Most road cyclists bring their own bikes to the Valais, which is a wise choice as bike hire options are limited. Bike Evasion Sports, in the town of Saillon, will be able to accommodate the needs of most cyclists, from an electric bike to a top end carbon road or mountain bike. Expect to pay around CHF.50 (circa £35) for a top end carbon road bike per day, but they are well maintained and always supplied clean and serviced. For maintenance and repairs, then the mechanics at Michel Seppey Cycles in St Léonard, just east of Sion, provide a fast, friendly and professional service
The routes available to the road cyclist are limitless and cater for all abilities. Cycling routes in the Rhone valley are well marked and the roads are well maintained and sign-posted. There are many interesting places to visit and explore, but there is no denying that the main attraction of the Valais for cyclists are the challenges of the high mountains!
Nigel Hale-Hunter runs BPM Coaching and is based in the Valais. He has amassed an intimate knowledge of the best routes in the area and the 'Tour of the Val d’Herens' is a personal favourite of his: the Val D’Hérens stretches from the Rhone Valley near Sion to the foot of imposing peaks of Dent Blanche and Dent D'Hérens near the Italian border. For the majority of the summer the valley is bathed in sunshine and the villages and slopes, dotted with traditional wooden dwellings, are well worth exploring.
The lush Val d'Herens framed by the imposing peaks near the Italian border. Randon Nature
A good starting point is the town of Hérémence, a little south of Sion, from where one can descend to the Rhone Valley before starting the climb up along the eastern side of the Val D'Heren, passing through authentic Swiss villages and the famous pyramids of Euseigne on the way - a series of tall towers, formed by glaciers, crowned with rock boulders. Head on and upwards towards Evolène, where a cauldron-like, green valley comes into view, framed by the peak of the Dent Blanche in all its glittering glory.
Evolène is a traditional Valaisian village, with numerous wooden buildings and a perfect place to stop for a break before heading on via the lovely hamlet of Les Haudères, before reaching Arolla at the top of the valley, a tranquil place to stop amidst pine forests and the imposing glacial world.
Alternatively take a tour of the Rhone Valley, heading west along the Rhone from Sion and then back through the pretty villages that line the southern side of the valley, climbing and descending through the vineyards and orchards. The views from the walled village of Sallion are breathtaking and it is worth exploring some of the villages. Drop by the small chapel in Leuk - the walls of which are lined with human skulls that were only discovered in 1981, accompanied by the memento mori: "What you are, we once were. What we are, you will become".
Wherever you stay in the Valais, there are many great climbs within easy striking distance. Why not head west and take on the classic climb to Lac Champex, which will feature in the 2015 Tour du Romandie, then head onto the Grand St Bernard Pass before heading back to Martigny on the valley floor. Or climb the 2429m Furka Pass, which featured in the 1964 Bond movie Goldfinger. One of the most challenging and sublime climbs in the whole region is to the Col du Sanetsch, where you can enjoy a fondue while sitting on top of the mountain with the Valais behind you and the canton of Bern ahead.
The Col du Sanetcsh, arguably one of the finest climbs of the Valais. Alain Rumpf/A Swiss With A Pulse
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