The Alps have their attraction, but some of the best mountain biking is just outside Geneva.
For most of us, Sunday mornings are meant for kicking back and relaxing. For me, it means waking up and hitting the trails as early as possible. That’s when they’re the best. Empty. Unridden. Pumped up with caffeine, I meet my co-shredders in Gex at the bottom of the infamous Col de la Faucille, one of the hardest climbs of the Tour de France, which passes through this small hillside town every few years. Faced with its steep winding road, but ready for adventure, we all mount our bikes – and the climbing starts.
Heading up to 1,300 vertical metres on a mountain bike is a demanding three-hour affair of constant uphill. At least you can glance to the side and behold the entire southern Alps with Mont Blanc in the middle, one of Europe’s greatest mountain views. When you think you have nothing more to give, you’re only half way. It’s painful. Especially when you see road biker after road biker swoosh by. I began to question the whole undertaking.
But I’ll tell you why we didn’t quit and turn around. It was one of those moments you’ll remember for the rest of your life. Your legs are shaking so much you can’t even stand up. You feel like fainting at any moment, but you’ve finished the climb and from that point on, it’s just downhill. You pop the beer you’ve stashed in your rucksack. The beers are humid, but it doesn’t matter. The view is breathtaking.
After a well-deserved pause on top of the Jura we decide to take the trails down. There’s nothing stopping you from hitting the ridge trails that run along the crest of the Jura, but that’s a whole other journey. The first section down might come across as a bit intimidating with lots of steep and gnarly gradients. Or it might be intriguing – I guess it depends on what kind of rider you are. However, after that it transitions into a beautiful, fast piece of trail that flows like a roller coaster over little jumps, small descents and weather-smoothed rocks.
As I am bouncing, jumping and playing the trail, I keep reminding myself how fortunate I am to live in an area that has such quality and variety of riding mere minutes away from the city. (If you head up from Geneva, you’ll need at least 45 minutes to reach Gex, always slightly uphill from the lake.) Arriving here two years ago, I was curious to learn more about the local mountain bike scene; the local rippers kept telling me how sweet it was. Now I’m the person passing that message on.
Lukas Johnston of Bikes and Buddies – the English-speaking bike shop in Ségny