- New Zealand
- The Queen Charlotte TrackMountain biking the Queen Charlotte Track in the Marlborough Sounds
- History on the Heaphy
- Suppressing the Competitive UrgeMountain biking in Malborough
- Northern ExposureMountian biking the Coromandel
- Hurunui Hot SpringsWinter mountain biking to Hurunui Hut in the Lake Sumner Forest Park.
- Craigieburn Conservation ParkMountain Biking Craigieburn
- The Brevet ClubGuy and Laurence recount the suffering and intrigue of the inaugural Kiwi Brevet... a 1100km mountain bike race around the top half of the South Island over six days. Informal with self-enforced rules, no entry fee, unsupported, and... well, hard.
- Wharfedale TrackThis is arguably the best and longest stretch of single track in Canterbury
- Double FencelineThis classic trip snakes along the summit ridge of Banks Peninsula.
- One Night StandsOvernight mountain biking trips in the South Island
- Fool's GoldMountain biking in Central Otago
- All that Glistens... the Croesus and Moonlight Gold TrailsMountain biking on the South Island's West Coast
- Otago GoldMountain biking - Bannockburn, Central Otago
- Loop de LoopGreat mountain biking can be found in most corners of this flat earth and New Zealand boasts its fair share of classics.
- Magnetic WestMulti-day mountain biking, Kaikoura to the Tasman sea
- Romping Round the Marlborough SoundsMountain biking Marlborough
- Rambling Around the Marlborough SoundsMountain biking Marlborough, Arapawa and D'Urville Islands
- Off the Beaten Track An off road traverse of the South Island on mountain bikes
- At Peace with PureoraMountain biking around the Pureora Forest in the Central North Island
- Taranaki for NeophytesMountain biking in Taranaki
- South Pacific
- West meets EastAfter riding all morning through the tail of a typhoon, we didn't want to slosh into a Japanese restaurant in that state. I tried drying out by standing under the vent outside the kitchen. I got no drier, but now I smelled of noodles...
- Tien Shan TraverseWhat do you do in the middle of the mountains when two large, thuggish Chinese men get out of a car and stride purposefully towards you? You smile and say thank you for the stale bread and peaches they are offering you!
- One Gear, One Continent, One Hero.Hero Cycles is the world's largest manufacturer of bikes, spitting out a whopping six million a year. You're unlikely to find one at your local bike shop but as any seasoned traveller can attest, they are the 'people's car' of India.
- Laid-back LaosMountain bike touring in Laos
- The Road to MandalayCycle touring in Myanmar
- Vietnam on Thirty Dollars a DayCycle touring in Vietnam
- A Short Ride in the Hindu Kush Cycle touring in Pakistan
- On a Wheel and a Prayer FlagCycle touring in Tibet
- Shanti Shanti - Across the Himalaya by BikeCycling across the Himalayas
- Biking the Hidden HimalayaCycle touring in North West India
- Pedalling Patagonia"Wow! Amazing! You're cycling to the bottom of South America. Is it all downhill?" Alan and I looked at each other in amusement and suggested that we expected a few uphill sections.
- Cycling Cuba with Fidel and Ché
- Dirt Roading in Colombia'The Only Risk is Wanting to Stay', promises Colombia's latest tourist advertising slogan, printed over glossy photos of idyllic Caribbean coastlines, perfectly preserved colonial towns, rolling, lush coffee plantations and a Latin couple dancing hot cumbia.
- Famous Potato Recipes from Idaho
- My Private Idaho
- Donde Estan Los Pollos
- Alaska - the Last Frontier The Alaskan Iditasport Human Powered Ultramarathon
- In Search of Maple Syrup and a Decent National Anthem Mountain biking in Canada
- All You Can EatMountain Biking in Northern California
- Caffeine and Singletrack in the USA Mountain biking in South West Colorado
- Bici Dolomiti Cycle touring around Italy and the Dolomites
- A Slice of Swiss CheeseMountain biking in Switzerland
- London Calling The London Cycle Show
- Stairway to Heaven - biking Spain's Camino de SantiagoCycle touring in Spain
- Albania for BeginnersIn the summer of 2009, our route from Greece to Germany crossed the small country of Albania...
- Fat Tyre Touring in ItalyCycle touring through Italy.
- Corsica- touring the scented isleCycling in the Mediterranean
- A Scottish Coast to CoastCycle touring in Scotland
- Crouching Tiger - Cycling Ireland's South West Coast Cycling Ireland's South West Coast
- The Italian Job Mountain biking around Lake Garda
- Double DutchA cycle tour of the Netherlands.
- A Rather Big Swedish RaceMountain bike racing in Sweden
- French ConnectionCircumnavigating Mont Blanc on the "Sentier Pedestre" hiking trail.
- A Month in Provence Cycle touring in the South of France
- A French PilgrimageTouring with the Tour de France
- End to End, the Long WayCycle touring in Great Britain
- Steve's SabbaticalCycle touring in France
A Slice of Swiss Cheese
Dave Mitchell, UnderGround Issue 55 June 2008
Updated 5 March 2013Switzerland and New Zealand are chalk and cheese in many respects. The land-locked home of Swiss timing has no coastline, native bush nor wilderness. They keep sheep as a hobby and the farm animals wear bells.
The villages are chocolate box lid escapees- Swiss, of course. Motorways connect every node and have more tunnels than you can poke a troll into. The mountains are zig zagged with singletrack, ski lifts and train tracks. Food and lodging lurk on every pass and local walkers are happy to share the trails... sounds like mountain bike heaven.
Ditte and I hit Interlaken early June, their spring, but it felt like summer. Basking in the sun, the tourist hotspot balances between the lakes of Brienzersee and Thunersee- wondering which to plunge into for a swim. It's also smack dab in the middle of the Berner Oberland alpine region. Ditte's high school German helped interpret our fistfull of 'Swiss Singletrail Maps' purchased from a local bookshop. They collectively boasted 3280kms of bicycle trails. We needed no further encouragement to establish base camp in Interlaken. 'Camping Hobby' rented us grass and the cleanest facilities this side of the European Space Agency.
Tent up and we headed off (the wrong way as it transpired) around Thunersee onto some very steep and dodgy singletrack. Our internal compass was not to be trusted in this hemisphere. The GPS sorted us out. Back on track we climbed a gravel road above the railway line from Spiez into oak, pine and elm forest. The smell of two stroke oil and pine filled the air. Just around the corner a local farmer was "making firewood while the sun shines". Perfect stacks lined the trail. We climbed 700 metres through bright green meadows, past farm sheds, barns and dwellings. Shiny black cowbells adorned the wooden verandas. Brimming flower boxes added to the Hansel and Gretel look. The downhill was long, edgy and leaf-littered, providing a good taste of what was to come.
Over the following 15 days we gorged ourselves - indigestion was always a concern. The template was to ascend the mountain roads and blast down the singletrack - mostly too steep or rocky to ride up anyway. It didn't take long to rein in the navigational hiccups. In true Swiss-style, the map conveniently reconciled with sign posts that regularly appeared when required. Maps indicate the level of difficulty (blue, red, black) and trail type (strasse - road, fostweg - gravel, or singletrail) - so we generally knew what sort of trouble we were getting into. It often rained at night but the place leaks like a slice of gruyére, so the tracks were more-or-less dry when knobbly met dirt the next day.
We made several excursions into the thin air under the watchful eye of the Jungfrau. Mönch and Eiger. Well-benched technical singletrack traversing the steep slopes was plentiful. The Eiger's north face towered above us, glaciers of blue ice hanging precariously from its rocky buttresses. Riding surfaces varied from dirt to rock and scree, with rocky ledges and melt-water gullies to splash through. There was little buff but plenty of bluff.
Cog railways appear in the most unexpected places- all the more impressive given they were built well before helicopters. A train climbs to the Jungfraujoch (3545m) via a 7km tunnel chipped though the Eiger and Mönch. Quite a shuttle! We used trains a lot though (and lifts occasionally) to link rides. It was fabulous to just wheel on and enjoy the trip home after a big day out.
New Zealand backcountry huts provide a roof, mattress and perhaps a fire. Swiss alpine huts are more like hotels, with lift access and food. It is pretty cool to crest a pass after a hard climb and to see a café magically appear out of the mist... coffee and cake then transporting itself to your table. It wasn't all beer and skittles though. After a particularly rocky descent to Café Berghaus we were confronted with an axe wielding anti-mountain bike proprietor. It wasn't Jack Nicholson. The situation was diffused with English, German and sign language, along with our Swiss Singletrail Map showing the track to be open in the off season. We opted not to patronise his café though.
I recall some thespian wisdom about not riding with children or animals. Not so in Switzerland. We befriended some roadside pigs at the start of one day. Then later happened upon a bovine orchestra, a large herd of cows playing an assortment of bells for our pleasure. We were entranced (really) and delayed moving on for sometime. The music followed us for a while, until drowned by the thundering waterfalls at the valley's head.
We had climbed the equivalent of a couple of Everests, enjoyed riding with a few locals and ate enough nussgipfelis to sink the Swiss navy. And like Arnie, we'll be back.
The Nitty Gritty> Switzerland is riddled with 'singletrail'. You could dedicate a lifetime to exploring the tracks on offer. Any region provides more than enough terrain for a few weeks' holiday or more.
> A session on Google Earth both inspires and helps to scope adventures. Ski lifts and trains can minimise the pain of gaining altitude or extend the rideable horizon.
> Spring (June) is great for wild flowers but lingering snow can limit ride options. Late summer and early autumn (September-ish) boasts more stable, warmer weather. Best to avoid the high season in July and early August.
> English is widely spoken but we couldn't find any English guidebooks. The Swiss Singletrail Maps are superb but expensive. www.singletrailmap.ch and www.ride.ch are worth checking out.
> Most tracks are mountain bike kosher with just a few closed during the peak tourist season.
> Camping is easy. Supermarkets keep the cost of living under control. Wine and cheese are cheap, but they do charge for the holes.
> Nussgipfelis - croissants filled with ground almond paste - are obligatory post-ride electrolyte replacement.