The fitness level required for a France cycling trip in large part depends upon your ambitions – and this is yet another advantage to a self-guided tour. 

If you’re determined to ride what amounts to mountain stages of the Tour de France, you best be very fit and comfortable climbing and descending steep mountain grades – in many instances steeper and longer than anything in the US.  A typical Tour mountain stage covers approx. 100 miles and climbs in excess of 10,000 vertical feet a day!

Alternatively, if you want to ride in France but want less climbing and descending, requiring less fitness, you can find that too. Or perhaps you want something of a middle-ground – perhaps fewer miles per day but you want to ride some of the more famous mountains of the Tour, like Alpe d’Huez or Mt. Ventoux.

No matter what your ambitions, if you plan to ride in the Alps, Pyrenees, or up Mt. Ventoux, you’ll need to train properly. Sustained grades of 12+% are not uncommon, and some of the longer climbs can approach 20 miles.  With these types of grades and lengths of climbs gearing also plays a big part in your planning; depending upon your ambitions, consider at least one more gear than you have at home. (See the free Equipment guide on gearing, etc.)

Travel GemThere are several excellent websites that rank the difficulty of climbs in France and beyond. One of my favorites is, which is two Dutch cyclists attempt to rate all of the climbs in Europe by formula using elevation gain, length, and maximum elevation.  Another excellent site is, which contains detailed information on many of the mountains in France and beyond.