The world’s most epic bike climbs. Photos clockwise from top left:
Uturuncu, Bolivia; Stelvio, Italy; Pico Veleta, Spain
Wuling Pass, Taiwan; Death Road, Bolivia (center)
What makes a bike climb “epic”? Well, since this is a subjective issue, we will give you our thoughts on the topic, but by no means do we consider this an end-all list. And, while we can surely debate what are truly the most epic world bike climbs, we feel there is no reasonable debate that our Top 10 list clearly includes only epic climbs. We also welcome your thoughts on this category via our Contact Page.
Epic used in our context means: extraordinary, exceptional, once-in-a-lifetime, bucket list, and “must do.” The cleats-on-the-ground working definition of “epic bike climb”: At the finish of the climb you say to your riding partner with great enthusiasm “*&%$!, that was an EPIC climb!!!!”
Another rule of thumb on epicicity is: Would you pack your bike, leave your family behind, and fly at least 10 hours to a foreign land that speaks a language you don’t know, using your last five vacation days of the year to do this climb?
With that simple guideline in mind, here we go . . .
#10 OF 10 WORLD’S MOST EPIC BIKE CLIMBS
PIKES PEAK, COLORADO, USA
Cycling Pikes Peak
Ride 24 miles gaining 8,037’ to elevation 14,115’ at 6.1% average grade.
For cycling in the US, it just doesn’t get any better than Pikes Peak. Located in the Rocky Mountains an hour outside Denver, CO, this one has everything you will ever want in a road bike climb: length, challenge, altitude, and breathtaking scenery.
We have ridden Pikes Peak three times and consider it one of the most epic climbs in the world. The climb is extremely challenging (#4 US/#22 World), scenic, and unique in that it is the second highest paved road in North America (a mere 15’ behind Mt. Evans). The hairpins at 12,500’ are extraordinary and give us unobstructed views to the Colorado plains over a mile below.
#9 WORLD’S MOST EPIC BIKE CLIMBS
GOTTHARD PASS, SWITZERLAND
Gotthard rivals Stelvio, Alpe d'Huez and Lacets de Montvernier . . .
. . . but it is the hairpin + cobble combination which makes this a Top 10 Epic World Bike Climb!
It’s that one-two punch of amazing hairpins and ancient cobbles that make this climb one of the most remarkable cycling experiences in the world -- and worthy of most bucket lists. This is a bike climb that deserves to be on every adventuring cyclist’s “Must Do” list.
Start of the cobbles.
#8 WORLD’S MOST EPIC BIKE CLIMBS
KHARDUN LA PASS, LADAKH, INDIA
Sign at the pass incorrectly states the summit elevation at 18,380’
Prayer flags adorn the summit.
Cycling Khardung La Pass, Ladakh, India.
Ride 38.6 km (24 miles) gaining 2,220m (7,288’) at 4.8% average grade to elevation 5,329m (17,483’).
Elevation sensation! It is the altitude and stark plain beauty of the Himalayas that put this one in the World Bike Climb Epic Top 10. Built in 1976, this is a relatively new pass, which is often referred to incorrectly as the highest motorable pass in the world. There are many shops at the top of the pass selling souvenirs and t-shirts proclaiming Khardung La as such. The error is no doubt perpetuated for economic reasons, but there are at least a couple of motorable passes in Tibet higher than Khardung La. Elevation signs at the pass incorrectly list the elevation of the pass at 18,879’ (this is the height of the summit, not the motorable portion of the pass).
#7 WORLD’S MOST EPIC BIKE CLIMBS
MOMBACHO, GRANADA, NICARAGUA
Cycling Mombacho Volcano, Nicaragua
Ride 6.1 kilometers gaining 860 meters at 14.4% average grade.
Steepest kilometer (29.5%) and mile (24.8%) in the world.
This was one of PJAMM’s great epic adventures -- not just the climb (epic, for sure!), but the entire effort just to get past the gate to get a chance to SUFFER!
29.5% -- Yes, it REALLY is -- I can vouch for that.
As a general rule, “No biceleta” means “No biceleta”
However, see our Climb Page for the work-around.
Hint: It helps to know the Mombacho Volcano National Preserve Director . . . and
. . . his best friend who owns the only Specialized bike shop in Nicaragua!
#6 WORLD’S MOST EPIC BIKE CLIMBS
MT. FUJI, JAPAN
Cycling the approaches to the four Mt. Fuji Fifth Lines.
Cycling Mt. Fuji’s Subaru Line to Subaru Fifth Station.
25.4 kilometers (15.8 miles) 2,281m (7,485’) gaining 1,279m (4,195’) at 5%.
Summit of Mt. Fuji: 3,776 m (12,388’).
Mt. Fuji is likely the most distinctive volcano (and perhaps mountain) in the world. The route to Mt. Fuji’s Subaru line (one of four staging areas on the mountain to hike to the summit) is by far the most popular route up Mt. Fuji. This is also the most scenic as we are in site of this iconic mountain much of our climb. We traveled to Japan just to ride Mt. Fuji and we are SO glad we did -- EPIC!
#5 WORLD’S MOST EPIC BIKE CLIMBS
There is no higher road than Uturuncu in the entire world. As we say in the legal field, Res Ipsa Loquitor, “The thing speaks for itself.” This is a quintessential EPIC bike climb. See our Climb Page for the full story.
We camped in the Andes at 15,600’ to prepare for the climb.
#4 WORLD’S MOST EPIC BIKE CLIMBS
WULING PASS NORTH, TAIWAN
Cycling Wuling Pass, North
Ride 14.8 miles gaining 7,855’ to elevation 10,746’ at 9.8% average grade.
#2 World Most Difficult Bike Climb at 10% average grade for 15 miles (3 miles at 16.5%!).
This amazing bike climb is in a remote part of central Taiwan. The first part of the climb is the most difficult (17% for 2½ miles from miles 3.5 to 6) and is literally unknown in the cycling world, with no Strava segment and nothing written about it.
Caveat: While we personally road the majority of this one (11 of the 15 miles), for excuses explained in more detail on Wuling North Climb Page, we did not ride the first four miles so they remain essentially unchartered in the cycling world. We suspect that after returning to Taiwan soon to complete this climb, we will elevate it to #2 on the Top 10 World Most Epic Bike Climb List.
#3 WORLD’S MOST EPIC BIKE CLIMBS
PICO DE VELETA, SPAIN
Cycling Pico Veleta, Spain
Ride 19.4 miles gaining 7,820’ to elevation 11,148’ at 7.6% average grade.
Photos clockwise from top left:
PJAMM at the top; riding toward Pico de Veleta; hairpins ⅓ up;
hairpins just past the gate; center: Virgen de Las Nieves altar.
Located near Granada in southern Spain, it is a trek to get to this climb, but well worth it. In 2018 we drove 1,200 miles round trip from the southern Pyrenees to Granada just to climb Pico Veleta, and . . . it was worth it! In addition to being an epic and scenic bike climb on its own merit, it is also the highest road in Europe. It holds this title by a good margin -- it is 1,500’ above #2 Col des Gentianes (CH); 1,750’ above #3 Rettenbachferner (AU); 1,800’ above #4 Mt. Etna (IT); and 1,900’ above #5, Cima de la Bonette (FR). Pico de Veleta is also the eigth hardest climb by bike in the world.
#2 WORLD’S MOST EPIC BIKE CLIMBS
PASSO DELLO STELVIO, TRENTINO-ALTO ADIGE, ITALY
The most famous hairpins in the world.
Looking down from just below the pass area.
Photos clockwise from top:
Looking down the mountain, Hairpins 8 (photo bottom) to 24 (photo top); Hairpins 42-35; Hairpins 30-24.
Ultimo tornante (“last turn”).
Stelvio is nothing if not EPIC! This is the most famous of our Top 10 World Most Epic and rightly so. We love Stelvio and have travelled to Bormio and Prato Allo Stelvio three times to climb this extraordinary road.
Stelvio is our favorite bike climb finish in the world.
#1 OF 10 WORLD’S MOST EPIC BIKE CLIMBS
DEATH ROAD, BOLIVIA
Hands down the MOST epic bike ride in the world.
Ride 39 miles gaining 11,640’ to elevation 15,200’ at 5.5% average grade.
This may very well be the greatest road of all! Words cannot describe this climb, but thankfully our photos and drone video do it some justice. It is a magnificent and otherworldly experience: Indiana Jones meets Jurassic Park in the scenery. North Yungas Road, nicknamed “Death Road,” was carved out of the mountainside in the 1930s by Paraguayan prisoners during the Chaco War with Brazil. The road connects La Paz with the town of Coroico, effectively connecting the Amazon rainforest and those who dwell there, with Bolivia’s capital city (Curiosity).
Post Card Corner, Death Road.
The Death Road is our all-time favorite climb by road bike. We included the Death Ride in our 2017 South American Cycling Adventure (also included were Alto de Letras, Colombia, Atacama, Chile and Uturuncu, Bolivia). We spent three days on the Death Road and enjoyed every minute of it -- this is the cycling adventure of all time!
This is just one badass road!
During rainy season be prepared to forge rivers.
There are numerous memorials along the Death Road.
Second half -- no sheer cliffs but a lot of muy loco drivers!
At the finish -- Will and I looked at each and said “!@#$%^ EPIC!!”