Written by Rachel Brown Saturday, 27 August 2016 00:00
Traveling around new countries is great. Traveling by bike is better. So traveling round new countries by bike must be the best, right? Well yes, it pretty much is, at least in the world according to me. Especially when the scenery is like this:
Bike touring is a wonderful way to see new places. There are different ways to do it – organized tour groups will plan your itineraries and carry your stuff, or you can figure out your own routes and carry your gear. To me, there is something satisfying in self-navigation and self-support. Not only can you choose the distances you want to travel—throwing in a few super challenging days and some more mellow—you can also go to the exact places you want to see. Plus to more introverted types, the prospect of riding for days with a bunch of new people is exhausting in itself.
This summer my husband, Ethan, and I toured around Switzerland. We’d done a few European tours before: in France, Germany, and a little in my homeland, the U.K. Previously, France has probably edged out the others as my favorite: the roads are in great shape, signage is good, the weather always seems to cooperate, and the drivers generally approve of two-wheeled bipeds. But Switzerland has its own magic, and definitely presented a challenge to the leaderboard.
One of the best things about touring in Europe is that it is littered with small yet fantastically beautiful towns, such at this one (Meiringen):
You never have to wait too long before coming across some amazing sights, or pausing to admire the most quaint/beautiful village ever (until the next one). This is part of the reason we like to “credit-card” camp—i.e., carry baggage but not tents. We like staying right in the town—when you’re done biking, you can clean up, walk around, get a beer, check out the scene, etc. I much prefer this to cooking over a camp-stove outside of city limits, though I’m sure that has its charms too.
Switzerland was chosen due to—what else?—the fact that a world cup mountain bike race would take place there during the period in which we wanted to take vacation. So all was planned around Lenzerheide. And the World Cup races (downhill and xc) didn’t disappoint:
Superstar Rachel Atherton
Upon closer inspection, Switzerland is a perfect maze of bike routes and paths. You can find them all at Cycling in Switzerland . Now granted, these are not all car-free and we were occasionally led through sketchy tunnels and once deposited onto a bike lane at the edge of what appeared to be nothing less than a 6-lane highway, but for the most part the routes were excellent. For example:
(Yes, it was a bit rainy that day…) Plenty of gravel, too, for those with a taste for it – this is a typical view...
We made a pretty good circle, starting in Basel to go southeast, then back westwards across lakes and alpine passes, before heading back up through the beautiful north near the German border.
So if you have the chance, go! Hit those winding routes up through the Alps!!
And traverse the passes! (Try to wear the right jersey though. Ooops!)
Admire the gorgeous painted houses and take a dip in the many lakes. We hope to make it back there for a different route in the next few years!
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