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  #21  
Old 09.05.2013, 10:09
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Re: questions reagarding feasibility of biking through Switzerland with 8 year old

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Last summer, whilst on the eurovelo 6 route, I came across two French families who were cycling for at least a month. Both had an 8 year old, plus other children. One family stopped every 1 1/2 hours, the other stopped for half an hour after 15km, then for 2 hours after the next 15km ( lunch) then aimed at another 15km later in the day. When I met them, they had done about 300km and the children all appeared to have plenty of energy around the campground in the evening.
I didn't notice this number at first -- did they cover the distance of 300km in a day? This is not possible you probably mean 30km?
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Old 09.05.2013, 10:14
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Re: questions reagarding feasibility of biking through Switzerland with 8 year old

Besides food, which one can plan, you'll have another issue which is the weather. And the weather is difficult to plan.

We tried to do a three day biking tour around the Lake of Constance and had to break it off due to bad weather.

I'd have a plan B in mind when biking through Switzerland.
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  #23  
Old 09.05.2013, 11:18
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Re: Bikes on trains in Switzerland

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Just an FYI, since you mention combining bike and train travel:

If bringing your bike on the train, one generally needs a bike ticket; not having one can result in a rather expensive fine. Also, on some routes bikes are not allowed during peak travel time.

In case you haven't seen this yet, here's the SBB info on traveling with bikes:
http://www.sbb.ch/en/station-service...e-by-bike.html
We've taken our bikes on trains - sometimes a piece of cake, occasionally nearer a nightmare. The link doesn't tell you the half of the story! A few interesting details:
On some trains it is not permitted to take bikes at all.
On some trains one has to reserve a specific place (numbered!) in advance.
On some it is forbidden to take bikes on at certain times of day.
On some trains one can roll on / roll off, but there is not a lot of room once you are inside.
On some trains one can roll / on roll off and there is a specially designated cycle area but it may well be blocked by luggage, prams or both. (of course it might already be full of bikes when you get in).
On some trains there are two hooks per carriage to hang up bikes. You can see if they are empty as the train comes into the station. Don't kid yourself that this means that you can actually hang your bikes on them though. AFTER you have manoevered the bikes into the carriage through the narrow doorway and up the steep steps, you may find that the actually spot below the empty hooks is blocked by prams, luggage or people. And as you can no longer get out again and find hooks in another carriage without running a high risk of the train going off without you, you are stuck diagonally in the middle of nowhere and EVERYONE trying to get in or out afterwards will moan about you until you reach your destination and wiggle your way out backwards. (The complaints are justifiable enough, in that there really isn't room for bikes to stand there) It doesn't seem to occur to anyone that you are actually in the right and the folk blocking your 'bike' spot are the ones who are in the wrong.
Sometimes you have to put the bikes into the luggage van. It may be at the front of the train. On the other hand, it might be at the back! Sometimes there are two sliding doors - and one of them (the one you try first of course) may be locked. When you finally have one open, you'll find a horizontal bar at just the wrong height to get the bikes 'under' and too high (for me) to get the bikes 'over'. You can release the bar if you know how. With one person on the platform and one inside the loading itself works quite well but it can help a lot if you have very long arms and legs because the opening is quite high off the ground and you may have to scramble in that way too if the train is ready to leave.
Sometimes the train is roll on / roll off. There is lots of room for your bike. You find a seat near it so that you can keep an eye on things. Paradise.

However, knowing the possibility of encountering 'interesting situations' in train travel, both Mr L and I are much encouraged to keep our 'lifting' fitness levels up, we communicate and work excellently as a team and we have become expert at ignoring loud complaints about our presence.

Just for the record, we buy bike day-tickets in the form of Velo MFK (cycle tickets for 6 trips) which only have to be 'clipped' in the machine before travelling.

Have fun.

Two bits I forgot to mention:
Some roll on / roll off trains have a wheelchair on some carriage doors and a cycle on others. Choose the correct one if you don't want to annoy folk.
Other roll on / roll off trains simply have wheelchairs on the doors and this seems to mean 'all wheels' and is OK for cyclists. Cannot be more helpful as I cannot remember which sort of train runs on which routes.

A bit about Stations-
Many stations have ramps to the platforms. Useful but often a 'long way round', and not all stations are so well equipped. Even on routes where the trains are roll on / roll off the route to the station exit might not be 'wheel friendly'. I once made the bad mistake of getting out of a train from Biberbrugg SZ in Samstagern ZH with my e-bike. And that is one error I'll not be making again in a hurry. Not a soul in sight so it was just me lifting the bike down the steps and then heaving it up the other flight to the exit. Thank goodness I haven't a FLYER which is about 8 Kilos heavier than my Raleigh.
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  #24  
Old 09.05.2013, 11:50
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Re: questions reagarding feasibility of biking through Switzerland with 8 year old

Longbyt, you are right! When traveling with kids on the bikes, I find it extremely stressful to get on the train. Taking care of baggage, five bikes and tree kids just made it very difficult for us to board a train with no special bicycle car in it. If we had plans to use the train during the bike tour, we got as prepared as possible -- made phone calls and found out the details about the type of this train, tried to reserve the bicycle hooks if possible. But in general while on the bike trips, I don't rely on getting on the train and try to stay away from trains.
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Old 09.05.2013, 11:58
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Re: questions reagarding feasibility of biking through Switzerland with 8 year old

My kids have been biking since they were a few months old!

Or, did you mean cycling?

Tom
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Old 09.05.2013, 17:26
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Re: questions reagarding feasibility of biking through Switzerland with 8 year old

Personally,
unless a person knows the region very well,

I would strongly recommend not to cycle with kids in Switzerland, as it is very dangerous in many points, more than in any of its neighbouring countries (maybe except Liechtenstein, which I don't know well enough).

Even one of the pictures above (with that continuous middle line close to the lake or river) looks very dangerous despite very typical of Switzerland (inclusive that horrible fence of the 30ies).

I do go by bike on many occasions, but I know where the dangerous points are, I wouldn't do them with kids and some of them I never would do them myself (for those who know e.g. the curva della Crespera going up turning to the right).


Nothing like the Netherlands, Denmark, Germany or even Italy, imho.

Terrible road situation in Switzerland already for cars. Imagine for those who are more vulnerable. No real fun.
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Old 09.05.2013, 17:42
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Re: questions reagarding feasibility of biking through Switzerland with 8 year old

I think such a trip would be very stressful unless all involved are very experienced and love biking trips and all that goes with them. Coming from The Netherlands, i find switzerland less bike friendly in terms of effort (even the family routes require fitness), lanes, and facilities. I'd say they are 80% developed, so the not developed bits are difficult. With some experience, or tolerance for taking stress lightly, it is perfectly fine... Without that, I would recommend planning only a day or 2 of this, not the whole holiday.
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Old 09.05.2013, 17:55
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Re: questions reagarding feasibility of biking through Switzerland with 8 year old

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There is a good German biking guide with lots of details but I do not speak German and may not figure it out with just a dictionary.
if you use Google Chrome for internet browsing, it should pop up with a button at the top...."this site is in German....do you want to see it in English". The translation won't be perfect, but far easier than slogging away with the dictionary!

If you don't get that, try using translate.google.com
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Old 10.05.2013, 08:33
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Re: questions reagarding feasibility of biking through Switzerland with 8 year old

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(for those who know e.g. the curva della Crespera going up turning to the right).
Never done it on a bicycle, but it's one of the best on a bike!

Tom
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Old 10.05.2013, 09:17
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Re: questions reagarding feasibility of biking through Switzerland with 8 year old

This site may be helpful in planning your trip. It has some dedicated routes with stretches that are manageable for kids as well.

Furthermore, if you bring an iPhone and charge it on the road, you may want to look at the Swiss maps to bring with you instead of paper versions.

Lastly, we use Runtastic to track where we went and publish on our Facebook sites. And no, sorry, I am not going to publish that here.

edit: The map below has the altitude in meters, not feet.
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Old 10.05.2013, 10:32
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Re: questions reagarding feasibility of biking through Switzerland with 8 year old

The family are inexperienced cyclists, and have difficult dietry requirements.

The holiday might be a success if they centred on one city in a flat area, maybe Bern or Basel, and went for circular tours every day.

They would not have to transport the baggage/luggage, they would not spend 2 hours every evening sourcing special food.

.
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  #32  
Old 10.05.2013, 11:27
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Re: questions regarding feasibility of biking through Switzerland with 8 year old

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We're planning a trip to Switzerland this summer and my husband is adamant that biking and rail/bus are the way to go. Is it even feasible with an 8 year old and a mom who is not really a road biker--just an occasional weekend biker---meaning not comfortable around cars?

Our biggest concern is the road conditions. Are bike trails separate from the road or will we be biking mostly with cars by our side? It is nearly impossible to tell from the scenic pictures since they want to show bikes and scenery and purposely avoid showing cars--if they are on the same road. Any info or suggestions where I might get this question answered would be appreciated.
Thank you.
Hi bikingfamily,

Actually, a lot of EF members brought up some good points. And I completely agree that there are many roads where you don't have to worry about cars. If you have mountain bikes, you may even consider going through the woods. There are some magnificent trails here that are well described (with signs next to the road) and will be much more fun than the regular roads.


However, maybe you can clarify some more details?
  • Did the three of you go on other biking trips in other countries and how did you do that? Or is this the first time you are going to make a trip on bikes?
  • Do you plan for single-day trips with hotels to spend the night, or planning on camping with tents that you carry?
  • Are you planning for both adults and your daughter each to drive their own bike, or would your daughter be comfortable on the previously suggested tandem / trailer? If your OH is pushing this bike thing, he may be willing to pull your daughter along as well.
  • Are you aware that even the slightest hill here may require very low gearing to make it up to that hill? And that a lot of these are for a duration of several kilometers going up? Even if are you planning to drive in a relatively flat area, you are going to need it here in Switzerland.
Just wondering...
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  #33  
Old 10.05.2013, 22:38
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Re: questions regarding feasibility of biking through Switzerland with 8 year old

Thank you hh_J74 for those clarifications. We are as I said weekend bikers. The word cyclist is intimidating--my husband falls into that category as he has gone on several long bicycle tours in the US and abroad. He will be bringing his touring bike and we will be renting there. My daughter and I are weekend bicycle riders---we go for 20 mile rides frequently but the terrain is mostly paved and easy---I personally am not into speed or climbing so I do have concerns about that. My daughter is actually in better shape than I am as she has a lot of energy and is fearless so I know she will enjoy it no matter what. I will have to see how we can pack everything to take on the bikes, but we're working on that as well and can travel light, though I suppose given the mountains we will need a lot more warm clothes than we are used to here. We will most likely stick to designated bicycle routes as much as possible and try to keep things predictable.

I have received wonderful information from all of you here and I will filter it through and see what makes best sense for us. We will be spending 5 weeks in Switzerland and plan to bike as much as we can, when we can't we'll take a train, and we will most likely find a few good spots and do day rides from there--that seems toH be the best thing to do and not get too worn out. We'll have to study the maps and see what is feasible. Yes, the diet requirements do make it harder but it sounds do-able. As I said--as long as the Swiss eat grilled meats and have some veggies around--we can steam them ourselves if need be. We plan to do a combination of Air B&B and hotels for housing--hostels if nothing else is available--I understand hostels charge by bed and that can bring us up to the cost of a cheap hotel anyway--so we'll see. We're starting out in Zurich and I've identified a few places we want to g through. The suggestions from this forum have been very useful. Thank you again.
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  #34  
Old 13.05.2013, 09:58
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Re: questions regarding feasibility of biking through Switzerland with 8 year old

Hi bikingfamily,

I had created a long response, and then my computer crashed before I could submit it to the forum. bummer.

Oh, and I have never done such a trip with the kids, because my two youngest would make it impossible to get anywhere. I once took a bike holiday with some friends, bringing our own tents and food, and it was great. We managed some hills in Belgium (maximally 200m elevation), which was difficult enough with 20kg bikes + 20kg tents/food.

Anyway, 20 miles paved and easy sounds nice in the weekend and good for your holiday. I can give you some examples as to why this is actually a nice benchmark. I would plan for maximally 5 hours biking per day. Two hours in the morning, three in the afternoon. Not more.

My 9/o son goes mountainbiking with me. Going up a 10% hill for 2 miles takes about 40 minutes, with him taking frequent rests. Going down is something like 10-20 minutes, using a technically moderate (difficult for him) single trail in the woods. So, that makes about 4 miles/hour for this young guy in difficult terrain. For a daytrip with 5 hours of biking, this would mean 20 miles / day.

His twin sister likes to bike on a smaller bike on easy paved roads. She makes approximately 8mph on average, so that would be 40 miles / day. Not that I would bring her on a biking day-trip, though....

Anyway, if you plan for stretches of 20 miles / day, with a nice hotel / B&B at the end, you may find it a very short distance on the first couple of days. However, saddle sores will start hurting from the 3rd day onwards, and after that you will be thankful for not aiming too high. Also, if you find yourself with a few hours left, you can always start exploring the beautiful surroundings, or plan your trip a bit longer. Or plan to bike towards a nice mountain, and then take the lift up the mountain to hike a bit and enjoy the mountains. Then continue your trip.

Regarding location, I don't like Zürich. But that's just my personal taste. For biking, I would look at the Vierwaldstettensee (Lucerne, Weggis). Take the train to Lucerne, and bike around the lake. I would also take the train to Interlaken and take the lift up the Jungfraujoch (daytrip without biking). "Settling" somewhere and making daytrips is nice, because it will allow you to bike without a lot of luggage. If money allows, you can even consider biking from one Hotel to the other, and have someone drive your luggage in a car in parallel.

Regarding clothing, usually a base layer with a fleece and a windstopper will do the job in summer. Having good protective raingear and completely watertight luggage bags will make you more comfortable. However, if you plan on Hotels / B&Bs, you will have a place to dry your stuff anyway.

Regarding Hotels/B&Bs, you may want to consider contacting them several weeks in advance, so that you know whether you need to make reservations 3 days in advance, or 3 weeks in advance. You may want to make a list of your favourite Hotels, and a backup list just in case.

If you post more details what you're up to, you may get more specific responses....
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  #35  
Old 13.05.2013, 10:21
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Re: questions regarding feasibility of biking through Switzerland with 8 year old

I would recommend you plan your route very well in advance. What are your goals, scenery, mountains, cities, etc...? If trying to physically cross Switzerland from one end to the other, it will be very difficult to do so without some serious mountains or mountain passes in your way, and most of these are difficult climb and downhill, with likely less than adequate roads/paths for cyclists. I would also be very cautious about cities as well. I am a seasoned bike commuter, but I avoid Geneva like the plague. Even though there are some dedicated bike lanes on the road in theory, it is more like a joke--all the construction, motorbikes, and vespas not to mention taxis, buses, trams, and car drivers, all invade this space and make it very dangerous. I liked to bike for relaxation, but doing so in Geneva has the opposite effect, only stress.
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  #36  
Old 13.05.2013, 10:31
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Re: questions regarding feasibility of biking through Switzerland with 8 year old

When I first arrived in Switzerland my host family took me on a cycling trip around Lake Constance. The family consisted of the two not very fit parents and two kids ages 8 and 10.

We did the trip in one day, taking the ferry from Romanshorn to Friedrichshafen and cycling around the eastern side through Austria and back to Romanshorn. Took about 8 hours, including really long breaks every couple of hours.

The kids had no trouble with the trip whatsoever. I remember the dad saying that he made a point to stop every 2 hours or so to give the kids a rest, but, frankly, they were the ones always cycling ahead of us, so...

The cycling paths were completely shielded from traffic on this route so there was no worrying about cars. A lot of trails in Switzerland are just like this.

So yeah, 8 year old kid? No problem. So long as he *wants* to do it, he'll probably have more fun and be more energetic than the two of you put together!
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Old 13.05.2013, 10:35
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Re: questions regarding feasibility of biking through Switzerland with 8 year old

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If trying to physically cross Switzerland from one end to the other, it will be very difficult to do so without some serious mountains or mountain passes in your way, and most of these are difficult climb and downhill, with likely less than adequate roads/paths for cyclists.
I respectfully disagree. Have a look for instance here:
http://www.velo-tours.net/tour-packa...iss-mittelland

The elevation gain in each stage is less than a few dozen meters. The parts of the route that are not dedicated bike paths are in quiet country roads with very little traffic.

OP: as an experienced cyclotourist the only recommendation I have for you is to get good cycling maps. You can easily buy them at any bookstore in the mayor Swiss cities. Don't be concerned about traffic. Compared to the US, Switzerland is cycling paradise!
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Old 13.05.2013, 11:23
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Re: questions reagarding feasibility of biking through Switzerland with 8 year old

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Personally,
unless a person knows the region very well,

I would strongly recommend not to cycle with kids in Switzerland, as it is very dangerous in many points, more than in any of its neighbouring countries (maybe except Liechtenstein, which I don't know well enough).

Even one of the pictures above (with that continuous middle line close to the lake or river) looks very dangerous despite very typical of Switzerland (inclusive that horrible fence of the 30ies).

I do go by bike on many occasions, but I know where the dangerous points are, I wouldn't do them with kids and some of them I never would do them myself (for those who know e.g. the curva della Crespera going up turning to the right).


Nothing like the Netherlands, Denmark, Germany or even Italy, imho.

Terrible road situation in Switzerland already for cars. Imagine for those who are more vulnerable. No real fun.
Personally I would disagree with this completely.

With a little planning it's an absolute doddle to go pretty well anywhere you want either on dedicated cycle routes or at worst on quiet back roads.
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Old 14.05.2013, 09:58
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Re: questions regarding feasibility of biking through Switzerland with 8 year old

I am still getting familiar with the posting rules here so please forgive me if I am posting on the same title and should have made a new one.

I am starting to have a better idea of the biking plans and all your posts have helped us think things through. So we'll do it for sure, but adjust our plans as needed as we meet with constraints. knowing what to expect helps and we'll see how we adjust or change plans to avoid problems and maximize enjoyment of scenery and Swiss culture.

The new question I have is about Rent-a-Bike options---I do not speak German and only a little French so it makes it hard to figure out from the website if the kid's bikes they rent support racks for panniers of if they even rent the racks/panniers with them. That would also be important as we do plan to carry our luggage with us. Day trips from certain locations are a very likely option and we'll move to the next location as best as we can by train or bike--but basically all our luggage will be on our bikes and I can't tell if the bikes we will rent can support or even can come with rented racks panniers. Thank you for any input--as I said--I cannot find this info and one of you might already know.
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Old 14.05.2013, 10:57
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Re: questions regarding feasibility of biking through Switzerland with 8 year old

Let me see if I got this right:

- Your husband, you and your 8 year old want to bike thru Switzerland.
- Your child has a gluten-free / dairy-free diet.
- You want to move all your luggage with you while riding your bikes.
- You are a weekend cyclist.
- You'll be renting your biking equipment.
- We don't know your accommodation plans.

Possible problems:

- WEATHER!!!!! Don't underestimate this. Switzerland is NOT California and we quite often have dismal weather in the summer.

- Language: Although most locals can speak some English, most signs are posted in the language of the area.

- Accommodation: Are you planning on switching hotels every night? Summer is high season in Switzerland and quite often hotels are booked solid.

- Food: You are very active and your child will be hungry. You'll need time to find the right food sources for child, especially since he's lactose / gluten-free.

- Mountains: Depending on where you are biking, you'll be doing some long, possibly steep inclines.

- Rental: I think this will be the easiest of all. There are lots of rental places with additional equipment throughout Switzerland.

- Trains: Loading all your gear into trains can be very cumbersome. Quite often, you'll have to lift it all onto a train and, depending on the train, there might not be enough room for your gear.

- Toting luggage: Biking with luggage is heavy and cumbersome. It can take the joy out of riding a bike and will wear you down earlier than travelling without.

- Knowledge of the area: You are planning a bike trip through an area you don't know.

My suggestion:

Book 2 - 3 destinations and do day trips. It will be much easier, more enjoyable and will keep you more flexible. It will allow you to make flexible decisions on what to do the following day, depending on the weather and energy level of your family. By all means, rent bikes but don't depend on them as your sole means of transportation.
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