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  1. #1
    Zen Master Miles2go's Avatar
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    Switzerland & Austria... What do you suggest?

    We've finally settled on where we'll be spending 3 weeks+ of touring this June/July. We'll probably fly into Geneva and out somewhere else like Vienna or Munich.

    Share your thoughts. What are the must see, must visit and must rides in these countries? It's wide open at this point. I haven't even begun to look at maps.

    We're seeking the stunning vistas rather than art and big cities. Of course a couple big cities will be a must.




    Ron
    South Ogden, Utah
    http://miles2go.crazyguyonabike.com
    http://www.pbase.com/canyonlands/

  2. #2
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    I've done 23 self contained tours in the Alpine Region from France to the Dolomites. (hotels, no camping) If it's scenic vistas you want, then I assume you're mentally prepared for a lot of serious pass climbing (with the payback of outrageous descents!). Starting south and east of Geneva in Sion or Martigny, you can make a super tour through the Alps. But I think that Vienna is too far east as an end point if you plan on doing mountains, as the real mountains run out well west of Vienna. I might suggest you start and end in Zurich and make a big circle. Zurich Airport has a good left luggage place where you can store your box, and also there is a left luggage place at the main train station in the city.

  3. #3
    Knox Gardner
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    Ron,

    Ok, I am kinda dense, but could not figure out your email in the previous post. It could be becuase I tend to look at this when I should be sleeping or am too jittery with coffee.

    Drop me a line: knoxg at hotmail dot com, maybe I can give you and Nancy a couple bits on Austria. As part of my summer trip, I did the Danube trail from Regensburg to Budapest with a side trip into Styria-Halstadt to hang out with a friend for a week. The trail system was pretty good and the biking swell. I really enjoyed Vienna (though the day in was probably the most boring day on the whole tour). There is a fine, if bit expensive camping that was very easy to get into Vienna for site seeing. I would have liked more time in Austria. I was expecting it to be 'stern, clean, efficeint, and boring"...but it was just swell. I like how Austrians get all defensive if you think they are Germans.

    I'm envious of you plan!

    Knox Gardner
    www.bikenerd.blogspot.com

    There is a great system of maps (even if the "trails" aren't marked) for Austria.

  4. #4
    Macro Geek
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    Switzerland is about as close to bicycle heaven as anyplace on earth. The entire country is crisscrossed with bicycle routes, either on-road lanes and dedicated paved paths. And the Alps are full of stunning vistas.

    Mountain passes can be EXTREMELY intense. You have to be prepared both psychologically and physically. I find it much easier to psych myself for climbing than to do the slog work of preparing physically. When I crossed the Swiss Alps in 2004, I had not done much training, and muscle fatigue nearly ruined the trip. By the end of my first all-day climb, I had lost the ability to deliver power to the pedals. In retrospect, I should have rested a day or two, but I pressed on. The long and short of it was that I pushed myself so hard, so far past the point of exhaustion, that I actually could not pedal anymore. I needed almost a full week of TOTAL rest before I could face the saddle again. It was the worst bicycle trip of my life: physical distress mostly eclipsed the beauty and grandeur of the Alps. It is a good thing I took photos. I hardly remember anything... except wishing the trip was over!

    You want stunning vistas? I went south from Zurich, spent three very pleasant days riding through the foothills of the Alps, climbed and descended Gotthard pass, and eventually, rode south through Ticino, the Italian-speaking part of Switzerland, and into Italy. I got excellent, free bike maps of Ticino by calling the Swiss tourist office.

  5. #5
    Zen Master Miles2go's Avatar
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    Hey Knox.

    I'll shoot you a line. For the record, I'm envious of your plan as well. I wish I had the time off to go coast to coast this summer. We're doing that in the next few years though, right after I retire. Probably take the TransAm route and hope to see June Currie.

    Ron
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    http://miles2go.crazyguyonabike.com
    http://www.pbase.com/canyonlands/



    Quote Originally Posted by knoxg
    Ron,

    Ok, I am kinda dense, but could not figure out your email in the previous post. It could be becuase I tend to look at this when I should be sleeping or am too jittery with coffee.

    Drop me a line: knoxg at hotmail dot com, maybe I can give you and Nancy a couple bits on Austria. As part of my summer trip, I did the Danube trail from Regensburg to Budapest with a side trip into Styria-Halstadt to hang out with a friend for a week. The trail system was pretty good and the biking swell. I really enjoyed Vienna (though the day in was probably the most boring day on the whole tour). There is a fine, if bit expensive camping that was very easy to get into Vienna for site seeing. I would have liked more time in Austria. I was expecting it to be 'stern, clean, efficeint, and boring"...but it was just swell. I like how Austrians get all defensive if you think they are Germans.

    I'm envious of you plan!
    Knox Gardner
    www.bikenerd.blogspot.com

    There is a great system of maps (even if the "trails" aren't marked) for Austria.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Miles2go
    We've finally settled on where we'll be spending 3 weeks+ of touring this June/July. We'll probably fly into Geneva and out somewhere else like Vienna or Munich.

    Share your thoughts. What are the must see, must visit and must rides in these countries? It's wide open at this point. I haven't even begun to look at maps.

    We're seeking the stunning vistas rather than art and big cities. Of course a couple big cities will be a must.
    I cycled from Lugano, Switzerland, through northern Italy, into southern Austria a couple of years ago. The Dolomites certainly have stunning vistas. You can get an idea of it from my journal, at http://www.roundtheworld.ca/other/alp.htm.

  7. #7
    Zen Master Miles2go's Avatar
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    The more I look at info on Switzerland the more I think we'll spend our entire three weeks checking it out. I have the map booklet that includes the Veloland Schweiz national bike routes numbered 4, 5 and 6. I'm now thinking we may do some kind of figure 8 or zig zag across several of the nine routes.
    Schweiz National Cycling Routes (For best results, click on listings under the "Text" column.)

    Aside from the Matterhorn, I haven't assembled a list of must sees but probably will start. As soon as we can decided on the dates we'll be springing for the airline tickets. Nancy is done with school on the 3rd of June. To miss 4th of July travelers I think we'll plan for a 10 June to 10 July departure and return.

    DSchlichting: Thanks for the tip on southern mountains. We won't have any boxes or luggage we're leaving behind since we'll doing the Bike Friday/suitcase trailers thing. That said, we may be flying into Zurich.

    paul2: Thanks for the link to your journal. I enjoyed reading it. We'll be saving Italy for another trip, or another couple of trips. We have friends that tour parts of Italy every two years. There's so much to see.

    acantor: What was the lowest gearing available on your touring bike? We plan to spend the first few days following one of the easier routes and then jump right into the mountains. I plan to have 19" granny gears on both of our bikes. That's worked on grades up to 20% for our past tours. I'm probably more concerned with steep descents.





    Ron
    South Ogden, UT
    http://miles2go.crazyguyonabike.com
    http://www.pbase.com/canyonlands/

  8. #8
    Macro Geek
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    Quote Originally Posted by Miles2go
    acantor: What was the lowest gearing available on your touring bike? We plan to spend the first few days following one of the easier routes and then jump right into the mountains. I plan to have 19" granny gears on both of our bikes. That's worked on grades up to 20% for our past tours. I'm probably more concerned with steep descents.
    If you want to start a tempest in a teapot on the BikeForums, ask for opinions on the "best" gearing set-up for touring in mountainous regions.

    In the past, these threads tend to run their course after a few days, and the consensus reached is something like this:

    * Gearing is very personal subject, and people have strong opinions. Typical response: "If it works for you, go for it!"

    * It is better to err on the side of lower gears. Typical response: "Ask yourself if, during your climbs, you wished for a lower gear. If you answer YES, go for it!"

    If you have managed to struggle up 20% grades, all I can say is "wow." You are probably stronger, younger, and fitter than me! (When you get to be my age, almost everyone is!) The grades in Switzerland tend to be on the gentle side. I don't remember encountering anything greater than 10% or 12% (although no doubt steeper hills exist). But these gentle climbs can be miles and miles long. I travelled uphill six or seven hours one day, and that nearly did me in!

  9. #9
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    Another vote for Switzerland. I absolutely loved it! But be prepared. If you start getting tired and want to take the trains, you will not be able to bring your bikes on the trains. Be prepared for the climbing. It is very intense, as others pointd out.

    Try to get a bike with a triple. I know people frown down on it, but dragging all that stuff through the Alps is not my idea of fun without some really low gears when you get to those really steep, long climbs.

    Staying in Switzerland for the whole three weeks- that sounds like a plan. You'll really want to linger, and you don't want to rush that country at all. If you're there early enough in June, perhaps you'll even catch a stage or two of the Tour de Suisse. That's a lot of fun.

    Koffee

  10. #10
    Zen Master Miles2go's Avatar
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    No no no... I don't need any gearing advice. I've been on the bike forums and mail lists long enough to experience all the life or death equipement choices many times over. Skid lids or not, trailers or panniers, Arkels or Ortleibs, clippless or not, brifters or not, lugs or no lugs, guns or no guns, wave or not to wave...and on and on.

    Nancy and I love climbing mountain roads on bicycles. That had a lot to do with our choice of Switzerland and Austria for our first bike trip to Europe.

    The great thing about cycling is that it's low impact. I hope to still be riding in new places 50 years after I originally started riding seriously. With cycling, that's not such a stretch.


    Tastes Great!...Less Filling!!

    Ron
    South Ogden, UT
    http://miles2go.crazyguyonabike.com
    http://www.pbase.com/canyonlands/


    Quote Originally Posted by acantor
    If you want to start a tempest in a teapot on the BikeForums, ask for opinions on the "best" gearing set-up for touring in mountainous regions.

    In the past, these threads tend to run their course after a few days, and the consensus reached is something like this:

    * Gearing is very personal subject, and people have strong opinions. Typical response: "If it works for you, go for it!"

    * It is better to err on the side of lower gears. Typical response: "Ask yourself if, during your climbs, you wished for a lower gear. If you answer YES, go for it!"

    If you have managed to struggle up 20% grades, all I can say is "wow." You are probably stronger, younger, and fitter than me! (When you get to be my age, almost everyone is!) The grades in Switzerland tend to be on the gentle side. I don't remember encountering anything greater than 10% or 12% (although no doubt steeper hills exist). But these gentle climbs can be miles and miles long. I travelled uphill six or seven hours one day, and that nearly did me in!

  11. #11
    Zen Master Miles2go's Avatar
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    GASP!! These that would frown on the third chainring certainly have not toured where I like to tour with a bike and gear total of between 90 and 115 pounds!

    Thanks for the affirmation of the place. We were planning to start in July but after doing some reading I think we'll land there in the second week of June. The 70th Tour de Suisse didn't even enter my mind!! Thanks for bringing that up. One more thing to look forward to while there.

    Lastly, what do you mean we won't be able to take bikes on the trains. I thought this country was famous for allowing it. I think I've even recently seen photos of rail cars full of bicycle racks. Did I wonder off into another country? However, it's not something we'll need to worry about one way or another. We'll just fold our Bike Fridays up into their suitcase trailers and check them as luggage.








    Quote Originally Posted by koffee brown
    Another vote for Switzerland. I absolutely loved it! But be prepared. If you start getting tired and want to take the trains, you will not be able to bring your bikes on the trains. Be prepared for the climbing. It is very intense, as others pointd out.

    Try to get a bike with a triple. I know people frown down on it, but dragging all that stuff through the Alps is not my idea of fun without some really low gears when you get to those really steep, long climbs.

    Staying in Switzerland for the whole three weeks- that sounds like a plan. You'll really want to linger, and you don't want to rush that country at all. If you're there early enough in June, perhaps you'll even catch a stage or two of the Tour de Suisse. That's a lot of fun.

    Koffee
    Last edited by Miles2go; 11-26-05 at 10:56 AM.
    Ron - Washington
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  12. #12
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    I was so glad to have the bike friday. On commuter trains, they have bike compartments. But for the longer distance trains and the fast trains, you cannot take your bike on the trains. You'll have to take the bike and fold it up and stick it in the suitcase. You'll be glad you did once you get on that Golden Pass Panoramic Rail train!

    Koffee

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    One of the most gorgeous roads I have ever biked was up the Grosse Scheidegg starting from Grindelwald, Switzerland. This suberb road climbs up directly across from the north face of the Eiger. Simply stunning. It's certainly not the highest (1961m) or most difficult pass in Switzerland, but for me, it was the most beautiful.

    One of the most bucolic regions I've ever biked in is the small canton of Appenzell in NE Switz. It has some of the most pastoral scenery to be found anywhere.

    In Austria, the Salzkammergut region (a bit east of Salzburg) is a lovely area of small lakes and mid-size mountains. The cycling is quite easy because the roads are along the lakeshores and interconnecting streams.

    Of course a couple big cities will be a must.
    I found Geneva to be extraordinarily dull, and Zurich not far behind. Basel, Bern, Lausanne, & Lugano, were all more enjoyable for me than the 2 best-known Swiss cities.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by koffee brown
    Another vote for Switzerland. I absolutely loved it! But be prepared. If you start getting tired and want to take the trains, you will not be able to bring your bikes on the trains. Koffee
    I took my bike on the train from Baden to Zurich to Lugano without any problems.

  15. #15
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    No problem to bring bikes on trains. Some intercity trains will allow you to carry it to/from the baggage car and some not. This carry to/from deal is a bit of a hassle when carrying panniers etc., then trying to handle the bike. If you check the bike, then it may not travel on the same train as you. If you are going to a fairly major station, it may get the later in the and to a small station, in a day or so. Most local or regional trains have "bike car" with racks or something inside to hold the bikes and seats somewhere else in the car. This works pretty well with a loaded bike.

  16. #16
    cycling fanatic Ken Brown's Avatar
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    If anyone wants to see the Alps without serious climbing, the Tauern Radweg in Austria is excellent. See my photos at http://webhome.idirect.com/~brown/austria1.htm

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