A Tour of the Swiss and French Jura
(Northern Leg, September 15 – 17, 2013)
The Basel to Geneva Bike
Route no. 7 map posted on the Cycling in
Switzerland Web site (see links below) served as a base to plan this trip.
Forgoing the less interesting urban part of Basel and its
suburbs, I shaved off one day. The revised plan called for traveling by train
with my bike from Geneva to Delémont (42 km SW of Basel), connecting with the
Bike Route in Courgenay and pedaling my way back to Geneva through the Jura
mountain range (Delémont - Courgenay - St-Ursanne - Saignelégier -
La-Chaux-de-Fonds - Val-de-Travers - La Côte-aux-Fées - Vallorbe - Lac de Joux,
and back to Geneva through Le Brassus, the Marchairuz Pass and the Leman Valley).
happened, I had to cut my ride short in Ste-Croix on the fourth day, after only
175 kilometers. Not without a revenge: except for a short gap between Ste-Croix
and Lac de Joux, I covered the rest of the itinerary one year later, going on a
round trip from Geneva (see Southern Leg
below). My GPS tracks are shown on the map under. The magenta line from
Delémont to Courgenay was hand-drawn because the GPS record of the first
stretch was lost.
Day 1 - Sunday, September 15
From Geneva to Delémont and Courgenay (32 km in 5 h, av.
9.3 km/h, max. 37.8 km/h)
In Cornavin station, the station master told me that the bike car would be in the front part of the Geneva – Basel 11:20 train. Once inside, I hooked up my bike on the rack, which can take a dozen of them. I was in Delémont at 1:30 pm; it is advisable to stand in front of the door with your bike and bags shortly before the scheduled stop, because it doesn't last very long. The sky was grey and scattered showers were expected for the next few days. That didn't worry me too much because in the Jura Mountains, or in any mountain area, for that matter, weather can change rapidly and forecasts are notoriously unreliable. Delémont is a small, unattractive industrial town in the lowlands of Swiss Jura. From there, I had to ride to Courgenay, some 35 km beyond a small crest, a short, easy first stretch rain or shine.
Leaving the station on the pedestrian
overpass, I headed west on flat Road 6. Dark clouds piled up and busted as I
washaving lunch in a deserted bus shelter in Develier. Putting my raincoat on,
I got back on the road when the shower tapered off to light rain, and soon
after, I attacked the Rangier Pass (758 m). The
start was hard, but I felt more comfortable as I warmed up. Soon after reaching
the top, the rain had stopped and I was gleefully going down the other side of
the hill. However, the other half of my brain had mixed feelings about it
because all that painfully gained height would be lost in the long descent to
Courgenay, where I had a reservation. Energy-wise, St-Ursanne would have been a
better choice. In Cornol, a pretty small town, the road passes in front of the
last active wooden shoes manufacture, certainly worth a closer look, but it was
closed. Then, the road goes through big tobacco fields in the valley. Once in Courgenay,
a small, pleasant town, I set down in La
Petite Gilberte, a vintage hotel near the station (89 CHF). Later, I walked
to a crowded and lively neighborhood restaurant a few blocks away.
Day 2 - Monday, September 16
From Courgenay to
Saignelégier (34 km in 5 h, av. 9.3 km/h, max. 38 km/h)
Then, following the JNBR7 map, I took the narrow Les Seignes-Dessous road, a steep six-kilometer stretch carved in the side of the wooden hills, climbing from 450 to 1000 m. Pushing my bicycle up when needed, I didn't feel the cool, damp weather any more. Once in the highlands, following the shortest line to reach Highway 16, I took a small dirt road going through deserted pastures. I was the only soul up there. Going by a big rocky outcrop looking like a giant molar tooth, I stopped to see what was the light coming from the bottom of a cave. That place was an empty machine-gun nest overlooking the valley, built to deter an invasion during World War 2.After a long descent to St-Brais, I stopped for lunch in another bus shelter as a fine drizzle began to fall. Back on theroad in spite of the rain around 1:30, I passed through a farm of wind turbines sprouting here and there on the crest. Down the road, there were roadside signs denouncing that form of space invasion.
I did the
last stretch under the heavy rain on busy Road 16, trying not to get splashed
by semi-trailers. I had to get to Saignelégier by all means. Booking a
reservation ahead is certainly a great way to focus and strengthen the mind. Admittedly,
with my feet wet and my fingers going numb, the long stretch from St-Brais to
Montfaucon on a low uphill gradient wasn't much fun, but nothing could stop me.
Reaching Saignelégier at 3 pm, I quickly
found Hotel Bellevue, where I enjoyed
a nice warm bath with my clothes and gear spread all over the room for drying.
After a short walk in the city center to visit the old gothic church, I went
back to the hotel for an irresistible proposition : a hot pizza cooked in a
Day 3 - Tuesday, September 17
From Saignelégier to La
Côte-aux-Fées (88 km in 7 h, max. 42.0, av. 12.2 km/h)
Getting up at 6:30 after
another good night's sleep, I had a good breakfast at the hotel's buffet. Despite
an uncertain weather forecast, I left at 8:30, trusting my
good star. As luck (or lack thereof) would have it, less than five kilometers
away on the main road (Road 18), rain started pouring, a very bad omen at the start
of a 80-kilometer stretch. The night before, I had reserved a room in Côte-aux-Fées
after searching without success in the closer Val-de-Travers area.
In a small
place called Les Écarres, following the JNBR7, I took a small, quiet road going
to Les Breuleux, and then Les Vacheries Road (which
probably means “the Cow Pasture Road”, not “the Dirty
Tricks Road” - don't be mislead by
colloquial expressions). This alternate road, running more or less parallel to
the main road, is great to avoid trucks and traffic.
In spite of
the rain, I was in great shape and progressing rapidly. The problem with Web
maps is that they are not sufficiently detailed compared to a plain old
Michelin map, so watch out for wrong turns, or learn to enjoy comedies of
errors, as I did. Thus, after loosing a good hour on a dead-end dirt road, I
found the Cerneux-Versil Dessus road a little farther westward. Then, I climbed
up the hills of Mont Soleil (1200 m), going through a wind turbine farm feeding
a solar powerhouse. By then, the rain was pouring again. I decided to forgo
St-Imier and take a shortcut across the hills, using the GPS to stay on course.
While this type of navigation works well enough in cities, it is dicey in
rugged countryside because of natural obstacles and dead ends. Eventually, I
reached a point some 200 meters above Renan. There, unable to find a connection
with JNBR7, I took a very steep forest road ending in that town. From there,
the main road (Route 30) follows the steep-sided valley of the Suze River.
on the Route des Convers, the rain was back again. I took a bite under the
overhang of a garage entrance. Except for my soaked shoes and my hands getting
numb, everything was fine. I supposed that endorphins had finally kicked in
because I didn't mind anymore. Bypassing La Chaux-de-Fonds on a flat stretch, I
made good time to warm myself up. Then, I ran into the massive concrete
interchange connecting with the Mont Sagne tunnel, and it took me some time to
get around it riding on the small steep service roads. A little later, I was on
my way on La Corbatière Road, which had a
rural charm of its own despite the sporadic rain. I stopped in La Sagne Église
to take some pictures. There, a young twentyish cyclist joined me and we
chatted for a few kilometers. In Les Ponts-Martel, I was back on the JNBR no. 7.
As the sun
started to peep out, I went down the long Rotel hill and reached Travers.
Leaving the main road, I took a small, quiet one following the south shore of
the Areuse. While I was buying goodies in a bakery in Couvet, I asked the lady
where I could find some absinthe, the local specialty. There was a distiller
just a block away. The store was closed, but the door of the distillery was
open. The owner told me that he didn't recommend his hootch for riding, but if
I wanted some, he would send his wife to open the store for me. I bought two
small bottles of the Green Fairy (68%). Following the water from Covet to
Buttes was pure fun. Then I hit the hills once more, climbing some 290 meters
on a 4-kilometer winding stretch without having to dismount. Half way up, there
is a decommissioned bunker which used to secure the border during World War 2.
A lot of refugees took that road to sneak into Switzerland.
reaching la Côte-aux-Fées, I found the B & B owned by a retired couple (60
CHF with breakfast). There was no restaurant up there and the food store was
closed. Luckily, I had bought all that I needed in Couvet. My back and legs
felt very stiff as I climbed the stairs to my room.
Day 4 - Wednesday, September 18
From La Côte-aux-Fées to
Ste-Croix and Geneva (10 km in 1 h)
The next morning, a thick fog blanket covered the hills and a strong wind warning (possibly reaching 100 km/h) had been issued for that day. The lady advised me against riding and offered to take me to the station with my bike, some 10 km away. I declined her kind offer because there was no wind and the visibility was acceptable by then. After a pleasant downhill ride in the mist, I took the small shuttle going to Yverdon-les-Bains and from there, the Geneva train. I was back in the big city in the middle of the afternoon, on a beautiful sunny day, ha, ha, ha! I definitely would have to give it another try.
A Tour of the Swiss and French Jura
(Southern Leg, July 2 - 4, 2014)
three-day, 255-km counterclockwise round trip from Geneva through
French and Swiss Jura. This is the sequel of the Grand Tour of Jura that I had
to cut short due to bad weather the year before (see Northern Leg, September 15
– 20, 2013 above).
Following the Rhone Valley from Geneva to
Bellegarde, in France, I went up
the Valsérine River through
French Jura and spent the night in Les Rousses. The next day was earmarked for
a tour of Lac de Joux, in Switzerland. After a
second night in Les Rousses, I headed back to Geneva through Le
Brassus, the Marchairuz Pass and the Leman Valley. My GPS
tracks are shown on the above map (at the beginning of the Northern Leg, above). The magenta line, from Burtigny to Geneva, was hand
drawn because the GPS batteries died off during the last stretch.
Day 1 - Wednesday, July 2
From Geneva to Les Rousses (102.8 km in 10 h; max. 41.4,
av. 11.2 km/h, elev. diff., 900 m)
The day before leaving, I picked up my bike (a fine 30-speed Price Tour des Alpes hybrid) at
the downtown Bike Switzerland shop near Cornavin Station (190 CHF with
insurance and panniers). An hour later, I was back at my friends' house in
Veyrier, a nice, quiet suburb on the southern side of Geneva, close to
the Salève Mountain and the open
French border. What I had in mind was starting from there early in the morning
without having to cross busy Geneva or wait for
the bike shop to open.
Veyrier just before 7 am. The cold
temperature (15°) was correct for riding. I didn't mind the drizzle because the
sun was supposed to be back by the end of the afternoon. I had reserved a room
in Les Rousses, a winter sports center in French Jura, some 85 km from Geneva. Accommodation
is cheaper in France than in the posh
Lac de Joux area.
Riding over the cliffs on a high bridge, I finally reached the 911. This quiet slow-climbing country road loosely follows the Valsérine, which forms a natural border first between Jura and Ain in France and then, between that country and Switzerland. I had lunch in a small public park in Lélex. Later in the afternoon, Philippe, a fiftyish cyclist from Brittany, kept me company for a few kilometers. Feeling weary after crossing the Alps on a snow-covered high pass, he was heading for Pontarlier, some 200 km from Annecy, his starting point that morning. He had ridden some 5000 kilometers in 29 days, an average of some 190 km/day. Then, cranking up his pace, he disappeared in front of me. As for myself, all I had to do was to maintain a slow but steady climb on an endless false flat. That wasn't a problem on a good road with light traffic.
I unwittingly stayed on the main road (which becomes the 936) instead of taking
the Combe d'en-Haut (D50), which follows the river in the lowlands. I was
already riding high over the valley when I realized that I was heading for the
Col de la Faucille. The best thing I could do was to go on up for a while and
then down for the next ten kilometers on the D1005 (1286 m) - a hard-earned
briefly came out at 5 pm, just before I reached Hotel La Redoute in Les Rousses, where I had reserved a nice clean
room (72 € a day plus 9,5 € for breakfast). I felt very stiff and a nice warm
bath made my day. I was very glad to stay in the same place for two nights
because my clothes and equipment could use a warm place to dry.
Day 2 - Thursday, July 3
A One-Day Tour of Two Lakes (67.7 km in 6 h; max. 37.7 km/h, av.
the Orbe on the old bridge of a quaint small town called Bois d'Amont, I climbed
up the valley to take the main road, which goes through another closed custom
office. I was now back in Switzerland. The Swiss
region located on the west side of the Jura Mountains is called
the Jura vaudois and as such, it is a part of the Canton de Vaud, instead of
the Canton du Jura, as one might think. Just before Le Brassus, I passed in
front of daunting Marchairuz Pass Road, trying to
forget that I would be climbing every meter of it within 24 hours. Then I rode
by the Audemars Piguet high end watch plant, which offers goods jobs in quiet,
remote towns of Jura.
Day 3 - Friday, July 4
From Les Rousses to Geneva (85 km in 7 h, max. 50 km/h)
For the rest of the trip, I chose, whenever I could, high country roads slowly going down the Leman valley. After Longirod, I missed a left turn in Marchissy and ended up in Burtigny instead of Bassins. There, my GPS batteries went dead and I had to travel the old way, using a map and compass, like I used to do in the last century. To avoid coming down too soon on N1 Highway, I went back up and got back on track in Arzier-Le Muids. Then, I rode through small towns with pretty names like Genolier, Givrins, Tréflex, Gingins and Borex. To avoid a traffic jam at the entrance of the highway, I took an overpass and landed in deep suburbia on the south side. After Commugny, I went back to the north side and passed through Collex and Ferney. Then, bypassing the Cointrin Airport, I headed westward on Rue de la Servette. Thanks to well-marked bike paths, entering busy Geneva is seldom a problem. Reaching the Cornavin Station before 4 pm, I took the city bus after turning my bicycle in. As luck would have it, the clouds burst as I sat down in front of a cold beer in Veyrier, an appropriate salute marking my return.
Bike Page >