No, not my life this time. This is about descending on a bike!
Some riders like flats (yuck), some others like climbing, and others like descending. I really do love climbing, but I’m not always that good at it; however I always dig a great downhill and I’m okay at it as well, especially when I’m 73 kg or more.
So I thought I post a few of my favorites for you and I encourage you to do the same in the comment section, particularly if it’s close to me so I can check it out.
Bonette to Jausiers
The Col de la Bonette, one of the highest in the Alps, has two great descents, but the best in my view is the north side towards the village of Jausiers. Its length is one factor – 24 km – but ‘quantity’ doesn’t make a great descent and this one has it all: wide-open, sweeping turns above the tree line that are fast and relatively safe (you can see everywhere); technical ‘drop-off’ bits in the middle that you need to be careful on; and forest hairpins near the bottom, all on what I remember being great tarmac. Oh, and it’s got marmots!
Galibier to Lautaret
Staying in the Alps, but a little further south, the Col du Galibier also offers two super descents. The south side is an epic 35 km if you include the Télégraphe (which you sort of have to if you want to reach the valley), but it’s the short-and-sweet north side that I prefer.
For one, you get some great close-up mountain views, including a pretty big glacier. Then the open road that weaves at speed all the 8 km to the Col du Lautaret. This one is high and above the tree line all the way, so you have a sweet, unobstructed descente all the way. It’s just a joy.
Then, when you get to the ‘bottom’, you can choose to turn left for another 30 km of downhill to Briançon, or nearly 50 km to the bottom of Alpe d’Huez. Choices, choices….
Back side of Nimes to Pont St Nicolas
I include this because I do it nearly every time I ride my bike. The descent proper begins 9 km from home and is less than 3 km to the 14th century bridge at the bottom.
It’s a ‘big’ road by French standards, and there’s usually a fair amount of traffic, but you nearly always go faster than cars, so getting passed is not usually happening. This fun descent has a few tight-ish corners with those famous low stone European walls that will definitely not stop you from flying over the,, but otherwise it’s safe and fast. I usually do these corners at a little over 40 kph and rarely have to do anything other than feather the brakes.
And sorry, if you were planning on buying the chateau at the bottom (equipped with Romanesque church), it’s just been sold.
Anything in the Cévennes
You need to be on your game to enjoy descending in my favorite cycling playground. The roads are often just single track, they are sometimes roughly paved and full of sheer drops and blind corners. Ideal!
Note: most of the roads that 44|5 Cycling Tours chooses for our tours are bigger and safer…most!
Lots of the roads in the Cévennes are also completely car free. There is an amazing variety and number of tiny, paved roads, especially in the southern area, near where I live. I try not to throw around words like ‘endless’ too much, but really, there’s nearly a lifetime of incredible descending in them thar hills.
I could probably go on all night, but my fingers are getting tired. Maybe there’s a ‘part two’ in the future. I haven’t included anything from the Pyrenees, for example, and a handful come to mind right now.
Everyone enjoys different types of descents and some riders simply don’t like them at all, but what goes up must come down, so my advice would be to learn how to do it and embrace the beauty of gravity.
What others am I missing?