Cycle Touring in Switzerland

9 Swiss National cycle routes including 3 Alpine Star tours

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22 Apr 2008
17.2 x 11.6 x 1.5cm

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This guidebook describes nine Swiss National cycle routes including three difficult Alpine Star tours. The numbered National (R) routes are signposted, and include the Jura, Rhone, Rhine, Engadine and Bernese Oberland. Routes range from gentle three day rides to strenuous routes for the experienced cyclist.

Seasons Seasons
Most alpine passes closed Oct – May. Thunderstorms in August. Spring and autumn recommended.
Centres Centres
Andermatt, Basel, St Margrethen, Romanshorn, Chur, Koblenz, Interlaken.
Difficulty Difficulty
Routes of 25–60hrs, divided into daily stages, on quiet roads and cycleways (unpaved). Range from flat family rides to climbs of up to 3000m per day. All graded for difficulty.
Must See Must See
Well-signposted cycle routes. Wonderful alpine scenery and stunning views. Visiting the Jura and Engadine. Following the great rivers – the Rhone and Rhine. Cycling down the hills!
22 Apr 2008
17.2 x 11.6 x 1.5cm
  • Overview

    Switzerland is an ideal country for cycling – not only for its spectacular alpine landscape, but because of the extensive network of cycle routes that cover the most scenic areas of the country. This guidebook describes about 5000km of routes in Switzerland, as well as sections in neighbouring Austria, Germany and Italy. The routes range from gentle rides along rivers and lakesides to thigh-busting climbs over passes featured in the Tour de Suisse. The routes are mainly on well-signposted dedicated cycle tracks and quiet roads, and can be linked to form tours of up to several weeks.

    All the national and several regional routes are described in this guidebook. In addition, some as yet unmarked and signposted variations are suggested in Central Switzerland, the Berner Oberland, Graubunden in south-eastern Switzerland and in and around Andermatt and The Alpine Star. All of the Swiss National Routes are signposted in both directions and the modifications that are suggested mean that certain routes can be cycled in reverse.

    The aim of this guidebook is to offer a weave of routes so that not all east-west routes, for example, are described in the same direction so it’s easier to combine routes into longer tours. Estimated cycle times are based on a leisurely progress on touring bicycles with baggage and no sag wagon, allowing time to smell the flowers and look at the scenery. The grades are the subjective judgements of the authors, ranging from easy to exceedingly strenuous. All routes are suitable for road bikes or touring bikes.

    There are routes to cater for all abilities from gentle family rides to much harder 100km trails for the dedicated and experienced cyclists. The easy routes are normally flat or climb imperceptibly and are suitable for families and returning or new cyclists. The moderate routes have stages that are short and climb a maximum of 800m. The more challenging route stages – difficult or strenuous- normally involve between 800 and 1500m climbing. The exceedingly strenuous routes described in the Alpine Star chapter are over 100km long and feature climbs of 3000m. Each individual route is broken down into a series of stages, rather than days. Sometimes it is be possible to cycle two stages in a day.

  • Contents

    An overview of the routes
    How to use this guide
    Staying Alive: Safety and route finding
    Getting there and getting about
    What to take
    Food and drink
    Notes on the tables
    The Routes
    1 The Rhône Route, R1
    Stage 1 Andermatt – Oberwald
    Stage 2 Oberwald – Sierre
    Stage 3 Sierre – Montreux
    Stage 4 Montreux – Genève
    2 The Rhein Route, based on R2
    Stage 1 Andermatt – Disentis
    Stage 2 Disentis – Chur
    Stage 3 Chur – Buchs
    Excursion Rund um die Churfirsten (Around the Churfirsten)
    Stage 4 Buchs – St Margrethen
    Stage 5 St Margrethen – Lindau
    Stage 6 Lindau – Konstanz
    Stage 7 Konstanz – Gailingen
    Stage 8 Gailingen – Koblenz (Hochrhein)
    Stage 9 Koblenz (Hochrhein) – Basel
    3 The North–South Route, based on R3
    Stage 1 Basel – Sursee
    Stage 2 Sursee – Gersau
    Stage 3 Gersau – Linthal
    Stage 4 Linthal – Altdorf
    Stage 5 Altdorf – Disentis
    Stage 6 Disentis – Bellinzona
    Stage 7 Bellinzona
    4 The Alpine Panorama Route, R4
    Prologue Rorschach or Bregenz – St Margrethen
    Stage 1 St Margrethen – Heiden
    Stage 2 Heiden – Kaltbrunn/Filzbach
    Stage 3 Kaltbrunn – Gersau over the Klausenpass or through the Klöntal Valley
    Stage 4 Gersau – Sörenberg
    Stage 5 Sörenberg – Burgistein
    Stage 6 Burgistein – Fribourg/Bulle
    Stage 7 Bulle – Aigle
    Epilogue Aigle – Montreux
    5 The Mittelland Route, R5
    Stage 1 Romanshorn – Winterthur
    Stage 2 Winterthur – Aarau
    Stage 3 Aarau – Biel/Bienne
    Stage 4 Biel/Bienne – Yverdon-les-Bains
    Stage 5 Yverdon-les-Bains – Lausanne
    6 An Engadine Circuit, and beyond, based on R6
    Stage 1 Chur – Chiavenna
    Stage 2 Chiavenna – St Moritz
    Stage 3 St Moritz – Davos
    Stage 4 Davos – Nauders
    Stage 5 Nauders – Santa Maria
    Stage 6 Santa Maria – Pontresina
    Stage 7 Pontresina – Chur
    Southern Leg Splügen – Bellinzona
    7 The Jura Route, R7
    Stage 1 Basel – Courgenay
    Stage 2 Courgenay – La Chaux-de-Fonds
    Stage 3 La Chaux-de-Fonds – Baulmes
    Stage 4 Baulmes – Nyon
    8 The Aare Route, based on R8
    Stage 1 Koblenz – Brugg
    Stage 2 Brugg – Zofingen
    Stage 3 Zofingen – Solothurn
    Stage 4 Solothurn – Bern
    Stage 5 Bern – Interlaken
    Stage 6 Interlaken – Meiringen/Brienz
    9 The Lakes Route, R9
    Stage 1 Montreux – Bulle
    Stage 2 Bulle – Gstaad
    Stage 3 Gstaad – Interlaken
    Stage 4 Interlaken – Giswil
    Stage 5 Giswil – Zug
    Stage 6 Zug – Filzbach
    Stage 7 Filzbach – Buchs
    Stage 8 Buchs – Rorschach
    10 The Berner Oberland
    Route 1 Lauterbrunnen Valley
    Route 2 Meiringen/Brienz via Grosse Scheidegg
    Route 3 Around Thunersee
    Route 4 Wattenwil
    Route 5 Luzern
    Route 6 Frutigen and Kandersteg
    11 The Alpine Star
    Tour 1 The Alpine Circuit Gotthard–Nufenen–Furka
    Tour 2 The Three Language Tour: Oberalp–Lukmanier–Gotthard
    Tour 3 The Alpen Brevet Junior Route

    Appendix 1 Useful websites and information sources
    Appendix 2 Recommended accommodation
    Appendix 3 Glossary of cycling terms

  • Maps
    Swiss maps are wonderful – works of art and precision instruments combined – so they are expensive. A particular favourite is the 1:301,000 scale Kümmerly & Frey Switzerland Tourist Cycling Map with all of the Veloland Schweiz and other routes and GPS data (ISBN: 3 259 00533 1). In addition, the 1:200,000 Michelin map 551 Suisse Nord covers almost all of Switzerland except the extreme west, south and east (for about £5 in 2007). Companion maps 552 and 553 cover the ‘gaps’ with lots of overlap. These are certainly adequate for planning and even have some city maps of cities such as Zürich and Luzern.

    For those who want more detail, Swisstopo (Swiss Federal Office of Topography) 1:100,000 Composite maps that cover the routes are listed in each route description. Experience shows that only the 1:100,000 maps for the immediate local area are easy to buy locally, so if you decide that the maps are essential, you should buy the maps beforehand. They are stocked by Stanfords in the UK and cost £14.50 each (, by in the US at US$23.95
  • Updates
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    We are always grateful to readers for information about any discrepancies between a guidebook and the facts on the ground. If you would like to send some information to us then please use our contact form. They will be published here following review by the author(s).

  • Reviews

    'This is definitely the ideal guide; it's small enough to stick in a pannier, or even a jersey rear pocket if it comes to that, and i'm not sure that i've ever seen so much information crammed into such a small space before. And what's even better is that it's perfectly readable and pragmatic in its compression.

    Judith and Neil Forsyth are old hands at this, having produced a number of guides to germany and switzerland - this is the best you'll get, short of having the two of them cycle in front of you shouting out directions. In keeping with the Cicerone format, the introductory pages cover pretty much everything you ever wanted to know about switzerland: its weather, monetary system, road signs, bike shops, hazards etc.. this is presented in commendably concise prose, never lacking in humour, and well illustrated in colour throughout.

    The basis of the book - cycle touring in Switzerland - is broken down into manageable chunks which join to form complete routes of several hundred kilometres, such as the rhone route from Andermatt to Geneva. Each chunk can be cycled on its own, or you could do the heroic gesture and cover the whole distance over a period of time, stopping where and when the fancy takes. and such is the comprehensive nature of each stage, and ultimately, route, that an armchair tourist such as myself, could (and did) happily read through, and I was there - only without the attendant exhaustion and propensity for getting lost.

    If switzerland is a country you have fancied visiting on two wheels under your own propulsion, do it with a safety net, and buy yourself a copy of this Cicerone guide. or be like me and wallow in a warm bath admiring how easily you just read yourself up that last mountain pass.'

    ( / May 2008)

    I have to say that I was suprised at the range of tours offered in Cycle Touring in Switzerland. In my ignorance, I assumed mountainous ascents and descents. Yet the Forsyth's point out that there are tours for experienced, fit cyclists, and others suitable for families and less ambitious riders. All the National Routes are described, along with selected regional routes. All the expected information is present and there are plenty of alternative routes suggested to shorten or link tours. The authors state that Swiss public transport is the best in the world, and it is clearly a cycle-friendly system. Even so it is well worth reading the "tips from experience" that show that, even in Switzerland, taking a bike on a train is not always straight forward, especially after 20.00 hours in rural areas. I was fascinated to read about the priority given to postal buses and the hazard these can be to unwary cyclists - or those that are hard of hearing. It is this level of expertise and experience that place Cicerone guides at the head of the field. It is this, also, along with the photos, that makes them such a good read.

    Cycling World, October 2008

    This guide describes about 5000km of routes in Switzerland, as well as sections in Austria, Germany and Italy, ranging from gentle rides along rivers and lakesides, to thigh-busting climbs over passes featured in the Tour de Suisse.

    Lakeland Walker Aug/Sept 2008

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Forsyth Neil

Neil Forsyth

Judith and Neil Forsyth are both Lancastrians, born in the early 1940s and learned to cycle at an early age. Their bicycles were much used, until they stopped cycling in their 20s.

Judith worked as a teacher for 20 years before moving to Germany to marry Neil. He left Britain some years earlier to work for a German engineering company. He was reintroduced to cycling by colleagues at weekends. Once in Germany she too, learned the delights of continental cycling. Together they explored much of southern Germany, eastern France and Switzerland by bicycle. They gained a reputation for British eccentricity with their neighbours by Alpine cycling on Brompton folding bikes. They are both very fond of Switzerland, especially its superbly laid out and signposted cycle routes.

View Articles and Books by Neil Forsyth
Forsyth Judith

Judith Forsyth

Judith Forsyth (née Instone) was born in Worsley, Manchester in 1942. After university she taught geography for over 20 years at Manchester High School for Girls. Judith took an active part in the life of the school organising field trips and expeditions, and enjoyed a sabbatical six month long stay in India. She left to marry and moved to Germany. Once there, she lectured at an American university and was a freelance editor for a scientific publisher. A keen hillwalker and cyclist she enjoys the German way of life especially touring by bike and on foot through the country and its neighbours.

View Articles and Books by Judith Forsyth