Here’s one of those rides one does for no other reason that time was available, the rain stopped and I was in Zurich for a few days.
And a long bike ride is always a good way to think through tough decisions.
The Gold Coast side of the lake is more peaceful with little traffic. The opposite side along the lake is not ideal as there is relatively heavy traffic and, while there are bike lanes, most are just dashed yellow lines on a major road. And the bike lanes abruptly end at every roundabout and dump you there to defend yourself. Same for traffic calming islands which may slow drivers but they leave no space for cyclists.
The opposite of calming for those of us on two wheels.
Happily, I was not alone as there were hundreds of others cyclists of all ages and shapes. Most Lycra clad some not. New wool jersey for me.
A nice way to cycle 75km, especially if there’s no wind. If you have the time, it’s best not to hug the lake on both sides. Go to the Swiss Mobility App and follow Route 32 on one side and 66 on the other. That way you get to see more cows than cars.
This will inevitably be a personal choice and full of trade offs. Whatever you carry, it should be as light weight as possible. This list of essentials is all that’s needed if you want to be spartan.
Pannier bags front and rear.
Two large capacity water bottles attached to bicycle. Don’t “wear” the water with a camelback or in a backpack. You’re cycle touring not racing.
A spare tube, hand pump and repair kit including all the tools needed for basic adjustments. Check out all the various nuts and bolts on your bike. A few Allen wrenches of the right size are all that’s needed. Include a basic Swiss Army knife too, my favourite is the Spartan.
Helmet. I know there is a lot of debate on this topic. As some sort of head covering to protect against the sun is needed anyway, wear a white helmet or a bright orange one or a combination of the two colours like the POC Omne Air Spin.
Some sort of head covering beyond a helmet depending on temperature range from a wool beanie to a baseball cap.
Sunglasses, photo-chromatic if you can afford them or cycling sunglasses with interchangeable lenses, including a clear lens.
For your arms and torso: Light rain jacket and down jacket – we’re talking about Canada here – a down or fleece vest, two Long sleeve jerseys and two Short sleeve jerseys. Jerseys best if wool or wool blend and in a bright colour.
For your waist and legs: Cycling trousers full or 3/4 length, two cycling shorts, three pairs of underwear, two pairs of socks calf length and two pairs ankle length. All wool or wool blend.
Toiletries and basic first aid kit. Keep this to the absolute minimum as liquid and gels add a lot of weight.
If you’re camping: a tarp or superlight tent, and the lightest sleeping bag and pad you can afford.
Nice to have
Non cycling specific clothing to change into
Phone with back up battery
A sense of humour
Something to read
Arm and leg warmers
Some chain oil – but you will likely visit bicycle stores every few hundred kilometres where you should buy something to support these local bike shops and ask that they check your chain, cassette and brakes for wear. The chain may need replacing every 5000 kilometres and maybe your cassette too. Consider 4 ounce bottle of drip on Boeshield T-9.
I am delighted that so many people I know want to do long distant cycling trips. Recently a former student asked for advice as she prepares to cycle across Canada so here is the first of a set of top tips.
1. A bicycle that fits
Make sure your frame is the right size for you. Use the Pubic Bone Height formula. Fun and simple to figure out. Once you set your proper seat height, adjust the handlebars to the same height or a bit higher.
2. A bicycle made of steel
Steel has a nice flex to it, more so than aluminium. Carbon frames and components are not practical. Titanium is wonderful but hardly worth the price over a steel frame bike like the Surly Long Haul Trucker or the Trek 520. It’s worth looking around for a vintage steel frame and upgrading the various components.
Find a comfortable seat, preferably in leather, like the Brooks B17 or the Sele Anatomica, my favourite if you do not have much time to break in the saddle before you start your cross country tour.
5. Pedals that are wide or that you clip onto
Seeing a pattern here? The most critical items are those that touch the road or that touch you. Choose pedals and corresponding stiff soled footwear that can take many hours of pressure without creating a painful heat spot on the ball of your foot. Consider MKS pedals with a super wide platform if you are not going to wear cycle shoes or a mountain bike clip in pedal with corresponding mountain bike shoes you can walk in. Don’t use road bike pedals. You are touring, not racing, across the country or wanting to skate across the floor when you walk in road bike shoes.
6. Racks front and rear with lights attached
Install pannier racks front and rear as low as possible on the frame. Balance the weight front and rear. Don’t use a backpack. Choose bright colours. Ortleib’s are waterproof and hard to beat. Add a flashing red light to your rear rack and consider a white one for the front. Even if you ride mostly during the day, you’re going to find times when you need some illumination in rain or fog or at dawn or dusk.
7. Gears for different terrain
There is no reason to get electronic shifters or shifters integrated into your brake levers. See the specifications of the Surly Long Haul Trucker or the Trek 520 for ideas. An eight or a nine speed rear cassette and a triple crank or double crank can work just fine. And bar end shifters are basic and reliable for shifting.
Thinking about no. 8…
Top 7 tips for cycling across Canada – Part 1. The bicycle
Perfect conditions for a ride. Windless, cool, stunning and varied views between Lac de Neuchâtel and Geneva. An experience you don’t want to end, like a great meal, a concert, and many other experiences.
Like life itself.
I know. I’m one of the lucky ones.
Two summers ago I had a head on crash with a car and went airborne, bicycle and all, over the vehicle. Didn’t land like Simone Biles but managed a landing with only internal injuries and broke nothing except for parts of the car. Different bike BTW.
I’m sure every reader has had a close call.
Great that we are still here.
From Lake Constance I have been following Swiss national cycle route 5. Today from Yverdon les Bains I switched to cycle route 50 for the views from the foothills of the Jura mountain range. Made the ride much more challenging with elevation changes, 1400m of climbing according to my Garmin Edge 530, but it was well worth it to be up on a kind of plateau above Lake Geneva.
Enjoy the photos
While the horses are gone from town centers, I’m glad the water fountains stayed behind.
These leeks would go well with yesterday’s carrots. In a soup.
Surprising to me at the end of October.
Not sure why they came to see me.
Heading to the route that is about half way up the mountains in the distance.
Look what’s in the village vending machine. Cheese and bread. Mostly cheese.
Crêpe power. Enough for the final 50km to Geneva.
The Alps appear again. If you squint you can see Mont Blanc.
This amateur video attempts to give you a sense of the remoteness on the plateau above Lake Geneva.
Does this really say this?
October leaves in a full barn embrace.
And the incongruity.
From cold toes to toes that need cooling down. And a final refueling.
The highest point on the ride 881m in Longirod. I can see the Jet d’eau in Geneva.
As the sun sets behind the Jura mountains, I pedal on for another half an hour to home and a hot bath.
Maps and some further commentary tomorrow and beyond.
If I were to do it again, I would make it at least five days so no more than 100km needs to be covered in a day. Route 5 and 50 include lots of gravel paths so these are not routes for speedsters on narrow tires pumped up bone rattling hard.
A meditative ride, just what I was looking for. And more.
With about two hundred countries in the world, crossing just four of them leaves lots of adventures to come.
Two themes today on a peaceful ride from Biel / Bienne to Yverdon les Bains.
But getting to the lakes and fields of carrots meant heading out into this:
Yesterday it was fields piled high with sugar beets, which a helpful reader pointed out provides the people who live in Switzerland with 2/3 of the sugar they consume. Who knew? In case you missed it in the previous blog, here is what one looks like:
I don’t think carrots need an introduction.
I was told by this crew that the carrots will go into cold storage to be released to the market all year long until the next harvest.
The lakes today include Lac de Bienne, Lac de Morat and Lac de Neuchâtel.
Lots of evidence humans have played extensively with all this water. You wouldn’t have carrots or electricity if they didn’t.
Finally the fog lifts to expose the Jura mountains. When I’m not cycling when good weekend weather appears, Leisa and I hike the Jura Crest trail, a slower way to cross the country. After two years, we’re about 1/3 of the way – about as far as the communications tower you can spot on the ridge.
Now back to the lakes.
Some I must drink (couldn’t figure out how to take the photo with one hand pushing the faucet and one hand holding the water bottle so I used my foot).
The SwissMobility App is a gem. Use it. Hi
Spotted this earlier in the day. Anyone know what this is? I have a friend who plays at championship level.
A touch of aesthetic beauty in a bridge built just for walkers and cyclists across a canal.
Now, on the path to my destination today, Yverdon les Bains…
To the west, I have the Jura.
And to the east we can now see the Alps.
Will this new addition last as long as it’s stone brother and sister?
I wish you could smell this. I think it was finished today.
For bird watching.
Or train spotting. Do you see it? It was not in the first photo.
Or admiring a hand built steel bicycle for someone 193cm tall.
A boardwalk to a bird sanctuary seems like a good place to end.
Cycle touring hits a sweet spot between walking and travel by car. With walking, sometimes you don’t cover enough territory in a day to invite unexpected adventure. By car – or train – you cover too much too fast and end up with an adventure deficit.
Today’s cycling did not disappoint in lived experiences. The day began with a frigid foggy ride. At four degrees, wearing most of my layers still left toes and fingers feeling numb.
Eventually it warmed up and the sun broke through.
Another peaceful ride following the Aare, the longest river entirely within Switzerland. And some occasional detours into Medieval towns, a few industrial zones and lots of farms.
The most curious adventure of the day was coming upon Swiss military manœuvres in the deep forest.
Here is the day in photographs.
Full gear checking out the mirror at check out.
Fog in the air and in my bones.
The coat I need.
The right age to instill a love of adventure.
Anyone know what these are? I’m told the Swiss grow them just in case sugar cane products ever became unavailable. Food security includes sugar for your coffee.
Water security too. Did you know public drinking water is kept entirely separate from what goes into and out of your home here.
One of my happy places.
We can do better for the next generation. In 1977 I did my undergraduate thesis on the biological implications of radioactive waste from nuclear power plants. We still have no safe method for disposal that protects the future of humanity.
I love the trails, especially on 44mm wide tires.
But not loving this.
Covid-19 May keep these unsold.
I’m sure you agree, views of the Aare seldom disappoint. Except maybe this one. Total change in wardrobe from the morning cold.
My fuel. About 100km per bag.
Beauty in odd places: under a motorway.
I’m chasing the sunset again.
I will lose this race but only by ten minutes.
Now an uncommon site. A contrail. In the sky and on the water.
So here I go, from Romanshorn, following several rivers that eventually fill Lake Geneva. With that in mind plus heading south has me believing it’s all downhill to Geneva and the French border. But what about those ominous clouds above the lake?
The cows are quiet. Why don’t they have their bells on?
The signposting makes GPS and maps unnecessary.
This area is one of Switzerland’s fruit growing regions. Not just apples but kilometers of other fruits like strawberries.
Fresh drinking water can be found in just about every town. So I only carry one water bottle.
Covered bridges are everywhere.
And uncovered ones too
Is it 2020 or 1920?
Colour brings joy.
I wonder what will happen to these.
So quiet on a Sunday morning in the Swiss countryside. The only quieter place would be a College campus.
Pedaling 50km by just after noon feels like an accomplishment for me.
Take a close look. Something is wrong here. I’m not cycling across Canada for the third time.
A village school. I hope the children painted this themselves.
It’s remarkable how the Swiss make trains run on time. But how do they do this ? Is there a biologist out there who can explain?
Lots to admire here.
A wonderful, spiced hot chocolate in Winterthur after about 80km. This was needed to get up the surprising 17% grade to get to the top of Winterberg.
A helpful sign when approaching railroad tracks.
Made it to the covered bridge in Baden and stopped taking photos as the sunset was chasing me and me it. Arrived in Fisilisbach 18h41. Sunset at 18h31. I lost that race.
136 kilometers today. Main challenge: cold toes
Goodnight. As my mother would say, tomorrow’s another day.
After creating the CrossCountryCyclist blog to chronicle my trip across Canada, I crossed two other countries, Scotland and England. I have been yearning to cross a few more. Now that I live in Switzerland, that should be easy. The challenge is finding the time.
A block of time just appeared as the impact of Covid-19 has disrupted family plans made for our fall school break. Like so many families each of us is separated from the other geographically. I’m going to head out for a few days of fresh air and reflection.
With Covid-19 cases on the rise everywhere, I know not when this privilege of moving freely about Switzerland will end.
I am sensitive to those already in some form of isolation and quarantine. And I do not want to make things worse for anyone. With this in mind, I will keep my distance from my fellow human beings and avoid conversation. It won’t be a Vipassanā silent retreat but close.
I’m writing this blog as an end in itself. If it happens to be of interest to others that would be a bonus.
Maybe it could be an inspiration to others to enjoy the pace and pleasures of seeing the world one pedal stroke at a time. I feel so privileged to be able to live in Switzerland and want to share its beauty with others. Words and photos are all I have to offer when companionship is not an option.
While the blog is an end in itself, so too is cycling, whether it be for one kilometer or one hundred. But, in homage to the title of this blog, I will nevertheless attempt to cross Switzerland in four or five days from its northeast border with Germany and Austria to its southwest border with France.
While the move to Geneva took place in August 2017, it took until this weekend to assemble something other than a fixie for city cycling. So here are some photos of a quick Sunday ride along lake Geneva with my dear Rivendell A. Homer Hilsen.
Cycling around the lake is about a 200 km affair. Not something you can do when you finish assembling a bicycle in October at 2pm. The first stop is for some caffeine.
The route begins in busy Geneva but in just a few kilometers, the city is quickly left behind. The recommendation is to go clockwise, which I am doing.
The sky and corresponding weather is full of surprises for the next three to four hours. I have to take out the rain jacket and put it on and off many times.
The route is very well marked, maybe even too well. It is the Tour du Léman 46.
Whoever chose the route made sure it was on roads with almost no traffic. I hardly saw a car for much of the route and did not see a single cyclist. Maybe it is getting too cold and wet for most.
Like the bicycle routes in the Netherlands, cutting across fields is common. Here they have recently harvested a kind of turnip or Swede. I think to feed cows. I’ve heard this is a cross of some kind between a cabbage and a turnip, cultivated originally right here in Switzerland. You can see a pile of them on the right.
You are never far away from clean drinking water in Switzerland.
And lots of evidence of the season.
After turning around in Nyon, and as the odometer notes that I’ve done a 60 km round trip ride, I find myself back home in Geneva with the jet d’eau being blown sideways in a strong wind. Great to be back on a touring bicycle.