Imagine a round trip in the Swiss Alps, with epic trails, great company and unforgettable scenery. What could be better? We, the Trail King & Queen crew, wanted to see how much bike adventure you can fit into one long bike weekend in Switzerland.
We live for the weekends and know from experience how much effort you have to put in to planning when you want to go mountain biking in a new region. Each time we invest hours of research to make every hour of the trip count and pack in as many trails as possible. Where can we go without using up half the time just getting there? How can we link up the longest singletracks? Can we get some assisted uplifts, or do we have to earn every turn? Where could we stay for the night, drink some beers and enjoy the local cuisine?
This time, our friends at Rodeo Bike Co. invited us along to test a new tour they had developed. To give our challenge an international spin, we started at Zurich Airport, where most riders from abroad would start their journey. It has direct flights from all major cities in Europe, and the airport’s railway station forms part of Switzerland’s high-speed rail network.
We had to change trains once in Lucerne before we got to Meiringen. We then continued our journey by public bus, known as PostBus in the Swiss mountains. Most are equipped with bike racks during the summer. Be aware these usually only have space for up to six bikes, so it’s worth reserving in advance to be sure. Romeo, founder and head guide at Rodeo Bike Co., did the trick for us.
By now we were in Valais: heaven for mountain bikers, with countless tours, routes and trails. Not just for expert bikers, but also leisure riders. Individual resorts also offer e-mountain bike hire and bike workshops.
You never know what the weather might do in the Swiss Alps, and it can change quickly. This time, it had suddenly changed overnight and created a magical – but distinctly chilly – landscape. Luckily, the sun came out and started to free up the trails again. We started our descent above the treeline with a scenic traverse through a beautiful, icy landscape. The stony track later turned into a forest trail over softer, smoother ground with occasional roots and a few steeper sections.
After a long descent of about 1,000 vertical metres, we reached the valley, where we enjoyed a late lunch at one of the great local restaurants. Thanks to Romeo’s good connections, we were able to spend the night in a rustic mountain hut, opened exclusively for us. To get up to the hut – quite a steep climb over rough terrain – we jumped in the hut owner’s little jeep. Somehow we all managed to squeeze on to the tiny vehicle for the ride up.
After a long evening of great food, local wine and a few schnapps from the hut owner, we all made it – somehow – to bed. The next morning was cold – even frosty. But beautiful, and we were ready to explore new trails.
The early rise was immediately rewarded. As the sun rose over the mountains, it bathed the trails and scenery in an incredible light. The frost on the trails melted, and they became grippier again. Time to let go of the brakes.
About halfway down we reached a hut with a friendly hunter, who invited us to make ourselves coffee. Gas stove, cups, coffee, Ovaltine, milk – we could use whatever we wanted. He couldn’t stay as he was just about to leave to track down dinner in the woods.
For lunch we stopped in Binn, a charming village with houses in the original Valais style. The traditional wooden houses stand on wooden pillars topped with wide, flat stones, which stop rodents climbing up.
We enjoyed a speciality of the region, «Cholera». A strange name for a dish they say originated in times of epidemic: no shopping required, the ingredients were in every larder. This vegetable pie, made with leeks, potatoes and cheese, lay heavy on our stomachs, but gave us the energy we needed for the rest of our ride.
We continued riding through beautiful autumnal forest: a decent climb, in places with carriages and smooth descents. The interplay of trail and views put a big grin on our faces for the whole ride.
After a full day of biking with frost, sunshine, fantastic views, flowy trails and great company, we ended up in Mühlebach for après-bike (don’t miss the suspension footbridge over the young Rhône, connecting Mühlebach and Fürgangen). Here we were picked up by the manager of our next accommodation, who shuttled us up to the hotel.
Next day we got up early to make the most of our last day of biking. We started with a trail in Romeo’s home village. The gondola helped us with the uplift. The downhill track was once again a great combination of roots and loam.
Next on our programme was a real classic: from Betten up to the Aletsch Arena and a ride down along the Great Aletsch Glacier, the mightiest river of ice in the Alps. This is also the heart of the Stoneman Glaciara, the spectacular mountain bike adventure created by legendary rider Roland Stauder. Our route would ultimately take us all the way down to Brig, with many thrilling kilometres of downhill and no end of bike fun.
The view down the valley, with Brig in the background. At this point we still had plenty of trail ahead, including rocky, technical sections and later a beautiful traverse. Afterwards, we followed a “Suone”, one of the historical irrigation channels of Valais, created over the centuries to bring water to the dry fields and pastures, vineyards and orchards. Many of these channels are still in operation and are carefully maintained.
Our tour ended in Brig, right at the railway station, where we began our journey home. Every hour there’s a direct train to the airport. The journey takes a bit longer than two hours, plenty of time to sort out your luggage and pack the bikes for the flight. In all, our trip took 56 hours, starting and finishing at Zurich Airport. Add check-in and flight time – say two times 3 hours – and you end up with 62 hours for the whole Swiss adventure. The sensational trails, superb regional cuisine, local stories and good times with the guys from Rodeo were just incredible. Thanks, Rodeo Bike Co. – we’ll be back.
This trip was made possible by:
Trail King & Queen – online store for bike clothing for men and women
Rodeo Bike Co. – local expert guides for real bike adventures
All pictures by Simon Ricklin