Europe provides the pavement for the world’s most famous bike races. Here, professionals battle it out in legendary races over the steepest Alpine passes, rattle over cobblestones and race down famous valleys. But the roads have long since ceased to belong to the pros alone. In addition to road cyclists, who always reel off day trips with the lightest of luggage, there is also a lively bikepacking scene as well as ambitious mountain bikers who avoid the asphalt and seek out the bumpy routes through forests and over mountain flanks.
In Velo Veritas – a terrain for every creed
By bike, the Swiss means the road bike. The asphalt roads go up to 2,600 meters in the Valais. These are perfect conditions for road cyclists. In addition, Swiss drivers have a reputation for being courteous. They give cyclists plenty of room on the well-maintained roads, which rarely have a pothole.
Mountain bikers are met on signposted routes along the mountain flanks. They often share trails with hikers. Wherever possible, hikers and mountain bikers are separated. In many cantons in Switzerland there are already specialized mountain bike parks. Everywhere else, the coexistence rule applies. Bikers should reduce their speed when hikers are in sight and also give them the right of way.
Biker etiquette also includes paying attention to the preservation of hiking trails and refraining from braking maneuvers that cause the rear wheel to lock. This is because the skid marks are particularly damaging to the natural and gravel paths. Furthermore one wishes from the Bikern to drive only on signposted ways and not over meadows or open area. As part of a code of honor, bikers should also show consideration for animals and close pasture gates. This wish list for peaceful coexistence on the mountain does not always come true. A tour of mountain biking trails in the Valais was no longer possible during our stay. The first snowfall at the end of September allowed our team only tours by road bike.
Tips from the bike coach
Bike guide Roland Holzer is a bike all-rounder. The bike expert from picturesque Albinen is more than just a companion in unknown terrain. Roland Holzer runs Rolis Mobile Bikestation in Albinen. He rents racing bikes, bikes and e-bikes, offers bike transport for individual tour planning. From repairs to tour accompaniment, everything revolves around the bike. Roland Holzer also gives tips on all aspects of cycling technique. Especially for beginners in the mountains, it is exciting to get a lot of interesting information about road biking on the way.
Tips for the perfect wheel setting and in what ratio the saddle should be to the handlebars are given by the bike guide before the start of the day’s stage. The tour starts quite tranquilly in the Rhone Valley near Turtmann. The first serious climbs are not yet in sight, the bike path is wide and so there is a practical lesson on riding with clipless pedals. A real guide wouldn’t be a guide if he didn’t also tell the tour participants something about the landscape they are cycling past. So the tour also leads through Leuk. From a distance, you can also see the old bishop’s castle from 1254, for whose extensive restoration the world-famous Ticino star architect Mario Botta was commissioned. Behind Leuk begins the Pfynwald conservation area, a regional nature park, with one of the largest contiguous pine forests in the Alps and an important floodplain conservation area.
Before the climb via Varen up to Albinen, Roland Holzer provides his tour participants, who are otherwise mostly on the flat Rhineland, with a few rules of conduct on the mountain. When you get out of the saddle on the mountain, you should shift up two gears right away, advises Roland Holzer, because otherwise you step into a kind of trough and waste energy. On longer stages, Holzer is not concerned with speed; rather, he says, it is important to change the type of exertion from time to time. In any case, Roland’s cycling rule remains in the touring memory: “As long as you can still talk, you’re not exerting yourself enough,” but the words “I don’t want any more” don’t count for him!
Fantastic infrastructure for racing cyclists and bikers
Mountain biking has been in great demand in recent years. Certified bike guides work in the respective regions. Their addresses can be obtained from the local tourist office. In addition, there are maps of designated tours for racing bikes and many tips on loops and trails for mountain bikers. In Ticino and Valais, the conditions for touring are really good.
Tourism offices provide overviews of certified biker hotels and biker-friendly accommodations. Amenities range from separate and lockable bike rooms as well as tools for maintenance, to e-bike charging stations, to laundry service for bikers and special menus for the energy-hungry and exhausted guests. In some places, on the day of departure, after check-out and the last little tour, guests are given the opportunity to take a shower.
The Walliser Stube Godswärgisstubu in Albinen
If your own tour takes you to the picturesque village of Albinen, we recommend a stop at the Walliser Stube Godswärgisstubu. There is a midday meal and a multi-course evening menu. Roger Haudenschild is at the stove. In addition to the homemade original spelt bread, you can eat in the Godwärgisstubu above all very regional and very seasonal, because many ingredients come from the gardens in the village or from the meadows. In the rustic dining room full of mementos from the old days, not only exhausted cyclists will feel at home. Reservations are recommended, because the food is only cooked here when guests have announced themselves.
- The canton of Valais has its own website about bicycle tourism
- Route planning for road bike (velo) and biker
The research trip was partly supported on site by Switzerland Tourism