Cycling in the Pyrenees is truly sensational and offers some of the best cycling in France.
In particular, the area around the Col du Tourmalet, in the western end of the French Pyrenees, is home to many of the biggest names in cycling folklore. Within a relatively small radius of the Col du Tourmalet, you’ll find famous roads like the Hautacam, Luz Ardiden, Col d’Aspin and Col d’Aubisque. The pretty village of Argeles Gazost was our cycling base for all of these rides (more on that below).
Riding this region of the Pyrenees is massively rewarding; unlike other busier, better-publicised parts of this world, cycling the Pyrenees feels like an adventure.
But it comes at a price: it’s tough. This area doesn’t really do flat, so you need to be fit. The gradients are more unpredictable than the Alps, the roads are generally narrower, steeper and less engineered. You’re also more likely to encounter some spiky weather.
It’s worth it; the Pyrenees stole our heart.
If you love riding in the mountains but haven’t yet tackled the Col du Tourmalet region by bike, now is the time to rectify that.
Looking for a Col du Tourmalet cycling challenge?
Up for some consistently spectacular scenery, serious Tour de France pedigree, good bike hire options and quiet roads?
Whether you want a Pyrenees cycling tour or a DIY Pyrenees cycling holiday, this guide will help you plan an unforgettable Pyrenees cycling holiday: detailed information on the best road rides plus where to stay, when to visit and Pyrenees bike hire.
Read on and plan your Pyrenees road bike holiday.
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Pyrenees cycle routes: Argelès-Gazost and Tourmalet region of the Pyrenees
When planning our trip to this area of the western Pyrenees, it took us ages to decide on the best base: should we stay in Argelès-Gazost or Bagnères de Luchon or Foix to access the best Pyrenees roads?
After much thought, we decided on Argelès-Gazost for our first trip to the Pyrenees as it allows you to be close to the most famous Pyrenees cols, mountain passes and Tour de France climbs (particularly if you want to attempt the Col du Tourmalet bike climb and the other climbs in this guide). We think it was the right choice (but have since been back to cover the cycling routes of Bagnerès de Luchon including Col du Peyresourde and friends)!
Read this for more information on how we decided which town to stay in for cycling the Pyrenees and this for an overview of the different cycling regions within the Pyrenees.
All of the Pyrenees cycling routes in this guide use Argelès Gazost as a base town. If you use them you’ll find yourself on loops that take in some of the greatest road climbs of the Pyrenees. We’ve put these routes together ourselves and we hope you love them as much as we did. Let us know!
A big thank you to local resident, Simon Smart, for his insights that helped us plan many of these routes.
For a local’s thoughts on Argelès-Gazost cycling, check out our Q&A with Paddy Sweeney of Vélo Peloton.
Also make sure you read our tips for cycling in the Pyrenees, before you go.
Easy cycling in the Pyrenees
You don’t come cycling in the Argeles Gazost/Tourmalet area of the Pyrenees for flat roads and easy riding. In general, roads like that are in the valleys and you’ll be sharing the road with a lot of cars, especially in summer. But – happily – there are a few exceptions:
Lourdes – Argelès-Gazost – Pierrefitte-Netsalas Voie Verte/greenway
An 18 km Voie Vertes (or greenway) stretches between Lourdes and Pierrefitte-Netsalas. It’s got a good, asphalt road surface that’s suitable for road bikes. It’s practically flat and is totally separate to the main road, so it’s a great option if you’re with kids or are just trying to get north or south from Argelès-Gazost and want to avoid the main roads.
After Pierrefitte-Netsalas, the Voie Verte becomes steep and gravelled for the last 10 km to Cauterets; suitable for mountain bikes rather than road bikes.
North and east of Lourdes
If you’re seeking flattish terrain, your best bet is to head in the opposite direction to the high mountains; head towards Lourdes, then Tarbes and villages such as Vic-en-Boigorre, Mauborguet and Tostat in the plains of Gascony.
Alternatively, a middle ground are the foothills of the Pyrenees: the Col de Lingous, Col de la Croix Blanche and Bois de Mouret, east of Lourdes.
Cycle events in the Pyrenees
Unsurprisingly, there are lots of cycling events and challenges focused on the Pyrenees. For example:
Raid Pyrenees: the Raid Pyrenean route is a 720km traverse from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean across the Pyrenees in 100 hours. Includes 11,000m of climbing.
Look Marmotte Granfondo Pyrenees: 160km, from Argelès-Gazost over the Col du Tourmalet (twice), Hourquette d’Ancizan and Col d’Aspin, finishing at the summit of Luz Ardiden.
Haute Route Pyrenees: 7 day challenge that starts and finishes in Pau, stopping off en route in Argelès-Gazost. Takes in many of the regions highlights including the Aubisque, Soulor, Spendelles, Hautacam, Tourmalet, Couraduque and Hourquette-Ancizan.
Pyrenees cycling accommodation
This part of the Pyrenees is characterised by small towns and villages with cycling accommodation that is family-run and relatively basic.
We based ourselves in Argelès-Gazost as we wanted easy access to the most famous Tour de France climbs (within 15 km there are over thirty categorised climbs including Col du Tourmalet, Col d’Aubisque and Hautacam).
For our view on other great places to stay in the Pyrenees, take a look at our guide to the best towns for cyclists. It describes each of the main towns you could stay in, talks about the cycling options from each and gives our opinion on them.
Remember to double-check accommodation bike storage arrangements (and any other services you need) before booking as policies often change.
Our choice: Le Miramont, Argelès-Gazost
The Miramont hotel is a family-run, Art Deco hotel is located in the heart of Argelès-Gazost, between the park and spa and the centre of the village. We received a warm welcome and service was extremely hospitable throughout. Well-presented, delicious food was another big highlight.
What we loved
Delicious food. We ate breakfast and dinner here; both were excellent. The continental breakfast comprised a well-presented selection of artisanal yoghurts, fresh fruit salad, cold meat and cheese, different breads and pastries. Boiled eggs were also available. Coffee was from a self-service machine, but it was surprisingly good. Dinner was tasty and also superb value for money.
Great service. Dominique spoke excellent English and gave us an exceptionally friendly welcome to the hotel and our room.
Good bike storage facilities. A separate building with permanently shuttered windows is tucked away behind the hotel and is home to a spacious bike storage facility. It comprises three small rooms including a workbench with a few tools and track pumps, sink and bike racks. There are also lockable bike storage cupboards you can lock your bike into. The walls are adorned with cycling memorabilia from guests that have stayed in the past: Chris Boardman, Alberto Contador and Lance Armstrong.
Pretty garden. There are various seating areas that looked the ideal place for a relaxing post-ride beer.
Things to know
The hotel is on the main road through Argelès-Gazost. There was no air-con in our room so we needed the window open; traffic noise was mildly disturbing but could probably be resolved with earplugs.
A lot of effort has clearly gone into turning this Art Deco hotel into a contemporary, chic space. This has been done very successfully in the dining room; the moody greys and reds plus over-size downlighters wouldn’t be amiss in a four-star hotel. While not unexpected in a three-star hotel, we felt the bathroom, with its pink-lino floor, was due an upgrade. The same goes for the small bedroom: while the bed was very comfortable, some of the other fixtures looked a little tired.
There is no clothes washing service, but the hotel has a drying room and are happy to dry your clothes there.
Mountain villages are not known for their over-supply of luxury accommodation and Argelès-Gazost is no exception. For a three star hotel, Hotel Le Miramont does very well indeed.
Other accommodation options for cyclists
If Hotel Miramont is full, we’d consider the Argelès Gazost accommodation options listed in our article on where to stay in the Pyrenees (for cyclists).
Bike hire Pyrenees (Argelès-Gazost region)
If you’re looking for bike hire in Argelès-Gazost, you’re in luck. The town is a cycling mecca and there are a number of good options.
As a side note, it’s worth knowing that in small towns, a shop that seems to be mainly selling lawn mowers and scooters could be able to help you if you have a mechanical as they often have on-site mechanics that are very handy with a range of machines, including bikes!
Prices, services and bike brands often change. Please let us know if anything is incorrect.
Bike rental Argelès-Gazost, Pyrenees
1 Avenue Charles de Gaulle
Cannondale synapse carbon road bikes are available for hire. They come with a compact 11:32 cassette, pump, saddle bag with inner tube and pedals. Road bike hire prices:
Half day: 35 euros
Full day: 50 euros
If you take a bike for three days, you get half a day free. If you take a bike for a week, you get one day free.
ID and deposit is required on hire.
Sebastian, the owner, confirmed that bikes are new each year and he is happy for people to collect their bike the evening before their hire commences, to allow a full day in the saddle.
2, Chemin de la Plaine
(on the Velo Vert/greenway, 1 km outside Argelès Gazost)
Irish couple, Paddy and Olive used to offer road bike hire, just outside Argelès Gazost (check our Q&A where we pick Paddy’s brains on cycling in this area, here). Now they just offer tours.
Bike rental Luz Saint Saveur, pyrenees
16 Place Eth Marcadou65120 Luz Saint Saveur
(next to Txoko restaurant, opposite Carrefour restaurant)
Matthew and Nicolette Collins are an English couple who have lived in France for 15 years and hire Scott carbon and aluminium road bikes with a compact 50/34 chainring and 12×32 rear cassette. Prices (depending on model):
Half day: 30-40 euros
1 day: 40-55 euros
2 days: 75-105 euros
3 days: 110-155 euros
4 days: 140-195 euros
5 days: 165-235 euros
6 days: 195-275 euros
7 days: 220-310 euros
14 days: 330-465 euros
Prices include pedals and helmets. Garmin Edge bike computers are available to rent, pre-loaded with one-day bike rides. The shop also has cycling clothes, accessories, bars and gels available for sale.
Offer 3, 5 or 7-day self-guided road bike tours.
Mountain bikes, electric bikes and kids bikes are also available.
Delivery is available within 50 km of Luz St Saveur (there is a charge made for this). Free parking available next to the shop.
Open mid-May to end of October.
18 Place du 8 Mai
65120 Luz St Sauveur
Offer a range of road bikes, from the entry level Giant aluminium bikes with Shimano group Tiagra 10 speeds to Pinarello Dogma F10s. Prices (dependent on model):
Half day: 35-75 euros
1 day: 40-90 euros
2 days: 75-170 euros
3 days: 100-240 euros
4 days: 125-315 euros
5 days: 150-390 euros
6 days: 170-465 euros
7 days: 190-540 euros
20-60 euros/day for each additional day
Prices include a repair kit with CO2 canister.
There’s also a bike shop, workshop and the ability to rent mountain bikes and electric bikes too.
Open from mid-April.
Gran Tourmalet Bike Tours
1, Place du Cotillon
Luz St Saveur
Aluminium and carbon BMC road bikes. Prices (dependent on model):
Half day: 20-35 euros
1 day: 35-60 euros
2 days: 60-115 euros
3 days: 99-165 euros
4 days: 125-215 euros
5 days: 155-245 euros
6 days: 180-290 euros
7 days: 199-330 euros
Delivery available (max. 30 km from Luz Saint Sauveur).
Other Pyrenees bike rental options
Bike and Py
16, Esplanade du Paradis 65100 Lourdes
Colnago bikes with Shimano Ultegra or Shimano 105. Prices:
Half day: 30 euros (45)
Day: 50 euros (65)
2 days: 90 euros (115)
3 days: 130 euros (170)
Prices in brackets are for Ultegra. Prices include helmet, saddlebag and pedals (Shimano or Look Keo).
Also on site is a small shop, workshop coffee shop. Tours are also available.
3 Avenue Maquis de Payolle
Top end Trek Emonda and Domane road bikes. Prices:
Half day: 29 euros (59)
1 day: 39 euros (79)
2 days: 69 euros (139)
3 days: 95 euros (189)
4 days: 115 euros (229)
5 days: 135 euros (269)
6 days: 155 euros (309)
7 days: 175 euros (349)
14 days: 299 euros (589)
Prices include helmet and repair kit.
There’s a workshop too.
|This company delivers bikes over much of the Pyrenees. They also offer van and rack rental and tours too.|
- Book your bike in advance, particularly in peak season.
- Remember to bring your own pedals, shoes and helmet. This packing list may help!
- Check which way around your brakes are set before you ride away (i.e. whether the front brakes are on the right hand (as is usual in the UK) or on the left (as is usual elsewhere in Europe)). Also take a look at our list of things to check before hiring a bike.
Undecided on whether to hire a bike or bring your own? Read this now.
Best time to go to the Pyrenees
One of our first comments on heading into the Pyrenees was, wow, isn’t it green. Yes. There’s a reason for that.
The lush green meadows of the French side of the Pyrenees are testament to the fact that this area gets a lot of rain. The weather can be unpredictable, even in summer; afternoon thunderstorms are not uncommon.
The area is busiest when the Tour de France comes through in July, but in weather terms, Paddy Sweeney at Velo Peloton advised us that the months either side of the Tour are better times to visit as the weather is more settled and it’s less busy.
The cycling season is short-lived in this mountainous area. The Col du Tourmalet weather often means that it and Col du Aubisque often don’t open until early June. Paddy also advised that sometimes cols open in late May and then immediately shut for a few weeks while repairs are carried out to weather-worn asphalt.
So, the message is, if you want to ride the biggest cols, don’t come too early – and don’t leave it too late!
|January||Not suitable for road cycling. This is ski season!|
|May||Late in April, resorts start switching their focus to cycling. The weather can be changeable, many of the highest cols will be shut and you need to be prepared for cold weather conditions. The Tourmalet and Aubisque are not normally open before the end of May or early June.|
It’s mid-June before you can be sure the Tourmalet and Aubisque will be open. Mid-June onwards is prime season for cyclists. July is busiest, with the Tour de France bringing a lot of visitors to the region and the month coinciding with school holidays across Europe.
Roads get busy (especially in tight spots like the Gorge de Luz, between Pierrefitte-Nestalas and Luz-Saint-Sauveur), though traffic can still be avoided by riding on the out and back climbs, such as Luz Ardiden or Hautacam. Don’t rule out rain/mist in the summer months; there’s always the chance of catching some adverse weather in these high mountains.
September is a great month to visit. The roads are quieter but the weather is usually pretty warm, but a touch cooler than July/August, so great for climbing.
|October||The cycling season tends to last until around mid or late October, depending on when the snowfall starts. Earlier in the month can be great however.|
|November||Not suitable for road cycling. This is ski season!|
If you like hard copy route cards, there’s a booklet called Topoguide – Velo de route, with 20 individual sheets, one for each road bike route. It show the routes in detail and the topography of the ride. We understand these can be bought from the Offices de Tourisme within the department. Chris Sidwell’s Tour Climbs, the complete guide to every mountain stage on the Tour de France features the Pyrenees climbing greats: Tourmalet, Aspin, Aubisque, Tourmalet, Luz Ardiden and other Tour de France mountains in the Hautes-Pyrénées.
Ride a Stage of the Tour De France: The Legendary Climbs and How to Ride Them by Kristian Bauer has a slightly more detailed look at the Col d’Aubisque, Luz-Ardiden, Hautacam, Tourmalet and Aspin.
Mapping Le Tour by Ellis Bacon has a page for each edition of the Tour de France and a section at the back that focuses on many of the climbs of the Hautes-Pyrenees.
Friebe and Goding’s Mountain High takes a less practical, more historical and personal look at the Tourmalet, Cirque du Gavernie, Aubisque and Hautacam.
This free Pyrenees cycling map is quite useful for basic orientation.
IGN has a Hautes-Pyrenees map at 1:200,000. Michelin have a Midi-Pyrénées map.
Good to know
While the closest airport to the region is Tarbes, it’s most likely you’ll fly into Toulouse. There are daily flights from the UK all year around and lots of car hire options too.
Bear in mind that nearly all bike shops in the region close on Sundays and Mondays (though if you speak to them in advance, they’ll probably be able to arrange for bike collection/delivery on these days). The exception to this is in July and August when many shops have extended opening; but check before you assume they’ll be open!
Enjoyed our guide?
We’d love to hear from you – comment below or drop us a line.
Want more? Don’t miss our guides to the best Tourmalet cycling route – plus Aubisque, Aspin, Hautacam, Luz Ardiden and more below. Once you’ve done these climbs, we’d also suggest basing yourself in Bagnéres de Luchon for a few days to discover the amazing riding from there – including Col de Peyresourde, Col du Portillon and many more famous climbs (check out our guide to that area here)!
Want to check out some other destinations? Search by the month you want to travel or cycling destination you want to visit, here.
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