Colconquerors - Cycling Holidays French Alps

Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

To help you get off to a good start this page will give you all the information you need for your trip. If something is missing please let us know so we can add it to help others via info@colconquerors.com

What’s included in our trips?

Our trips do vary and specific information can be found on each of the trip pages on this web site. In general though your accommodation is provided in our private chalet on a half board basis (breakfast and 3 course evening meal), your transfers to and from the named airport (usually Geneva for the Alps), afternoon tea and cake and of course guiding/support are included within the price of your trip. We also have a bike storage area and tools and equipment for any running repairs. In instances where trips are run away from our base we always select accommodation that is cycling friendly and allows us to operate as if we were at home.

What’s not included in our trips?

Flights, insurance for yourself or your bike are not included. Lunch or drinks and tips on the road are not included in any of our trips. Single supplements for trips at our base in the Alps or when away are not included and depending upon availability could be available, you’ll need to ask about these as they’re dependent on availability. We do not provide alcohol with dinner but there’s ample opportunity to pick this up.

What type of luggage should I bring?

If you are bringing a bike box a hard case provides the best protection for your machine and offers maximum peace of mind. We see a lot of cyclists and there are rarely problems when bikes are protected in this way. In addition to a bike box please bring a medium sized soft holdall to ensure luggage fits into the transfer vehicle and of course a small piece of hand luggage if needed.

Flights & Airport transfers

Airport transfers are included for all of our trips. For trips to the Alps we use Geneva airport as this is well served from across the UK and also further afield for those traveling from the US/Asia Pac. The confirmation email you receive after booking will include details of the times of the transfer departure for each trip. Your flights must land well in advance of the departure times to allow for baggage reclaim and any small delays. If you book flights outside of the scheduled transfer times you will need to make alternative arrangements to get to the chalet. If a major flight delay means you miss the transfer time airlines and travel insurance have proved reliable at sourcing alternative transfers. The week leading up to your trip you will receive information that confirms meeting location points at the named airport.

What insurance do I need for myself and the bike?

You must have travel insurance in place for your trip as per our terms and conditions as this will cover you in a multitude of situations should the need arise. In addition to your travel insurance we recommend that you have your bike insured for the duration of the trip. We have had positive experiences with Yellow Jersey for bike insurance for your travels. Sports Cover direct provide a range of insurance for sports activities.

Can I rent a bike box of good quality?

Yes you can. If you do not own a bike box you can hire one from Bikebox-online.co.uk and with many distribution points across the country they can usually deliver to your home. The Velo Vault that they designed in house is great and we bought them ourselves. Mention Colconquerors on booking for a discount and as long as supply allows you’ll be given a day at each end of the trip for free meaning you only pay for the days you’re away with the bike.

How and when do I pay for the trip?

All payments for our trips are by credit or debit card via our on-line banking system. Once you have confirmed you would like to join us on the trip you will receive an email with a link that allows you to pay the required amount securely, deposits for trips range between 200.00€ to 500.00€. Balances for trips are due 12 weeks before arrival and you will receive a further email and payment link to make the payment. We do not accept payment by other methods and can’t accept part payments or payment by installment.

Do people usually bring their own bike?

To be honest yes they do! Cycling in the mountains is challenging and it’s best if you can ride them on the bike that you and your body are used to as this will ensure little niggles don’t creep in from riding in a style and position that’s slightly different to that you’re used to. This holds even more true if you’re riding a sportive when we’d say 100% bring your own.

Should I have my bike serviced before the trip?

Yes you should for several reasons. Firstly for safety, descending at speed dictates that things must be in full working order and condition - cables and pads changed recently. The mountains are challenging not just for us but also for our equipment and the smallest problems that you’ll get away with at home tend to magnify themselves when under load day in day out. Get the bike cleaned fully and then looked at before you set off to ensure it’s in perfect working order before you arrive. There are always solutions to problems when here but you don’t want to loose any ride time to maintenance!

What gearing is best for the mountains?

Right we’re going to be honest here and say a compact chain-set 50/34 with an 11/28 or 12/30 rear cassette is absolutely the right tool for the job. We have lost count of the times years back when people have either gone away saying I wish I’d had that gearing or have made an emergency cassette purchase when here! Even though the gradients are around the 8-9% range (which might be less than you’re used to) in the main having a gear that’s hard to push over say 1.5 to 2 hours on a single climb means you build up a lot of muscular fatigue for no good reason. With gearing as recommended you have the best of all worlds and be as fresh as you can for the next climb or the next day. It’s all about what’s coming next.

Can I rent a bike and how much does this cost?

Yes you can - Having said bring your own there are times when for a short break or if you’re in-between bikes renting makes sense. Rental prices start from 40.00€ per day. If you’ve had a bike fit in the UK and it’s still valid you can use the information to set the bike as close to your usual position as possible. If renting you must bring your pedals and shoes, some choose to bring a saddle as well but that’s optional. All you need do is let us know your height and frame size and we’ll have a bike here waiting for you on arrival.

What’s the weather like usually to help decide which kit to bring?

The summer in the Alps is usually great but things can and do change in the mountains very quickly and this means that you do need to be ready for any conditions. At the height of summer temperatures can change by 1 degree for every 100 meters of elevation climbed and at the extreme this could mean it’s 25 degrees in the valley floor and zero at the summit of a very high mountain like the Galibier (see further down for a kit list) add the wind chill for the descent and it can get cold although with the sun on your back it sometimes doesn’t feel as cold as it is. May is usually settled after the winter with temperatures in the low to mid 20’s at the valley level, June and July are usually the hottest months of summer with temperatures in the valleys ranging from mid 20’s to mid 30’s. Move into September and the temperatures become a little cooler, think low to mid 20’s although the past few years have been warmer, either way nice long days and great climbing conditions.

When do the passes usually open and close each year?

This does vary from year to year depending upon the severity of the winter and how much snow has fallen. The local councils do target having the passes open within a certain week range each year. Passes with summits around 2000 meters such as the Glandon and Croix de la Fer aim to open mid May with the very high ones such as the Galibier (2645m) and Iseran (2770m) early June time. Now if only it was as easy as that! Sometimes passes will be open from one side (usually the south facing) earlier meaning access on a bike is possible and some have tunnels close to the top allowing earlier opening whilst the very top section is still being cleared of snow. One thing is for sure and that is there is never a shortage of high quality climbs in our valley. Closure is usually late October for the high passes so does not affect us.

What tools and equipment are at the chalet?

We have bike stands, standard bike tools, torque wrenches and track pumps here so you do not need to bring along anything that’s common to the majority. If however you have tools specific to your bike that are not common then you might like to bring these with you in the bike box just in case. Airlines are providing mixed responses on CO2 canisters but most are allowing a couple if in the bike box just don’t try to bring a box of them. If you are not allowed to bring them we always have spares in the bike garage.

I’m worried about my level of riding and the others! How do you manage groups and mixed ability on the climbs?

This is without doubt our most frequently asked question from many different levels of riders. Importantly the first part of the answer is that you should not worry about this as you’re paying us to worry about the logistics ensuring all you have to do is ride. Over the years we have learned that everyone has their own climbing pace and it’s hard or even at times impossible to ride at someone else pace. Go too fast and you blow up quickly and go too slow and you don’t feel like you’ve challenged yourself or are on the bike longer than you would like. Once on the climbs riders self select pace and grouping and there are always clear target rendezvous points ahead where reconvening for lunch etc is possible (or not if you just want to head on). We’ll ride between the group all day ensuring that everyone gets what they need from the day. Just to reiterate, you ride we look after the rest.

What are the group sizes like?

It’s a maximum of 8 for all of our trips unless we’ve arranged something custom for a group. We believe in a small and personal approach and have found that a maximum group size of 8 works very well and allows us to spend plenty of time with everyone throughout the trip. It’s of utmost importance to us that everyone gets what they need from the experience.

How far do you ride each day?

Distance is not a great indicator of effort when riding in the mountains. If you say to us you’d like to ride 100 miles a day yes that’s possible but to get the distance in you’d climb 4000-5000 meters a day which for most is not a reality. We judge our rides by meters climbed and this ranges between 2500-3500 a day for most of the trips. As an example climbing the Galibier from both sides is only around 90km (55 miles) but has the small challenge of 3400 meters of climb depending on the route we use. There are usually options to make days more or less challenging at an individual level.

How does the guiding & support work?

We provide both guiding and vehicle support and this usually depends on the route for the day. At the outset of Colconquerors we asked many of our guests of varying levels if they’d prefer us on the bike or in the bus and without exception people chose out on the bike where we can provide much more information and advice as and when required. We always take peoples needs into account and depending on conditions the support vehicle could be with us all day or parked in a strategic location meaning there’s a get out of jail free card not far away. On days where we go further afield we can also use the bus to access climbs that would not be accessible to all otherwise. Ultimately it’s about ensuring all you have to do is ride.

Will we stop for food and drink during the day?

As we are generally out for 5 to 6 hours a day we usually stop for lunch at a mountain top restaurant and sometimes for a coffee/coke along the way.

What level of fitness do I need to ride in the mountains?

The mountains are a challenging place to ride but are accessible to all and with some good preparation before you arrive. We don’t expect you to be a high category racer but have generally found that those riding around 100 miles a week at home perhaps with some additional gym/spin class type activity generally get a lot from riding here although others doing less have had an equally great experience. There are of course always challenges as with anything worth doing in life and that’s why we’re here to help you along the way. This can be motivation, training or nutritional advice or more. If you enquire and explain your level and there’s too big a gap between the group we always discuss the options with you so you get the right result.

Are you able to provide coaching advice to help if I need it?

Yes - we can and will for those that would like it provide advice on technique, fitness nutrition, bike position and just about any other aspect of your riding you might like to improve. We invested a great deal in enhancing our own knowledge and have British Cycling Level 3 coaching qualifications (the highest level available) to ensure we can help you be the best you can.

What’s our accommodation like and exactly where is it?

We have a private chalet for the majority of our Alps based trips which is located at 1700 meters just outside of a small ski resort called Valmeinier. This is in fact just 4km off of the road to the Col du Telegraphe & Galibier and as such provides us great access to these plus many other climbs. We are up mountain with unobstructed views of the surrounding valley and Fort du Telegraphe. The chalet is set-up to be bike specific and each year we add more features to improve your experience. In the last 12 months we’ve added a new terrace and geodesic dome for stretching and recovery, decorated and upgraded our guest accommodation, added new social spaces around the chalet, upgraded our kitchen and dining area. The year before we added the professional bike fit studio to the mix.

When we’re away from the base we go to great lengths to find accommodation that provides the same or more than we can when at base always with us as riders in mind.

Do you provide kit washing facilities?

Yes - for week long trips at our base we do a kit wash on the 4th or rest day.

I’m planning on traveling alone, is this okay and how does it work?

Yes it most certainly is. People worry about this but the fact is not everyone can find friends to come away with at suitable times and as such we have plenty of people visit us solo. It’s always relaxed around here and when out on the road. We now have quite a contingent who visited alone and have ended up continuing to ride with each other back at home and even return to us the following year as a group. When at our base in the Alps there is no single supplement as rooms are on a twin share basis. There are certain trips when away from our base when single supplements are applicable.

What should I pack for the trip?

Here’s a fairly extensive list to get you started…

Clothing & Riding

Light weight wind/rain jacket, long and short fingered gloves, arm and leg warmers, over shoes and base layers. Minimum of 3 sets of cycling kit for a week long trip and 2 for a weekend, cycling shoes, helmet, good quality sunglasses, SPF 30 or higher sun cream (the sun is seriously strong up here).

Bike & Other equipment

Spare brake blocks, inner tubes in saddle bag, tyre boot, mutitool, DI2 charger (even if fully charged when you leave!!), chamois cream, spare rear derailleur hanger, tyre levers, UK travel adapter plug, EHIC health card and blood group information, spare battery for you speed sensor or power meters, a small mini rear light for the occasional tunnel.

Do you supply energy food and recovery drinks?

We recommend that you bring the products with you that you’re used to using in training. Different products affect people in differing ways and it’s best not to experiment with new ride food in the mountains. We do have emergency supplies available just in case.

What’s the weather like in Gran Canaria during March and November?

The weather is pretty stable in November and March from our experience. The main difference is that the days are a couple of hours shorter in November than March but still allowing for full days out on the bike unlike the UK. Once higher up into the mountains things are a little greener in November than March due to the monthly rain fall average being a little higher but it’s still a case of predominantly summer kit and light weight wind vest required for the descents. If we had to put a figure on the daytime temperatures we’d say between 18 & 25 degrees for both months.

Where are your booking conditions

Our booking terms and conditions can be found here

Where can I find independent guest reviews?

We have extensive independent guest reviews here on our business Facebook page

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