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From Zurich to the Montreux Jazz Festival 1
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Le carnet de route se trouve sur:

Route Nord-Sud route-03
Route Nord-Sud
Basel–Chiasso
Vers l’itinéraire
Route panorama alpin route-04
Route panorama alpin
St. Margrethen–Aigle
Vers l’itinéraire
Route de l’Aar route-08
Route de l’Aar
Oberwald (Gletsch)–Koblenz
Vers l’itinéraire
Route du Rhin route-02
Route du Rhin
Andermatt–Basel
Vers l’itinéraire
Bike ride across switzerland
From Zurich to the Montreux Jazz Festival

Bike ride across switzerland From Zurich to the Montreux Jazz Festival

It seemed a good idea at the time. And now, in hindsight, it was. Five days on a bike across Switzerland. A chance to see some more of my (current) adopted country, have some time to think, cross some bigass passes, and get some good training in for some upcoming triathlons.
It seemed a good idea at the time. And now, in hindsight, it was. Five days on a bike across Switzerland. A chance to see some more of my (current) adopted country, have some time to think, cross some bigass passes, and get some good training in for some upcoming triathlons.

So, I flew in from Istanbul in the morning after a weekend there, packed my stuff and, well, off I went. The idea was to leave Zurich, do about 100k (60miles) a day, crossing the country in five days, and finishing along Lake Geneva for the Montreux Jazz Festival.
Day 1

(2)
It's a weird feeling.
Facing your bike, knowing that you're about to spend the better part of your waking hours for the next five days sitting there. You're not quite sure whether you're really ready. Map, food, clothes, spare tubes...all the things you take with you on a long bike ride. But you tap the tires, reset the odomoter (000.00K) Pack on the back. Shoes on the feet. Glasses on the face. Helmet on the head.Open the door. Deep breath...
...and onto the ride.

(3)
And so it is at 3pm on a Monday along Lake Zurich in July.
My first day route was to take me out of Zurich, down the lake, through the countryside, where I would hook up with one of the Swiss National Cycle Routes. I figured that I could do about 90k before it got dark, which would bring me to about the bottom of the Klausenpass, which would be the first big challenge of the ride.

(4)
With scenery like this

On a day like this

With roads like this

You feel bad for people in cars. How can they take it all in at that speed from behind that glass?

(Check out that yellow line in the photo...that's the bike lane. Great, eh?)

(5)
The road from Zurich to the base of the Klausenpass is pretty flat, taking in mostly small roads through small towns once you leave the lake and head in toward Glarus.
I stopped a lot along the way as I crossed rivers, filling up my water bottles or stopping at a cafe to have a coffee.
As you get closer to the alps, though, you start to gauge what you have left in your legs. The small aches in the neck and back get just that bit more noticeable as you consider just how you're going to get you and your bike over THAT (without taking a train over it...)

(6)
Most hotels on the cycle routes, if they are listed in the cycle route book, will let you store your bike in a garage or similar secure place. You can just barely see mine tucked away in this garage at the hotel on the Klausenpass.

In my time in Switzerland, I had done the Sustenpass, which is a big, big climb and the Sattelegg, which is not more than 600 meters or so of climbing. So, when I reached the base of the Klausenpass with around 80k in my legs, I figured I could get to the top and then find a hotel up there.

Ah, little did I expect the following in the first half of the climb:

1. a grade that forced me into my bottom gear (39x23) from the start

2. a sudden refusal by my legs to provide any sort of encouragement

3. a sun that went right behind the mountains and left me alone

4. rain storm

I got halfway up the climb after more than an hour of effort...the climb, at this point, levels off a bit into a valley. I don't remember much at this point other than:

1. seeing lots of cows

2. generally losing it

3. seeing a light off in the distance as the fog came in and really, really praying that it was a hotel (according to the Cycle Route guide, it was...and it was)

When I pulled up to the hotel, exhausted, wet, tired and hungry, they started to prepare dinner for me. I was the only guest. After a shower, I began eating the most glorious schnitzel and geumuse and pomme frites ever. Then I went to bed.
Day 2
(7)
I woke up early, had some breakfast and went outside.
It was cold this high up the mountain, and it was raining.
It was clear that I didn't have the right clothes with me for this kind of weather.

Off into the clouds, my plan was to get to Andermatt, which looked to be about 75k away.

(8) (9)
The climb resumed within a few pedal strokes and I found myself climbing alone - no traffic - for another hour.
Bottom gear, measured breathing, fog, wet, rain.
Then to the top.

At nearly 2000 meters, Klausenpass wasn't the highest pass I would get over on the trip, but the weather made it one of the hardest.

On the descent, I started to run into trouble.

The rain and cold kept up, and I began to shake from cold.
My hands, without long fingered gloves, got so rigid from the wind and cold that I couldn't squeeze the brake levers hard enough. I stopped again and again on a rainy, foggy switchback on the side of a mountain I didn't know.
A few times, I thought I would lose control of the bike from shaking. I was swearing and cold and a little bit worried that I was going to get hypothermia or something. And all on the second day!

At one part on the descent, the road tilted back upwards, and I was relieved to get my legs turning again to try to generate some heat.

I had nearly wore my brakepads down...

At the bottom of the climb, I arrived at the lakeside town of Altstadt.

I headed right for the train station. Had there been a train back to Zurich at that moment, I probably would have been on it.

I called Frodo for the weather forecast.

Rain all day, but maybe nice tomorrow.

Up to Andermatt, you pass an area called Devil's bridge (Teufelbrucke).

I was so glad to get there.

About 2k from the top - about five switchbacks - I passed two cyclists who had stopped for a sandwich.

It was a man and his son, who appeared to be about 9 or 10, riding a little mountain bike.

I was going so slowly and was so delirious from the cold and lack of food that I began to get paranoid that the little kid would catch me, edge past me and leave me for dead before we got to the valley.

My ego was the only thing that got me over that mountain.

(9)
About the picture ....That is a hole in the middle of a very large rock. I don't know where it goes.



I took a last look at the map. Andermatt was only 30k away. It was only noon.I really couldn't bail now. So, I slowly started riding again, sort of in a non-committal way, so that my body didn't realise that it was really leaving the train station and heading back onto the road. The ride got nicer...the rain stopped, and at this lower altitude, the temperature was a bit warmer. And then the road started to rise again...


(10)
Andermatt, it soon became obvious, was a 20kilometer climb away. Bottom gear. About 5k from the top, there was a little coffee stand. I told the woman, as I put down my second cup of coffee that I was riding to Montreaux, which was still 400k away. She told me the next 5k to Andermatt would be the hardest. She wasn't far off.

I checked into my hotel, which, as you can see, was of the highest quality.

Then I went to dinner. Andermatt is mostly a ski town, but it is a nice little place and there were a few restaurants open to cater to the few hikers in the area. I chose a pizzeria. I was the only guest (when I dine alone, I dine alone, it seems!). While the woman cooked my food, I sat and studied my map for the next day's route.I smelled something. Looked up.Map was on fire.

Whoa. Never had something catch fire in a restaurant before. I threw it on the table and beat it with my plate. Brushed ashes off the table. Pretended like nothing happened. A few minutes later, the woman came out with my food. She smelled the burnt. I looked at her, she looked at me, we looked at each other and then she walked toward the kitchen still smelling. I was so close to quitting. My face stung and I was cold and I wanted, well, I wanted a pizza.
Day 3


In the morning, I got up to get some new brakepads.

The guy at the bikeshop had some issues.

Most of these issues had to do with ski touists who hike up mountains without being prepared, causing landslides and killing themselves.

'Last winter, we had a Swedish hotshot who only climbed once a year and went out on a high-alert day. He killed himself.'
'Oh, that's too bad. Can I have my brakepads?'
'Everyone said, 'that's too bad,' I say, thank God we got rid of one more of those unprepared aholes!'
'Right. I have to go. Could I have those brakepads, please?'
I left.

(11)
On my way out, I passed some fish in a tank next to a parking sign.

Day 3 was always going to be a tough one.

(12)
From Andermatt, it was about 110k to my next destination, Sarnen (which is not far from Lucerne). The distance wasn't a big deal...it was the matter of the Furkapass, the Grimsel pass and the Brunnenpass (with a couple of other little 100meter climbs thrown in for fun).

What do you think about when climbing something like the Furkapass, which goes on for a couple of hours (the last switchback before the top is seen in the photo on the left)?
You think about whether you can keep your balance below 6 kilometers per hour.

You think about breathing, about the bus of japanese tourists passing now, about your girlfriend, about home, about clouds, about how beautiful it is and how lucky you are to be healthy and free and out here.

(13)
All the windows of the Hotel Furkablick (Hotel Furka View) were closed.


(14)
Getting higher...Furkapass is at 2435 meters above sea level.

I'm wearing a new windvest which I bought in Andermatt.
After the bonechilling and dangerous descent off the Klausenpass, I wasn't taking any chances.

(15)
The descent off the Furkapass is awesome. Great switchbacks and wide roads make it fast and safe. I hit nearly 80kph (48mph) on some of the longer straights.

The photo at left shows the bottom 1/4 of the Furka descent, the small and very brief flat bit (which has a town of about 4 buildings, one of which is a restaurant that served me pasta), and then the red line climbs the 680 or so meters up the Grimsel pass.

Although I went up the Grimsel, you could also choose to head done the Rhone valley, which looks to also be a very nice ride...

(16)
Snow at the top of the Grimselpass...


When you are climbing, and you are tired, you keep thinking that just just have to get to the next switchback, and then you focus on the next, and then the next, and then the next...

...and hope that the next is the last.

Eventually it is.

And eventually, you make it to a town and start the tired search for a hotel. In Sarnen, I found a nice one that had a good room and a four-course meal. After nearly six hours on the bike, I checked in. And what had now become a regular ritual began...dinner, a bit of wine, my maps and text messages on my phone to claire and friends.
Day 4

(17)
After dinner, I took a walk around Sarnen, hanging out on the lake, looking out over the mountains and making a few phone calls.

Tired, but felt good.

The next day, Thursday, waking up, I knew I had a hard day ahead of me. I had to do 140k (84miles) to Zweisimmen if I wanted to get to Monetreux by Friday afternoon.

The skies were a bit mixed, as I headed out of Sarnen and, rejoined Route 4 (I had been on 3, 2 and 8 for the past two days) began the first climb of the day - and the only pass - up to Sorenberg.

At about 14k (8.5miles) and 1,200meters (3,500 feet)of climbing, this pass was a tough one, especially with legs that had done three passes the previous day.

Sometimes, heaving myself up over the bars, feeling the weight of the pack on my back and the weight of the past 300k (180miles) in my legs, I thought I wouldn't make it to the next bend.

It took about two hours to get over it, before enjoying a long 30k (18mile) descent. All worth it!

(18)
Took a break near Schallenberg, having a sandwich beneath a church and some ominous clouds.

(19)
There are a lot of places, along this route, where trees become other things.

(20)
After about 90k (54miles), I arrived in Thun, gateway to the Bernese Oberland, and which sits at the end of Lake Thun. Towering above it all, is the castle.

Leaving Thun, I chose to follow Route 8 for a bit to pick up Route 9 again.

(21)
The cycle route out of Thun was beautiful, as it takes you round the city, then down through some woods...there are some gravel bits, so if you do it, be careful, but for the most part, it was fantastic. You eventually come out alongside a river and cross this wooden bridge (I assume the final destination for some of those logs in the lumberyards I saw).

For next couple of hours, I continued onward toward Zweisimmen. And it was hard.

(22)
It started to rain and I got fed up with the cycle route, which kept taking me onto gravel roads and up and down hills alongside the main road, that, while providing a nice view, were not appreciated by my increasingly exhausted body.
About 20k (12miles) from Zweisimmen, and after nearly 120k (72miles) on the bike, I had to stop at a small trainstation. I took the last RedBull in the vending machine and a chocolate bar. Sat there.

Called Claire.

Rested.

And got back on.

That last 20k was difficult. Everytime the road went down, I'd get scared that I'd have to climb back up again. And the rain kept coming down. But, coming into town, around a corner, there was a rainbow and, you know, it really did make me feel good. I pulled into town after 7 hours and 140k on the bike, found a nice little hotel, checked in, ate a pizza, chatted with an older American couple that was driving across Switzerland, washed my clothes, and went to bed.
Day 5

(23)
The last day: about 80kilometers to Montreux, where friends where waiting for me (which fresh clothes!) at the Montreux Jazz Festival. The ride from Zweisimmen was easy enough...at first, and my legs felt good. It was a descent and rolling hills for the first hour or so. I passed a small ski slope, with ski bikes parked for the summer.


And then a left.

And then up.

And up.

(24)
And I felt good, stopping to take a picture of myself reflected in a traffic mirror on a switchback.

(25)
I sent Claire a text message: 'Just finished last climb. All downhill from here!'

I put on my windjacket for the descent.

(26)
Must get award for most alarming sign ever seen in the woods while climbing off a bike for a rest. I got back on my bike and outta there.

(27)
My text message was too early, and the map lied again. For the next 10k, the road went up and down and the wind picked up and everytime I thought that the descent was beginning, the next corner revealed a bottom-gear climb. For the first time on the trip, I got emotionally fragile. I was angry and tired and fed-up and just wanted to get off the freaking mountain and down. After what seemed like 1,000 near misses, I finally came around a corner to see what I so badly needed to see:

(28)
MONTREUX!!!!!!!!!!!!!! YEAH!!!!!!

The descent was among the most exciting, fast and fun mountains I road down. My brakepads, once again overchallenged, nearly wore down again.

Down by the lake, just to push me that bit further, I got lost and went the wrong way out of Aig.

But, eventually, eventually, I got going on the road to clean clothes. On paper, the climb was to be 20k long, with a 5k flat part at the top and then a 30k descent down to Aigle, where I'd catch the lakeside road for the 20k or so into Montreux. It was, by far, the most beautiful climb, with no traffic on it at all (the road is not a through road for cars), trees, some sunshine. And then things started to go wrong. The tank was empty.

After five days and nearly 500kilometers, the legs and body started to give up.

At this point, my mind took over, reminding me that, according to the map, it's only 5k to the top. I watched the odometer like television. 5k ticked past, the road kept climbing. It's cruel, when you think it's over and it keeps going and going and going. up further.

Finally, after 5k extra of climbing, I got to the top. That last 10k must have been the fastest of my trip. I texted K1 to see where he and the crew were. They were at a bar along the lake. I raced past castles and through towns and past tourists. And I got to Montreux. 550kilometers, five days, six passes and a massive sense of satisfaction. K1 ordered me a beer as I sat down at a table full of about 10 Dutch here for the music.

I had a new sense of Switzerland, a new sense of what I could do, and an overwhelming desire to do it again. And to go to sleep.

(29)
The next day, I was out with the crew and onto the Salsa Boat.

There will be no pictures of that, as that is another story, but rest assured, it, too, was an adventure.

David Mcquillen

Wanna do it? Here's what to expect

www.davidmcquillen.com
What to expect on the road

As you could expect, Switzerland doesn't hold a lot of surprises. You expect stunning scenery, nice people, amazing air, great food and nice wine (ok, maybe you don't expect the nice wine, but I assure you, Switzerland does nice wine). If you've never been on a cycle trip like this, though, you might wonder about a few things.

Such as the road and trails.

As I mentioned in the planning section, the national cycle routes are amazing. The route designers worked hard to ensure that you spend a minimum of time on busy roads, and most of your time on paved paths through farmland, across fields, up mountains and over rivers. Even in cities, you'll be swept around the busy parts, down side streets and into the countryside again before you know it.

And it's clean. Although I wore through a pair of brakepads going down mountains, I had no problems with punctures. For road surfaces, Switzerland is a cyclist's dream. The road is remarkably free of garbage (to find out why, read this story) and debris, so troubles with flats isn't really something you need to worry about (of course, take a puncture kit).

The Swiss National Cycle Routes are pretty good when it comes to telling you whether a stretch of the route is paved or not, but their definition of 'paved' is open to some interpretation. A few times, when the route was supposed to be 'paved', I found myself in the rain on a gravel farm track. When you have been riding for five hours, are cold and lonely, want nothing more than a massive plate of alpler magronen, but have 20k (up a pass) to get you to your destination, and the sun is going down, the level of anxiety that a gravel path brings to your trip (for fear of a flat) is not a welcome companion.

In any case, here are some of the surfaces I came into contact with and what you can expect on such a trip....

Smooth stone blocks, somewhere on the way to Zweisimmen.

Small cobbles on the lower slopes of the Klausenpass.

A wooden bridge or two will help you get across the rivers.

95% of your ride will be on this kind of smooth tarmac, usually on small one lane roads.

Mud and water, just before crossing the pass to Lac Leman.

Typical gravel path to test your nerves and worry about a flat.
Signage

It would be hard to imagine you getting lost. The signposting is simply excellent. The red signs always display the route number, the next couple of town on the route, and the distance to those towns. At the base of climbs, they will tell you the vertical gain over the length of the climb (which can seem a challenge when you are strong, and a heartbreaker when you are feeling weak). Many times they also have info about alternative routes. Over almost six hundred ks, I only once missed a turn and that is because I wasn't paying attention. In fact, the routes are so well signposted that I rarely used my map book.
Weather

Meteoschweiz is the best place to get info about weather trends, but if you're going to do a ride like this in Winter, forget it. The passes will be closed and those heading to the slopes won't be to pleased if you are in their way. In the rest of the year, the weather should be good, although over the passes, things will certainly get colder. Be prepared for rain.
Traffic

If you are on the national cycle routes, you should have very little problem with traffic. Even when you are on the main roads, there is often a bike lane. Drivers in Switzerland are, for the most part, quite courteous to cyclists (probably because there are so many of them).
What to take?

If you're interested in riding across Switzerland, it really doesn't take that much. At least not if you're willing to wear the same thing everyday. I chose to carry everything with me on my back. Switzerland has a fantastic system where you can ship luggage from a train station to any other train station, but since I wasn't exactly sure where I would end up each day, I figured I might as well just take my stuff with me. So, here it is...details below the pics.
On my back

Here's what I carried on my back each day. I chose not to use a pannier (bike mounted bag) simply cause I didn't have one. Going counter clockwise from the bag in the upper right corner:

•The backpack was a little small, but, and this is important, had one of those mesh backings that keeps the bag off your back and lets air flow to keep the sweat down.

• The Veloland Schweiz book (for Route 4), which had all the routes and hotels and maps of Switzerland that I could possibly need.

• The Veloland Schweiz map, which was actually more useful than the book, since I could see where the other routes took me. Usually stored in a side pocket of the bag.

• Other lenses for my cycling glasses

• Some postcards I picked up along the way

• Yellow cycling tool, with lots of allen wrenches and screwdrivers

• Piz Buin suncreme

• Bike oil

• Pen, some change

• Pair of brakepads (going down mountain passes in the rain really takes it out of your brakepads!)

• Some energy bars

• Spare tube in case of flat (not one flat on the whole trip! Switerzerland is remarkably debris free!)

• Mobile phone for making far away friends a little closer

• Razors, soap, laundry detergent (for washing clothes in sink), bandaids and other first-aid stuff, hair gel (gotta look good at dinner time!), etc.

• Plastic bag (under shoes) to cover clothes when it rained

• Shoes

• Long-sleeve black T-shirt

• Cargo pants

• Underwear

• Windbreaker (the green bag)

• Book ('The Consolations of Philosophy, Alain de Bottain)

• Passport

• Wallet

• Spare change

• Reflective leg band

And that's it! I can't think of anything that I might have needed otherwise. Since I had a suitcase of fresh clothes waiting with friends in Montreaux, this was enough for the trip. But don't forget the laundry detergent, as you'll have to wash your clothes in the sink each night.
On Me

Most days, this is what I wore. Since it rained a lot and was cold at the higher altitudes, I had some jackets on.

• Cycling shoes and socks

• Cycling shorts

• Uni of Colorado cycling jersey

• Wind vest (bought in Andermatt...saved my life)

• Windbreaker jacket

• Gloves

• Helmet

• Sunglasses w/ different colored lenses
It seemed a good idea at the time. And now, in hindsight, it was. Five days on a bike across Switzerland. A chance to see some more of my (current) adopted country, have some time to think, cross some bigass passes, and get some good training in for some upcoming triathlons.
It seemed a good idea at the time. And now, in hindsight, it was. Five days on a bike across Switzerland. A chance to see some more of my (current) adopted country, have some time to think, cross some bigass passes, and get some good training in for some upcoming triathlons.

So, I flew in from Istanbul in the morning after a weekend there, packed my stuff and, well, off I went. The idea was to leave Zurich, do about 100k (60miles) a day, crossing the country in five days, and finishing along Lake Geneva for the Montreux Jazz Festival.
Day 1

(2)
It's a weird feeling.
Facing your bike, knowing that you're about to spend the better part of your waking hours for the next five days sitting there. You're not quite sure whether you're really ready. Map, food, clothes, spare tubes...all the things you take with you on a long bike ride. But you tap the tires, reset the odomoter (000.00K) Pack on the back. Shoes on the feet. Glasses on the face. Helmet on the head.Open the door. Deep breath...
...and onto the ride.

(3)
And so it is at 3pm on a Monday along Lake Zurich in July.
My first day route was to take me out of Zurich, down the lake, through the countryside, where I would hook up with one of the Swiss National Cycle Routes. I figured that I could do about 90k before it got dark, which would bring me to about the bottom of the Klausenpass, which would be the first big challenge of the ride.

(4)
With scenery like this

On a day like this

With roads like this

You feel bad for people in cars. How can they take it all in at that speed from behind that glass?

(Check out that yellow line in the photo...that's the bike lane. Great, eh?)

(5)
The road from Zurich to the base of the Klausenpass is pretty flat, taking in mostly small roads through small towns once you leave the lake and head in toward Glarus.
I stopped a lot along the way as I crossed rivers, filling up my water bottles or stopping at a cafe to have a coffee.
As you get closer to the alps, though, you start to gauge what you have left in your legs. The small aches in the neck and back get just that bit more noticeable as you consider just how you're going to get you and your bike over THAT (without taking a train over it...)

(6)
Most hotels on the cycle routes, if they are listed in the cycle route book, will let you store your bike in a garage or similar secure place. You can just barely see mine tucked away in this garage at the hotel on the Klausenpass.

In my time in Switzerland, I had done the Sustenpass, which is a big, big climb and the Sattelegg, which is not more than 600 meters or so of climbing. So, when I reached the base of the Klausenpass with around 80k in my legs, I figured I could get to the top and then find a hotel up there.

Ah, little did I expect the following in the first half of the climb:

1. a grade that forced me into my bottom gear (39x23) from the start

2. a sudden refusal by my legs to provide any sort of encouragement

3. a sun that went right behind the mountains and left me alone

4. rain storm

I got halfway up the climb after more than an hour of effort...the climb, at this point, levels off a bit into a valley. I don't remember much at this point other than:

1. seeing lots of cows

2. generally losing it

3. seeing a light off in the distance as the fog came in and really, really praying that it was a hotel (according to the Cycle Route guide, it was...and it was)

When I pulled up to the hotel, exhausted, wet, tired and hungry, they started to prepare dinner for me. I was the only guest. After a shower, I began eating the most glorious schnitzel and geumuse and pomme frites ever. Then I went to bed.
Day 2
(7)
I woke up early, had some breakfast and went outside.
It was cold this high up the mountain, and it was raining.
It was clear that I didn't have the right clothes with me for this kind of weather.

Off into the clouds, my plan was to get to Andermatt, which looked to be about 75k away.

(8) (9)
The climb resumed within a few pedal strokes and I found myself climbing alone - no traffic - for another hour.
Bottom gear, measured breathing, fog, wet, rain.
Then to the top.

At nearly 2000 meters, Klausenpass wasn't the highest pass I would get over on the trip, but the weather made it one of the hardest.

On the descent, I started to run into trouble.

The rain and cold kept up, and I began to shake from cold.
My hands, without long fingered gloves, got so rigid from the wind and cold that I couldn't squeeze the brake levers hard enough. I stopped again and again on a rainy, foggy switchback on the side of a mountain I didn't know.
A few times, I thought I would lose control of the bike from shaking. I was swearing and cold and a little bit worried that I was going to get hypothermia or something. And all on the second day!

At one part on the descent, the road tilted back upwards, and I was relieved to get my legs turning again to try to generate some heat.

I had nearly wore my brakepads down...

At the bottom of the climb, I arrived at the lakeside town of Altstadt.

I headed right for the train station. Had there been a train back to Zurich at that moment, I probably would have been on it.

I called Frodo for the weather forecast.

Rain all day, but maybe nice tomorrow.

Up to Andermatt, you pass an area called Devil's bridge (Teufelbrucke).

I was so glad to get there.

About 2k from the top - about five switchbacks - I passed two cyclists who had stopped for a sandwich.

It was a man and his son, who appeared to be about 9 or 10, riding a little mountain bike.

I was going so slowly and was so delirious from the cold and lack of food that I began to get paranoid that the little kid would catch me, edge past me and leave me for dead before we got to the valley.

My ego was the only thing that got me over that mountain.

(9)
About the picture ....That is a hole in the middle of a very large rock. I don't know where it goes.



I took a last look at the map. Andermatt was only 30k away. It was only noon.I really couldn't bail now. So, I slowly started riding again, sort of in a non-committal way, so that my body didn't realise that it was really leaving the train station and heading back onto the road. The ride got nicer...the rain stopped, and at this lower altitude, the temperature was a bit warmer. And then the road started to rise again...


(10)
Andermatt, it soon became obvious, was a 20kilometer climb away. Bottom gear. About 5k from the top, there was a little coffee stand. I told the woman, as I put down my second cup of coffee that I was riding to Montreaux, which was still 400k away. She told me the next 5k to Andermatt would be the hardest. She wasn't far off.

I checked into my hotel, which, as you can see, was of the highest quality.

Then I went to dinner. Andermatt is mostly a ski town, but it is a nice little place and there were a few restaurants open to cater to the few hikers in the area. I chose a pizzeria. I was the only guest (when I dine alone, I dine alone, it seems!). While the woman cooked my food, I sat and studied my map for the next day's route.I smelled something. Looked up.Map was on fire.

Whoa. Never had something catch fire in a restaurant before. I threw it on the table and beat it with my plate. Brushed ashes off the table. Pretended like nothing happened. A few minutes later, the woman came out with my food. She smelled the burnt. I looked at her, she looked at me, we looked at each other and then she walked toward the kitchen still smelling. I was so close to quitting. My face stung and I was cold and I wanted, well, I wanted a pizza.
Day 3


In the morning, I got up to get some new brakepads.

The guy at the bikeshop had some issues.

Most of these issues had to do with ski touists who hike up mountains without being prepared, causing landslides and killing themselves.

'Last winter, we had a Swedish hotshot who only climbed once a year and went out on a high-alert day. He killed himself.'
'Oh, that's too bad. Can I have my brakepads?'
'Everyone said, 'that's too bad,' I say, thank God we got rid of one more of those unprepared aholes!'
'Right. I have to go. Could I have those brakepads, please?'
I left.

(11)
On my way out, I passed some fish in a tank next to a parking sign.

Day 3 was always going to be a tough one.

(12)
From Andermatt, it was about 110k to my next destination, Sarnen (which is not far from Lucerne). The distance wasn't a big deal...it was the matter of the Furkapass, the Grimsel pass and the Brunnenpass (with a couple of other little 100meter climbs thrown in for fun).

What do you think about when climbing something like the Furkapass, which goes on for a couple of hours (the last switchback before the top is seen in the photo on the left)?
You think about whether you can keep your balance below 6 kilometers per hour.

You think about breathing, about the bus of japanese tourists passing now, about your girlfriend, about home, about clouds, about how beautiful it is and how lucky you are to be healthy and free and out here.

(13)
All the windows of the Hotel Furkablick (Hotel Furka View) were closed.


(14)
Getting higher...Furkapass is at 2435 meters above sea level.

I'm wearing a new windvest which I bought in Andermatt.
After the bonechilling and dangerous descent off the Klausenpass, I wasn't taking any chances.

(15)
The descent off the Furkapass is awesome. Great switchbacks and wide roads make it fast and safe. I hit nearly 80kph (48mph) on some of the longer straights.

The photo at left shows the bottom 1/4 of the Furka descent, the small and very brief flat bit (which has a town of about 4 buildings, one of which is a restaurant that served me pasta), and then the red line climbs the 680 or so meters up the Grimsel pass.

Although I went up the Grimsel, you could also choose to head done the Rhone valley, which looks to also be a very nice ride...

(16)
Snow at the top of the Grimselpass...


When you are climbing, and you are tired, you keep thinking that just just have to get to the next switchback, and then you focus on the next, and then the next, and then the next...

...and hope that the next is the last.

Eventually it is.

And eventually, you make it to a town and start the tired search for a hotel. In Sarnen, I found a nice one that had a good room and a four-course meal. After nearly six hours on the bike, I checked in. And what had now become a regular ritual began...dinner, a bit of wine, my maps and text messages on my phone to claire and friends.
Day 4

(17)
After dinner, I took a walk around Sarnen, hanging out on the lake, looking out over the mountains and making a few phone calls.

Tired, but felt good.

The next day, Thursday, waking up, I knew I had a hard day ahead of me. I had to do 140k (84miles) to Zweisimmen if I wanted to get to Monetreux by Friday afternoon.

The skies were a bit mixed, as I headed out of Sarnen and, rejoined Route 4 (I had been on 3, 2 and 8 for the past two days) began the first climb of the day - and the only pass - up to Sorenberg.

At about 14k (8.5miles) and 1,200meters (3,500 feet)of climbing, this pass was a tough one, especially with legs that had done three passes the previous day.

Sometimes, heaving myself up over the bars, feeling the weight of the pack on my back and the weight of the past 300k (180miles) in my legs, I thought I wouldn't make it to the next bend.

It took about two hours to get over it, before enjoying a long 30k (18mile) descent. All worth it!

(18)
Took a break near Schallenberg, having a sandwich beneath a church and some ominous clouds.

(19)
There are a lot of places, along this route, where trees become other things.

(20)
After about 90k (54miles), I arrived in Thun, gateway to the Bernese Oberland, and which sits at the end of Lake Thun. Towering above it all, is the castle.

Leaving Thun, I chose to follow Route 8 for a bit to pick up Route 9 again.

(21)
The cycle route out of Thun was beautiful, as it takes you round the city, then down through some woods...there are some gravel bits, so if you do it, be careful, but for the most part, it was fantastic. You eventually come out alongside a river and cross this wooden bridge (I assume the final destination for some of those logs in the lumberyards I saw).

For next couple of hours, I continued onward toward Zweisimmen. And it was hard.

(22)
It started to rain and I got fed up with the cycle route, which kept taking me onto gravel roads and up and down hills alongside the main road, that, while providing a nice view, were not appreciated by my increasingly exhausted body.
About 20k (12miles) from Zweisimmen, and after nearly 120k (72miles) on the bike, I had to stop at a small trainstation. I took the last RedBull in the vending machine and a chocolate bar. Sat there.

Called Claire.

Rested.

And got back on.

That last 20k was difficult. Everytime the road went down, I'd get scared that I'd have to climb back up again. And the rain kept coming down. But, coming into town, around a corner, there was a rainbow and, you know, it really did make me feel good. I pulled into town after 7 hours and 140k on the bike, found a nice little hotel, checked in, ate a pizza, chatted with an older American couple that was driving across Switzerland, washed my clothes, and went to bed.
Day 5

(23)
The last day: about 80kilometers to Montreux, where friends where waiting for me (which fresh clothes!) at the Montreux Jazz Festival. The ride from Zweisimmen was easy enough...at first, and my legs felt good. It was a descent and rolling hills for the first hour or so. I passed a small ski slope, with ski bikes parked for the summer.


And then a left.

And then up.

And up.

(24)
And I felt good, stopping to take a picture of myself reflected in a traffic mirror on a switchback.

(25)
I sent Claire a text message: 'Just finished last climb. All downhill from here!'

I put on my windjacket for the descent.

(26)
Must get award for most alarming sign ever seen in the woods while climbing off a bike for a rest. I got back on my bike and outta there.

(27)
My text message was too early, and the map lied again. For the next 10k, the road went up and down and the wind picked up and everytime I thought that the descent was beginning, the next corner revealed a bottom-gear climb. For the first time on the trip, I got emotionally fragile. I was angry and tired and fed-up and just wanted to get off the freaking mountain and down. After what seemed like 1,000 near misses, I finally came around a corner to see what I so badly needed to see:

(28)
MONTREUX!!!!!!!!!!!!!! YEAH!!!!!!

The descent was among the most exciting, fast and fun mountains I road down. My brakepads, once again overchallenged, nearly wore down again.

Down by the lake, just to push me that bit further, I got lost and went the wrong way out of Aig.

But, eventually, eventually, I got going on the road to clean clothes. On paper, the climb was to be 20k long, with a 5k flat part at the top and then a 30k descent down to Aigle, where I'd catch the lakeside road for the 20k or so into Montreux. It was, by far, the most beautiful climb, with no traffic on it at all (the road is not a through road for cars), trees, some sunshine. And then things started to go wrong. The tank was empty.

After five days and nearly 500kilometers, the legs and body started to give up.

At this point, my mind took over, reminding me that, according to the map, it's only 5k to the top. I watched the odometer like television. 5k ticked past, the road kept climbing. It's cruel, when you think it's over and it keeps going and going and going. up further.

Finally, after 5k extra of climbing, I got to the top. That last 10k must have been the fastest of my trip. I texted K1 to see where he and the crew were. They were at a bar along the lake. I raced past castles and through towns and past tourists. And I got to Montreux. 550kilometers, five days, six passes and a massive sense of satisfaction. K1 ordered me a beer as I sat down at a table full of about 10 Dutch here for the music.

I had a new sense of Switzerland, a new sense of what I could do, and an overwhelming desire to do it again. And to go to sleep.

(29)
The next day, I was out with the crew and onto the Salsa Boat.

There will be no pictures of that, as that is another story, but rest assured, it, too, was an adventure.

David Mcquillen

Wanna do it? Here's what to expect

www.davidmcquillen.com
What to expect on the road

As you could expect, Switzerland doesn't hold a lot of surprises. You expect stunning scenery, nice people, amazing air, great food and nice wine (ok, maybe you don't expect the nice wine, but I assure you, Switzerland does nice wine). If you've never been on a cycle trip like this, though, you might wonder about a few things.

Such as the road and trails.

As I mentioned in the planning section, the national cycle routes are amazing. The route designers worked hard to ensure that you spend a minimum of time on busy roads, and most of your time on paved paths through farmland, across fields, up mountains and over rivers. Even in cities, you'll be swept around the busy parts, down side streets and into the countryside again before you know it.

And it's clean. Although I wore through a pair of brakepads going down mountains, I had no problems with punctures. For road surfaces, Switzerland is a cyclist's dream. The road is remarkably free of garbage (to find out why, read this story) and debris, so troubles with flats isn't really something you need to worry about (of course, take a puncture kit).

The Swiss National Cycle Routes are pretty good when it comes to telling you whether a stretch of the route is paved or not, but their definition of 'paved' is open to some interpretation. A few times, when the route was supposed to be 'paved', I found myself in the rain on a gravel farm track. When you have been riding for five hours, are cold and lonely, want nothing more than a massive plate of alpler magronen, but have 20k (up a pass) to get you to your destination, and the sun is going down, the level of anxiety that a gravel path brings to your trip (for fear of a flat) is not a welcome companion.

In any case, here are some of the surfaces I came into contact with and what you can expect on such a trip....

Smooth stone blocks, somewhere on the way to Zweisimmen.

Small cobbles on the lower slopes of the Klausenpass.

A wooden bridge or two will help you get across the rivers.

95% of your ride will be on this kind of smooth tarmac, usually on small one lane roads.

Mud and water, just before crossing the pass to Lac Leman.

Typical gravel path to test your nerves and worry about a flat.
Signage

It would be hard to imagine you getting lost. The signposting is simply excellent. The red signs always display the route number, the next couple of town on the route, and the distance to those towns. At the base of climbs, they will tell you the vertical gain over the length of the climb (which can seem a challenge when you are strong, and a heartbreaker when you are feeling weak). Many times they also have info about alternative routes. Over almost six hundred ks, I only once missed a turn and that is because I wasn't paying attention. In fact, the routes are so well signposted that I rarely used my map book.
Weather

Meteoschweiz is the best place to get info about weather trends, but if you're going to do a ride like this in Winter, forget it. The passes will be closed and those heading to the slopes won't be to pleased if you are in their way. In the rest of the year, the weather should be good, although over the passes, things will certainly get colder. Be prepared for rain.
Traffic

If you are on the national cycle routes, you should have very little problem with traffic. Even when you are on the main roads, there is often a bike lane. Drivers in Switzerland are, for the most part, quite courteous to cyclists (probably because there are so many of them).
What to take?

If you're interested in riding across Switzerland, it really doesn't take that much. At least not if you're willing to wear the same thing everyday. I chose to carry everything with me on my back. Switzerland has a fantastic system where you can ship luggage from a train station to any other train station, but since I wasn't exactly sure where I would end up each day, I figured I might as well just take my stuff with me. So, here it is...details below the pics.
On my back

Here's what I carried on my back each day. I chose not to use a pannier (bike mounted bag) simply cause I didn't have one. Going counter clockwise from the bag in the upper right corner:

•The backpack was a little small, but, and this is important, had one of those mesh backings that keeps the bag off your back and lets air flow to keep the sweat down.

• The Veloland Schweiz book (for Route 4), which had all the routes and hotels and maps of Switzerland that I could possibly need.

• The Veloland Schweiz map, which was actually more useful than the book, since I could see where the other routes took me. Usually stored in a side pocket of the bag.

• Other lenses for my cycling glasses

• Some postcards I picked up along the way

• Yellow cycling tool, with lots of allen wrenches and screwdrivers

• Piz Buin suncreme

• Bike oil

• Pen, some change

• Pair of brakepads (going down mountain passes in the rain really takes it out of your brakepads!)

• Some energy bars

• Spare tube in case of flat (not one flat on the whole trip! Switerzerland is remarkably debris free!)

• Mobile phone for making far away friends a little closer

• Razors, soap, laundry detergent (for washing clothes in sink), bandaids and other first-aid stuff, hair gel (gotta look good at dinner time!), etc.

• Plastic bag (under shoes) to cover clothes when it rained

• Shoes

• Long-sleeve black T-shirt

• Cargo pants

• Underwear

• Windbreaker (the green bag)

• Book ('The Consolations of Philosophy, Alain de Bottain)

• Passport

• Wallet

• Spare change

• Reflective leg band

And that's it! I can't think of anything that I might have needed otherwise. Since I had a suitcase of fresh clothes waiting with friends in Montreaux, this was enough for the trip. But don't forget the laundry detergent, as you'll have to wash your clothes in the sink each night.
On Me

Most days, this is what I wore. Since it rained a lot and was cold at the higher altitudes, I had some jackets on.

• Cycling shoes and socks

• Cycling shorts

• Uni of Colorado cycling jersey

• Wind vest (bought in Andermatt...saved my life)

• Windbreaker jacket

• Gloves

• Helmet

• Sunglasses w/ different colored lenses

Le carnet de route se trouve sur:

Route Nord-Sud route-03
Route Nord-Sud
Basel–Chiasso
Vers l’itinéraire
Route panorama alpin route-04
Route panorama alpin
St. Margrethen–Aigle
Vers l’itinéraire
Route de l’Aar route-08
Route de l’Aar
Oberwald (Gletsch)–Koblenz
Vers l’itinéraire
Route du Rhin route-02
Route du Rhin
Andermatt–Basel
Vers l’itinéraire