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Sunday, July 8, 2018

Mountain Biking the Swiss Alps -Logistics

I like mountain sports and I will take as many opportunities as I can to experience a mountain by either running, hiking (climbing) or riding it. Mountain biking tends to be my default, if terrain allows, because I find that opportunities to run and hike are many more. Mountain biking, however, takes a lot more effort to plan. It is not only a matter of carrying the bike but in most cases you need to carry spare parts, tools, consumables such as lubricant and bike-specific clothing including the cycling pants, helmet, glasses and gloves. Then considering items such as action cameras or other specialized photographic equipment together with their batteries, the planning gets that much more complex.
At the airport - luggage for the week looking like I am emigrating

If the plan is to bike outside of your region or outside of your country, the planning must be much more elaborate. For example, taking a bike on a flight might ultimately influence your choice of airline(s) depending on how sports equipment is treated or whether they charge for it or not. You can easily pay 120 USD per leg for the bike (as an extra bag) and so it is worthwhile doing some homework before you even book your flights.

When I decided to visit my friend in Zurich, Switzerland in 2015, I wanted to spend a few days on the Swiss Alps  and after carefully considering all factors relevant to me, I settled on mountain biking.  If I was fortunate enough to have no limit on time and on luggage, I would have added an extra bag for gear and equipment to climb the Mont Blanc!

There is a variety of bike carriers in the market to transport a bike, but my trusted Evoc bag has never disappointed me. Depending on the weight of the bike, it is unlikely that you can fit anything more than a bike helmet and a few tools into the bike bag itself.  

Flying from Johannesburg to Zurich via London was fairly uneventful - the only discomfort is the size of the bike bag (had to be removed from the trolley occasionally as most escalators are narrower) and as “special luggage” it needs to be collected from special collection points at just about every airport I have been to.

I spent a few days with my friend before taking a train to Verbier, near Le Chable in the Alps. It was a very scenic and comfortable 180km ride (and a bit expensive, I must add) that took close to 4 hours from Zurich on Swissrail. The train ride from Geneva airport is much shorter, so anyone going directly to the Alps will find flying to Geneva the best option.

Because I had limited time to spend on the Alps, I eventually decided to use a mountain biking specialist in the region called MTbverbier ( and this turned out to be a really good decision. Although I had already worked out my own plan to ride the alps (thanks to a few good websites that showcase the MTB route network across the whole of Switzerland), I soon found out that it would have been harder for me navigate on my own. The service at MTBVerbier was amazing and their knowledge of the mountain biking trails is extensive. They tend to take small groups and have their own comfortable guest house (complete with a bike workshop) where they serve all the meals. This ensures maximum time on the bike and therefore maximum fun on the trails!

View from the balcony of the MTBVerbier gueshouse

Great Service - All catering included

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