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Old 11.07.2007, 14:03
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Cycling in Switzerland

This thread is a collection of information on cycling in Switzerland, most of which is specific to Switzerland. I have divided this extremely long post into four sections, and because it was too long as one post, I had to divide it into one post for each section. The first section is about cycling – where to go road and mountain biking and how to get there, plus some information on accommodation options for bike tourers. The second section is about bicycles – buying, renting, importing, maintaining, and getting parts. The third section is about laws and politics – the rules that apply to cyclists, insurance, and promoting cycling. The final section is about cycling events – professional cycling and mass-participation “cyclosportifs”.

There is a lot of information about cycling on this forum now, the most useful parts of which I have tried to collect together in this thread. If you want to search other forums for information about cycling in Switzerland, then you could take a look at the Europe regional subsection of BikeForums.

About Cycling

It is difficult to find a bad place to ride your bike in Switzerland, and just exploring on your own with the aid of a map can be a lot of fun. However, some rides are certainly nicer than others and it is often useful to get some advice about the nicest places to ride in your region. This section is divided into the main types of biking (road biking, mountain biking, and bike touring) and it finishes with a discussion of maps and other route planning aids.

Before we get started, I wanted to include the link to the thread about the social gathering for cycling enthusiasts on the forum that hillseeker organized: Cyclists Meet-up in Zurich. It was a lot of fun, hopefully there will be more such events in the future.

Road Cycling
The best resource for where to ride on Swiss roads is the network of well sign-posted national cycling routes, and many regional routes. These can be viewed on the Cycling in Switzerland web-site (also known as Veloland Schweiz and La Suisse à vélo) by clicking on “Cycling routes” in the left-hand panel. The routes mostly stay on paved roads, but they do occasionally use unsurfaced roads for short sections. They avoid all busy/major roads, but sometimes do this excessively, that is, they often take a much longer, hillier route with minimal traffic rather than a more direct and flatter route with moderate traffic. In some places, part of the sidewalk is used as a bicycle lane, which can cause several problems, which were discussed in the thread Rollerblading in cycle lanes.

There is a thread here on EnglishForum devoted to Road Cycling Routes in Switzerland, but there are also many other threads that contain information about road biking in specific parts of the country:

Basel: Cycling alone, Road cycling Basel area, and Cycle friendly cities in the world - Basel rates #11.
Bern: Fitness in Bern, and [Bern] Anyone up for a bike ride to Wohlensee?.
Central Switzerland: Zurich to Andermatt by bike, Road cycling in mtns this wknd (day-trip from Zurich), Cycle route advice wanted, The Big Passes-proposed Multi-day road bike tour, and Klausen Pass- Late Notice Roadbike ride.
Lausanne: Cycling the lake (Geneva).
Neuchatel: EF Mountain Bike Tour (Jura).
Zug: Canadian cyclist May - early June
Zurich: Zurich - road cycling event, 12th August, Cycling Info/Roads, Canadian cyclist May - early June, Roadbiking from Zurich, Biking related advice/questions, Competitive cycling in Zurich, Group Road ride every Saturday from Thalwil (Zurich), [Zurich Area] Flat Cycling Routes, Sunday Road Biking Ride (13-April) - Any takers?, Zurich Road Biking Ride, [Zurich Area]English-speaking cyclists, and Zürich Roadbike Ride-Sattelegg.

Bikely and MapMyRide are websites that maintais an index of cycling routes all over the world, and include a lot in Switzerland that you could try. You can also try the routes suggested on mySwitzerland.com or tourenguide.ch (German or French).For those that love to climb the mountains and the passes on a road bike, then climbbybike.com or CyclingCols are excellent websites with information on many routes in Switzerland and the rest of Europe, AlpineRoads is similar but aimed at motorbikers. They give detailed profiles of most climbs, plus many statistics, and sometimes a report from someone who has rode the route. The TCS website shows which passes are currently open and closed in German, French, and Italian, as does swissinfo (German, French, Italian), and AlpineRoads has similar information for all the Alps (see also the thread "Swiss mountain pasees - Indexes & Opening Dates"). Another interesting web-site within this genre is Cycling Challenge, which is a blog about cycling in the Alps and has lots of information.

Mountain Biking
There are a lot of mountain bikers in Switzerland, and although there are very few dedicated trails for them, many of the hiking trails are amenable to mountain biking. However, making a trail multi-use inevitably causes issues, and these have been discussed in the following two threads: "Mountain bikers" and "Where to find decent mtb single track close to Zug".

Some folks here on EF have been trying to build up an index of mountain bike routes on the thread: Mountain Bike (MTB)Tours/Trails in Switzerland, and there are other threads that contain information about specific parts of the country:

Bern: Mountain biking trail with 'boardwalk'
Davos: Cycling in Davos
Geneva: Mountain bike in Geneva
Lausanne: In Lausanne 2 years...new to the forum though, Mountain bike in Geneva, Lausanne V. Zuerich, and Mountain Biking - Lausanne - 2008.
Verbier: "Mountain biking trail with 'boardwalk'", Le Tour du Mont-Fort
Winterthur: Any mountain bikers in Winterthur?
Zug: Where to find decent mtb single track close to Zug, and Mountain biking in Zug
Zurich: Easy access mountainbiking in Zurich, "Lausanne V. Zuerich, Mountain biking trail with 'boardwalk', Mountain bike meet in Zurich, [Zurich] Mountain Bike Meet Ups (2008), Mtn Biking in Zurich, Mountain Biking Tue 29th April[Zurich], [Kuesnacht, ZH] Mountain Biking, and [Zürich/Filzbach] Mountainbiking - Gravity powered.

Eire often organizes EnglishForum mountain bike rides near Zurich, like this one, but check the calendar for upcoming ones.

There are several websites with indexes of mountain biking routes, including:
English: mySwitzerland.com
German: ride.ch, trail.ch, tourenguide.ch, Touren, mountainbiker.ch, and traildevils.ch.
French: Guide VTT Online, AlpAvistA, RandoPleinAir, Utagawa, Guide VTT Online, tourenguide.ch and lyoba.ch.

The Swiss mountain biking magazine Ride also has a website with lots of useful information in German. For advice on mountain biking skills and technology, have a look at the site iBikeRide.

Bike Touring
Multi-day, overnight bike trips are very popular in Switzerland. The national cycling routes mentioned in the Road Biking section above give the best advice for route selection. There are nine national routes that total more than 3,300km. There was a discussion about how much of the routes are unpaved, and in what condition in the thread Any cycling enthusiasts out there?.

Veloplus is an excellent supplier of all bike touring equipment in Switzerland, from touring-specific wheel rims to sleeping bags. See the section below on Bike Parts for more details on Veloplus and other suppliers. There is also a thread on EF devoted to Bicycle panniers.

An important consideration when bike touring is where to stay. The main options include:

There are several free options. First, you can wild-camp. That is, find an un-used piece of land near the side of the road where no-one can see you and set up your tent. The legality and tolerance of this in Switzerland was discussed in the thread “Wild camping allowed?”. Rather than wild-camping, many bike tourers approach people in a house with a bit of land and ask for a place to pitch their tent, and are frequently very well received. Rather than approaching random strangers, you can find welcoming places to stay through an organization called “Warm Showers”. According to their website, “the Warm Showers List is a list of internet cyclists who have offered their hospitality towards touring cyclists. The extent of the hospitality depends on the host and may range from simply a spot to pitch a tent to meals, a warm (hot!) shower, and a bed.” By clicking on the “Map” link in the left hand panel of the site you can navigate to Switzerland and see that there are a fair number of places listed.

Alternatively, you may pay for a place to pitch your tent at an official campground. These are dotted all over Switzerland and many maps will have their locations marked. There is a list of websites with information about camping in Switzerland on the mySwitzerland.com website.

If you prefer to stay under a solid roof, then the cheapest option is staying in a youth hostel or backpackers. Both offer dormitory accommodation and some private rooms. Youth hostels are affiliated with the international organization Hostelling International, whereas backpackers are independently run and so are less standardized and generally have fewer rules.

There are some hotels in Switzerland that are geared specifically towards cyclists, which are known as velotels (but anyone can stay there), and see also Bike-Hotels.ch. These are often on the national cycling routes, have a place to store bikes, and sometimes a workshop equipped with a bike-stand. These are normally quite basic hotels and so are not very expensive.

There is obviously plenty of the more standard accommodation like hotels and bed and breakfasts. "Swiss Budget Hotels" is a good index of reasonably-priced hotels.

A more unusual, but very Swiss experience is to literally “sleep on straw” at one of over 200 Swiss farms. However, allergy sufferers should be wary of this option.

Instead of heading off independently, you may prefer a more organized trip with a tour operator. The advantage of these is that you have a group of people to ride with, the route is already planned (sometimes there is a choice of ride length/difficulty each day), there is mechanical support, the accommodation is booked, and you can often rent a bike if you do not want to bring your own. Operators include Bike Switzerland and Swiss Bike Tours, but you'll find many more by doing an internet search.

There are a couple of websites that contain journals of bike tours, including many in or through Switzerland. The main two appear to be Trento Bike and raph.nl.

There is an Ironman event held in Zurich each year called Ironman Switzerland, and there are many other shorter triathlons held all over the country. Triathlon training was discussed in the threads Ironman Training In Basel??? and Hello! Any cyclists out there?.

Last edited by ChrisW; 16.03.2009 at 17:31. Reason: updated
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