The greatest bike climbing country on earth.
Switzerland is one of the top bike climbing countries in the entire world. Only Italy and Saudi Arabia’s Asir Mountains have the number and concentration of top bike climbs, and few can compete with the stunning scenery encountered on nearly all the top ranked climbs in this fantastic country. From an objective standpoint, Switzerland has the greatest concentration of challenging bike climbs within its borders:
- Switzerland (15,940 mi2 / 41,285 km2): 17 climbs in the World Top 125 (10.66 climbs per 10,000 mi²)
- Austria (32,386 mi2 / 83,879 km2) 15 climbs World Top 125 (4.5)
- Italy (116,347 mi2 / 301,337 km2) 19 climbs World Top 125 (1.71)
- Spain (116,347 mi2 / 301,337 km2) : 9 climbs World Top 125 (.77)
- Saudi Arabia (830,000 mi2 / 2,149,690 km2) 12 climbs World Top 125 (.144).
- However, all top Saudi climbs are in the Asir Mountains (44,000 mi2 or 2.72)
- France (248,573 mi2 / 643,801 km2) 1 climb World Top 125 (.04)
- USA (3,794,100 mi2 / 9,826,673 km2) 9 climbs World Top 125 (.02)
From a subjective standpoint, if Switzerland does not have the best bike climbing scenery, it is in the top handful. The Pyrenees, French Alps, Italian Alps and Dolomites all vie for top scenic country and we cannot commit to which is the most scenic. We can say that we believe that the aforementioned countries offer a very high concentration of extraordinarily beautiful, if not stunning, bike climbs.
The greatest concentration of Top 125 World Bike Climbs in Switzerland is in the Valais Canton (5,224.49 km2; 2,017.19 sq mi). Valais (one of 26 canton’s [states] in Switzerland) is home to 7 Top 125 World Bike Climbs or an astounding 1:0.28. As can be seen from our “Routes in Area” map below, there are 7 Top 100 World Bike Climbs within a 16 kilometer radius in the Swiss Rhone Valley located within the Valais Canton (note - 2 Thyon 2000 climbs begin near each other but take different routes to the top).
PJAMM'S CROIX DE COEUR ROUTES IN AREA PAGE
THE HARDEST BIKE CLIMB IN SWITZERLAND
Cycling Breithorn -- a little pavement and a lot of dirt.
Ride 13.8 km (8.6 mi) to 2,448 m, gaining 1,700 m at 11.5% average grade.
This is the eighth most difficult road bike climb in the world. As one may expect from a top world climb, this one is brutal: a mere 13.7 km but gaining an unbelievable 1,700 meters, with one kilometer segment at 18.3%!
Of Switzerland’s 14 World 100 Bike Climbs, Breithorn is the one to crack the Top 10 and is the most difficult bike climb in that country. The climb is beautiful, and when PJAMM Cycling did it, there was no sign of life whatsoever for the last 10 kilometers -- it is as private and as peaceful as a double digit 13 kilometer climb can be. There are no visual obstructions to impede the distant views after climbing above tree line at about kilometer 11.
THE LONGEST BIKE CLIMB IN SWITZERLAND
GLACIER DE MOIRY
Cycling Glacier de Moiry to the upper parking lot, the end of the road.
Ride 37 kilometers gaining 2,160 meters at 5% average grade.
At 37 kilometers, this climb edges out Barrage de Mauvoisin by 3 kilometers for longest bike climb in Switzerland.
THE HIGHEST BIKE CLIMB IN SWITZERLAND
PASSO STELVIO FROM UMBRAIL
Cycling Passo Umbrail - can extend to Passo dello Stelvio too.
Ride 16.3 km gaining 1,398 m to 2,756 m at 8.5% average grade.
One of the three routes up to the mighty Passo dello Stelvio and the only one that begins in Switzerland. We begin this climb in Santa Maria Val Mustair at the very southeastern tip of Switzerland, then climb 16.2 kilometers, 1,377 meters (8.1 miles, 3,650’) at 8.5% average grade to the Swiss/Italian border and Umbrail Pass. From Umbrail Pass it is precisely 2 miles, 855’ (3.4 km / 260 meters) at 8.4% average grade to Passo dello Stelvio.
The highest bike climb in Switzerland is actually Col des Gentianes, but we do not include it here because it is quite difficult to reach by road bike -- but, for the purist, Gentianes at 2,897 meters is truly the highest point you may be able to reach by road bike in Switzerland.
And why else would there be a road to this desolate venue?
Caveat - gravel bike recommended.
We do recommend a gravel bike for this but PJAMM Cyclist Ard Oostra advises that it can be done on a road bike:
“I've climbed Gentianes with my MTB that is visible on the photos, tires are about 35mms.
But a cyclist in good condition and the right gear ratio might also be able to climb with a road bike and 28 mm tires. The downhill in the upper part might than be a bit tricky.”
THE MOST SCENIC BIKE CLIMB IN SWITZERLAND
Cycling Grosse Scheidegg
Ride 18.4 kilometers gaining 1,373 meters at 7.5% average grade.
Photos of Wetterhorn (3692 meters)
This extraordinary climb begins in Schattenhalb and travels into the Bernese Alps ending just past Berghotel Grosse Scheidegg.
Follow Reichenbach River through the middle of the climb.
THE MOST EPIC BIKE CLIMB IN SWITZERLAND
Wow! How many times can we say Bucket List on this website?? We don’t want to overuse the phrase, but Mannlichen is simply a magnificent climb -- stunning. We begin this Top 100 World Climb in the very quaint village of Grindelwald (population 3,818 in 2016 -- at the foot of The Eiger), in roughly the center of Switzerland. The climb is tough from the outset and is 8.9 miles overall, 4,465’ at 9.55% average grade (¼ mile 17.4%, ½ mile 14.5%, one mile at 13%, and a 2.5 mile stretch at 12.25%).
THE BEST SWISS BIKE CLIMB, ENDING AT A GLACIER
Cycling Sanetsch Pass
Ride 24.3 kilometers gaining 1,885 meters at 6.5% average grade.
The climb begins in Conthey and initially winds its way through many lovely hillside vineyards up to and through several villages/communities until moving above treeline at mile 13 (6,500’) and offering spectacular views of the surrounding mountains, ending at Tsanfleuron Glacier.
How many times do you get to do a Top 100 World Climb and end at the foot of a glacier?
Our climb begins in Chalais (population as of 2018 3,524), Canton of Valais.