Bicycle Touring Experiences from Switzerland

Switzerland

On this page we attempt to make available the experience of individual bicycle tourists who travel to Switzerland (you can share your experiences here).



Bike Switzerland Rentals

We have a new website at www.bikeswitzerlandrentals.com
You are able to rent our bikes and have them delivered and dropped off anywhere in Switzerland. We'd also be happy to store your luggage and / or bikes if you are in Geneva.

John Klemme, April 14, 2009

Rolling Across Europa

My site tells the story of my ride from Lviv, Ukraine to Napoli to London in 2006. (There's just a little info on Heathrow toward the end, plus mention of the Channel ferry I took.) There are many stories and photographs, with a lot of information for other travelers. Hopefully, others will find it helpful. I rode as an amateur and completed my route, which shows that you don't have to be a great cyclist to travel far (about 7900 km). The trip also raised a little money for HIV orphans in Ukraine, and I hope to do a longer ride in 2008 and raise a lot more!!

John Robinson, June 28, 2007

Air France charge for bikes in boxes

AF charge for bikes even if you don't have other bagage to check in. It cost me €40 to take the bike from Stockholm / Arlanda - Paris Charles de Gaulle - Geneva and €20 on the way home.

The bike was in a normal bike cardboard box and I had no other bagage to check in (24 kg). I should have taken a regular suit case with protection pads, clothes etc. and not left things at home since I had to pay for the bike regardles.

It is no problem to travel with foldable/kevlar MTB tires in the carry on bagage but pedals raised some concern at CDG (but one of the security staff was a cyclist so he let it go with out questions, no problem checkin in at ARN). On the way home I packed the pedals in the bike box. This was in late August 2006.

Tobbe Arnesson, September 03, 2006

Swiss Rail

Train companies should visit Switzerland to see how it should be done. Every passenger train, with the exception I think of TGV and a few other high speed interurban trains, has some carriages with a bicycle symbol on the side, which indicates that one end of the carriage has been fitted for carrying bicycles. You get on with your bike, hang it from a padded hook, take a seat in the carriage, and reverse the procedure at your destination.

Some people might wince at the thought of hanging a bicycle from a hook in a moving train, but the hook has a heavy plastic covering to protect the rim and there is a stabilising slot that the rear wheel fits in to prevent much sway in a moving carriage. We transported our bikes this way on numerous occasions and they never suffered any damage.

Having a rail system like this really expands the possibilities for day rides - eg we rode the Furka, Grimsel, and Breunig passes as a day ride by catching an early morning train from Zug to Andermatt, riding the passes, which took most of the day, and then catching a train back from Sarnen to Zug via Luzern. And we saw and talked to numerous local cyclists who used the trains in the same way.

Nick

Nick Payne, March 10, 2005

BikeFriday since 9/11

In May 2002 I was Ride Director for a Bicycle Adventure Club ride in Holland. We had 71 participants (2 non-bikers) on three barges of Bike & Barge, Holland. Of those, there were 14 BFs, one a Tendem. I had suggested that each person with a BF case indicate to Security at various airports around the country that IT was a piece of excercise equipment. On arriving in Amsterdam, no reports were received of trouble . I cannot speak for return trips. But there must have been dozens of airlines and airports represented on this trip.
Frankly, I have literally been all-over the world with my BF on 24 trips, and the only complaint I have is that someone once stole the extra-safety belt around the Carlton case, and another time something punctured the case - no real damage. Otherwise, TROUBLE FREE

Wes Conner, June 03, 2003

Shipping Services, Worldwide

Hi folks,

From Chile and to Chile, Also to Bolivia, or through my Agents in Mexico, Colombia, Ecuador, Argentina, Perú, etc. I can help you Shipping your staf worldwide. If your comming to Chile on tours, Biking, etc. Just e-mail me, I was a Traveller and have helped friend from USA, Australia, New Zealand shipping their bikes, etc.

Francisco Herrera Barnachea, May 27, 2003

Switzerland

One way to save a little bit of money would be to rent a tandem, which is usually less expensive than two individual bikes. I seem to remember that I rented one in Neuchatel for 50.- CHF a day (the shop is Oberbike, phone +41 32 724 91 91).

That said, it's not as convenient as renting in a train station, as you have to bring it back to the same shop and you can only bring it back when it's open.

Another rental shop I found in Lausanne is the following:
http://www.delacombaz.ch/blade_bike.html

Their Web page is not really clear about prices. It seems to be cheap, but it's not clear for how long the bikes can be rented. I guess you should contact them.

HTH, Michel.

Michel Schinz, May 13, 2003

Roobsta Offroad Cycle Touring Alps & Pyrenees

Difficult offroad routes through the Alps and Pyrenees crossing France/Spain/Andorra and France/Italy/Switzerland/Germany borders

Roobsta, February 13, 2003

Bravobike trips in Spain and Switzerland

Dear George,

With great interest we have been looking at your website and we would like to be included in your directory offering our fantastic bicycling tours combined with cultural visits as well as an introduction into the Spanish lifestyle, tradition and gastronomy.

We kindly invite you to visit our website www.bravobike.com in English.

Kaspar Winteler
The Bravo Bike Team
Bravo Bike .com the cycling experience in Spain
New address and phones:

  • BRAVO Bike. Calle Montera 25/27.20013 Madrid.
  • Tel: 00 34 91 559 55 23 / Cell:00 34 607 448440.
  • info@bravobike.com
  • Bravo Bike S.L., March 23, 2002

    Travel Notes: Geneva & Tunisia

    Hello everybody,

    Security at the Geneva airport was nothing compared with American security. I think the authorities here are not afraid that Muslim extremists will harm Geneva, because it has so many Muslims in the city. They may harm their own. The airplane was full of terrorists, or at least people looking like them. However nothing happened.

    After we arrived in Africa, at Tunis Airport I unfolded my bicycle, orient myself by sun and map and stared to ride toward Tunis city. It is much better to travel on bike compared with these hermetically closed boxes, called buses and railroad cars. You cannot stop them where you want or make them to turn where you want. Bike is a lot better, I really enjoy the freedom of bike riding. I get lost a couple times and asked locals using a technique which I developed long ago. I repeated medina, medina, medina and turn my head in different direction. Eventually they understand what I want and show me way to medina. Medina is a sort of downtown. Every city here has a medina, as every city in Mexico has a zokalo. I expected that people here do not know English, but some of them after few moments of mimic and hands conversation told me in good English: Sir, if you want to go to medina, then please make a right turn....

    Unlike America and England where Middle Eastern women wear scarf and garb (chadry i balaxon), women and man here wear European clothes. Their former president Bourguiba prohibit them to wear traditional clothes. He even prohibit them to fast in Ramadan! Like Ataturk prohibited Turks to wear feskas and like much earlier, Peter the Great cut boyar's beards. These guys know how to fight religious extremism.

    Actually, the general population of most countries of Middle East wants a more radical version of Islam to be implemented. And government have to apply very tough, un-democratic measures to prevent their population from self screwing (samoistiazania). Most notable examples are Turkey, Egypt and Algeria. If governments don't do this, all these countries would be under Taliban type government by now.

    This brings an interesting point. Is it always good to do what majority of people want? Think about Russian history. If government do what majority of people wanted in former USSR, than some of my readers would not be alive by now.

    I found a hotel with a leaking sink, but centrally located for 6 dollars and drank some local coffee with orange. They put quarter of orange in coffee, it is good, try it. Actually, this is paradise for coffee lovers. Coffee is excellent, better than in Starbucks and very cheap, cappuchino is 20 cents. Another interesting observation. They do not sell toilet paper here. Like everywhere in the East, people use water instead. So these who insists on doing their number two (kakat), a Western way have to postpone with this till returning home. Like it is usual in third world countries people like my bike and wanted to talk with me about it. It is nice. In Switzerland nobody paid attention.

    Generally, I like it here. I expected something like Morocco, but it is very different. People are friendly and behave in a civilized way. Nobody grabs you by the hand and pulls you to his carpet or souvenir shop, like in Egypt or Turkey.

    That's it for now
    Alex Mumzhiu
    Tunis Tunis Africa
    9 pm Mar 12 2002

    PS. My Russian reders now could read my reports in translation to Russian at: http://www.bicycle.spb.ru/lyrics/mumzhiu/


    Alex Mumzhiu, March 11, 2002

    Zurich, Switzerland

    We found it very easy to get between the main Bahnhof in Zurich and the airport. On the advice of a local cyclist who happened to be a ticket clerk in the train station, we took a commuter train. There is no problem outside of peak commuting hours of 6-9 a.m. and 3-6:30 p.m. (15:00-18:30). Get tickets at the station or the airport, telling the clerk you have a bike. Load your bike into the passenger area of any car and stand holding it in the roomy open area by the wide doors.

    We did it with assembled bikes, but doing it with boxed bikes isn't out of the question, especially if your box is on wheels and you go at a low-usage time of day

    Tom Webb, February 27, 2001

    Basel, Switzerland

    Basel, Switzerland ( Aeroport de Bale-Mulhouse-Freiburg), June 99:

    From the Basel international airport (locally called the Aeroport de Bale-Mulhouse-Freiburg), go right following the one-way terminal access street and downhill a short ways to an intersection. Go left here to a traffic circle less than a kilometer away.
    Signs will indicate the routes to various destinations.

    To ride into the Alsace area of France without going through the city of Mulhouse, follow the Blotzheim sign and then the Bartenheim signs to head north. There is a hotel in Bartenheim.

    Tom Webb, February 27, 2001

    French Trains

    Found on: touring@phred.org

    Have taken bicycles on trains in France on several occasions - it has not always been fun to say the least!

    A few pointers:
    France is probably the most bicycle friendly country in Europe in terms of its rich network of secondary (yellow) roads. On the other hand, the train system in France is the least accomodating to bicycles.

    Throughout France, bicycles are permitted on certain trains - the schedule will show a bicycle to indicate that bicycles are permitted on these routes. Be prepared to wait until off peak hours for these trains.

    The TGV will permit a bicycles as baggage - but be prepared to the baggage personnel to tell you to expect it to arrive in 3-4 days. (The word "baggage" here seems to have been derived from the word "garbage" >- and they really do not give a hoot about your lousy bicycle!!) Despite all of this, we have checked in our cycles as baggage on the TGV (high speed train) and it has arrived within the same day - except when returning to Paris when it took us 2 days. In any event, be prepared for baggage to take 2-3 days to arrive in some instances. In some cases, you can "carry" the bicycle on the train - but they do require you to put it in a case of some sort (hard case or fabric seems to be permitted, and sporting goods stores even sell these cases).

    The local trains (not TGV) will often permit bicycles to be carried at certain times. The schedule will show a picture of a bicycle indicating that the train does accept bicycles, and these may be carried onto the train. In these cases, here are designated cars which permit bicycles, usually the very first or very last car.

    In some towns, they do not permit a bicycle to be placed on the train at all, but by cycling a town or 2 away, one can find another town which does accept the bicycle.

    A number of stations in the Metro in Paris do not permit bicycles at all, so beware!

    Best advice is to avoid taking a bicycle into Paris using the Metro. The TGV is a possible conduit to getting your bicyle into and out of Paris. Leave enough time on the TGV if you do check your bicycle in as baggage - 1-3 days is usual.

    If you avoid the TGV and take local trains throughout France, there are usually anywhere from 2-5 trains per day which accept bicycles as carry-ons.

    France is otherwise a cyclist's paradise!
    Enjoy!

    btw, in other countries such as Germany, Switzerland, your bicycle is more than welcome - many even have special hooks to hang the bicycle during the trip. They seem more accepting of people like us taking our bicycles along as our transportation

    Leigh Durlacher

    Leigh Durlacher, February 10, 2001

    Easyjet, Zurich

    EasyJet. A friend and I have taken several trips (1999/2000) with EasyJet using Luton, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Zurich airports. They allow 25kg hold plus 5kg cabin - the latter is enforced more rigorously than the former. But excess charges are modest. In most cases the only necessary preparation was pedals off and tyres down. We have drop bars, so with flat bars you might have to do something extra. At Luton the bike goes through an X-ray machine - mine just fits. At Zurich I had to pay 10 SF for a large plastic bag. However a colleague flew Luton-Edinburgh and got their front wheel folded over. Easyjet paid £40 as a partial contribution towards taxi and replacement cost. Luton Airport is easy of access by bike - the new station is only about a mile away. At Glasgow Airport (Paisley) there is a local railway station a short cycle ride away - better than trying to find your own way into town. Edinburgh Airport is 10 miles from the city centre along big roads, quite a slog if the traditional westerly is a-blowing. Zurich Airport is easily accessible by train.
    Ivan Viehoff, August 01, 2000

    Swiss Rail, SwissAir, Trico Sports

    Good experience with Swiss Rail/SwissAir/Trico Sports hard bike luggage on a recent vacation.


    We left Boston on SwissAir for a six day cycling trip to lakes Maggiore, Varese, Como, and Lugano (Ticino Switzerland, and north Lombardy Italy) starting in Locarno and ending in Lugano. We used Zurich airport for our gateway.


    Upon landing at Zurich airport which contains a train station on the premises, we bought our train tickets to Locarno, and then checked the bikes at the train station in the airport through to Locarno. The cost of transporting two bikes (packed in TricoSports hardsided cases) and one large suitcase (containing bike racks, panniers, helmets) was 30 SFr.


    The bikes arrived in Locarno about three hours after we did. Since the trip to Locarno involved three separate trains, we were quite pleased. We assembled the bikes at the Locarno station and then sent on the empty cases and the empty suitcase to Lugano which was our destinaton at the end of the bicycling portion of the trip. Cost of shipping the empty cases from Locarno to Lugano was again 30 SFr. We did not need to buy a train ticket from Locarno to Lugano (we rode the bikes).


    After six days we picked up the bike boxes and suitcase at the Lugano train station. There were no charges for the six days of storage.


    We retrieved the boxes and packed up everything at the station. Tearing down the two bikes and wrapping everything up took about 1.5 hours.


    We then checked in at the Lugano train station for our flight to Boston, that is we got our airline boarding passes and checked our two bike boxes and one suitcase all the way through to Boston.


    We then traveled by rail to Zurich, where we spent our last night, with only a couple of half empty panniers as hand luggage. Turns out that the bikes were loaded on the same train as the train by which we traveled to Zurich. There was no charge for transporting the bikes from Lugano to Zurich airport because it was part of the SwissAir checkin.


    Everything arrived at Logan airport in Boston in great shape. All in all, minimum hassle and great service by SwissRail and SwissAir.


    Swissair did not charge us for transporting the bikes.


    We have packed bikes in flimsy airline boxes for many trips in the past, so we can't say enough good things about the Trico cases. Among their virtues is that two of them fit in the rear seat of a medium sized car (Maxima. Camry) making getting to and from the airport in the US less complex.


    Unlike cardboard boxes which disolve in the rain, the Trico boxes stand up quite well to the weather, and don't require lots of reinforcing duct tape to keep them from bursting.


    Stanley N. Lapidus, July 15, 2000

    Swiss Rail

    Just check them through to your destination railway station when you check in at Boston (see http://www.swissair.com/service/airport/index.htm#baggy under Rail Baggage and Fly Baggage) and do the same on the return. I've not done it with a bike but we do it all the time with ski equipment and it works wonderfully well. You should get the bikes the same day, probably the same train unless the connection is tight, on the way out and on the way back they'll be waiting with the other luggage at Boston. Switzerland is extremely bike friendly on the trains and usually very efficient also.


    Tony

    Tony Raven, May 29, 2000

    Swiss rail

    You'll find almost all your questions answered on the homepage of the Swiss Railways at http://www.sbb.ch/index_e.htm and search for "bicycle" or try the direct link http://s26282.sbb.ch:80/pv/veloselb_e.htm . In a nutshell: it's pretty easy traveling by train and bicylce in Switzerland. In almost all trains, except some international or express trains, there a whole waggon or a compartement where you can store your bike. You can get a one-day bicycle ticket, which will cost you 10 or 15 francs (around 7-8 US dollars). This entitles you to put your bike on any train for one whole day, provided you also have a ticket and ride on the same train. If the bike is boxed or in a special bag, you can even take it on the train free of charge (see the webpage for the details). By all means take the bikes with you on the same train. I don't have experience with sending empty boxes or other baggage from one train station to the other, but I know that you can do it. Either ask at the train station once you're in Switzerland or try sending an email to either frachtauskunft@sbb.ch (cargo) or railinfo@sbb.ch (general infos). I'm sure they'll answer your questions regarding shipping of baggage. As far as I know there's a left luggage counter at Zurich train station. There's also a special place where you can store your bike for about 5 francs per day (guarded storage). As Zurich is a pretty small town you might still consider taking them to the hotel. Probably the farthest hotel will be a 20 minute bus or tram ride from the main station.


    Adrian Tschaeppeler, May 28, 2000

    Munich, Germany

    Yes Munich airport has a box storage facility on one level down - sort of under the airport lobby. We had four bike boxes and strapped some together to reduce the cost as it went as one box. I think it cost about $50 for two weeks storage. We put our bikes together in the hallway across from the storage area and then walked our bikes a short ways inside the facility to the trains that can take you to the train station and downtown Munich. The guide books said that bikes aren't allowed during certain hours of rush hour but we did come back to the airport at 6:30 am during rush hour and they let us and the bikes with panniers onto the train. You can see our bike trip at our web site at: http://www.angelfire.com/oh3/parrybike/ The web site has a map and lists distances we road through Austria. and lots of pictures that do take a while to load.


    Bob Parry Cleveland, Ohio

    bob parry, March 06, 2000

    Swiss Rail

    Just saw your web pages and thought I'd send you a message ...

    We tried this year to go to France from Belgium with our new bikes, but gave up and went to Switzerland instead (using the overnight train). Our main stumbling block was that we had to dismantle our new bikes and carry them as hand luggage (didn't seem to be any other solution). This wouldn't have been so bad if all we had was the bikes, but we had bags for camping, etc. so we decided to find somewhere else to go instead ...

    We also looked for buses which took bikes, but the various companies we tried had all stopped doing it.

    Switzerland was great (and easy to get to from Belgium, since they had a very large and mostly empty luggage compartment) .....

    Yours,

    Paul.

    Paul Massey, August 13, 1999

    Geneva, Switzerland

    A bit belated but here's the deal on getting in and out of Geneva.

    In short no problem !

    The airport is relatively close to the city centre. I put the bike together in the airport terminal and obtained a central map from the Tourist counter. Exiting in front of the building there are cycle lanes that go under the busy freeway and up to the Exhibition halls on the opposite side of the road. From here a short trip through the grounds and head on to the lake shore.

    An alternative way is to use the train that arrives underneath the airport. The Swiss trains cater well for bicycles and you can see which ones to use on the time table. You could take a train east towards Nyon and start from there. However there is a cycle route (part of the National network) that loops around the northern side of the lake.

    For updates on the airport see http://www.geneva.ch/air.htm

    regards
    David

    David Cowie, January 12, 1999

    Bike Rental and trains in Switzerland, Italy

    Dear George,

    I read with interest your section on renting bikes in Europe, and I wanted to give you some updated information for your bike rental web page on how to rent bikes in Switzerland. We just got back from our own self-contained 3-week trip to Switzerland and Italy, and rented bikes in Switzerland from the railroad station. They have a program there called "Rent A Bike" which enables you to rent bikes of 7 or 21-speed for 76 Swiss Francs per week that you can return them to over 400 train stations in Switzerland.

    However, there are only 2 train stations in all of Switzerland that currently have 21-speed mountain bikes that have rear racks that are suitable to put panniers on that you can rent. These 2 railroad stations are located in the Swiss alps in Goeschenen or Airolo. We took the train up from Zurich up to Goeschenen which is on the Oberalp (over the alp) pass, rented them from there,and started our bike trip from Goeschenen. The railroad station bikes were new (only 2 months old) but a little on the heavy side with fenders, generator lights, kick stand, etc. and did not have toe clips.

    We purchased pedals with toe clips from a bike shop in the next town, on the Oberalp pass in Andermatt, which we donated to the Swiss railroad Rent A Bike program afterwards. We were able to put our panniers on the bikes and found them very comfortable. We had no mechanical problems with them, and took them into Italy without any problems. We climbed 6 mountain passes on these Rent A Bikes and were able to take them on the train from Bolzano,Italy to Verona, Milano and return them to the train station in Zurich, Switzerland without any major problems.

    I highly recommend this program for bike tourists who don't want the hassle of bringing their own bikes. Switzerland also has 6 very well marked national bike paths. The drivers were very friendly to us in Italy, as well, and would often go into the oncoming lane to give us our space. Italian bicyclists, who hardly ever would be burdened down with panniers, also gave us good advice about best routes to take, etc.

    In contrast, six years ago we brought our own bikes from the U.S. to Zurich and they did not arrive on the airline, but were found the next day with a dented top tube, 2 flat front and rear tires, and a dented frame. This time we got on the airplane like normal people, and we felt so liberated this time because we could change our itinerary to go anywhere we wanted, without worrying about how we could get our bikes back to our destination. With 400 train stations to choose from, it's not a problem to get back.

    I think the Internet address in Switzerland for tourism is http://www.schweizferien.ch or you could also try e-mail to: postoffice@switzerlandtourism.ch

    Most Swiss people just rent these bikes for a day or two, and seldom put panniers on them; however, I think these are a good alternative to bringing your own bike.

    Lynn Schneider

    Lynn Schneider, August 13, 1998

    Zurich, Switzerland

    I would imagine there will be signed bike routes from the airport to the town centre - you really can't avoid it and don't need to either as there are nice bike paths. More major roads that aren't autobahns normally have a marked bike lane. Certainly the road to Sihlbrugg does if you go that way. I think the main road to the Brunig Pass has bike lanes.

    You can buy cycling specific maps at the airport. If you want any more info then let me know.

    Neil Swingler

    Neil Swingler, July 04, 1998

    Swiss Rail

    Something you might be interested in - when I was in Switzerland last year I found the the cable cars in Davos and Kloster allowed bikes for a small extra charge on the lift ticket. There were lots of mountain bike tracks, just doing the downhill was a real luxury!

    Thank you and best wishes,
    --
    Irene Krechowiecka

    Irene Krechowiecka, April 25, 1998

    Trains in France, Switzerland, Germany

    A couple of people asked for train info pages to help plan bike trips in Europe -- here's what I've found for France, Switzerland & Germany:
    France:
    The SNCF, the national rail system, is at http://www.sncf.fr. follow the references. check especially . . ./voy/service/velo.htm --there is an English version but if you can handle the French that page has more info, including schedules of trains that accept bikes free. they now promise to put their schedule search online by summer; no info on whether it will include bike transport info.
    Germany:

    Rlesnik, February 15, 1997

    Swiss Rail

    See the web page for the Swiss rail system at http://www.sbb.ch It has a query service -- look at the train codes in the schedules you get back: specifically flags those that DON'T take bikes -- seems that most do, and those that don't are the exception!
    bon voyage a velo et a train!

    Rlesnik, February 15, 1997

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