France.

  • Average highs: 32℃
  • Rainfall: 35-42% chance of rain
August
September

The July and August tourist throngs disappear as people return to work in September. It can be a good time to visit the Alps since temperatures in September and October remain high with averages of 21 and 18 respectively. But be prepared for rain: these are typically the island’s two most rainy months, with averages of 54 and 71mm.

 

 

  • Average highs: 8-21℃
  • Rainfall: 8-71mm, 7-11 days per month
October
November Temperatures in November and December are cooler (11 and 8℃ respectively) but average rainfall dramatically reduces (11 and 8mm). Could be too cold for cycling.

  • Average highs: 13-18℃
  • Rainfall: 30-37% chance of rain/snow
December

Over to you!

What’s your experience with the weather when cycling in the Alps? Let us know – comment below!

If you’re planning a cycling trip to the Alps, don’t miss our ultimate guide to cycling the Alpe d’Huez region and Col de l’Iseran region, our tips to cycling the Alps – plus loads of other articles below.

Got a question for Clare?

Fill out this form and we will send it to Clare. We aim to get you an answer within 24 hours wherever possible!

We will use this info to send the enquiry to Clare and/or their team. Our privacy policy explains more and here’s a reminder of our terms and conditions.







Clare Dewey

Clare Dewey is a road cyclist with a passion for travel. She set up epicroadrides.com to help make it easy for road cyclists to explore new places by bike.

The contents of this website are provided for general information purposes only. It is not intended to amount to advice and you should not rely on it. You should carry out your own due diligence and take professional advice. We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether express or implied, that the content on our website is accurate, complete or up to date. If you use any information or content on this website, download from, or otherwise obtain content or services through our website, it is entirely at your own discretion and risk. Epic Road Rides Ltd disclaims all liability and responsibility arising from any reliance placed on the information and content on this website. Find out more here.

2 Responses to “French Alps weather:
a cyclist’s guide to when to visit the Alps”

  1. Very good article with useful info. – always hard to talk about the weather (more so in the mountains!) but dates are about correct. One note that the Col de la Colombiere (at 1,600m) is usually not open much before the start of June due to avalanche risk on slopes above. Check with inforoute74.com

Leave your comment

  • (will not be published)

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.