Sunday 20 March 2022

Quick spin by Lake Geneva on a hire bike

My hire bike for a spin around Lake Geneva

During my recent skiing trip to Chamonix I had been hoping to get in a little bit of two-wheeled action by hiring a fatbike and riding along the snowy trails. It is something that I had done on a previous occasion while at this famous ski resort in the shadow of Mont Blanc. On that day I had been hoping to get up to Argentiere, but due to time constraints I only made it as far as Les Praz, near Flégère. At the time I vowed to return the following year and get in a snowy bike 

However, when I returned in 2020, the clock beat me again so my schedule didn't allow me to get out on the bike. Needless to say last year was a none-starter because of the pandemic. 

So this year I was all set to do it. The only problem was that there was "the wrong kind of snow" (as the old British Rail saying goes) and in some cases no snow at all! 

That was the running theme at the different skiing areas I visited during my stay - at Chamonix, Courmayeur, and over in Saint-Gervais. 

Apparently there hadn't been a proper downfall of snow since late January. The mountains were looking decidedly devoid of any of the white stuff over large areas at the high altitudes. There was no possibility of getting the customary snaps of snow-covered conifers, while being winched up the mountain on the chair lifts. 

Meanwhile, at resort level the cross-country skiing, running and cycling trails were pretty slushy. So fatbiking would have to go slimline.

Determined to get in a cycling fix while I away, I decided that my best bet would be to cycle in Geneva. It was a pleasant way to kill time before picking up my flight back to London. After all, Lake Geneva is not such a grubby place to hang out!

After dropping off my suitcase at left luggage in Geneva (Cornavin) train station I hired a bike from the nearby bike cooperative, Genèveroule, and very soon was whizzing through the streets. After crossing the Mont Blanc Bridge (Pont du Mont Blanc), I was on the shores of the vast lake. Navigating was easy enough as there was a cycle path giving lovely views of the city hinterland. 

Given that the crescent-shaped Lake Geneva (also known as Lac Léman) stretches for 45 miles (73km) at its widest point, you could easily ride all day, even passing into France and back again. Sadly, I only had a couple of hours and I couldn't pass on the opportunity to stop and have my packed lunch there.

I definitely want to return there and do a circumnavigation of the whole lake. So that's another ride to add to my ever lengthening list - and I hope to tick that off as well as a Chamonix fatbike ride before long.

Wanna go a quick spin around Geneva?

Here's how I did it:

I took a bus from Chamonix bus station to Geneva bus station, which is in the centre of the city and about 5 minutes' walk from the train station.

I left my suitcase in a locker at the left luggage department, close to the station entrance (you can pay by card so no need for Swiss Francs in cash)

Exit the station via the back, near the bus stops and emerge onto Place de Montbrillant. Genèveroule is right opposite, next door to a café called La Petite Reine. 

They have various sorts of bikes, including road bikes and e-bikes. I opted for a city bike and paid 9€ for half-day. 

The lake was about a 5-minute bike ride from the place - slightly longer on the return as I was going uphill.

There are bike lanes on a number of streets - some are segregated, others aren't. The segregated lanes are generally those on popular busy thoroughfares. There are also sign-boards to get to well-known landmarks and areas of interest. 

Overall, I felt safe riding around Geneva; it was similar to riding around the central parts of London where you also find segregated cycle paths, traffic lights and signboards for cyclists. There is also a bikeshare scheme, though I didn't use that. I'll try it next time.

Once I returned my hire back, it as possible to get a train direct to the airport. (Tickets available from the ticket machine in the concourse.)

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