Scanuppia -- the hardest road bike climb in Europe.
PJAMM Cycling has travelled five times to Europe to Climb by Bike -- 2013, and 2016 through 2018 (and we will return for six weeks in 2019). We have documented 18 of the 28 countries in the European Union (soon to be 14 if Brexit goes through).
There are so many great reasons to cycle in Europe, particularly France and Italy: the beauty and challenge of the Pyrenees and Alps, the unparalleled fame of so many climbs (ones like Alpe d’Huez, Col du Tourmalet, Mont Ventoux, and Passo dello Stelvio), and the rich history of the Tour de France and Giro d’Italia.
Our favorite locations to climb in Europe are: Dolomites (Italian Alps), Argelès-Gazost/Luz Saint-Sauveur (Pyrenees), Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne (French Alps), Bormio (Italian Alps) and Rhone Valley (Switzerland) because these areas have such a concentration of epic and challenging bike climbs.
#1 OF 10
Warning: The sign at beginning says no bikes.
This is a KILLER bike climb -- extremely steep (although we believe the 45% sign above may be overstated). Scanuppia averages 18 percent grade for its entire 7.3 kilometers. We have ridden this nearly impossible bike climb twice and even with a 28t chainring and 42t cassette on a high-end stiff cross bike, we barely managed it. On the steeper segments (steepest 500m is 24%; our Garmin read 30-32% in a couple of spots) it is very difficult to keep the front wheel from lifting off the pavement.
#2 OF 10
ALPE FUORI, ITALY
Alpe Fuori is in the Pennine Alps (also the home of the Matterhorn). This is one of three Top 10 World Bike Climbs situated in Italy. With a 13.7% average grade (23% for one kilometer), this climb deserves its high world ranking. We climbed this one in the summer of 2018 and there will be no rematch!
#3 OF 10
PICO DE VELETA, SPAIN
Pico de Veleta is the rock formation seen above the Virgen de Las Nieves altar.
This is another of our favorite world climbs. The first two kilometers are incredibly steep (our two wheel drive support vehicle was put to the test over this segment) while the full climb does not disappoint at an average 7.6% for 31 kilometers. The road above Hoya de la Mora (kilometer 19) is closed to public traffic which makes for a very pleasurable and peaceful climb (if you can ignore your screaming thighs).
Hairpins just above Hoya de la Mora.
#4 OF 10
A bit of a chore to get to if you are not living in Bulgaria (that’s an understatement), this climb is an unbelievable 11% average grade for 15 kilometers along a desolate stretch of broken roadway to two beautiful reservoirs at the finish. The one caveat we submit is that the road is private and there are no guarantees a cyclist will be permitted to ride to the top, although it is certainly possible, as reported in our Climb Summary on the Rila page.
#5 OF 10
This is the only Top 10 World Bike Climb in the great climbing country of Switzerland. The climb is beautiful and there was no sign of life whatsoever for the last 10 kilometers -- it is as private and as peaceful as a double digit 13 kilometer climb can be. There are no visual obstructions to impede the distant views after climbing above tree line at about kilometer 11.
#6 OF 10
MOUNT ETNA, ITALY
This climb will take us to the top of that volcano.
This photo was taken along our route to Mt. Etna -- it is a LONG climb!
The Mighty Mount Etna: The third hardest bike climb in Italy (just behind the incomparable Scanuppia), is located in the east coast of Sicily, between the cities Messina and Catania. This is our second volcano in the World Top 10 after the incomparable Mauna Kea. The last 8.5 kilometers at 11.4% from Rifugio Giovanni Sapienza are dirt and volcanic dust better navigated by mountain bike (we used a cross bike with 40mm and that was a chore and barely manageable.
#7 OF 10
RIONDA, SWITZERLAND, ITALY
This is the hardest bike climb in Switzerland and a top 10 world climb, coming in at #7. The entire 15 kilometer ride averages 11% and the steepest kilometer is 14%.
#8 OF 10
PASSO DELLA FORCELLA, ITALY, ITALY
Whoa -- go west out of Ovara (instead of east to the mighty Zoncolan) and you quickly encounter what is rightly one of the Top 10 most difficult road bike climbs in the world. Passo della Forcella is an extremely steep climb from start to finish. There are many tight and incredibly steep tornante, making it very difficult and somewhat dangerous (particularly in the wet conditions we encountered on our day up the mountain) to get our midsize rental car up. We do not recommend you have anyone accompany you via automobile when you climb this beast unless their vehicle is short, narrow and four wheel drive.
#9 OF 10
GROSSER SPEIKKOGEL, AUSTRIA, ITALY
This is the hardest bike climb in Austria, but the upper portion may be closed to bikes as of June 2018. We would recommend to double check Strava before traveling long distance for this climb. With that caveat, here is our report: At 9.7 miles with an average grade of 10.6% and Fiets Index of 18.39, this is the most difficult climb in Austria and a World Top 10. The climb is very scenic and ends at an aircraft detection radar tower. Grosser means “great” in German and this truly is a great climb!
#10 OF 10
PICO ARIEIRO, PORTUGAL, ITALY
This climb is on the Island of Madeira which is officially the Autonomous Region of Madeira. Madeira is an archipelago situated in the Atlantic Ocean south of Portugal and west of Morocco. This climb is rated 19th in the world and is the most distant from mainland Europe than any other Europe Top 10 Bike Climb.
THE LONGEST BIKE CLIMB IN EUROPE
TEIDE VOLCANO FROM SANTA CRUZ DE TENERIFE, SPAIN
Teide from Santa Cruz de Tenerife is 63 kilometers/39 miles.
THE HIGHEST BIKE CLIMB IN EUROPE
PICO DE VELETA, SPAIN
Cycling Pico de Veleta -- a top world bike climb.
Ride 31.3 km to 3366 m gaining 2,689 m at 7.7%
THE NUMBER SEVEN MOST DIFFICULT CLIMB IN THE WORLD. It is not often that we are blessed to climb “The” of anything, whether it be the “hardest,” the “longest,” the “steepest,” or, in this case the “highest.” Yet we can honestly claim that Pico is a “The” climb: The highest paved road in all of Europe -- now that’s saying something! And it’s not just high, it’s BRUTALLY DIFFICULT!!