Chamonix has one of the best views in the Alps and yet it is often decried for its lack of cycling options. As you slog along the only road in and out of town, you cling to the edge as cars stream past, cursing the lack of cycling infrastructure in a town that could be such a cycling centre. Still, there are some spectacular views to be had, even if not much in the way of great loops and if you find yourself in Chamonix with two wheels, it’s definitely worth the ride.
We decided to cycling up the valley, from Passy to the Col des Montets, and were rewarded with perfect spring conditions. Blue bird skies and snow capped peaks. Spring cycling doesn’t get much better.
From Passy, you warm up on an easy 4-5% climb up to Servoz, following by a flat and rolling section before heading up to Les Houches. The road has been improved in the last year. It’s not perfect but it’s a lot better than it used to be, when it was one of the worst roads I’d ridden in France. The climb itself is mostly quiet, and winds up the Route de Vaudagne at 7% for 4km. From the top, it’s an easy descent into Les Houches, where the Mont Blanc massif starts to rise up around you.
Riding through Chamonix itself is pretty, if not particularly cyclist-friendly. But it’s a great place to stop for lunch (or a beer at the microbrewery Mont Blanc – which also serves nachos and veggie burgers). Just be careful in town and also on the road out. The is no cycling lane and no shoulder on the single carriageway route, and plenty of traffic heading in and out of town.
From Chamonix, we decided to keep going up to the Col des Montets – “minimum effort, maximum views” kind of climb. While the signs say it’s 11km, I’m fairly sure (and strava agrees with me) that it’s significantly shorter. It rarely tops 5% and the strava segment is less than 8km.
The only downside is that many Chamonix rides, it’s an out-and-back. For us, this meant heading back down to town for some nachos and the cruising along the valley back home. A perfect spring Sunday in the Alps.