Boat Bashing

Early morning rise at the Weisshorn hotel and a little nippy as we left to make our way via another range back to the van.


Nice technical descent past the Funicular we had used twice the day before to a gondola and another up.


Alpine descents for those that have not ridden them tend to have a pattern. They start above the tree line all moon scape and big boulders. Rocky and open with exposure at times before edging into the tree line and still rocky but easing before finally making it down the height where man as deemed inhabitable and we get flowy and loamy and fast.


On this one, the top was particularly rocky and while descending rocks you must keep speed. Speed is your friend because if your moving, you roll over stuff. However, it can also bite because if you get it wrong your crashing at speed, on rocks.


So, I got bit, fortunately for the last time on this trip. A sniper rock hidden beneath a shrub just stuck out far enough to smash my wheel with enough force to break off and wedge between the rim and tire.


Faceplant and I thought I had lost teeth and as pulled myself together and spat blood while I waited for the others to come up on me.


Myriam was pleased she got to use her first aid kit the MBGA (mountain bike guides association) insist she carry. So, rubber gloves donned she set about washing my face as best she could.


Great descent though and we arrived in a German swiss town at a little after 2pm. A long ride since breakfast and our options were a 40-minute road ride to the van or a café stop, and Myriam would hitch hike back to the van. I was a little sore and hungry but open to both. Luckily my companions decided a café was in order and Myriam could polish her thumb in preparation.


3 beers later Myriam had not returned. Turns out our only mechanical of the trip was on the van and she had come upon it with a flat tire.


It took a few hours to get repaired. Time we spent watch the waitresses change shift at least twice before we loaded up and headed to Zermatt.

Dusty Minefield

I felt embarrassed, I felt out of place and I felt sore. I sat on the pristine white outdoor couch of the modernist glass walled, cubist wine bar, covered head to toe in dust and a little blood.


The lawn of the wine bar in Fully, was dotted with Tuesday afternoon happy hour patrons. We 4 and, well me especially looked out of place. The good thing was though nobody really batted an eyelid.


I washed up as best I could and drank my shandy.


The day started with JM driving us up past the gondola drop off to save us some road miles and when the tarmac stopped we unloaded.


A full-on hour slog of fire road climb ensued as early morning sun started to get the perspiration flowing.


All to soon the road stopped and my favorite past time of hike a bike took over. Straight up. We could see what we were aiming for, a signpost about 500m above us. 500m vertical does not sound like much but it was about a km of bike lifting.


Once there we turned right and rode awesome single-track to an escarpment ridge for lunch and a view of two valleys. The one we had drove thru and to our left the Rhone valley.


We crested the ridge on a trail named Portal. This trail had exposure. Exposure is a traverse trail generally, were deviating from the trail can have some consequences if not wearing a parachute or jet pak. It takes a bit of focus to watch the trail and not the exposure. The adage you look where you go is never truer than on exposed trails.


We hit some flow on tree lined sections as we descended. Our guide was keen to try a trail she did not normally use. Our ability had made her feel confident we could tackle a super tough descent into Fully.

Count the switchbacks she said, I gave up after about 40. The trail was dusty and super rocky, and switchbacks are a definite skill on a mountain bike. Depending on the severity of the turn and the steepness plus the type of trail it can all add up really challenging aspect of mountain biking.


Brian on the hardtail was acing the turns and I thought I was getting the hang of this on my new bike.

Thought wrong entering a dusty switchback too fast, I looked where I went, off trail. The front washed, and I exploded in a cloud of dust and slid 20yds down. Lucky as another 5yds and I would have enjoyed my exposure with a freefall of a few hundred feet.


I could not get back on trail without help as it was so steep. Gingerly I made the bottom, but I was hurting. When I broke my wrist I also broke ribs and they had took another wack and were not happy.


I think we counted over 90 switchbacks before exiting into the vineyards and a road ride to the wine bar.

Bruised body parts and bruised ego, we made a paceline to our stop. I took the opportunity to use my roadie legs and show that I can eat dust but so could my companions as I made them breath a little heavy on reaching the winery.


I made full use of the hotel steam room and JM made us our farewell dinner of steak served raw but with heated local stone that you cooked your steak on. Was a superb meal and JM treated us to Valais white wine and local apricot schnapps to round it all off.


We departed next day and stole JM’s hotel van. Easier to move us around in we drove for a while before stopping in a lay by and unloading to take a bus!


Seemed odd but when the bus appeared all luxury Swiss public transport and 24 bike trailer attached it made a bit more sense.


It went straight up tooting its substantial horn on the hairpins and making sure mere mortal car drivers got out of the way. Unto a village and a small depot, the trailer was unhitched and attached to another bus that would take us up even higher.

Once in this village we pedaled a little to the town Funicular. Straight up in the wacky angled train we pedaled another brutal climb to the Hotel Weisshorn.  Nestled at 3000m this ancient hotel is so remote the staff live there rather than commute like oil rig workers.


We dropped off our nightgowns and preceded to ride more exposure single track. Descending into a chocolate box town for coffee and gelato.


In my own mind I have a fantasy whereby attractive waitresses/cashiers need rescuing by me from there mundane existence and join me in my jet setting playboy lifestyle. Need less to say I had yet to complete or even begin a rescue mission but our gelato hostess was on the list.


A road ride of about an hour was followed by the choice of a 20 minute hike a bike or a 8km uphill road ride. I chose road.


Defunicularing the funicular we had round two of the brutal climbs to the Weisshorn hotel. Another good meal and to bed, not a sound sleep I may add. Paper thin walls aside I could not get the shining out of my head and nodded to and visions of Jack axing thru my door announcing Daddies home.








Hike a Bike

As I write this I think I am experiencing post adventure blues. When you focus on something for a long period of time then the event itself is all encompassing and you just concentrate on riding your bike.


It ends and it’s like you have been spat out the other side into a void of nothingness. I yearn to be back in the mountains, oh well.


The second day was perhaps the hardest day, JM the hotel owner drove us straight up to a massive dam and if you can picture James Bond and Goldeneye and you have it. Grey industrial concrete was matched by the skies. Visions of guys in batsuits leaping off filled our minds.


We left from the top of the dam and pedaled up about 1500m through a water dripping tunnel. When we popped out the other side we were at the reservoir and the sky was brilliant Azur like the water.


We pushed on and it was hot as we climbed and climbed till we could climb no more. Then we had to adapt a new concept to me. Hike a bike. Now I will try to ride my bike up anything in fact I love climbing on my bike. Carrying it does not compute.


I had the heaviest bike I think, and the smallest hydration pack and I think the pack helps in that you can rest the bike on it.


Sixty minutes of pain ensued, and my thighs stung as we ascended cattle tracks and dodged pats. The cows all majestic in their leather collars and bells stay up here in the summer and even get milked here almost individually with hand-built contraptions made to traverse mountains.



In these days of mass produced everything it was refreshing to see the care given to Swiss highland cattle.


Stairmaster session over we pushed and carried literally on till we reached the summit and the Italian Swiss border.


Lunch was taken on the peak amongst glaciers and man-made stone wind shelters. We then descended and traversed into Italy. We joked with our guide how things were so much nicer in Italy. Not true but I am not one to miss a wind up.


We had a tough afternoon of traversing our way along irrigation tracks known as Biss. Three-hundred-year-old irrigation channels meant to stop the water going straight down from the mountain but to be diverted for farming. The are accompanied by fantastic single-track.


Job done we descended more and arrived in an Alpine Italian town for beer and a superb meal.


Shuttled back through the Mont Blanc tunnel we arrived at our hotel around 11pm shattered but fulfilled. This week if I survived was going to be Epic.


Like Clockwork

Mountain Biking Switzerland Part One


I had been looking forward to this trip for almost a year since I was the first to book with Big Mountain Adventures back in December.


I knew it would be a small group and I had some trepidation as both my companions were British Columbia natives and there for would be a bit warm on a mud bike. I had supplied my booking partners,  with my commiserations for not having anywhere to ride and, train unlike me in the MTB mecca of Bermuda.


Arriving early evening in Geneva. Swiss precision started straight away with the train station inside the airport and my train departing exactly at 8:02, like clockwork.


As a side note I checked the time table for ten minutes on roaming and got what is called a data dump.


For the normal people of the world traveling currently with PDA’s it’s a non-stressful experience but those of us here, and subject to the two communication monopolies beware I got wacked $1200 to check the train time.


This was not to be the last time I was impressed with the Swiss infrastructure to move you and your bike around country and up mountains.


Collected by our Hotel owner and driven deep into the mountains and deposited in what I can describe as a bunker, but the Swiss may call a garage. 11;30pm and time to build my bike for an 8:30 start.


I had checked the weather before I left, and it said wet and mostly cold hence my heavy suitcase with winceyette pajamas and thermal underwear. I awoke to glorious sunshine and the promise of a sunny day. Weather forecasts, rule 1, look out the window.


Continental breakfast, all well and good but we built an empire on a good fry up and a selection of processed meats and cheese as always left me as cold as the charcuterie. Don’t they know we were intending to push pedal all day.


Myriam our guide appeared a vision of blonde punk hair do and fitness. An ex pro mountain biker she would prove all week how to flip the phrase you ride like a girl…


We left the hotel for a quick descent to the Verbier gondola’s and for Myriam to cast a judgmental eye over our off-road skills. I think I fooled her, having not ridden off road for five months due to a broken wrist and having never ridden my new bike at all, apart from to the doctor’s office to have my wrist checked I was on a steep learning curve, but, she put me second in line.


Brad the guy who would have the job of coming upon my body sprawled in the dirt on several occasions was riding gingerly having torn both shoulders and awaiting repair did not want to incur greater damage. The chap we would all chase, Brian was so good he was on a hard tail, madman.


The day set the pattern of epic uplifts, using Gondola’s, Trains, buses and Funicular’s. Traversing exposed single tracks and gnarly steep switch backed descents. What surprised me having ridden road in the French alps, was the steepness of the Swiss version. The valleys sit below like you could run and jump and land in the village.

We finished the day amongst rumbling thunder high up in the hotel proprietors summer cabin experiencing raclette a Swiss specialty of fire melted cheese and boiled potatoes. I stopped after 5 servings for fear of too many nightmares.

To be continued….

Bianchi launch New Models

With the biggest growing sector in bicycling, the gravel/adventure sector. Bianchi have added the Allroad to their lineup.

These bikes are designed for those who have changed the road racing mentality into something different. The ALLROAD is a mountain bike, a road bike, a cyclo-cross and a trekking bike all-in-one. The ALLROAD bike can be used in a Marathon event but also will take you out to explore the raw finished roads.

With the Specialized Diverge range, this type of cycling is fully catered for at Bicycle Works. Stop by and seek your road less travelled.