Stromer ST2 overview with founder Thomas Binggeli and Karen Wiener of The New Wheel.
Day 5: Cow Country
Sometimes you get lucky traveling spontaneously and without discrete lodging plans, and sometimes not so much. While our trip had overwhelmingly been successful when it came to finding accommodations, at the end of a long Day 4 after having descended into Glarus Canton from Klausenpas, our luck ran out. Glarus proper turned out to be a bit underwhelming, so we kept going, pulling into the small town of Netstal after dark. The main hotel was booked solid, but the lady at the front counter recommended we head down the way to another guest house above a popular local restaurant. We headed that way, and after a bit of negotiation in Germanglish, we secured a room.
We were the only guests in the hotel, so we were given keys to the master suite: a large dormitory style room with four beds, low ceilings, and a smell that suggested a great deal of history and only marginal amounts of cleaning. Sleep was hard to come by.
The next morning with bags under our eyes we looked with trepidation towards the route ahead which included 3,500 feet of climbing over 60 miles. But once we left our lodging and headed out into the beautiful morning on our bicycles, all our worries dropped away.
The route had us cycling towards Appenzel - think Appenzeller cheese - through the widening Glarus Valley and over the rolling green foothills of the Alps. Mid-day it began to rain, giving us the opportunity to try out our rain gear for the first time, and also spurring our interest in finding a “three battery bar” lunch - a meal with a serving of Bosch ebike charging.
We came across a small hotel/dairy farm atop a secluded mountaintop a kilometer off of the road. We ordered up some Appenzeller beer with hearty portions of Cordon Bleu and settled into the cozy dinning room festooned with depictions of cows and horses, with sweet Swiss mountain music as a backdrop. It was perfect.
Our leisurely lunch ended after coffee, and we were back on the road towards Appenzel, setting our assist to generous “Sport” mode. Appenzel is a traditional Canton. The citizens seem to accept modernity on their own terms - they still practice direct democracy (Landsgemeinde) in the town square and produce the products that they have been making for centuries. Their business is dairy farming, an industry that has modernized in a measured fashion. One woman we met described the change as being from a farm raising three cows to thirty: much bigger scale than it used to be but tiny in comparison to the industrial agriculture of the United States.
We found the town to be beyond charming, and we were beyond tired, so we tucked in after a dinner of beer fondue and didn’t wake up until the morning.
Day 2: Jetlaggin’
Getting onto Swiss time going East should be easy, but we woke up tired and found it difficult to snap out of it. We planned for Day 2 to be leisurely to help us ease into what looks to be a 200+ mile ride across Switzerland. We had a few things to check off our list before leaving. Most importantly we had to get our Felt electric bicycles. We had a scheduled rendezvous with Heiko Böhle, international marketing manager for Felt Bicycles, at the airport to pickup our Bosch equipped steeds. Secondly, we had to get toothpaste - ‘what was it that we are forgetting…’ Lastly, we needed a cycling map of Switzerland, something surprisingly difficult to obtain in the states and in Switzerland.
We woke up early and had our included continental breakfast in our hotel’s restaurant that moonlights as a fondue hangout. From there we headed back to the airport to find our bicycles. It took awhile, but we finally made contact with our friends at Felt and were presented with two beautiful Bosch Felt bicycles.
Both bikes were the European versions of the Felt SportE’s that have just begun to arrive at The New Wheel, each complete with a full City Kit - lights, fenders, and a rear rack - along with a high capacity Bosch Powerpack 400 battery promising 50+ miles of joyful riding through the Alps.
We packed our things onto the bikes, and after our fair share of photo ops with Felt we were off, heading back to Zurich in search of a cycling map and lunch. Our way back to the hotel convinced us of the merits of our search for a map as we found ourselves chasing bicycle route signs and traveling in circles through the suburbs. Karen finally pointed us in the right direction, we found a map, and after a quick nap to regain strength, we put the finishing touches on our route through Switzerland. Tonight we sleep, tomorrow we ride.
Day 1: The Whirlwind Tour Begins
We knew our schedule was tight the moment we stepped off the plane in Zurich: two hours to get our bags, hop on a train, drop our luggage at our hotel, and find transportation to Albispass 10 km east of Zurich HauptBahnhof where we had an appointment. It all might have been simpler with the Felt ebikes we had lined up to ride to Eurobike on, but unfortunately due to scheduling we had to push the bike pickup until the next day. But with a nice long transatlantic nap under our belts, we were ready for anything and so began our adventures with a briefcase full of camera gear in one hand, expertly packed Ortlieb panniers in the other, and a vague idea of where Albispass was located.
After an expensive taxi ride we found ourselves on a bucolic mountain pass, with Zurich and it’s environs below us, and the rain draped Alps in the distance. And coming to great us as we exited our cab was Mr. Bernhard Schneider astride a Flyer full suspension s-pedelec. Mr. Schneider is the spokesperson for New Ride, an important NGO in Switzerland tasked with promoting the widespread adoption of electric bicycles. Since 2001, New Ride has been working on a number of fronts including education, policy, PR, and testing to help establish electric bicycles in Switzerland.
We had organized to meet Mr. Schneider to learn more about his organization and lessons on how the U.S. can embrace ebikes as Switzerland has, but it turned out the Mr. Schneider himself was an immensely interesting subject. He was an Iron Man athlete, historian, public radio personality, and board member of New Ride who puts 2000 kilometers per year on his mountain bike, 6000 kilometers on his road bike, and 3000 kilometers on his electric bike. Suffice it to say he’s well rounded and loves two wheels.
We spent an hour talking ebikes as electric and non-electric cyclists whizzed past on the road behind us - we’ll have the video interview available in the near future so stay tuned. As dusk began to fall we parted ways, Mr. Schneider on his ebike down the mountain, and Karen and I trekking through the countryside to a train station in the town below.
After a Swiss dinner with as little greenery as possible and lots of potatoes, we headed back to the hotel. A busy day behind us, we looked forward to day two.