Here’s a question for you. Have you considered cycling from Geneva on your next cycling trip?
Geneva is one of those places that often gets overlooked as a cycling holiday destination in its own right. It’s somewhere cyclists often go - but only in order to get somewhere else - most commonly the Alps or into Switzerland.
That’s a big shame, because Geneva is a beautiful, small city and cycling in and around Geneva is excellent. There’s the well-known cycling route around Lake Geneva (aka the Tour du Lac Léman) for starters, but it’s also really easy to access famous cols like the Col de la Colombière, Col de Joux-Plane and the Col du Grand Colombier.
In this article, we catch up with Bruno Toutain, founder of well-known cycling holiday company Cyclomundo. He recently set up GenevaCycling to help cyclists in Geneva discover one of Europe’s most beautiful regions. From bike hire to logistics and cycling tours, GenevaCycling are the people to go to here (there's more information on their services at the end of this article).
Read on for Bruno’s views on the best Geneva cycling routes, climbs and coffee shops in the area!
Sponsored by GenevaCycling
1. What is cycling in Geneva like?
Geneva is located on the banks of Lake Geneva, with the French Alps to the east and the Jura mountains to the west. This makes it ideally situated to offering something to everyone in terms of cycling.
Over the past ten years the city itself has become a lot more bike-user friendly with more and more bike lanes being added (ever more so following measures taken by the local authorities to promote biking in Geneva during the Covid pandemic).
A starting point are the fantastic Geneva cycle lanes which skirt along the banks of the lake and, particularly to the northeast of Geneva, very quickly emerge into beautiful countryside and vineyards.
There’s also a fantastic ‘voie verte’ that links the centre of Geneva with Annemasse, located over the border in France. It’s used by thousands of ‘frontalier’ (border) commuters each day, who commute from France to work in Geneva each day - but it’s also the perfect way to get out into the Swiss and French countryside and the mountains beyond!
Switzerland has an unmatched network of bike routes which you can check out here.
There are also a number of cols close to Geneva and they often feature in the Tour de France. For example, the Col de la Colombière, Col de Joux-Plane and the Col du Grand Colombier. Top tip - don’t miss the Col de la Faucille on the Jura side of Geneva, which has amazing views back across the Lake and over to the Mont Blanc massif. The climb up the Mont Salève (Geneva’s balcony) is also fantastic for this!
2. What’s the riding like around Geneva?
There is really something for everyone.
Easy riding from Geneva
There are a number of fantastic short loops that follow the banks of Lake Geneva and take you through the magnificent surrounding countryside and vineyards.
In terms of weekend/multi-day trips, our recommendation for a leisurely ride would be following the banks of Lake Geneva from Geneva to Nyon through the beautiful small port towns. From Nyon you can get the boat across to Yvoire, a spectacular medieval town, known as the “perle du Léman”. It is definitely worth taking a day to ride a loop around Yvoire to take in the surrounding scenery and other charming villages nearby. You can then ride back into Geneva from Yvoire following the shores of the Lake.
More serious riding from Geneva
For more avid riders keen to spend a weekend ticking off some famous French cols, we can recommend riding out to Seyssel from Geneva, climbing the Col de Richemond and Col de la Biche along the way. You can then ride a loop ride from Seyssel taking in the Col du Grand Colombier. Finally you can ride up the Col de Semnoz and roll into the beautiful city of Annecy from where you can get the train back to Geneva.
If you want more of a challenge in Switzerland, then why not take the train out to Lausanne and ride to Villars. From Villars you can ride a nice loop ride and then head to Vevey via the town of Gruyères, famous for its eponymous cheese. You can easily get back to Geneva by train from Vevey.
Public transport in Geneva/Switzerland
As you’ll have clocked from the above, a huge benefit of cycling in Switzerland and basing yourself in Geneva, is that you can make use of Switzerland’s fantastic public transport. It’s very well geared towards cyclists - you can take your bike on trains and on the ferries which cross Lake Geneva, which makes it very easy to access slightly more remote places or cover longer distances.
3. What's the most famous cycling route around Geneva?
Tour du Lac/Cycling around Lake Geneva
The classic ride for most local club members is the “Tour du Lac”, which you can ride in a one day, 180km loop of Lake Geneva. There is also a sportive event following this loop: the Cyclotour du Léman.
It’s a great route which takes in some beautiful scenery along the way and passes through charming, small port towns such as Nyon and Rolle as well as the larger metropolis of Lausanne and the musical town of Montreux.
Crossing into France once you round the eastern-most point of the lake the route can sometimes be a bit traffic-heavy which is the only downside.
Be sure not to miss the beautiful medieval town of Yvoire either, known as the “perle du Léman”, as you make the final turn and point your wheels back to Geneva.
Route des Grandes Alpes (Geneva to Nice cycle route)
If you are looking for something a bit longer, then starting from Geneva you can ride the classic Route des Grandes Alpes (Geneva to Nice).
Alternatively, for an easier, flatter route then check out the Via Rhôna which follows the Rhône river all the way to Avignon via Lyon!
4. What's your favourite cycling around Geneva - and why?
As I live just outside Geneva, on the way up to the Salève, I sometimes ride up the “Croisette” (the toughest way up the Salève) and then ride down to Gaillard where our office is located via Monnetier. The loop is relatively short and the views are magnificent. On hot days, it feels great to breathe some “fresher” air!
You can find the GPX route for the Salève loop, here.
In the winter, as with most riders, I tend to ride fairly close to the lake. One ride that I like (which we often do in the winter with my club) takes you along the lake via nice Swiss and French villages (Hermance, Chens, Yvoire, before riding back to Switzerland on country roads through farmlands and vineyards). The views over the lakes and the Jura mountains are stunning and it is usually not as cold as riding inland.
You can find the GPX route for the Yvoire lake loop, here and below:
5. What are the best cycling climbs in the Geneva area?
The most popular climbs amongst local riders are Col de Cou, Col du Feu, and Col de Saxel. All are located in the Chablais area (the Chablais are the mountains right by the lake). As they haven’t been very featured in international races, they are less well-known… but entirely worth it.
Here’s a GPX for a 90-km ride that will take you to Col de Cou and Col du Perret, another lesser-known climb. It is a ride we do early in the season before tackling tougher passes.
This classic ride that takes riders up to Col de la Faucille is also a must-do. This GPX might be useful - it's also below:
6. What are your best tips for people cycling in Geneva for the first time?
One of the best tips to offer is that in and around Geneva, or in Switzerland in general, you really can make the most of the bike friendly public transport system. You don’t need to worry so much about bonking as chances are you aren’t far from a train station and you can use the trains to your advantage to do longer out and backs or reach remote areas.
That being said, watch out for trams in the city centre - you don’t want to get in the way of one of them!
When cycling along the western shore of Lake Geneva, shortly after leaving the city, take the time to climb slightly higher above the Lake, through villages such as Genthod, to enjoy incredible views back over the Lake and across to Mont Blanc. To this end, the higher you go the better the view and this is certainly true of the spectacular panorama riding up (or down) the col de la Faucille!
A great way to ride with the locals is to join a club ride. I ride with a friendly club - http://www.cyclo-chenois.ch/ and they will be more than happy to show off their favourite routes! If you are keen to join an easy 25km evening ride then check out these rides we run from late spring to early autumn, here.
Of course, we at Geneva Cycling would also be delighted to show you around! There’s lots of info on our tours here.
7. What are Geneva’s bike shops and bike hire facilities like?
Bike shops in Geneva
There are a huge number of bike shops in Geneva and all of the major brands are represented.
The fact that there are so many bicycle shops in Geneva city centre means that, generally, they tend to specialise in a type of riding: road bikes, e-bikes, cargo bikes, urban bikes, folding bikes, cargo bikes and mountain bikes.
Bike hire in Geneva
Electric bikes are increasingly popular in Geneva (some can cruise at 45kph and even require number plates and a driving licence!) and so it can occasionally be tricky to rent bikes in Geneva that are not electric!
Fortunately we offer a large fleet of bikes to hire (from road bike rental to gravel, electric and hybrid bikes). You can take a more detailed look on our website here. Location depending, we can even deliver them directly to your accommodation.
8. Are there any really good cafés that cyclists ought to visit in/around Geneva?
Generally each club/group has its own post-ride café spot for a coffee after a ride! A few cycling themed bars and cafés which are well worth a visit are Café Guidoline and La Petite Reine.
The restaurant/bar “Le Reposoir” is right on the lake and has become a well-known stop for cyclists who ride around Lac Geneva/Léman. It's very welcoming to cyclists (they even stock spare inner tubes just in case!). The owner, a former BMX Champion, has created a beer called Vélosophe that is marketed as “la véritable cyclist beer”!
And finally, Geneva is quite unique in that it boasts a velodrome! It is possible to visit and even to have a go on the track - you can book in advance here. If you are lucky enough to be visiting during the “3 Days” competition then there will be a great atmosphere in which to enjoy drinks or dinner.
9. What's the best area of Geneva for cyclists to stay in?
Geneva is blessed with being large enough to be a major city but small enough to easily escape by bike. In general most areas of the city have easy access to bike paths leading to the lake and out into the surrounding countryside. The liveliest neighbourhoods in the centre are “Le Paquis” and “Les Grottes” which have the most choice in terms of restaurants and bars.
10. What's the best time of year to visit - and why?
The best time of year to visit Geneva is from June through October (particularly if you want to tick off some cols!).
Experience has taught us that the latter part of August and September are often absolutely perfect conditions for riding
Want to know more about Geneva Cycling?
Geneva Cycling is the local division of Cyclomundo, a small, locally run company that offers bike trips in France, Switzerland, Italy, Spain, and Portugal. In addition to our bike trips, we also arrange rental services, logistical support, and can offer local expertise for groups of cyclists in and around the Greater Geneva/French Alps area. Our solutions range from self-guided trips and expertly guided tours, to individual services such as luggage transfers, bike rentals, mechanic services or support vehicles.
Established in 2004, the small team of passionate cyclists at Cyclomundo have poured all their experience and regional knowledge into this new local division. The tours in the Greater Geneva/French Alps area take place on the roads we are lucky enough to call our ‘playground’, given their proximity to our office in Gaillard (just outside Geneva). Simply put, they are the roads we know best in Switzerland and France, two of the best cycling countries in the world.
As strong believers in sustainable development, we rely on using a network of local guides and suppliers. We favour family-run and locally managed enterprises which are run by people who have a passion for their region and its cultural, gastronomic, and historical heritage. We go out of our way to find these places for you because these are the types of experiences we would want for ourselves!
For more information on our trips and services visit our website: www.genevacycling.com and connect with us on social media @genevacycling
I set up Cyclomundo in 2003, building it around my philosophy that cycling is at the centre of an environment-friendly, green-minded universe which brings people closer and opens up ways to have fun, enjoy life, and explore the world.
Cycling has been my passion ever since I was a child. I enjoy all types of cycling, whether it be commuting from my home on the Salève mountain or racing sportive events with friends (l’Etape du Tour or the Alpe Open tour).
Cycling is not only my favourite sport but also my favourite way to travel and I love to explore, spending a lot of time scouting trips on all types of surfaces, using a wide range of bikes: road, gravel, bikeways, and canal paths.
GenevaCycling is my latest brainchild. It’s a project to offer bike tours from Geneva, as well as individual services like bike hire, logistics and support. The project has been on the back-burner for the last few years but this year’s slower pace has given me a chance to put it together. I’m really excited to be offering these services and help people discover Geneva’s amazing cycling opportunities!