Posted by: Jennifer Sage | July 1, 2008

What to do with your bikes at a stage of the Tour de France

Lock them up!

To be honest, we’ve gotten away with not having to lock them a few times without being worried at all about their safety. But, there are always horror stories you hear, and you certainly don’t want to ride up a mountain stage and have no way back down.

In the more crowded areas, it’s not always easy to find a safe place is to lock your bikes where they are out of the way. The goal is to make sure to make it as difficult as possible for someone to steal your bike.

If you are on a section of road that has a lot of cars and/or motorhomes, you might look behind the vehicles and ask the owner’s permission if you can lock your bike back there as long as they’re out of their way. Many motorhomes are owned by retired couples; I find this a good place to lock up bikes. If you are on a more remote section of road, and especially if you are just one or two bikes, try to lock up your bikes to a telephone pole or fence.

In the previous post, I talked about how mobbed the top of the famous climbs can get. At the top of the Col de la Colombiere, there was no place to put bikes. We could have left them somewhere on the approach, off in the trees, and there are far fewer crowds on the descent part of a hill with more room. But if you go this route, you won’t be anywhere near your bikes to check them now and again, so make sure to bring along several long cables and locks to loop all your bikes together. But I didn’t want to do this on the crowded Colombiere, and I noticed that steep embankment I spoke about in the last post, and announced to everyone we were going to put them up there. They all looked at me like I was crazy! 

But, we assembled a human train up this very steep bank and passed them one at a time and it turned out to be a fantastic place to put them.

Handing bikes on the ColombiereWe did NOT have to lock our bikes here – they were practically inaccessible, and the grass and weeds held them up almost vertically on the steep bank.

At the Galibier, we found a gravel embankment, not far from the top of the col (behind the police cars and ambulances parked up there). I recommend you lock all the bikes in your group together, either with one long cable, or with numerous cables. Bikes locked together are less likely to disappear. The other thing I tend to do is to put the most desireable bikes on the bottom or in the middle of the pack.

locking bikes at the Galibier

If you won’t be right next to your bike during the stage, then of course, take every precaution necessary. But we’ve also been in areas where locking them wasn’t necessary because we could watch them easily (and they were amongst many other bikes). Below is the 1999 Tour de France on Alpe d’Huez. We were at a stretch that wasn’t mobbed with people (just before entering the city) where there were more bikes than people (at least at the time the photo was taken – they came out of the woodworks for the race). 

Alpe d\'Huez 1999

One last tip: on this particular day on ADH it wasn’t that hot. But in 2005 in the Pyrenées, we had our bikes laid out in the grassy hillside directly opposite where we were sitting so we could keep an eye on them. It was a very hot day…and a few hours into hanging out waiting for the peleton, we heard the first loud bang as one of the tubes blew. Later we heard another one. So my recommendation if you are able to find shade, it’s not only for yourself, but also for your bikes as in this photo below in 2004 on the Col de la Croix Fry!

Staying out of the sun at the 2004 Tour Col de la Croix Fry


Ride on!


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