Novice Rhine trip advice wanted: Disentis-Chur-Lake Konstanz-Rheinfall-Basel
I am a novice biker and have exercise-induced asthma, so there is a limit to how hard I can exert myself (if I build up my endurance it does help, though). Anyway, last summer my daughter and I stored our luggage and spent four days on bikes on the Saar and Mosel. We only biked about 70 miles total, which is fine by me as we weren't trying to set any records, just have a good time. And we did.
We're looking at another Europe trip this summer, with substantially more days spent on bike. We'll probably spend seven days on bike as a entire-family trip, another seven on bike with just my daughter and me, and then seven with my daughter and me without the bikes. We're going to rent bikes.
For one trip, I'm thinking about renting bikes at one of the Swiss train stations as I understand we can return it to any other train station. I realize you serious bikers wouldn't rent a bike, but I'd buy one at Wal-Mart and throw it away if Europe had Wal-Marts. I'm not looking for quality. The Rhine starts around Andermatt, so we're going to perhaps spend the night there but we will not start biking from there, oh, no. We'll take a train or whatever 10 km to Oberalppass to start. From Oberalppass to Illanz is about 50 km with a drop of 1300 meters, all downhill. Much of this drop is in the first 15 km, with a 750 meter drop. Are there any safety issues with this? Are there pretty good guard rails in case one of my idiot kids decides to go too fast?
After Ilanz there is a pretty good hill to climb, so I'm not sure whether will will attempt it or take a train into Chur. After Chur is 100 km of what looks like easy riding to Lake Konstanz; few hills and a 150 meter overall drop. After spending some time biking around Lake Konstanz we plan to go on at least to Rheinfall and maybe as far as Basel. Going to Basel means less time for Lake Konstanz.
1. What's the bike path situation like? I know Lake Konstanz is pretty well surrounded, but what about the first stage coming down from the Alps? Is this on public road or path? Are there good bike paths from Konstanz to Basel? The Saar and Mosel frequently have high-quality paths on both sides of the rivers. is the Rhine the same?
2. Any advice on where to start or where to finish? Where we start or finish has a lot to do with how much time we have for what is in between. When I started planning this trip it was going to be a circle of Lake Konstanz. Then I got to thinking about how fun it would be start by biking down from the Alps. Then I read about Rheinfalls. I'm sure many of you have started planning a trip only to have it morph into something else. Please note that we do not plan to do more than perhaps 25 miles per day on average, and maybe less. There may be a few days when we do more, but I can also see where we might have a few 10-15 mile days as well. Many of you could no doubt start at Andermatt, circle Lake Konstanz and then go to Basel easily in seven days, but that's just not what we're trying to accomplish.
I guess what I'm asking in the above question is if you had to rate and describe the legs, how would you do so?
a. Oberalppass to Disentis
b. Disentis to Chur
c. Chur to Lake Konstanz
d. Konstanz to Rheinfall and Rheinfall area
e. Rheinfall to Basel
3. Any other comments or observations?
Thanks to any of you with experience on this for any advice
Did exactly this route the same year (2014)
We used an operator that took our luggage. By far the hardest leg is Disentis to Chur. (We didn't even try Oberalp to Disentis, which looks worse on the map.) As the first day, with legs that hadn't done a real ride since the previous summer, it was an effort. Starting with the hard day is ironic. It's net downhill but there are several steep climbs, by our standards, and quite a bit is on the shoulder (verge) of a highway. The rest of the route was easy, even for middle-aged me, mostly on bike paths or very quiet roads. One place we deliberately went on a closed trail and carried the bikes over some fallen trees; another we took a significant shortcut on another busy road. But mostly everything was well-signed. My son with allergies to pollen had several difficult days; if you have asthma, this might be a trigger. We also had a vicious heat wave, with temperatures 30-35C for the first half of the trip.
If you are in shape, I recommend the full itinerary. Full of wonderful surprises. Otherwise, start in Chur and skip the Alpine section.