Cycling on Car Free Days in France – A must do experience

Did you know that it is possible to ride many of the famous climbs of the Tour de France on closed roads?  Yes, that is right, this means you can experience cycling the famous climbs in the French Alps and Pyrenees on car free days. Read on to discover more about cycling on Car Free days in France and what is planned to take place in each region for 2021.

Clouds in the valley on from the top of Col du Tourmalet in the Pyrenees

What are Car Free Days?

Each year many of the local tourism authorities organise what is known as ‘Car Free Days’. On these days the roads to several of the famous mountain passes in France are closed to traffic. This allows recreational cyclists of all fitness levels to experience riding these roads without needing to share the road with cars. Car free days are very popular and are marked out in the calendar well in advance. So with a bit of pre-planning you could look to make sure your cycling holiday in the mountains coincides with some of these dates.

What is it like to ride on Car Free Days in France?

Riding the famous French cycling climbs on closed roads is a fantastic experience and allows you to savour the ride with no thoughts or concerns to cars on the road as well. Typically speaking there are also refreshment / aid stations organised at the top of the summits so you can restock on food and water. Depending on the region there may also be organised group rides which you can partake in so you can feel like you are part of a ‘virtual peloton’ so to speak. The mountain passes are typically closed off to motorised traffic (e-Bikes not included!) from early in the morning until lunchtime which should allow most riders to reach the summit and return before the roads reopen again. Unlike bigger gran fondo style events or cyclo-sportives, there is no need to pre-register your participation in these events.

Where and when are the designated Car Free Days in France for 2021?

To help you plan out your cycling holiday we have researched the various tourism departments in the French Alps and Pyrenees and listed out the car free days which have been designated for 2021. For each region we have also listed the dates which each mountain pass will be available to ride. Check below for more details and start your holiday planning now.

Region: French Alps – Hautes Alpes

Event: Cols Réservés 2021 – Hautes Alpes

This event runs from the final weekend in May through to the first weekend in September. You will find the earlier dates have been set for climbs at a lower elevation as the higher peaks may still be impassable due to winter snow.  Many of the highest mountain passes in the French Alps are then set aside for the summer months of July and August. You will be able to experience cycling the mountain passes of the Col du Galibier, Col d’Izoard and Col d’Agnel. Click through each tab on the table below to see which mountain passes are available to ride each month.

  • May 2021
  • June 2021
  • July 2021
  • August 2021
  • September 2021
May 2021

Saturday May 29: Upper Clarée Valley

Sunday May 30: Col de l'Echelle

June 2021

Sunday June 6: Ascent Ailefroide / Pré Mme Carle

July 2021

Sunday July 4: Montée Puy Saint Vincent 1600

Thursday July 8: Col d'Izoard

Monday July 19: Col de Vars

Tuesday July 20: Col de Moissière (Ancelle)

Wednesday July 21: Col de Granon

Thursday July 22: Col Agnel

Thursday July 22: Col du Galibier

August 2021

Tuesday August 3: Montée de Chabre

Wednesday August 4: Col de Pommerol

Thursday August 5: Col d'IzoardMonday August 16: Col de Vars

Wednesday August 18: Col de Granon

Thursday August 19: Col du Galibier

Friday August 20: Montée des Orres

September 2021

Sunday 05 September: Col d'Agnel

This region of the French Alps is full of amazing riding. Read our comprehensive guide on cycling in the French Alps here.

Region: L'Oisans French Alps

Event: 2021 Oisans Col Series – French Alps

This series provides amateur cyclists with the opportunity to take on some of the most Tour de France mountain climbs such as the Alpe d'Huez. For 2021 these car free days will take place every Tuesday in July and August beginning on 06 July. The event is entirely free and registration is not required. Refreshment stations are also available at the top of the climbs as well. Click through each tab on the table below to see which mountain passes are available to ride on which days each month.

  • July 2021
  • August 2021
July 2021

Tuesday 06 July from 0900 to Noon: Col de Croix de Fer and Col du Glandon:

Tuesday 13 July 2021 from 9am to 11am: Col du Solude

Tuesday 20 July 2021 from 9am to 11am: Villard-Reculas ascent

Tuesday 27 July 2021 from 9am to noon: Col du Sabot

August 2021

Tuesday 3 August 2021 from 9am to 11am: Col d'Ornon

Tuesday 10 August 2021 from 9am to 11am: L'Alpe d'Huez ascent

Tuesday 17 August 2021 from 9am to 11am: Oz-en-Oisans ascent

Tuesday 24 August 2021 from 9am to 11am: Les 2 Alpes ascent:

Tuesday 31 August 2021 from 9am to noon: Col de Sarenne

The car free road on the pass of the Col du Sarenne

Want to plan a cycling holiday in this region of the Alps? Read our practical destination guide here.

Region: L'Isere (Hautes Alpes)

Event: Col d'Iseran Car Free Day

At 2770m in elevation the Col d’Iseran is the highest paved road in Europe and each year the mountain pass is closed off to traffic for a day. In 2021 the designated car free day for the Col d'Iseran is Sunday 24th June. More information can be found here.

Interested in cycling the Col d'Iseran? Check out our comprehensive ride guide here.

Region: Hautes Pyrénées

Event: Pyrenees Cycl'n Trip 2021

From the 19 – 23 July 2021, the roads to 12 Cols in the Pyrenees will be reserved wholly for cyclists. The roads will be closed to cars from 09:00am to 12:00pm making this an ideal time to test yourself on some of the most famous Tour de France climbs. Across the five days there will be different peaks available to ride such as Col d'Aubisque, Col du Tourmalet and the Col d'Aspin. As with the events being run in the French Alps, there is no need to register your participation. If you were ever to plan for a perfect cycling holiday in the Pyrenees, then riding there during this particular week would have to pretty close! For more information check the official website or simply click through each tab on the table below to see which mountain passes are available to ride each day.

  • 19 July 2021
  • 20 July 2021
  • 21 July 2021
  • 22 July 2021
  • 23 July 2021
19 July 2021

Port de Balès (09:00-12:00)

Col de Peyresourde- Altiport 007 (09:00-12:00)

Col de Val Louron – Azet (09:00-12:00)

20 July 2021

Col du Portet (09:00 – 12:00)

Col d’Aspin (09:00 – 12:00)

21 July 2021

Col du Tourmalet (09:00 – 12:00)

Luz Ardiden (09:00 – 12:00)

22 July 2021

Col du Couraduque (09:00 – 12:00)

Hautacam (09:00 – 12:00)

23 July 2021

Col des Spandelles (09:00 – 12:00)

Col du SoulorCol d’Aubisque (09:00 – 12:00)

Views of the road and mountains at from the top of Luz Ardiden

Interested in riding in the Pyrenees? Read our practical guide to the Pyrenees here.

Region: French Jura

Event: Grand Colombier Car Free Days

Taking place on the second Saturday of the Month from June to September, the road to the summit of the Grand Colombier is closed off to traffic from 7am to 3pm. This particular event has been run successfully since 2013 and is gaining in popularity with each year. There is a refreshment station and pit stops put on at the top of the climb and coffee offered at the bottom of the climb by the local Tourism body at Maison du vélo. There is also an option to ride with part of a larger group leaving from the local tourism body at Maison du vélo at 09:00am in the small town of Culoz, at the base of the climb. More information can be found here. We have listed the dates for this years car free days in the table below. Click through each tab to see which date has been set for each month.

  • June 2021
  • July 2021
  • August 2021
  • September 2021
June 2021

Saturday 12 June (7:00am – 3:00pm)

July 2021

Saturday 10 July (7:00am – 3:00pm)

August 2021

Saturday 14 August (7:00am – 3:00pm)

September 2021

Saturday 11 September (7:00am – 3:00pm)

Grand Colombier

Interested in riding the climb of the Grand Colombier? Read our dedicated ride guide here.

What about riding these climbs during the Tour de France?

The other way to experience these climbs traffic free is to be there to witness a live stage of the Tour de France. On these days literally thousands of people cycle or hike up the mountain passes with a view of watching the professional peloton whizzing past live. On the day of the stage the route of the Tour de France is closed off to traffic early in the morning which means you can enjoy a ride up the mountain pass with all the atmosphere of the Tour as well. It is a great experience for sure and one to seek out if you plan to watch a stage live. Just be aware this won’t be a day to look at riding the climb at a fast pace. The road will be crowded so keep this in mind and enjoy the party atmosphere.

For more tips on spectating a stage of the Tour de France roadside read our article here.

tour de france cycling spectator
Tour de france fans cheering riders on the side of the road

Plan to cycle in Paris on the annual Car Free Day

If you ever wanted to experience cycling in Paris free of cars than this is the day to do it. Paris’ annual Car Free Day for 2021 will take place this year on Sunday 19th September. The city will be car free from 11am through to 6pm. These annual car free days are extremely popular. Be aware that buses, taxis and tour buses will still be operating on this day but other than this the city roads will be filled with people enjoying the outdoors on bike, foot, Segway or scooter! In addition to this annual car free day, Paris also closes the Champs-Élysée and many other streets off to traffic on the first Sunday of each month from 10am to 5pm.

paris bridge

Planning your first cycling trip to France?

Our article on planning a cycling holiday to France goes through some great planning tips. You can read the article here.