One of the best kept secrets in the classic motorcycling world is Rétro Moto St-Cergue – a “demonstration” of hill-climb racing combined with a huge display of classic race bikes and an enormous celebratory meal rolled into one enormous festival. And, incredibly, spectating is free.
St-Cergue is a tiny village which sits up in the Vaud mountains, 22 miles from Geneva, Switzerland. It’s worth going to St-Cergue just for the view overlooking Lac Leman and on to the Haute-Savoie. However, although the village is picture post card pretty, the key attraction for motorcyclists is that St-Cergue is at the end of the Route de Nyon which snakes up from the valley below.
At one time, St-Cergue was the finish of a full on racing hillclimb dating back to 1901 when 4 bikes and 28 cars battled their way up a 10km (6.21 miles) course. Races were held on and off for many years, until 1934 when this historic hill went into retirement.
Then in 2001, over a glass of wine or ten, a group of bike enthusiasts had the idea of running a retrospective event using the same, spectacular, Nyon – St-Cergue road. Every two years, the event still takes place but now using a shortened course of 4.34 miles.
Spectator entry is completely free but Rétro Moto St-Cergue is a charity event so it’s expected that you will drop a few francs in the collecting boxes.
Camping in the paddock is also free but this does get very packed with the 250 racers so you need to be there early on the day before the Saturday kick-off. The paddock camping is in the local park so has no professional facilities but there are showers and immaculate toilets in the adjacent sports center.
This palatial building also houses a fabulous display of race bikes over the Friday and Saturday of the event. Again, admission is free.
The area is a prime tourist location so there are a lot of small hotels directly around St-Cergue or, if you have the budget, all that Geneva offers in terms of accommodation.
There are plenty of spectator viewing points and you really can get close enough see the whites of the rider’s eyes because Elf ‘n’ Safety hasn’t yet polluted the event! Riders get three runs up the hill and there is everything from pre-war sidecar outfits to late post classic GP bikes.
Don’t confuse “demonstration” with riding up the hill at 5mph waving to the crowd! The Swiss concept of demos is very much full on.
The event finishes with a wonderful, informal dinner in the Sports Hall and there is a charge of SF40 for this. Tickets have to be pre-booked and are available at this link.
The food is good, the wine flows and there are a lot of tearful speeches which combine to make a brilliant end to an event which represents the very best of classic motorcycling.
St-Cergue is around 450 miles from Brussels but don’t believe Google Maps when it gives a time of seven hours – not unless you have a deep pocket to pay the French Gendarmerie. It’s a good, long day’s ride on a bike or a car.
Make sure that you come into St-Cergue through the tiny French town of Les Rousses, rather than western Geneva and so avoid buying a Swiss Motorway vignette at a current cost of $40 – applicable even if you travel only a few miles.
And finally the bad news. Entries fill up for Rétro Moto about ten seconds after they open so there is no chance of getting a ride for 2017. However, you can ride up and down the same hill as many times as you wish the day after Rétro Moto – and it’s worth the trip just to do this. This year’s event is scheduled for Saturday, June 17.