My ride on Alpine Bike

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near Aigle

near Aigle

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Alpine Bike

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I found the route quite hard work, but very satisfying and rewarding. And a good dinner can make up for a lot of struggle and effort during the day. I wasn’t sure that I’d be able to follow the whole route, but it turned out to be fine.
Scuol-Aigle September 2009

I did this trip on my own in September 2009. I’m not a mountain biker; my bike has mountain bike wheels but no suspension. I packed as light as I could; Carradice saddle bag and a stuff sack at the front.

I found the route quite hard work, but very satisfying and rewarding. And a good dinner can make up for a lot of struggle and effort during the day. I wasn’t sure that I’d be able to follow the whole route, but it turned out to be fine.

The route is extremely well signposted, but I’d recommend the Switzerland Mobility guidebook to the route. It has good maps, and a sensible if quirky description of the route (e.g. describing St Moritz: ‘…a preferential destination for celebrities. Hermann Hesse enjoyed his stays as much as Nietzsche’).
Friday 11 September 2009 UK-Scuol

Train from UK to Scuol, which took all day. Worth knowing that Eurostar takes a limited number of bikes; you need to book ahead, but the bike doesn’t need to be packed in any way, which is helpful. Eurostar to Paris Nord; Paris Est to Zurich; Zurich to Scuol (two changes, but trains really do connect with each other in Switzerland).
Saturday 12 September Scuol-Livigno

Three passes today, Costainas, Doss Radond, and Alpisella; the second was a long climb. A bit of walking down Costainas and through the Val Mora gorge, but very grand scenery, and marmots (always good to see and hear). Lots of places to stay in Livigno, and the rain only set in later.
Sunday 13 September Livigno-Maloja

Misty sunshine. I was a bit worried about Pass Chaschauna, and it turned out to be a long uphill walk (though I saw someone cycle up). Then a new phenomenon in my cycling experience; walking down as well. The first half hour or so is gritty eroded gulleys, but it flattens out to a valley with a lovely downhill track. Then a pleasant valley along to St Moritz. (In general I found the route most enjoyable where it veered away from roads and populated valleys altogether; stretches which paralleled roads were pleasant, but sometimes felt a bit close to the hustle and bustle.) Interesting little stretch from St Moritz to Maloja; if you follow all the ‘Alpine Bike 1’ signs you’ll often find yourself suddenly darting off across hillsides and up and down random slopes.
Monday 14 September Maloja-Thusis

Dramatic downhill tarmac hairpins to start, then up a lumpy path and over Septimer Pass (‘a climb that makes you break out in a sweat’ says the guidebook, guilty of understatement). Frost at the top. Then down past Bivio towards Tiefencastel. When the route isn’t crossing high passes it goes through bucolic Swiss landscapes, past barns and cows and immaculately manicured countryside. Then on to Thusis, with the final stretch past rocky cliffs and through a tunnel (with solar lighting; they think of everything…).
Tuesday 15 September Thusis-Vals Platz

Long long climb through green meadows and woods to Glaspass. Then a comical downhill, walking all the way (rocks, roots, drop-offs) to Safien Platz, for a very good lunch in a restaurant by the reservoir at the bottom of the hill. A drizzly afternoon up and round Tomulpass, with more walking both up and down, especially down; a very rocky path for a good three kilometres.
Wednesday 16 September Vals Platz-Disentis

A drizzly day, and, perhaps because of the drizzle, a bit dull. Down then up to Lumbrein on tiny roads, then up Alp Nova, also on tarmac. The descent was half mud-half cowpat.
Thursday 17 September Disentis-Andermatt

A lot of climbing today, but very pleasant and not too hard, somehow. Pass Maighels was impressive in itself, but also had a mountain hut serving meals and more marmots, both guaranteed to create a sense of well-being. More walking downhill from the top of the pass. One mountain biker passed me and stopped for a chat; he seemed to hop and dance his way down on his bike, I fell over just walking! Ah well…
Friday 18 September Andermatt-Hotel Rosenlaui (just before Schwarzwaldalp)

Downhill from Andermatt, following the railway, then a climb up from Wassen through forests and meadows, with grand mountain views. A final long steep zigzag to the top (walking, of course). The first 4 km down were along a busy road, and not much fun, but then, true to form, the route dived off down the middle of the valley, along grassy tracks and through more woods. Having a bit of energy left in Innertkirchen I pressed on, to get a headstart on the next day’s climb. Ended up in the faded grandeur of the Hotel Rosenlaui, a very characterful place in spectacular mountains, with the best dinner of the trip. Today also marked a change in the weather; generally grey skies with broken sun and occasional drizzle gave way to blue.
Saturday 19 September Hotel Rosenlaui-Wilderswil (just before Interlaken)

A day of two passes. First a quiet paved road up to Grosse Scheideg, then down to Grindelwald (busy and touristy), then a dirt road up again to Kleine Scheideg (even busier and more touristy). Quite a steep downhill to Wengen, though for once I managed to cycle it, then even steeper (walking), finally a swoosh along the river to Wilderswil, and very nice to be cycling on the flat.
Sunday 20 September Wilderswil-Adelboden

An early morning spin through Interlaken (the largest town on the route, though the ‘Alpine Bike 1’ signs never faltered). After Interlaken the countryside is quite suburban for a while, but eventually the route gets into the backcountry. Lots of forest track, and a splendid downhill to Frutigen. After Frutigen came a fiend of an uphill, all tarmac, but steep. ‘We struggle our way uphill’ says the guidebook, and a struggle it was.
Monday 20 September Adelboden-Chateau d’Oex

An easy climb up and descent down the Hahnenmoospass; quite a novelty not to have to get off and push at any point. Then another very pleasant riverside path to Zweisimmen. Some fantastic short woodland stretches after Zweisimmen. Chateau d’Oex marked the German/French language boundary; a mountain called Gummfluh on one side of the valley, and one called Vanil Noir on the other.
Tuesday 20 September Chateau d’Oex-Aigle

The last day. The signs uncharacteristically disappeared on Les Mossettes, but a bit of fence-climbing and field-traversing found the route again. Leysin to Aigle started out through a forest on a treacherously narrow track on a slope; at the far end was a sign saying ‘Dangerous! Only attempt with walking boots’. Then emphatically down and out of the mountains to Aigle, where the signs, and the route, finally end.
Wednesday 21 September Aigle


Pottering round the forest tracks to the east of town.
Thursday 22 September Aigle-UK

Train to Geneva, train to Paris (Lyon), cycle across Paris (30 minutes), Eurostar to London.
Finally, some random thoughts

- At least front suspension would be good. All the other cyclists I saw were real mountain bikers.

- I think (though someone will prove me wrong!) that cycle camping this route would be almost impossibly hard work. For me at least there were substantial stretches of pushing and pulling, so keeping the bike as light as possible seems a good idea. Racks and panniers would take a terrible pounding.

- September seemed a good time to do it; accommodation was very easy to find.

- The route can be split into as many or as few stages as you like; almost every village and town has places to stay.
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