Due to bad behavior by downhillers, MTB is illegal on both the north and south slopes of Mont Ventoux; watch for signs to be sure you are on an open trail section, but the signs are regularly vandalized so don't continue into the Biosphere Reserve
in any case.
Sadly, this means that you'll be riding a fair bit of pavement on this circuit, but the views are excellent.
There are a number of trails and tracks around Mont Ventoux that can be linked together to circuit the peak. This route keeps you on the forested north and south flanks of the mountain, rather than shifting you into a valley or adjacent hill.
Mountain biking is restricted to designated roads in the alpine zone of Mont Ventoux to protect the experience of other user groups and the mountain's unique flora and fauna: a stunning 1,250 species of plants, 120 species of birds, and a wide range of animals and insects.
The name Ventoux may come from "venteux," the French for "windy", and reflects the mountain top's exposure to the fierce (and cold) north-west Mistral wind. This wind blows 130 days a year on average and can reach speeds of over 90 km/hr (56 miles/hr) on the summit. The record, in 1967, was 313 km/hr (194 miles/hour)! Check the wind forecast here
, or current conditions here
and bring a warm layer.
Here is a suggested itinerary, though you can break each of these days into two for a much gentler ride with more time for wine-tasting and exploring. See the segments of the Grande Traversée de Vaucluse
for more details.
: Savoillans - Malaucène. Malaucène is a destination bike town with great cycling services so you could start the loop here instead, if you prefer. But reaching it after your first day of riding allows you to sort out any unexpected problems that may have arisen with your bike.
: Malaucène - Bèdoin. Through the striking landscape of the Dentelles de Montmirail. You can stop at Lafare for a shorter day, or ride the truncated Malaucène to Lafare
route instead. But it would be sad to miss the scenic Gigondas and Vacqueyras vineyards you ride through on this day--they are world famous red wine producers.
: Bèdoin - Chalet Reynard. This is a monster climbing day, reaching high on Mont Ventoux. If tagging the summit is important to you, you'll need to build in extra time for that lengthy diversion (and accept some pavement riding). Your best bet for a summit is probably Piste de la Tête du Chauva
to the D974. This route minimizes the pavement riding and gets you back en route the fastest. Or, you can leave your bike at the Jas des Pèlerins on the south slope and take the hiking trail up to the summit chapel and back. Or hike up from Chalet Reynard at the end of your day.
If you feel really strong, you can continue to Aurel today. Or spend the afternoon riding the bike park and three lift-served trails at Chalet Reynard.
: Chalet Reynard - Savoillans. A relatively easy day with lots of downhill to finish the loop.
The Tour de France regularly visits Mont Ventoux, which is perhaps the most iconic of all TdF stages. In case you want to leave the MTB in the garage for a day, roadies summit the peak via three routes. Do all three in one day and become a member of "Club Des Cingles Du Mont Ventoux."
From Bédoin: This is the classic Tour de France climb: 21.5 km long and gains about 1610 meters. It's a relentless climb – from around Sainte Estève to Chalet Reynard, you'll ride at a gradient of about 10% on narrow, winding road. By far the most popular of the three routes.
From Malaucène. A quieter route with a bike lane most of the way. Its stats are similar to the classic climb (21 km with an ascent of 1570 meters), but its gradients are more variable and the prevailing wind is at your back.
From Sault. A longer climb but a more forgiving gradient, the Sault side is generally seen as the "easy" option and it offers a gentler experience than the other two routes. It's 26km and 1220 meter