Why I love cycling in Switzerland

Grand Tours Project Team

Feb / 23 / 2021

Have we convinced you to visit and do a Grand Tour of Switzerland? Still not sure? Ok so here are some opinions from a cycling friend and guides who live in Switzerland. Of course, they are biased and non-objective but understandably so!

Eileen is originally from the Lake District in the UK and moved here in 2001 for work. A busy working woman with a family of outdoorsy males, she manages to find weekends away cycling to escape the family duties and discover new favourite places.

Above: Grande Dixence Dam, Val d'Hérémence, Valais.

Why Switzerland?

I have always had a connection to Switzerland. As a kid, our family holidays involved loads of hiking in the summers. The public transport enabled my father to arrange affordable trips and stay in campgrounds that were (and still are) some of the best in Europe.

Plus, the weather here is so much better than the Lake District! :D

What do you value most as a cyclist in Switzerland?

The variety! Most people think of Switzerland and think mountains – and how superhuman you need to be to ride the cols. But Switzerland is so much more than mountains. There is an extensive network of designated bike trails throughout Switzerland and they encompass routes around drop dead gorgeous lakes, along tamed rivers, through vineyards and rolling pastures and pretty farm villages. I have discovered so many lovely little back roads, with barely any traffic, that take you to places you would not have visited by car.

How safe do you feel riding on the roads of Switzerland?

The cycling infrastructure is astounding, and I feel super safe along designated bike routes and country lanes. The little farm lanes meandering across the countryside are safe…you only need to avoid the odd escaped cow or slow-moving tractor! Occasionally the main roads feel less comfortable as vehicle pass by at speed…even then, most drivers pass with adequate space. The major cities with tram tracks can entail white knuckle riding. I hate tram tracks!

Tell me a funny story of one of your escapes.

All my cycle rides outside of my region entail an unanticipated surprise!

Once we were riding around Zurichsee in late November before the snow arrived – beautiful autumn weather. We followed a gentle road bike route to the top of a small hill overlooking the eastern end of Zurichsee. It ended in a forest, with no view and a bike path heading down to the lake. If we had known that it was far more suitable for mountain bikes and was several kilometres of zig zagging downhill on slippery wet and occasionally frozen leaves, covering substantial rocks and gravel…we would not have followed the route down. However, we survived, albeit shaken, dirty and very cold…and more than a little pleased with ourselves!

Scenic detours (aka getting lost) can make for a memorable ride!

Above: Crossing the plateau of Col du Sanetsch

What is your favourite region for cycling?

Hands down - the Lucerne & Zug lakes region. A variety of routes through several cantons, which included riding beside the lake, a crossing by ferry, a couple of mountain cols and rolling farmlands.

But locally, the Sanetsch circuit is a magnificent climb up from the valley floor near Sion to 2,253m. The reward is a modern swiss lunch at the auberge before a quaint cable car ride down to pretty Gsteig. Gstaad was just down the road but we went in the opposite direction up a gentle climb to Col du Pillon and then whizzed down to Aigle. Actually, the hardest part of the circuit is the long flattish ride along the valley floor beside the Rhone back to the car near Sion! It is an all-day ride but the dramatically different landscapes and the sense of achievement at the end it is worth it. And despite our initial misgivings, it was surprisingly do-able, and I highly recommend it!

There is another region I plan to ride this spring, the iconic 3 cols of Switzerland - the Nufenen, the Tremola San Gotthardo and the Furka - in one day. I’ve driven over the passes and have seen cyclists on the climbs. My friend invited me last year, but I thought I wasn’t fit enough. I have been cursing myself ever since as she is so unfit but decided to just go out and do it – and did it!!! Ha ha!

Above: Climbing the famous Tremola, San Gotthardo...

Your favourite Swiss food?

On the ride, I find soups the best – great for hydration, great for sustenance but not heavy. One time with friends, we were famished and ordered a pizza each for lunch. BIG mistake! We were so full and felt sick for the rest of the journey! Lesson learnt – eat lightly, and snack and drink throughout the ride.

Rewards are important so I try to book a hotel or restaurant that offers the best cuisine at the end of the day. A long day of the bike generally means I can enjoy a sumptuous dinner with wine as my reward.

Do you practice any Swiss traditions?

Always greeting other people on the road – Bonjour or Guten tag.

Also, apero hour or a glass of local swiss white wine at lunch.

Something that you would like to share with people who are thinking to visit Switzerland.

Switzerland is clean, organised and very polite. The variety of cycling in a small country is amazing: through vineyards, over mountain cols, meandering through rolling farmlands and circumnavigation the many beautiful lakes. It can comprise of riding up serpentine cobble stones or finding your way along forest paths to rivers but also sometimes crossing a lake on classic old steamer, cable cars down or across mountains and sometimes just getting lost to find somewhere you didn’t know existed. The quaint villages, the dramatic scenery…you have to come and experience it for yourself to believe it.

What our guides Peter and Christian have to say.

What to say about Switzerland! A country that is so much more than cheese, chocolate and Heidi! The variation of the terrain across this stunning country blows my mind every time I travel around it! There are rolling hills which bring back memories of the Lake District in England; vast mountains with roads snaking up and not a car in sight; and huge climbs past dams and lakes. Switzerland truly is a cycling nirvana and the hidden gem of Europe – just ask anyone who has been ! Peter Murdoch (UK)

What’s great about Switzerland ?? The variety of terrain is incredible. Flat endless valley floors and an infinite number of large and small lakes. Mellow pre-alpine terrain to huge alpine passes up to 2600m on the mainly wonderful smooth tarmac.
The public transport that gets you everywhere in Switzerland and is reliably on time!
People are friendly and car drivers are mainly cool.
There are many more reasons to come to Switzerland. These are a few of why I moved here and never left.
Come to explore our playground - it's well worth it. Christian Paul (Germany)

And what our ex-pro rider, Chef du Guides and Renaissance man (Uri loves classical music and plays the piano, he’s an artist and visits art galleries and museums) …says

For me, Switzerland is like living in a parallel universe. It has a rich variety of activities and social initiatives, from unique and peculiar concerts, together with musicians, poets and sculptures, as well as a tradition of culture, keeping art deep in its roots and holding a vast number of works and pieces of art in its amazing museums. The diversity and integration of cultures, languages, habits and customs from many parts of the world make Switzerland a truly special place. And if we talk about cycling ... well, it has become my home and my favourite place to ride a bike on a sunny and calm day between the vineyards and the wings of the lake, until I pass through the dramatic sceneries that only the epic passes can offer. Without a doubt a place that is worth knowing in all its aspects! Uri Martins - (Mexico/Portugal)