Planning a Road Cycling Holiday in Morzine – The Complete Guide
Morzine sits in the heart of The Portes du Soleil mountains, and is an excellent access point for the cols and scenic roads that this region of the French Alps is famous for.
Whether you want to follow in the wake of cycling champions by testing your stamina on Tour de France climbs, or are looking for more leisurely routes around stunning Alpine lakes and valleys; you will find miles and miles of beautiful roads, charming villages for lunch stops, a vibrant cycling community and incredible natural beauty spots.
There is no wonder Morzine stays high on the list of top destinations for road cyclists, and as the area is so geared up towards bikes, you will find it easy to pull together an unforgettable cycling trip.
What level of cycling is needed?
Thanks to video clips of champion cyclists tackling – and often tumbling – on the most gruelling cols of the Tour de France, there is a misconception that cycling in the French Alps is better suited to pro riders. Whilst it is true, cycling in the Alps is not for someone just starting out and certainly requires a good level of base fitness, neither should it be reserved solely as a training ground for the pros.
In this corner of the Haute Savoie, with access to a huge variety of road cycling terrain, it is possible to choose your own itinerary and make it as easy or as tough on yourself as you wish.
To start at the easier end of the spectrum, routes pass through valleys and alongside rivers and the great lakes in the area – Lac Leman (Lake Geneva) and Lac Montriond. The first section of ‘Les Route des Grandes Alpes’ runs from Morzine through the Vallee d’Aulps to Lac Leman, and is very achievable for a novice cyclist happy to go at their own pace.
It’s worth noting that there is a wealth of summer activities – canyoning, white-water rafting, rock climbing – and natural beauty spots around Morzine, so cyclists wishing to extend their adventures beyond cycling or incorporate a few stops along the way have plenty of options.
Intermediate cyclists will find unlimited riding with miles of possibilities. Pretty routes like the Tour de Roc d’Enfer and Pont des Gets take you through Alpine villages with some fairly challenging sections and are perfect for building strength and confidence for bigger rides.
Advanced riders can test their cycling skills and fitness on huge routes that incorporate classic cols such as the Col de la Ramaz, Col de la Colombière, Col des Aravis, Col de Joux Verte and Col de l’Encrenaz (all names which should ring bells for fans of the Tour de France, the Critérium du Dauphiné, and other Cyclosportive events). These are the big fish, and pro riders will not be disappointed with the challenges presented by the region’s great climbs.
Whatever your level, you will be rewarded with a huge sense of achievement at having conquered your route on some of the most scenic roads in the world.
Morzine routes and classic climbs
The mountain passes and cols from Morzine provide miles and miles of cycling, here is a taste of what is on offer.
Col de Joux-Plane
The Joux Plane is one of the most intense climbs in the Alps. With an elevation gain of 1250m, over a 52 km ride, the route takes some serious leg pumping.
This Col has played host to the Tour de France 12 times and is particularly famous for causing Lance Armstrong trouble in 2000. The route heads from Morzine to Les Gets, Taninges and on to Samoens where you start the challenging part of the climb over the Col to return to Morzine.
Col de Joux Verte
The Col du Joux Verte circuit can be ridden in either direction depending on your preference.
For the most challenging climb head towards Avoriaz first to tackle the 17 hairpin, 14kms Super Morzine road. Two interesting sights are passed on this route – Les Lindarets (a mountain hamlet with free range goats) and the stunning Lac Montriond.
Col de La Ramaz
Another famous Tour de France climb, the Col de la Ramaz accumulates an elevation of 1619m above sea level. Cyclists are rewarded with an impressive view of Mont Blanc followed by a long fast descent through the mountains.
Routes des Grandes Alpes
Level: easy-intermediate (depending on route)
Although traditionally this famous itinerary is a cycle from Lake Geneva to Menton on the French Riviera, taking in a great selection of high mountain passes on the way; a pleasant, less gruelling, section of the route can be mapped out from Morzine.
From here follow the river towards Lac Leman (Lake Geneva) then divert through the Vallée Verte and the Col du Feu. For an easier route, stick on the main route to Thonon. You have the option of taking a grand tour around Lake Geneva before heading back up to Morzine. All in all, this is a whole day of riding.
The Vallee Verte Loop
Like the previous itinerary, this route starts in Morzine and descends down the valley through Saint Jean d’Aulps and to La Vernaz, but instead of continuing towards Lake Geneva, you take a left and head over the hills to Mieussy then across to Taninges. Take the quieter back road from Taninges up towards Les Gets and then along to Morzine. This is a really accessible loop with no major climbs or descents.
When to visit
The best time of year for road cycling in the French Alps is from June to mid September. June and September are the calmest months – with superbly quiet roads. But due to the high altitude, even in these months it is important to wear sun cream and drink plenty of water.
July and August are the driest, and of course the warmest, with mid-July and August reaching temperatures in the high 20s. During these months early morning or evening rides will keep you out of the mid-day sun.
Getting to Morzine
Morzine is by far the most easily accessible cycling destination in the French Alps, with several options for travelling with or without a bike in tow. If you are planning to hire a bike when you arrive, see the section below for recommended bike shops.
Flights from the UK airports to Morzine’s nearest airport in Geneva, take just over an hour and the airport is well-served by transfer companies who are used to carrying bikes. Airlines include Swiss Air, BA and Easy Jet, and many more airlines fly from other cities across the globe. Most airlines will take a boxed or bagged bike in the hold for an additional fee.
You can also drive to Morzine from the UK by taking a ferry or Le Shuttle (the channel tunnel) across the Channel. The drive from the arrival ports of Calais or Dieppe to Morzine is a straightforward route taking between 8 and 9 hours.
Taking your bike on the train is free provided it is in a box or legitimate bike bag, so you can sit back and relax the whole way with one major changeover in Paris. The usual route is to board the Eurostar from London to Paris (2h20), then a high-speed TGV-Lyria from Paris to Geneva (3h05). You will need to book a transfer from Geneva train station to Morzine, unless of course you plan to cycle.
Bike hire and repairs
Morzine is home to a good number of bike shops, but because the town is also a Mecca for mountain bikers, it is good to know where to go for specialist road bike repairs, spare parts and to rent the best bikes.
We recommend heading to one of these shops for all your road cycling needs:
Torico Performance Bicycles has a well stocked shop full of spare parts, tires, clothing and protection from top brands such as Maxxis, Evoc, Nukeproof and Royal Racing. They offer road bike hire in the form of a fleet of Scott Addict SE’s and Cervelo Caledonia’s with Shimano Di2 electronic gearing.
Alpine-Sports Morzine have a selection of road bikes including the popular Cannondale Synapse and Trek Dauphine, and two excellent bike mechanics on-hand.
Buzz Performance specialise in road bikes and have a fleet of Pearson HammerAndTongs and I’mNotNumbers, with all carbon and all Shimano gearing. They also have a qualified bike mechanic available for repairs and servicing.
Hire a guide or go it alone?
Morzine is in the heart of French cycling country and culture; so, if you are in search of freedom, you really are in a fantastic location to simply map out your own route and really go for it. You will receive a warm welcome at every village, restaurant or cafe and lots of advice from fellow cyclists.
That said, if you are you looking to completely switch off and would prefer not to do the research yourself, there are some wonderful and very knowledgeable guides in the area. Buzz Performance offer 1/2 or full day rides with bike guides, support riders, bike mechanic and a support van.
Where to stay
Staying near Morzine centre will put you in an excellent spot to access all the key cols and picturesque rides of the area, as well as enjoy a lively Alpine town with excellent bars, restaurants, swimming spots, bike shops and spa facilities.
The Farmhouse Hotel is a great place to base yourself, with comfy beds, an excellent breakfast (served early when requested) and stunning gardens, plus bike storage, bike wash, tools and a workspace.