Cycling in France: Experience the Magic of traffic-free roads
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 2022.
What are Car Free Days?
Each year many of the local tourism authorities organize 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 savor the ride with no thoughts or concerns about cars on the road as well. Typically speaking there are also refreshment/aid stations organized at the top of the summits so you can restock on food and water. Depending on the region there may also be organized group rides that 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 motorized 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 cyclosportives, there is no need to pre-register your participation in these events.
Where and when are the designated Car Free Days in France for 2022?
To help you plan out your cycling holiday we have researched the various tourism departments in the French Alps and the Pyrenees and listed out the car-free days which have been designated for 2022. For each region, we have also listed the dates on 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 2022 – 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.
The road is closed to traffic between 9:00 am and 12:00 pm and you can simply turn up on the day to ride these iconic mountain passes. More details for this event can be found here.
- No dates listed for 2022
- Ascent Ailefroide / Pré Mme Carle – Sunday June 5
- Montée Puy Saint Vincent 1600 – Sunday July 3
- Col de Vars – Sunday, July 3
- Col Agnel – Monday, July 4
- Col d’Izoard – Tuesday, July 5
- Col de Granon – Wednesday, July 6
- Col du Galibier – Thursday, July 7
- Col de l’Echelle – Friday, July 8
- Montée de Risoul – Wednesday, 13 July
- Col de Moissière (Ancelle) – Tuesday, 19 July
- Col de Granon – Wednesday, 20 July
- Col du Galibier – Thursday, 21 July
- Montée de Chabre – Tuesday, 2 August
- Col de Pommerol – Wednesday, 3 August
- Col d’Izoard – Thursday, 4 August
- Col de Céüze – Friday, 5 August
- Col du Noyer – Thursday, 11 August
- Col de Granon – Wednesday, 17 August
- Montée de Risoul – Wednesday, 17 August
- Col du Galibier – Thursday, 18 August
- Montée des Orres – Friday, 19 August
- Col d’Agnel – Sunday, 4 September
This region of the French Alps is full of amazing riding. Read our comprehensive guide on cycling in the French Alps here. It includes information about where to stay, cycling routes, and how to get there.
Region: L’Oisans French Alps
Event: 2022 Oisans Col Series – French Alps
The Oisans Col Series runs through the months of July and August and gives you car-free access to a range of famous mountain passes. Each Tuesday during the period you will have the opportunity to ride the likes of Alpe d’Huez, Col du Glandon, and Col de la Croix de Fer to name a few. No registration is required and food and drink are provided at the top. The official site for the event can be found here.
- Tuesday 05 July from 9am to Noon: Col de Croix de Fer and Col du Glandon:
- Tuesday 12 July from 9am to 11am: Col du Solude
- Tuesday 19 July from 9am to 11am: Villard-Reculas ascent
- Tuesday 26 July from 9am to noon: Col du Sabot
- Tuesday 2 August from 9am to 11am: Col d’Ornon
- Tuesday 9 August from 9am to 11am: L’Alpe d’Huez ascent
- Tuesday 16 August from 9am to 11am: Oz-en-Oisans ascent
- Tuesday 23 August from 9am to 11am: Les 2 Alpes ascent:
- Tuesday 30 August from 9am to noon: Col de 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 2022 the designated car-free day for the Col d’Iseran is Sunday 26th 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 2022
From 25 – 29 July 2022, the roads to 12 Cols in the Pyrenees will be reserved wholly for cyclists. The roads will be closed to cars from 09:00 am to 12:00 pm 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 be pretty close! Listed below are the Cols you can ride each day over the week or for more information check the official website.
Monday 25 July
- Port de Balès
- Col de Peyresourde- Altiport 007
- Col de Val Louron – Azet
Tuesday 26 July
- Col du Portet
- Col d’Aspin
Wednesday 27 July
- Col du Tourmalet
- Luz Ardiden
Thursday 28 July
- Col du Couraduque
Friday 29 July
- Col des Spandelles
- Col du Soulor Col d’Aubisque
Interested in riding in the Pyrenees? Read our practical guide to the Pyrenees here. It contains all the information you need to plan your cycling holiday in this part of France. Where to stay, how to get there and where to ride.
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 7 am to 3 pm. 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 09:00 am in the small town of Culoz, at the base of the climb. More information can be found here. The 2022 dates have yet to be confirmed but it is expected it will be similar to the 2021 dates, i.e.. the second Saturday of each month.
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.
Plan to cycle in central Paris on the monthly Car Free Day
If you ever wanted to experience cycling in Paris free of cars then you will have an opportunity to do so once a month. Each month the first 4 arrondissements in Paris go car-free on the first Sunday of the month. These monthly 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 a bike, foot, Segway, or scooter! In addition, Paris hosts an annual car-free day shutting a much larger part of the city to vehicles. The 2022 date is yet to be released, in 2021 it was held in September.
Planning your first cycling trip to France?
Our website has lots of information to help you plan your cycling holiday in France. Our Practical pages include lots of general information about visiting France including visa requirements, accommodation, driving, using a mobile phone, and more. Our Destination pages feature popular destinations including the Pyrenees, the French Alps, Provence, and Nice. Explore the site and plan your holiday.