Our Top Tips on cycling up Mont Ventoux in October
Ah, Mont Ventoux! The iconic mountain that has challenged the legs and lungs of many a cyclist. And what better time to conquer it than when the crowds have thinned out, the temperature has dropped, and the fall foliage adds a touch of magic to the scenery. However, there is a huge health warning to this advice. Mont Ventoux is completely exposed amongst the Provencal countryside and the winds on the mountain are notorious at all times of the year. The later in the season that you ride the climb, the more chance you have of inclement weather. You won’t necessarily encounter snow or ice that you could find late season on high Alpine passes, but from Chalet Reynard to the weather station is a tough place to be when the winds pick up.
Our recommendation is therefore to ride it no later than the first few days of October. Any later, and it will likely be too windy (think winds that blow you off your bike rather than slowing you down!)
Let’s take a closer look at the pros and cons of cycling Mont Ventoux in October.
Pros to riding Ventoux in October
1. Cooler temperatures: Mont Ventoux can get scorching hot in the summer, with temperatures often reaching into the 90s. But in early autumn, the weather is much more manageable, with average temperatures hovering around the mid-60s. This means you won’t have to worry about heat exhaustion, and you can focus on the climb without feeling like you’re in a sauna.
2. Beautiful fall foliage: October is the month when the leaves start to change, and Mont Ventoux is no exception. The mountain is surrounded by forests of beech and oak trees that turn golden and red in the fall, creating a stunning backdrop for your ride. Just make sure you take a moment to appreciate the scenery before you start gasping for air.
3. Fewer crowds: Mont Ventoux is a popular destination for cyclists, especially in the summer months. But in October, the crowds have thinned out, which means you’ll have more space on the road and less competition for parking spots at the base of the mountain if you aren’t staying locally. Plus, you won’t have to deal with as many tourists blocking the road with their rental cars which is really quite annoying in the middle of the summer!
4. Lower prices: In the summer, prices for accommodation, food, and bike rental in the area around Mont Ventoux tend to skyrocket due to high demand. But in October, you can often find better deals on everything from hotels to bike shops. This can make your trip more affordable, which is always a plus.
5. Challenging but rewarding: Climbing Mont Ventoux is no easy feat, but it’s a challenge that many cyclists relish. The mountain offers three different routes to the summit, each with its own unique features and difficulty levels. Whether you’re a seasoned pro or a weekend warrior, conquering Mont Ventoux is a badge of honour that you’ll be proud to wear.
Cons to riding Ventoux in October
1. Unpredictable weather: While the temperatures are generally cooler in the autumn, the weather is unpredictable. We highly recommend cycling the mountain in the earlier part of the autumn and certainly no later than the first week of October. Any later and you will likely encounter rain and winds like you’ve never experienced before. Also be aware that the plains can be nice and warm, with plenty of sunshine but that the top of the climb can be experiencing a completely different climate. Take appropriate clothing with you and even in the hottest period, take arm warmers and a gillet for the descent.
2. Shorter days: As the days get shorter in October, you’ll have less daylight to work with. If you’re planning to cycle all the way to the summit, you’ll want to make sure you start early enough to avoid descending in the dark. And if you’re not confident in your night riding skills, you might want to consider tackling Mont Ventoux in the summer instead.
3. Limited services: With fewer tourists in the area, some of the services that are available in the summer might be closed in October. This includes restaurants, bike shops, and even some accommodation. Make sure you plan ahead and bring plenty of snacks and water to keep you fuelled up during your ride.
4. Windy conditions: Mont Ventoux is known for its windy conditions, and this can be especially true in October. The gusts can make it difficult to maintain your balance and control on the bike, and can even push you off the road in extreme cases. Make sure you’re prepared for the wind with appropriate clothing but also be aware that if the winds are high, on the descent, you might even need to keep one foot unclipped as you slowly descend, at least to the tree line.
5. The risk of cold when riding Mont Ventoux in October can depend on a few factors, such as the time of day, the elevation, and the weather conditions. The temperature can drop significantly as you climb higher but certainly once you’re above the tree line at about Chalet Reynard. It’s important to come prepared with warm layers, such as a windbreaker, arm warmers, and leg warmers, to protect against the cold. It’s always better to bring too many layers than not enough, as you can always take off a layer if you get too warm.
In conclusion, cycling Mont Ventoux in October has its pros and cons. The cooler temperatures, beautiful fall foliage, and fewer crowds make it a tempting option for cyclists looking to conquer this iconic mountain. However, the unpredictable weather, shorter days, and limited services mean you’ll need to come prepared and plan ahead. Whether you decide to take on Mont Ventoux in October or wait until the summer, one thing’s for sure: this mountain will test your limits and leave you with a sense of accomplishment that’s hard to beat. So get on your bike, grab your helmet, and let’s go!