Giles and Helmut graciously hosted Alex and Nasser for a long weekend, 31 July- 3 Aug 3, 2014, of cycling in the quintessential Swiss hills and countryside near Zurich, based out of Giles's lovely flat overlooking Lake Zurich.
Starting Thursday morning by picking up the hired bikes, which proved to be a challenge as only one shop provided such option, Helmut led us on a 75km prologue ride in quiet cycling roads 15 minutes train ride outside of Zurich. Being Switzerland the bike hire for three days probably was the equivalent of the third of the bike purchase price. The Prologue ride had a total climb of under 600metres through villages of Winterthur - Schaffhausen - Rhine Falls (largest plain waterfall in Europe).
More Serious cycling took place on Friday starting from Weinfelden, an hour train ride from Zurich. This ride was nearly a 105km loop via Wil, Wattwil, Steinwald ending in Saint Gallen; a total climb of nearly 1500 metres. The Swiss cliché was so accurate; stretches of open green space littered with wooden chalets, miles of green landscape, happy but disinterested cows with large bells not bemused by yet another light headed excited Lycra cladded cyclist pausing as close as possible for a pic or a selfie next to their pasture. We on the other hand were not amused by the sudden and unending hills around every corner culminating to near 9% slope for a 10kms stretch. We stopped by a cafe at the top of the hill where Gill, the middle age British waitress served us well-deserved fizzy drinks. What a thrill the zig zag downhill road was, where I (Nasser) probably foolishly hit my fastest speed ever at 72km/hr. We enjoyed our fuel stops throughout the ride catching delicious freshly baked pumpkin seed pretzels, great coffee and fresh cold water from the numerous street side fountains.
On Saturday we had enough time for a prologue 50km ride with modest hills of circa 600 metres substantial portion of which was around the lake (Zurich - Kusnacht - Egg - Zurich). Bikes were returned Saturday afternoon to allow us time to get ready for the annual National Day Street party that evening after a typical Swiss dinner in the downtown area. Expectedly the Street Party was full of the usual drunks, teenagers, street rubbish, vomit and two great Techno music stages. Nasser was not amused that his suggestion of procuring banana outfit to dress up for the Street Party was emphatically rejected by the rest of the team. Music was abruptly and surprisingly stopped exactly at midnight which only reinforced our perception of the Swiss punctuality, even with little things like timed air dryers in loos and trains timed to the second.
Sunday was a recovery focused short day after the real late evening and almost 250km of cycling. By then the music in town has shifted to characteristically Swiss, echoing, soothing church bells - we went for an hour walk (uphill!) in the nearby wooded area.
Alex and Nasser are grateful for the charming hospitality of their fellow club members who provided a weekend of fun and did offset the seriously expensive city otherwise. They provided unending attention, laughs, constant feeding of hungry cyclists with no fewer than four loaves daily of freshly baked brown, walnut and or rye breads from nearby bakeries. Giles & Helmut were left with a serious need for grocery shopping. We highly recommend their place and company so book your trip soon :)