From the Bodensee through Apenzellerland

Last fall, Molly and I gathered our courage and tried out our first multi-day mountainbike trip with the baby in tow. I’ve eyed this route in Ride magazine a long time ago – a nearly 100km ride between the Bodensee (Lake Constance) and the Zürisee (lake Zürich). You can find some details of the ride here, but to get the GPS track you have to pay a subscription. Our experience over the summer told us that we can do about 30-35km per day with up to around 1200m climbing – this includes generous stops to let the little guy run around and look for bugs and of course accounts for the slower pace resulting from extra ~27kg of load. So for the first multi-day trip we decided to make it a bit conservative and aimed for covering about half the distance. You can find our route with strava stats here, and on a proper map overlay here.

The first day we made an excellent discovery: the family train car also doubles as the bike car! This makes loading the singletrailer easy and as a bonus provides entertainment for the little people!

Before long we were working hard up some very steep asphalt climbs and quickly left the Bodensee behind.

The promised sunshine never quite materialized, but this didn’t make the pit stops any less enjoyable, just a bit frigid.

Diving into the heart of Appenzel is really fantastic with countless steep rolling hills in all directions. The haze added a bit to the mystique but didn’t make the gut-wrenching climbs any easier.

Here is Molly setting off on a fun little descent:

Frequent stop are necessary to keep the touring party in good spirits.

We made very good time and were heading down the long winding ridge from Buche toward Bühler in the early afternoon.

I’m pretty sure Lev liked the descents as much as we did:

Here’s some more proof that mountain bikers are not the worst thing to happen to trails… fighting past these cow hoof-holes with the added weight was challenging…

Moooooooo

Woooooooo

I don’t have photos of the last part of the first day because it turned into a near epic – in order to make it to our bed & breakfast in Stein, we had to cross a seriously steep ravine which included carrying bikes + singletrailer up and down many many stairs. Let’s just say the last 2km took nearly 2 hours. We were happy to arrive to a very comfortable B&B and a delicious dinner of Hörnli, sausages and apple sauce. Yumm.

The first day was quite long – 34km and over 1200m of climbing, definitely pushing our comfort zone a bit. We woke up the next day to a very dreary and cold morning and decided for a rather conservative plan. We would skirt around the Hundwiler Höhi (otherwise a very popular mountain bike tour with some technical descents) and drop down toward Urnäsch where we could hop a train back home.

Setting off in the morning toward Hunwiler Höhi with some classic Appenzel scenery:

A nice barn partway up the climb:

We were very very cold when we got to the top of the climb and decided to descent into Urnäsch as quickly as possible. After a nice lunch in a local village restaurant somewhere before Urnäsch, we found the train station and headed home.

This year we plan on finishing off the route by starting where we left off and ending up at the Zürisee – the second part should have a lot more singletrack and less asphalt so I’m looking forward to checking it out!

You can check out the full gallery here.

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Talalpsee – Singletrailing above the Walensee

We tried to escape the sweltering early August heat by going for a long-ish mountainbike ride with the singletrailer in tow on the south side of the Walensee. This was the first time I followed an official Schweizmobil mountainbike route – normally they are not very exciting because they mostly follow forest roads instead of trails. However, it dawned on me that this quality makes them perfect for planning trips with the singletrailer. It ended up being a very fun ride, though mostly on pavement and gravel roads, but even with some fun singletrack at the end. As usual, it was much longer and a bit tougher than I anticipated, but both Molly and Lev still seemed to have fun. It was also our first time loading the singletrailer onto a train – it’s a bit stressful to get all the pieces (two bikes, baby, trailer) onto the train before it leaves the platform, but it seemed to work very well! The GPS track of the ride can be found here.

On to the photos…

Starting out in the morning:

Happy singletrailer passenger:

Pit stop:

Looking across the Walensee toward Amden:

A short singletrack section – biking up singletrack with the singletrailer is not so easy!

At the Talalpsee:

Lev loves bikes:

Final pitstop before descending to the valley:

As always, the full gallery here.

Black Canyon Trail

For our first ride together (without a trailer) in two years, we decided to ride the classic Black Canyon trail at Teton Pass outside of Wilson, WY. The Black Canyon trail is one of the original Teton Pass trails, now maintained by the grassroots Teton Freedom Riders trail building crew (also see this little documentary about the organization). It’s sort of a “baby” trail at the Pass with no built jumps, but incredibly fun. We also did something that is considered crazy in these parts: rode our bikes up to the pass from the bottom, rather than hitching a ride or shuttling. I thought the climb on the old pass road was rather nice — only 550 meters of vertical, really no reason not to ride it up.

The trail proper starts at the top of the pass and traverses a steep hillside that makes a great ski run in the winter time:

The traverse and climb up the ridge goes through some beautiful meadows and starts to feel remote very quickly:

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Spending most of our time in the european Alps, it’s really a treat to see so much uncultivated and untouched forest in all directions:

Finally we reached the top of the climb, a good 200+ vertical meters from the pass. The afternoon sun lit up the dried grasses and made for a perfect resting stop.

Finally it was time to taste the downhill part of the day. The trail weaves down the hillside with some fun switchbacks through the open meadows. Unlike the switchbacks we’re used to on the hiking trails in the alps, these never broke up the flow of the trail and were very smooth to ride.

All the way down into the forest we were treated to sweeping views of the valley. We even saw a herd of deer run up the hillside in front of us.

The trail changes character as it enters the forest, earning its namesake.

Some fun root sections and creek crossings lead you back to the old pass road:

As usual, you can see the full gallery as well.

First adventures with the Tout Terrain Singletrailer

A few weeks ago, Molly sent me an excited email, saying that she had found the trailer for us and that it was called the “singletrailer” and that it was awesome. That it would let us go mountainbiking with the little one.

Indeed, the singletrailer is a kids’ trailer with 200mm of air-damped suspension travel (my mountainbike, for comparison, has 120mm…) providing a cushy ride for the fragile passenger. As the name implies it has a single wheel, which allows it to follow the track of the leading bike very closely. It really is built like a bike with a quality frame, well thought-out design and well-made cover materials.

Here it is with Lev inside just before our first “real” ride:

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Much to our delight, the little guy is super happy in his suspended child “hammock” inside the singletrailer. He sang and chatted all the way up the Uetliberg, and just as we crested the top he fell asleep. We stopped for some lunch while he napped:

Eventually, he also needed some lunch so we found a nice meadow to hang out while he stretched his legs and played in the grass:

After our pitstop, it was Molly’s turn to try out the new trailer and see how it handles.

She was ecstatic to find that although the weight is certainly not negligible (9.5kg + cargo), the handling is not affected very adversely. Nevertheless, she chose to spare Lev the bumps on a particularly rough section:

But continued riding when it got a bit smoother:

Lev was pretty excited — when we got to the bottom and stopped he was laughing his head off…

Eventually we made our way to the nice trail by the Sihl river that leads all the way back into downtown Zürich

And another pit stop:

The mud guard is well-placed:

Finally starting to look like a mountain machine:

Happy momma in the evening light:

Overall we did a leisurely 33km with 900m of climbing (according to strava) and Lev seemed to enjoy the vast majority of it. A good start to the biking season!

chasing the sunrise

To catch the sunrise highlighting the storms brewing over the mountains in the distance… that was the plan but getting out of bed before 6am on a Saturday, just to bike up the local hill is pretty challenging.

I was half an hour too late and had to settle for the beautiful color while still on the uphill road:

Since I missed my main objective, but I had a tripod with me, I decided to play around a bit and see whether it’s possible to use the automatic shooting functions to catch myself riding the trail:

Finally on top, I had the place almost to myself with great hazy light — I think I prefer it like this compared to when it’s perfectly clear. It also means fewer tourists…

Some telephoto shots with the 20 year old Minolta Rokkor 135mm f/3.5:

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Check out that nice in-lens vignette at f/3.5:

And a view up at the trio well-known to most residents of this lovely city… but from a slightly different perspective:

Üetli night project

After our successful fog photo session on Üetliberg, it was only natural that we should go back and shoot the lower section of trail at night. The trail weaves smoothly through the forest and our fog shoot confirmed that it was possible to capture the entire width in a single shot. So we went back with some strong headlamps, extra reinforcements (Axel joined too) and a flash.

Shooting at night with a single flash is hard. I have much newfound respect for people who produce those really polished shots in the wild with lots of strobes etc. Very hard to get it just right! Thorsten brought his camera too so we had two shots going at once, just in case. This turned out to be a good idea since the best shot of the night came from his camera once we finally figured out how we wanted the flash to fire.

Test shot:

Thirty seconds of moonlight in the forest:

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Figuring out the flash…

Getting better…

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The next two shots were taken at the same time, but from different locations. The second one is from Thorsten and is close to the shot I think we imagined when we set out — not bad for a bunch of amateurs!

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