I must confess that after spending a month living on Robinson Crusoe Island earlier this year, I was convinced I could never be “wowed” by my travels again.
I experienced weeks of intense withdrawal symptoms, spent days not wanting to get out of a four-walled room, missed deadlines, and reached out to a therapist to try to figure out how I could claw my way back into the real world. Her advice didn’t help, but the universe found me a way.
Route 1291: E-biking through the heart of Switzerland!
I’d already said no to two potential travel assignments, unexcited by the prospect of a meaningless trip and more flying emissions.
But Switzerland Tourism had a unique proposition for me: My partner and I would try out one of the country’s newest sustainable tourism offerings – Route 1291, a 7 day e-biking adventure across the magnificent Swiss Alps!
Having experienced a bit of wintry Switzerland a few years ago, and tried short distance e-biking in Austria and Goa, I knew the two would make an epic combination. But I could never guess just how epic.
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E-biking up the Swiss Alps: A test of sustainable mobility and our own endurance
After the initial excitement of being invited on our first “Swisstainable” self-guided, multi-day cycling trip, I was pretty damn nervous about our ability to cycle 50-80 km daily and pedal up some of Switzerland’s highest Alpine passes.
But as the journey began, I quickly realized that every drop of sweat and every sore muscle would be worth the reward – rugged karst mountain scenery, turquoise blue lakes, idyllic Swiss villages, mist-clad peaks, ancient churches, gushing rivers and streams, meadows bursting with wildflowers.
Besides, our Swiss-made Flyer ebikes were just brilliant, with upto 100 km battery life in eco mode – making this long distance cycling trip challenging but quite doable on a moderate fitness level.
Looking back, it’s hard to put in words the feeling of climbing up hair pin bends (thank heavens it was an e-bike!) to high mountain passes, flying down long downhills in the cool Alpine breeze, and pedaling from destination to destination without any motorized transport.
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Switzerland’s awe-inspiring network of e-biking (cycling) trails
I’ve experienced the cycling-friendly streets of Copenhagen and Amsterdam, and read about cycling-only highways in Korea. But the Swiss Mobility Network came as a complete surprise. This network of cycling / hiking trails, with no or minimal motorized transport, winds across the country and its majestic landscapes, creating a haven for cyclists.
Route 1291 clubs the best of different cycling trails across Switzerland – and has been curated by Eurotrek such that no two days feel the same. Our circular loop started in Lucerne, climbed up to Andermatt and Meiringen, passed through Sorenburg, then winded into the ‘wild west’ of Entlebuch and Sursee, before taking us back to Lucerne.
The landscape kept changing from dramatic mountain panoramas to lakeside villages to rolling meadows to wheat and maize fields to stark karst mountains to gushing rivers to glaciers to farming villages with no paved roads to protected forests. Despite the low I hit after Robinson Crusoe, I’ve probably never uttered “wow” so many times in a week!
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Taking slow travel to the next level
To me, slow travel has always meant connecting deeper and staying longer (mentally if not physically). But long distance e-biking introduced me to a whole other dimension of slow travel.
I experienced every slope, every curve, every bump on the road. I could tell how the air changes from the meadows to the fields to the forests to the high mountains. I could feel the isolation of remote mountain villages but also their bond with nature.
Unlike hiking and regular cycling, we were able to cover much longer distances (50-80 kms daily on average, with average elevation gains of 1200-1700m) and experience a stunning range of natural landscapes, living traditions and architectural styles around Switzerland. I don’t think I could’ve known this country so intimately any other way!
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A win for sustainable tourism
Ebikes are the most eco-friendly mode of transport, especially with a clean grid
- With zero tail pipe emissions and zero PM 2.5 emissions from the tyres, e-bikes are the most eco-friendly modes of long-ish distance transport right now.
- We had to charge our e-bike batteries every night, but the grid in Switzerland is pretty clean. Electricity mainly comes from hydro (59.9%) and nuclear (33.5%), with only 2.3% from fossil fuels.
But some detrimental impact must be acknowledged
- Depending on the process, mining lithium ion for batteries can contaminate groundwater and be environmentally destructive.
- Our luggage was (almost magically) transported from one place to the next by Eurotrek – either using public transport or grouped with other luggage in a car, so there were still some emissions involved.
All in all though, I can’t think of a better way to travel – experiencing a place slowly, deeply, while keeping our environmental footprint low.
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Practical tips for e-biking in Switzerland
How to organize a self-guided ebiking trip in Switzerland
Our trip was organized by Eurotrek, an active holidays company based in Switzerland. Their route maps and descriptions were extremely helpful for a first-time self-guided trip across Switzerland. And we really appreciated their luggage transport service!
How to find the way: Signposting, Swiss Mobility App, Google maps
We found the Swiss Mobility app (Schweiz Mobil) a bit hard to navigate, but the trails are brilliantly signposted all along. With some help from google maps, we never got too lost.
How to prevent a sore butt while cycling!
Long distance cycling can lead to a very sore butt. I bought a pair of padded cycling shots from Decathlon, and though not eco-friendly, they were a life saver, especially over 7 continuous days of cycling. I hope to use them for all future cycling trips.
What’s it like being vegan in remote Switzerland
With a traditional diet that largely consists of meat, cheese and potatoes, Switzerland isn’t exactly vegan-friendly. But even in the remotest countryside, I hardly ate any potatoes! Many restaurants and cafes offered atleast one vegan option (think vegan rosti, gnocchi, burgers, pasta, salads and curries with Southeast Asian flavors). We even found a local veggie cafe along the route, worth a 20 km detour for a lentil Buddha Bowl and vegan ice cream 😉 As always, the HappyCow app was my go-to source for recommendations.
Cost of a 6-day e-biking adventure in Switzerland
Costs for the Route 1291 start at CHF 2700 for two. Summer is a great time to cycle, with cool weather and warm sun – though heat waves are becoming more common everywhere. The cycling route is pretty offbeat and we hardly encountered any crowds!
Have you been to Switzerland or tried e-biking? Do you dream of e-biking in the Swiss Alps?
*Note: I’m so grateful to Switzerland Tourism for hosting us on this adventure – and turning what seemed like a crazy proposition just a few weeks ago, into an unforgettable memory!
Welcome to my blog, The Shooting Star. I’ve been called a storyteller, writer, photographer, digital nomad, instagrammer, social entrepreneur, solo traveller, vegan, sustainable tourism consultant and environmentalist. But in my heart, I’m just a girl who believes in the transformative power of travel.
This looks like a fantastic place to cycle. I would love to explore. Thanks for sharing your experience.
It’s definitely bucket list worthy! Feels like a dream in retrospect. Hope you can experience it someday!
Great post! e-biking in the picturesque mountains and passes of Switzerland captures the best of everything. Sustainability is an icing on the cake. In 2022, I don’t think it gets better than this.
Checked in for your blog after a long time and enjoyed the post.
Nice to hear from you after a long time, Rishikesh! I miss all the food for thought you sent my way on Journeys 🙂
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Yes, in 2004. Beautiful country and hoping to visit again when things calm down a bit on this planet…
That’s amazing! Not sure if things are ever going to ‘calm down’ on this planet again though…
Good point *sigh*…