Tandem Tour From Switzerland to Mansfield

HONEYMOON ON A BICYCLE MADE FOR TWO!

My wife Jane and I got married on the 10th June 2017 at a friends house in the grounds of Newstead Abbey after an engagement of 17 years. We had a festival style wedding with tents, live bands, and wood fired pizza and lots of alcohol!

We have a great bunch of friends who donated money towards our honeymoon instead of gifts (for which we were very grateful)

We both enjoy cycling and have a Tandem which we ride weekly we cover about 50 miles per week

I am not sure which one of us came up with the idea I am sure it’s probably me (they always blame the little fat guy) to cycle along the Rhine from Andermatt (somewhere near the source) down to Rotterdam over to Hull on the Ferry then back to Mansfield in total about 850 miles of peddling.

So to the planning, our Tandem is over 8 feet long but I managed to find a freight company that said they would ship it for £230. I was telling Phil (my fellow director at County Battery Services Ltd and friend from our days together in Hucknall Round Table) that I was going to book the freight and he said that he fancied doing a County Battery road trip and he had enlisted the help of another ex-tabler Martyn Knox Hopkins Solicitors they would deliver the bike to Andermatt for us.

Our friends Anna and Josh helped us secure flights to Zürich and we booked air B&B for the first two nights in Andermatt and booking.com for the first stop in Werdenberg 90 miles down the River. We decided that we would decide on the route where we would stop. We then booked a suite and breakfast on the ferry from Rotterdam to Hull we might need a rest by then.

So to preparations we had to go from doing 50 miles per week to an average of 60 miles per day. We purchased a book called The Rhine Cycle Route by Mike Wells which gives a detailed study of the whole route from the source to the sea. we studied this and it appeared the route does not always follow the river bank and is sometimes on both or just one variant of sides. This gave us the excuse to buy a to so  we also bought a Garmin 1000 explorer in case we got lost (I know! How difficult is it to follow a river?)

We tried to increase the amount of miles we were doing but the weather conspired against it was  February and March 2018 and the snow and freezing (we are scared of cycling in the ice and snow) weather was relentless

TAs the weather improved we increased the distance on a weekly level. The Garmin was great it allowed us to find new and interesting routes with the round trip planner which allows you to pick the type of roads or tracks you want to avoid then the distance and direction you want to travel.

As well as the Garmin we bought a special tandem roof rack from J D Tandems 

Which allowed us to tour different places. We had a great time finding new rides and beautiful villages in the countryside

J D Tandems  will lend you a tandem for a day as a trial we thought this was a great offer and travelled up to Gargrave to train for the weekend and try out an Orbit Tour. We booked a chalet again with Airbnb the owners (Dawn & Phil 07591 691150)  call a garden room Which is a chalet in there garden. It was a five minute walk from J D Tandems and they have a garage to lock the bike away!

We put a route into Garmin Asked the chaps in the shop if it looked OK as it was the weekend of the Tour of Yorkshire. They warned us it was a tough ride they were correct 3700 feet climbed in 44 miles but some great views

The next day we decided to take our Dawes Galaxy and push a little further 63 miles with nearly 5000 feet of climbing. The weather was great and here is a good point make sure you use the sun cream

When we got back to the chalet as there is a washing machine we would see how well the cycling clothing would dry. We washed it and hung it out to dry at 7.00pm

The weather was warm and dry next morning at 8.00 am our cycling clothes were dry, which was a great test as we were to carry  everything we were taking in panniers and saddlebag.


SWITZERLAND TO MANSFIELD BY TANDEM THE PACKING

Cycling home from Switzerland carrying your clothes needs some planning the first being what do I put them in? After much research and questioning of people I decided to get some Ortlieb panniers and we already had a Topeak saddle bag which again is quick release and portable.

The Ortlieb panniers are waterproof and also have a quick release. We packed all our clothes into the panniers and mine weighed about 10 lbs (4.5Kg)Jane was at 14 lbs (6.kg)

IMG_3361.jpg

This is my apparel for the two and a half weeks we are away. We have decided to take some hand wash soap for the clothes and possibly wash every two days (or stink) Here is my list

  • 6 pairs socks (I plan to wear and wash then throw away)
  • 5 pair underpants (I plan to wear and wash then throw away)
  • 1 pair espadrilles
  • Sealskinz oversocks (these are advertised as waterproof hopefully it won’t rain)
  • 2 pair cycling socks (1 to wash and 1 to wear)
  • 2 cycling shirts (1 to wash and 1 to wear)
  • 2 tee shirts (1 to wash and 1 to wear)
  • 2 pair cycling shorts  (1 to wash and 1 to wear)
  • 1 travel towel
  • a pair of trousers that will unzip  to make into shorts
  • a pair of shorts
  • a raincoat

we also have cycling helmet,shoes and fingerless gloves and sunglasses

We need to remember toothbrush and toothpaste, shaver passports credit card wallet travel insurance documents and money. We packed our saddle bag

  • suncream
  • innertube
  • patches
  • multitool
  • bike lock
  • tyre inflators
  • tyrelevers
  • euro plug adaptors
  • powerbank
  • Garmin
  • mobile phone
  • multi charger lead
  • charge leads for anything battery operated

At the last minute we decided that it might be good to have cycle insurance so after phoning around decided to go with Veloshaw for about £150 (which covers us for a year for everything from UK breakdown cover to insurance for your teeth against road rage hopefully I am too old (or too scary)  for all that.

To qualify for the insurance we had to buy at least a silver standard bike lock never come across that one before anyway picked one up and then spent half an hour trying to make out the Abus instructions that were just pictures before resorting to YouTube

Another 2 kg to an already heavy bike

Wednesday night Knoxy and Dobbo turned up we loaded the van

Next time we see them hopefully will be in Switzerland.

The team at County Battery requested I weigh in before and after I was 16st 10lb. I guess you could have a sweep stake at Thursday morning Mansfield and Ashfield 2020 breakfast meeting see if I lose some or find some on the way

We pre-booked a taxi to Heathrow for our flight to Zürich it was cheaper to get a cab than the train £130.

SWITZERLAND TO MANSFIELD THE JOURNEY BEGINS

Woke up at 5.30 on a cool grey morning, had a quick shower, the taxi arrived early at 5.50 and we were off.

We started getting messages from Knoxy and Dobbo who had kindly offered to go on a road trip and deliver our Tandem to Switzerland. They had a 5.30 start on their drive down to Dover for the start of the journey into Europe

The boys really seem to be having fun singing on the way

https://videopress.com/embed/kcbYHdty?hd=0&autoPlay=0&permalink=0&loop=0They had one or two minor set backs.

But generally managed to get to their first stop in Strasbourg without too much trouble

Those breathalyser kits you bought might be of use Dobbo!

We had a 12.15 flight from Heathrow. All was going well until we hit the holdup for an hour on the M25. Mark Growcock later suggested that the M40 may have been a better alternative. It pains me to say he is probably right. So 4 hours to Heathrow. We purchased food at the airport as we were not sure of food at destination as it happened the only local Coop was closed and the restaurant didn’t cater very well for Veggie Jane.

We met up with our friend Anna and boarded the flight.

We were to fly to Zürich and then catch the train to our Airbnb apartment. It was so difficult to work out the train cost and timetable, it appeared to be about 100 Euros so we booked a taxi for 160 through this site where you put in the details of the journey and different taxi’s bid for the business.

The driver Dogangul didn’t speak English brilliantly but far better than my German. What excellent customer service, he gave Jane change for the toilet and bought us both an ice cream on the way.

There we had some of the larger mercedes mini bus quoting us for this so it is quite possible if we didn’t have Dobbo and Knoxy we could have got BA to bring the tandem and taxi it to the destination. You could also miss out the first stage and cycle from Zurich to Lake Constance about 70 miles. Zürich is beautiful, I would like to spend more time there.

The scenery got better and better the closer we got.

We had another 2 hour cab ride before we arrived at our digs in Göschenen such a beautiful place. 450 inhabitants, 1 restaurant, 1 shop and a church with a cracked bell.

https://videopress.com/embed/B8kS04V1?hd=0&autoPlay=0&permalink=0&loop=0We picked a very spacious apartment with about 8 beds which cost £274 for two nights which suited us better. We planned to feed Phil and Knoxy and possibly make food for the outbound trip. The cost of living seems quite high in Switzerland so self catering is helpful to the budget.

So now we just have to wait for the Tandem to arrive…

WAITING FOR THE BIKE

Up and about this morning in the Swiss village of Göschenen.

Jane and I are waiting for Dobbo and Knoxy to deliver our Tandem for our bike ride down the Rhine to Rotterdam then a ferry to Hull and then to our home in Mansfield UK.

We decided to explore the area and whilst catching the train to Andermatt (cost 33 CHF return for both of us, 10 minute trip) we notice the trains on this part of the track are great for bikes. I guess the ride would only be 5 miles but perhaps all uphill.

If you catch the train the better view is on the left hand side of the train going up.

We arrived in the pretty town of Andermatt. It is a lot bigger than the village we were staying in. There is a variety of hotels and restaurants that seem to be reasonably cycle friendly and cater to some degree to my wife’s vegetarian diet.

The scenery is stunning.

everything seems to be expensive by UK standards about 30% more at the time of writing (May 2018).

The weather has been great, the temperature is 20 degrees in Andermatt at 2.00 pm but very cool in the evening. Don’t forget your jumper.

The bike was soon delivered.

Here is a video of the trip so far…

https://videopress.com/embed/t3xkCCos?hd=0&autoPlay=0&permalink=0&loop=0

SWITZERLAND TO MANSFIELD BY TANDEM DAY 1 STARTING AT THE OBERALPPASS TO BUCHS

We decided that we would have a long ride on the first day. We thought coming off the mountains would be all downhill. Mistake number 1 lol.

We got up early. Knoxy said he wouldn’t come as he doesn’t like heights, which is just as well because the bike can only seat 3. So we were at the top of the pass at about 8.30. You could cycle from Andermatt but bear in mind it is a 1000 metre climb.

It was then, tentatively we started down the hill. We were concerned the brakes would overheat. It is probably 10 miles of steep downhill

The picture doesn’t show but I guess about 1 in 7.

We then peddled about 20km and just before the village of Disentis/Muster the route travels down rough country tracks. We decided to come off the trail and go by road to Ilanz through very quaint alpine villages.

In most of these there is a water fountain supplying free water. After Ilanz there is a hard climb but stunning scenery and great views.

https://videopress.com/v/OEtM4ZD2?hd=0&autoPlay=0&permalink=0&loop=0We then made our way to Chur and lost the trail after riding around in circles for about an hour. Garmin came to the rescue.

The final stage to Buchs was along the side of the Rhine and was fairly flat although there was a strong head wind.

We stayed at the Landgastof Wardenberg hotel which was very clean, very basic and cheap at about £80 per night. Breakfast was extra 8€ each.

We walked down to Galerie am See, sat in the sunshine and looked at the view.

24chf for a burger is a lot more than McDonalds but what a view.

Here’s where we went…

DAY 2 TANDEM CYCLE TRIP FROM BUCHS TO KONSTANZO

Feeling fresh and well. We had a good breakfast and set off. We are following a guide book called the Rhine Cycle Route and as instructed in this book we moved away from the Rhine and cycled through very pretty agricultural land to Bregenz. One of the towns we passed was Allistatten, the route passes an amazing scrapyard.

Leaving the mountains behind us, the route goes from Switzerland, along the Lichtenstein border, to Austria, then into Germany.

The next town we came to was Bregenz on the banks of Lake Konstanz. We stood in the harbour and looked up, there was a Zeppelin we assumed came from Freidrichhafen, where the Zeppelin factory was founded.

As the temperatures got to 28 degrees, we decided a boat trip would be good so we cut the route short by 30 miles and caught the ferry to Konstanz. It cost €18 each + €6 for a “long bike”.

The ferry’s first port was Lindau, a medieval town that is bustling with activity.

Boat battery

There are many more stops. The ferry takes 3 and half hours to Konstanz. Fredrichshafen is a busy port with an airport.

The penultimate stop is Meersburg.

We arrived in Konstanz at 7.00pm, had a quick shower, washed our clothes and went out for a meal. We were luckily on the German side of the bridge which makes a massive difference to ghd price. Two meals including soft drinks €35 compared with €50 the night before in Switzerland. Similar view too.

The hotel for today is the Apartment Hotel Konstanz. Better than the last one in Switzerland, £130 including breakfast, bigger room, bigger bed and a lot nicer.

We are going to start earlier in the morning to see if we can beat the sun.

DAY 3 RHINE CYCLE TOUR KONSTANCE TO WALDSHUT

We left Konstance at 7.30am to try and miss the heat of the day. We headed along the Rhine and after about 20 miles came to Stein am Rhein.

https://videopress.com/v/NUheaTk8?hd=0&autoPlay=0&permalink=0&loop=0Amazing place. We then headed for the Rhinefalls which we were told is the biggest waterfall in Europe.

https://videopress.com/v/XYpEreVo?hd=0&autoPlay=0&permalink=0&loop=0We then picked up the D8 cycle route with amazing scenery on the way.

We finished at Waldshut. The temperature on a sign outside the Chemist said 33 degrees.

The hotel in Waldshut is the best yet. It is 4 stars with an extra big bed for €148 called the Bercher.

We had a meal in Waldshut, there is no comment or picture. It was OK but nothing to recommend for this blog

This trip is really quite tough. The schedule is tight and the weather is really hot. If you do this trip, bear these things in mind. We have decided to up the standard of hotel making sure we have as many luxuries as possible. We didn’t book hotels before we came, just the first two.

and have been managing the rest through Booking.com

DAY 4 RHINE CYCLE ROUTE WALDSHUT TO NEUF-BRISACH

On our County Battery Tandem Team we have covered about 210 miles from the Oberalpass. We checked our itinerary and decided to up the mileage and do 80 miles to Neil-Brisach.

The morning of 29-05-2018 was grey and raining but it was cool. I was interested to see how well our Sealskinz over-socks and our panniers and saddlebag performed. However the rain soon subsided, although everything was dry the test was not good enough.

It was quite amazing how fast the size of the river was growing.

And more so when the Rhine canal joins at Schwaderloch.

We followed the Swiss side of the Rhine and then came to the pretty town of Rhinefelden.

We pushed on to Basel and for some reason unknown to me it was more difficult to follow the marker signs and we got lost in Basil.

And found some disinteresting places, the second picture I put in for our friend Ross who is our favourite freight forwarding agent.

We did discover that if you book using booking.com the app will give you the address of that hotel which you can open in google maps and use as a satnav if you don’t have a Garmin. Beware it is heavy on Battery

After Basel we headed up a canal, the whole of the route from then on appeared to be on the flat.

Another German cyclist pointed out the oldest nuclear power station in France which he said could go at anytime. I am sure it would wreck the Black Forest behind it

We reached Neuf-Brisach in the late afternoon, what a great surprise. It is a fortified town built on the orders of Napoleon walled and fortified

Even better, the best hotel room yet in the town an apartment Booking.com

Cost only €79

Just so you all know how we are managing with so little luggage. We wash our clothes every night. They get very dirty.

Strasbourg tomorrow.

DAY 5 RHINE CYCLE TOUR NEUF-BRISACH TO RHINEMUNSTER VIA STRASBOURG

Another beautiful day on our tandem trip from the Swiss alps to Mansfield in Nottinghamshire, our home.

The route took us up a canal that had been built by Napoleon to help move his forces around. The ride is very flat, really beautiful. It is 45 miles of the same, there doesn’t seem to be much happening around it. We took food with us and ate on the way.

We got to Strasbourg. There are various signs with Centre on them we followed the Eurovelo 15 signs and eventually got to the town centre. It is really pretty.

https://videopress.com/embed/JAqwmbEl?hd=0&autoPlay=0&permalink=0&loop=0

After Strasbourg we headed for our hotel in Rhinemunster. We followed canals and the Rhine and eventually crossed it about 10 miles from the hotel.

It had grown beyond all expectations.

Our hotel for the night, the Engle. We read a comment on one of the reviews that the food was good at the hotel. It was exceptional asparagus in season and served with pancakes and hollandaise sauce.

The hotel cost £85 bed and breakfast was really good no air con and it was a hot evening.

 

Day 6 Rhine Cycle Tour Rhinemunster to Speyer

We have moved slightly off the route given in the book “The Rhine Cycle Route” by Mike Wells because of hotel locations, so we’re now making our way back to the Rhine Route eventually catching up at Karlsruhe.

We cycled from here to catch the Leopoldshafen Rhine ferry across the water to Leimershein. With the current in the Rhine at this point the ferry can’t sail straight across,

and the river traffic has become massive.

With 20 miles to go, we stopped off at Germersheim. A very popular spot with hundreds of cyclists.

We then made our way to Speyer, another lovely town.

Where I ate a tradition dish, Rinderroulade. a meat dish with dumplings and red cabbage I think might have been better as a winter dish than summer, €16.80.

My wife Jane is a massage therapist. I was getting very tight quad muscles so she stretched my psoas muscles and the pain went away.

455 miles done! 399.4 miles to go!