Cycling in Mountains

The really hard work startsThe world’s mountains make for beautiful biking but without careful planning they can also be dangerous for cyclists.

Think ahead before you go into the mountains. How is the weather? How much food and water do you need? How far can you realistically go if you’re climbing uphill?

Key things to keep in mind include:

  1. Distances can be deceiving. When planning your day, try to find out about the terrain ahead. You might easily cover 80-100km on flat ground but a tough mountain climb could cut this to 30-40km. Don’t be too ambitious.
  2. Water. Water. Water. You’ll use up plenty of it when ascending to a mountain peak. If you’re lucky, there will be a stream somewhere nearby but don’t count on it, unless you can verify this with a cyclist who’s been there recently. Even then, you may need to filter the water. Take at least 30-50% more water than you normally would when going into the mountains.
  3. Watch the weather. So many times we’ve reached a mountain peak, only to watch a sunny day turn to driving rain or even a hailstorm. You may think you can reach the top and then cruise downhill to the next town but the weather could have other ideas. Make sure you have a waterproof jacket, gloves and a backup plan if you can’t reach your intended destination.
  4. Camping can be difficult. Mountains generally mean steep slopes and few flat places to stick a tent. If you see a good spot to camp, it’s probably worth stopping early. Carrying on could mean you don’t find anything for quite a long time after your energy starts to fade.
  5. Cooking takes longer. If you’re going to very high altitudes, cooking will take longer because water doesn’t boil as quickly. Bring extra fuel for your stove. Water also doesn’t boil as easily so take things that cook quickly like instant noodles. Leave the rice at home.

See our notes on general route planning as well.


  1. Bob
    31st December 2009 at 12:04 am #

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  3. Spyros
    10th September 2013 at 10:06 am #

    6. Watch for mountain wind. It can be really dangerous and can even throw you off your bike or to the side of the road. In cases where wind is really strong it may be better to get off your bike and walk a bit.

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