Biking in Switzerland
Not to mention the bikers criss-crossing the well-marked walking routes on the Central Plateau? Or – after two years back on two wheels both for travelling to the office and for keeping fit in the early evenings – is it just me who's under the impression of a real bicycle boom in this country?
Whatever: since SchweizMobil started to pick out and mark cycle routes for the leisurely discovery of this country with its widely varied topography, only a few years ago, sales in two-wheelers have increased dramatically. One reason is certainly the introduction of the E-bike, which has an electric motor to help you with your pedalling so you can either go faster and/or go up hills more easily. Other reasons are the general higher awareness of health and the philosophy of slowing down during your spare time, and also the frustrating experience of travelling on overcrowded motorways. So many Swiss turn to Velofahren on weekends and during their holiday, and seem to thoroughly enjoy it. Why not join in?
To rent or buy?
First of all, you don't need to buy your own equipment, as there are bikes located at 200 railway stations throughout the country by Rent a Bike. In addition, during the warm(er) months Züri rollt, Bern rollt, Thun rollt, Neuchâtel roule, Genève roule and Valais roule offer as many 999 free cycles for exploring the city and its surroundings for a day.
Finding a Swiss biking route
Route maps can be found on the SchweizMobil website, giving you both traditional cycle routes as well as mountain bike trails. Both are extremely well marked with burgundy-red and white signposts, route numbers and, on main junctions, even the distances to the next major points. If there's a particularly tricky stretch ahead – i.e. a steep slope down or up – boards will warn you in time to put your brakes on or take time out for a breather.
Once you get the feel for the more gentle paths, maybe along a lake or a river, you may want to explore more demanding routes in the hills, the Jura mountains, the pre-Alps or even the high Alps. One thing you can be sure of: the variety is immense and it's really difficult to make recommendations. Again, the SchweizMobil website will help you chose. Some routes even carry names, such as the Herzroute from Lausanne to Zug, passing Huttwil in the Emmental where the main Swiss manufacturer of the FLYER electric bicycles has its home.
Once you're more experienced, you could try the Röstigraben route starting at Gstaad, taking you through the medieval village of Saanen – now car-free – and leading you up to the bi-lingual valley of Grischbachtal/Vallée des Fenils. Once you reached the Mittelbergpass you may take a short side-trip – my advice is on foot, leaving the bikes at the Alpine farmhouse – to the Grubenberghütte, where the hut warden, Ruedi Hählen, bakes the best apricot tarts in the world in his wood-fired oven.
Back on the bikes, the path meanders through Alpine meadows to Rellerli, at the top of a gondola-lift and certainly one of the finest spots in the area for a 360° panoramic view. Many of the Wallis, Fribourg and Bernese Alpine peaks are (almost) at eye level, and way down in the valley lie the pretty villages of Schönried and Gstaad with their wooden chalets. And when the GoldenPass train makes its way through this area from Interlaken to Montreux on Lac Léman, it all looks like a perfect model railway world. To top it off, you cycle effortlessly down – but don't forget to put on your brakes!
Useful links for cycling and mountainbiking in Switzerland: