This is the Tour du Mont Blanc, so what more needs to be said – it’s tough, beautiful and extremely rewarding. Just read the route article below and follow the GPX file, and have an amazing ride!
Stats: 148.8 km and 6,941 metres of ascent
Stats wise, the route was about 151km with 7100m of climbing overall, reaching a high point of over 2600m. We rode from Chamonix, but you can choose any start point.
Day 1 53km 3553m+ (options of 2 télécabine rides reducing climbing by 1800m)
Day 2 54km 2133m+
Day 3 44km with 1400m+
Refreshments & Where to Stay
The Chamonix valley is a good base for starting things off, and there’s ample options along the route, but we recommend some using mountain huts, making it a true bikepacking adventure.
‘Mountain trails’- Image by Scott Cornish
The Tour du Mont Blanc is one of the most iconic routes in Europe, crossing through 3 countries and made infamous by the annual exploits of 1000’s of ultra runners racing its full 170m length at the UTMB in August. Its technical trails reach heights of over 2600m, for 10,000m of elevation gain with grand views atop every col. High mountain refuges offering hearty feeds are plentiful en route for those opting not to spend the night under the stars, all in stunning locations. It’s not a long route in biking terms, but it’s not to be underestimated for its physical challenge!
Although the TMB is essentially a hiking path, much of it mountain singletrack, the mtb route options vary in length from the more direct 151km route we followed bikepacking style to 5/6 day 280km+ options, with more lift assisted availability. There is a record, of course, for the fastest self supported traverse of the official 170km route at just over 19 hours, but opting for a more leisurely pace allows you to get the most out of riding this stunning track.
Our chosen variant was a bit shorter, but meant less pushing and more pedalling whilst still retaining the highlights of the TMB. My co-bikepacker for this mini adventure was Alan Colville, a veteran of marathon racing, but who had yet to experience bikepacking. What a great place to start! We opted to be fully self sufficient, carrying light weight tents (I had an MSR 1 person Carbon Reflex), a stove and an Aeropress for the obligatory sunrise coffee. Both of us turned up.in Gore C7 2in1 shorts, ideal all weather long distance wear!
My ride was the Pinnacle Ramin3, a bike with a versatile dual personality. Trail bike one weekend, an ideal bikepacking rig on another. The only part that was swapped out were the tyres; the supplied WTB Trail Boss for lighter, more xc tuned WTB Rangers in a 2.25 width. An alpkit frame bag fitted perfectly into the front triangle, ideal for food and stove portage. All sleeping gear fitted into the front bags, with the tent stowed in the saddle bag along with dry/warm clothes. Despite a forecasted ideal weather window, wet and cold weather gear was still packed. This is the high mountains after all and storms can catch you out unprepared. Besides, this trip was about being comfortable, no suffering here, with warm clothes for evenings and mornings!
Water wise, you’re never far from a source in the Alpes, especially on this popular route, so it’s not necessary to carry much, 2 750ml is easily sufficient.
Our endpoint was Moody Café, the best coffee in town, but you’ll have to be there before 17h! Stinking cyclists are probably best using the outside seating! A large, cold fruit smoothie helped soothe tired legs, alongside a coffee of course.
What a ride. Camp out or use the refuges, it’s an iconic trail worth doing despite the hike-a-bike sections. This alternative does employ a couple of detours to minimise pushing, namely the sections Entreves to Planpinicieux and via Les Jeurs instead of Col de Balme which is unrideable in this direction. If the weather allows, overnight up high as the effort is well worth it for the spectacular sunrise.
We rode in early June avoiding the summer holiday crowds as it gets busy on the TMB route. Numerous companies offer guided longer tours if you don’t want to bikepack it and keep off the official route.
Click below to download GPX file