South Dartmoor CTC

Page    



Friday 26 July 2013
1900-2200
Evening ride: Converted to SocialDry
4 present: Lawrence Buttress, Ash Freeman, Michael Jones, Will Rogers
Will came up for the start and wanted to play some games. Lawrence joined in online and then decided to come up to join us at 8.30. After some fun on the trampoline we did a music quiz on US TV series and movie themes and then finished with some games of Modern Warfare 3.

Sunday 28 July 2013
1015-1300
Morning ride: CancelledMainly dry after early rain
0 present:
Early rain and the need to prepare for Tuesday’s Switzerland tour was enough to persuade everyone to stay at home today.

Tuesday 30 July 2013Tour: Switzerland Day 1 Home to Basel (7 mi)Wet in London, warm and sunny in Europe
5 present: Lawrence Buttress, Ash Freeman, Michael Jones, John Rogers, Will Rogers
Lawrence, Ash and Will at the Eurostar station in Paris (17:10)
Our epic 2013 tour of Switzerland began at Newton Abbot rail station at 0745. This was the third time the club has visited Switzerland but the first time for most people in this group, so there was a lot of excitement in the air.

The 0806 train, which was a few minutes late, sped us to London by 1138 without incident. There was some rain around for our three mile ride to St Pancras International station, but Michael’s satnav led us efficiently through London’s quieter streets.

This year for the first time we had been allowed to reserve proper bike spaces on the Eurostar instead of having to dismantle the bikes and put them into bags. We couldn’t load them onto the train ourselves of course like we had at Newton Abbot: we had to find the Eurostar Despatch office, sign a few forms and leave the bikes with staff there to load onto the train. This left us with many heavy panniers to lug around the enormous station – John was especially grateful for help from Ash.

Our journey to Paris on the 1331 Eurostar was enhanced by an American family who struck up a fascinating conversation with us. The teenagers were keen to tell us how much they enjoyed Dr Who, and the parents lamented the local bias in most of their news sources and explained how much they rely on BBC news to get the whole picture. We felt rather proud of our great national broadcaster.

The weather in Paris was hot and sunny, in stark contrast to London. If our train had arrived on time we would have had a clear hour and a half to cross Paris and board our final train, but it was late so now we were under pressure. And the train we had to catch was the last one of the day to Switzerland. We saved a little time by persuading the guard to let us have the bikes straight off the train instead of waiting for them to be taken to the Despatch office.

Michael’s satnav again did a good job at leading us the 3 miles through the busy Paris streets to Gare de Lyons station, but by the time we arrived we had nothing good to say about French road users. There was a bicycle lane but moped riders were allowed to use it as well, and they kept weaving around us without warning. Then there were the pedestrians who kept walking out in front of us, evidently expecting us to stop for them. To cap it all a bus nearly took out Ash and John by overtaking and trying to turn right in front of them: fortunately it decided to stop at the last second before actually running them over.

Somehow we arrived safely at the station by around 1753, half an hour before our train was due to depart, but then the real nightmare began. The SNCF train to Switzerland had no space for whole bikes so we had brought bike bags with us for this final part of the journey. Our task was simple: remove the wheels, mudguards, pedals, seat and handlebars, pop the bike in the bag and carry it onto the train. But it was very hot and many of the group had not practiced doing this before the tour. To make matters worse there were 23 platforms and the departure platform for our train was not yet displayed on the board. Michael tried asking someone at the information desk where the train would be, but they seemed to have no clue and helpfully advised waiting for the announcement.

We picked a quiet spot near one end of the station, got our tools out and worked as fast as we could on packing the bikes. Everyone felt stressed in the heat and some found it was taking longer than they had expected. When the platform was finally announced it turned out to be in the worst possible place, at the other end of the station concourse! So now we had to drag the bagged bikes and our luggage past 22 platforms!

Michael and Ash got their bikes and luggage onto the train and then went back to help the others, but the guards and station officials were looking anxiously at their watches when they realised there were more to come with only minutes left before the train was supposed to leave. In the end the last few bikes had to be shoved into bags with bits sticking out and zips not done up properly, dragged to the train at top speed and dumped unceremoniously into the luggage space. The guards didn’t seem to mind about the state of the bags as long as the train could leave on time, and somehow it did although we only got on with seconds to spare.

If there was one redeeming factor it was that our seats for the journey were air-conditioned. It took us probably half an hour of sitting quietly before we were cool and calm. We got a lot of strange looks from other passengers who seemed amused to see the state we were in. We obviously hadn’t had time to buy drinks on the station so now we had to pay extortionate prices on the train, but at least they were chilled.

We finally arrived in Basel a few minutes early at 9.20. We reassembled the bikes and bought lots of excellent food from some of the many station shops and cafes, including yoghurt drinks that Michael had not tasted for many years.

We had just over a mile to ride to Basel youth hostel, and once again Michael had programmed his satnav to take us there by the shortest route. Unfortunately trams ran along all the roads near the centre and their overhead electric cables completely blocked out the satellite signals. The maps were stored on the satnav however so we were able to navigate the old-fashioned way.

We had a very comfortable modern dormitory and made good use of the individual showers that opened directly onto the corridor, although because we had arrived so late there were one or two complaints from other hostellers about the noise. Our beds were comfortable, conditions were quite cool and the sound of running water outside put us all quickly to sleep. A few had nightmares about frantically trying to dismantle bikes while the train was pulling out.

Wednesday 31 July 2013
0800-2300
Tour: Switzerland Day 2 Basel to Solothurn (25 mi)Hot and sunny
5 present: Lawrence Buttress, Ash Freeman, Michael Jones, John Rogers, Will Rogers
Ash and Will in Basel YH
Basel youth hostel
The group outside Basel YH (10:19)
The dining area, Basel YH
Cycle route signposts at Olten
Outside the rail station at Olten
Cycling past a field of sunflowers
Fun and games at our lunch stop near Boningen
The river at Solothurn, just outside the YH (22:28)
Ash makes a friend of Sam the Sunflower
HD video footage from today's ride
We awoke refreshed this morning in what many felt was the best hostel of the tour. Breakfast was included in the overnight price and we were able to sit on a table outside the dining area near the river in glorious morning sunshine.

Our bike bags were quite heavy so our first task was to get rid of them. We rode back to the station, packed all the bags into a single package and checked it in at the luggage office. We paid a small charge of around £8 to get the bags transferred to Zurich station, where the tour would finish in 10 days’ time, but we felt this was a price worth paying for not having the extra weight during the tour. We stocked up with food and drink from the excellent Migros supermarket on the station concourse.

Riding all the way from Basel to Solothurn would have been 58 miles - too far for our first day – so we used the train to take us as far as Olten from where the route was mainly flat. Swiss trains are very bike-friendly: you have to pay half fare to take a bike, but you can put it anywhere on the train without restriction. We put all our bikes easily into a bike area of our carriage and were able to seat near them. We passed the time by looking out for cranes which Michael said had been everywhere on his previous visits: we counted more than 25 that could be seen from the train in the first ten minutes of the journey, so it seems even more of the Swiss population have their own personal cranes these days.

One of the many delights of cycling in Switzerland is the network of well-signed national and regional cycle routes that criss-cross the country. We bought take-away lunch at Olten station and then immediately joined national cycle route 5 which starts at the station entrance. We followed it south-westwards along the river Aare, green with meltwater from alpine glaciers, enjoying quiet traffic-free roads and tracks nearly all the way.

The sunny weather showed off the real beauty of the Swiss countryside today, although it was perhaps a little hotter than we would have liked by the time we reached the HEP station at Rothrist. We were looking for a shady place for lunch and finally found it when the cycle route went offroad through a forest after Boningen. There was a very well made see-saw nearby which kept us entertained.

The cycling route continued all the way to our hostel at Soluthurn. Along the way we rode past fields of vegetables and sunflowers – Ash just couldn’t resist plucking a face out of one of the sunflower heads. Because the route was mainly flat we made good speed and arrived at Solothurn to find loads of people enjoying the river: they were jumping off a bridge near the hostel and floating downriver.

The hostel was very modern. Our room was on a high level, giving us excellent views across the river. Two of us used adjacent showers without noticing that one was supposed to be for females: a couple of women who came along later became rather irate when they heard the sound of a male in their shower.

Solothurn is a large town with many shops, so we were surprised when we walked all around the town and failed to find a single shop open. It turned out that we had picked the worst possible day to visit Solothurn: today was Swiss day when everyone in the country celebrates the birth of Switzerland. Shops close early and stay closed, and a lot of people come to Solothurn to celebrate because of its long and proud history. We ended up enjoying hot food in a little pizza restaurant but we did not have a great night: it was oppressively hot even by Swiss standards, and loads of people were outside eating and letting off fireworks until 2am! It’s normally quiet and peaceful here – we just chose the wrong night!

Thursday 1 August 2013
0800-2300
Tour: Switzerland Day 3 Solothurn to Avenches (45 mi)Sunny and very warm
5 present: Lawrence Buttress, Ash Freeman, Michael Jones, John Rogers, Will Rogers
Unusual triple bunk beds at Solothurn YH
View from our dorm at Solothurn YH
The river opposite the hostel entrance (9:32)
The group outside Solothurn YH (9:33)
Stork nests at Altreau (10:48)
The cycle route along the Aare valley just outside Solothurn (10:16)
A Grand Prix car in a display garage just outside Altreau - owed by Swiss race driver Dominik Kocher
Storks at Altreau (10:46)
A paraglider comes in for a landing at Grenchen
Some of the many light aircraft at Grenchen airfield
Lunch in the shade of a tree by the river Aare near Nidau
Taking a rest from the sun on the ancient wooden bridge at Buren
View across lake Bienne from Morigen (13:53)
Locals enjoying Lake Bienne at Ipsach
Example of a typical crane designed for home use (14:01)
A tranquil spot by the lake near Morigen
Detour around the rebuilding work at Tauffelen HEP station
Fruit farming in the Aare valley (14:05)
Faoug on lake Murtensee (19:25)
Swim stop at Faoug on lake Murtensee
The leisure platform in the lake at Faoug
HD video footage from today's ride
When we awoke this morning it was as if last night had never happened: all the people had vanished and the whole place was tranquil and calm. As we were leaving at 9.40 the warden gave us the fabulous news that because today was Swiss day, every shop in Switzerland would be closed except those at stations.

We crossed the bridge, bought rather expensive provisions from the kiosk at Solothurn station and then rejoined route 5 for a day that would be a good deal longer than yesterday. It was already quite hot, so we couldn’t help feeling envious as we heard people splashing around and having fun in the luxurious Solothurn swimming pool.

Our first stop was the tiny village of Altreau, famous for its feathered residents, a family of storks, who get special nesting areas built for them on the local houses. As we were leaving the village Ash couldn’t help noticing an amazing grand prix race car in an expensive-looking display garage. The sign inside the window said it belonged to Swiss race driver Dominik Kocher, but many of our youngsters wished it belonged to them.

A little further down the valley we noticed planes taking off from a local airfield, circling a few times and then dropping out several paragliders for the long, slow descent to ground level. This was Grenchen, a fairly major airfield, but to us it just seemed like the Swiss were wealthy beyond imagination to be able to enjoy such exciting sports in such a rural location.

We took shelter from the sun on the ancient wooden bridge at Buren but didn’t bother visiting the town as there was no station there. We missed the turn for Bienne where there was a major station, but were fortunate enough to find a garage near Gummen that had enough cold drinks and snacks for us to buy lunch. We ate it in the shade of a tree by the river.

It was no surprise that everyone wanted to go for a swim. Michael remembered a delightful spot by the first lake at Ipsach, but when we got there today it was packed with locals and tourists. Switzerland is landlocked, but the locals get plenty of water fun with their lakes which have beaches and waves just like the seaside, but have the advantage of being fresh water, shallow and safe. The lakes are enormous, quite large enough for hundreds of people to be out on them in their expensive boats.

We continued along the route looking for another lakeside bathing spot. Ash’s mind must have been elsewhere: going around a bend he was looking up at the trees, veered off the rough path, hit a gully concealed in the grass and ended up being projected into the air. He had a nasty groin injury and needed ten minutes to recover!

We soon found another nice spot by the lake, near Moringen, but there were still a few people around so we just used the drinking fountains to refill our water bottles and sat in the shade near the many boats for a rest.

On a previous tour the Tauffelen HEP station made an impressive site, extracting huge amounts of electricity from the fast flowing Aare-Hagneck canal. Evidently it had not been impressive enough however, as now it was being rebuilt to be bigger and better than before. Unfortunately this meant we had to negotiate a hilly detour around the building site.

Next stop was Vinelz where we branched off national route 5 to take the short-cut to Avenches via Ins. By the time we had climbed a long hill across fields and through woodlands we felt we might have done better to stay on route 5 which would have been flatter!

After Ins the route was flatter and quite fast. We worked our way around the smaller Lake Morat to Murten where Michael was sure everyone would enjoy a swim. But in the end they preferred to be closer to the hostel before getting wet, so we carried on around the lake to Faoug. Here at last we found what we had been looking for. There was a busy camping site by the edge of the lake that was all set up for fun bathing. Everyone went in, wading out through the warm, shallow waters and the swimming the last few metres to the first leisure platform. It was so refreshing to be in the water after such a long, hot day of cycling. Some went out to a second platform but everyone had fun diving and jumping into the water. When we eventually returned to the beach there was an outdoor shower ready for a rinse off. This was a truly idyllic spot, demonstrating yet again that the Swiss really know how to enjoy themselves.

We rode the final few miles to Avenches hostel feeling damp but cool and invigorated. Sadly the warden could offer us no food, but we rode the short distance to the local garage and managed to get enough provisions from there. It was another very warm night, but by leaving the windows wide open we managed to get enough of a breeze in our room to get some sleep.

Friday 2 August 2013
0800-2300
Tour: Switzerland Day 4 Avenches to Lausanne (55 mi)Hot and sunny
5 present: Lawrence Buttress, Ash Freeman, Michael Jones, John Rogers, Will Rogers
Lawrence tidying our room at Avenches YH
View from our room at Avenches YH
Will fills his bottle in Sevaz
Avenches YH (9:33)
Sevaz
Lawrence enjoying chicken in the shade in Sevaz
Lake Neuchatel near Yvonand (14:18)
Lunch stop near Yvonand
Lawrence by lake Neuchatel (14:08)
Ash enjoys the idyllic views across lake Neuchatel (14:14)
The route for Day 4
A water stop at La Sarraz
HD video footage from today's ride
Today was to be the longest cycling day of our tour, and the excessive heat also made it the most exhausting. We planned to follow the relatively easy national route 5 to Lausanne rather than take the more direct but hillier route 1, so our first task was to use regional routes via Payerne to rejoin route 5. It took us a good deal longer to reach Payerne than we had anticipated, but when we arrived we were rewarded with a huge co-op with a cool and shady multi-storey car park on top, so we used the opportunity to buy takeaway lunch and plenty of drink for the day from the huge range of products on offer.

We got away at around 11.30, then while following route 34 back to lake Neuchatel we misread a sign and ended up in Payerne military airfield! There were no warnings or barriers, no sign of life and no obvious security cameras, yet we had ridden alongside the runway and ended up next to some enormous locked hangers that looked as though they may contain some impressive military hardware. We found out later that the site is currently home to the Swiss Air Accident investigation board, and that by 2015 it will have been converted to a spaceport for satellite and space flight launches.

There was no respite from the intense heat until we reached the tiny village of Sevaz. Here we luxuriated in the shade provided by a farmhouse and refilled our bottles from the village water fountain. These fountains can be found all over Switzerland, in virtually every town or village and even sometimes in the countryside. The water is always fresh and ice-cold. The Swiss pride themselves on never needing bottled water, and these fountains are yet another reason why Switzerland is the perfect destination for cyclists. Lawrence couldn’t wait for lunchtime so started eating his chicken while we rested.

We soon reached route 5 at Estavayer Le Lac and followed the flat cycle path along Lake Neuchatel looking for a nice lunch spot. We hadn’t found one by the time we reached Yvonand but Michael noticed a forest track heading off to the right in the general direction of the lake and thought it would be worth investigating. A few hundred metres later we had discovered the perfect place for lunch: plenty of shade, fabulous views across the lake, nobody else around and even a few benches to sit on! We spent an hour here just soaking up the tranquillity. Ash fell asleep on one of the benches, but he was still sore from his gully accident yesterday.
We had to press on now as there was a long way to ride today. Will and Ash managed to get separated from the group in Yverdon Les Bains but we soon met up again on the far side with the help of a phone call. Ash and Michael bought ice-cold drinks from the multi-storey co-op and the rest found refreshments in a nearby shop.

Despite the intense heat everyone was keen to cycle the rest of the way to Lausanne, although I’m the fact that our cycle route followed the train line all the way played a part in their decision. So we set off at around 3.30 on a route that was mainly flat or downhill.

Will was desperate for drink by the time we reached Chavornay so we detoured over the bridge to find a water fountain in the town. We did find one, but unusually this one was marked as unfit for drinking, so instead we refilled bottles from a local shop and public toilets. Ash was now suffering a bit with knee problems, no doubt caused by his accident yesterday. He toyed with the idea of taking the train, but in the end Will convinced him to cycle.

There was a climb on the route up to La Sarraz, but after that it was pretty much all downhill to Lausanne, through many interesting field and forest tracks. When we reached Echandens we were so tired with the riding and the heat that we decided to leave route 5 and take the direct route to the hostel for the last few miles: it was a main road but was still relatively quiet. We finally got to the hostel by around 8.15, totally shattered but pleased to have made it without using the train.

After much-needed showers John and Will ventured down to the lakeside for a pizza meal while the rest of us made do with food we had brought with us. We were soon in bed, but the room was uncomfortably hot without air conditioning.

Saturday 3 August 2013
0800-2300
Tour: Switzerland Day 5 Lausanne to Chateaux d'Oeux (15 mi)
5 present: Lawrence Buttress, Ash Freeman, Michael Jones, John Rogers, Will Rogers
Lausanne YH (10:44)
A late departure from Lausanne YH (10:44)
Lunch on the beachnear Pully (13:51)
Lake Geneva, from Lausanne waterfront (12:46)
Will and the vineyards of Villette (14:49)
Lawrence, Ash and the swan, on the beach near Pully (13:52)
Lawrence Buttress at the Hotel du Monde, Grandvaux (15:36)
View to Villette and Lake Geneva (14:49)
Welcome refreshments on a swelteringly hot day at Hotel du Monde, Grandvaux (15:37)
HD video footage from today's ride
Report to be written from the following notes made by Michael.

Lausanne to Chateaux d’oeux. Ash and I went out early to find a chemist where we could buy some Sudacream for Ash. Found a chemist but it was closed this Saturday, so rode more and found another. Got cream there for 10.85 francs, around £7, at 10.08, in a tube.

Everyone tired so we took a leisurely start with no real intention of cycling all the way today. Rode along the lakeside then up to the station where we found we could take a train from Vevy to Chateaux d’Oeux, so decided to cycle to Vevy only today. MacFlurry in Macdonalds opposite the station – John wanted to go. Ovaltine one very nice. Then back to lake and rode along lakeside further looking for coffee or food place. Got to the end and nothing, so rest stopped by swans to eat what they had, Ash and I went back for a pizza. Ash rode back with the pizza box in one hand. Swans got very interested in our food and got very close, one came up looking aggressive later.

Rode on along the route, stopping for water at various fountains. Very hot weather. Lots of climbing past the grape vineyards, so not flat at all, one hill was almost vertical, stopped at Hotel Du monde for drinks with spectacular views across the lake, Then downhill after a little more work to Vevy. We really felt exhausted with the heat.

Took the train to Montreaux, arriving just before the 5.42 train left, but decided to get food there, and got food in a café near the station. Ash had a crepe, I had a bit of it. Also went to the coop nearby. Then took train that climbed up through the mountains to Chateaux d’Ouex. Great views. Downhill to the hostel, late arrival.

Interesting bed arrangement with two bunks adjacent. Had already eaten food on the train bought at coop. John organised a chess tournament, Ash played John but John won.

Today's ride included a total climb of 311m.

Sunday 4 August 2013
0800-2300
Tour: Switzerland Day 6 Chateaux d'Oeux to Interlaken (50 mi)
5 present: Lawrence Buttress, Ash Freeman, Michael Jones, John Rogers, Will Rogers
Refreshments at the Early Beck café in Gstaad (11:58)
Chateaux d'Oeux YH (10:07)
Ready for a very long downhill towards Interlaken (13:31)
HD video footage from today's ride
Report to be written from the following notes made by Michael.

Chateaux d’oeux to Interlaken. This was a long day but most of it turned out to be downhill. Lawrence and Will were playing chess again while we were preparing to leave, then Lawrence was late as he needed to put on sunscreen.

There was some climbing for a while, then we reached the top and it was downhill all day. Followed the path until it started going up, then moved to the main road and continued downhill all the way to Spiez.

Near there I got the call with some bad news for Ash about a schoolfriend. Ash took his stepfather’s advice and agreed not to discuss it until the end of the tour.

The last lap to Interlaken was fairly flat and we soon found the hostel, a modern building again near the centre. Tunnel went underground for cars and bikes. Nice separate showers like Basel off the corridor.

Today's ride included a total climb of 620m.

Monday 5 August 2013
0800-2300
Tour: Switzerland Day 7 Interlaken to Brienz (13 mi)
5 present: Lawrence Buttress, Ash Freeman, Michael Jones, John Rogers, Will Rogers
Interlaken YH (10:59)
Interlaken YH (10:59)
Lawrence, Will and Ash by the HEP station on the River Aare, Interlaken (15:18)
HEP station on the River Aare, Interlaken (15:17)
The diving board on Lake Brienz near Schoren that provided so much pleasure today (17:33)
Heading up the quiet south-eastern edge of Lake Brienz (16:50)
HD video footage from today's ride
Report to be written from the following notes made by Michael.

Interlaken to Brienz. This was our rest day, but it didn’t work out quite as I had planned. First we identified a bike shop, rode there and booked Lawrence’s bike in for a bottom bracket repair, they said it would be ready by 3.00 and would cost between 80 and 90 francs. We looked around the town, returned to the hostel, then went to the station to buy tickets for the mountain railway. Sadly all 5000 tickets had sold out by 10.30 and it was now 12.15 or something, so that was all a waste of time. We returned to the hostel to have lunch, tried looking at some features in the town but could not even find the square, then collected the bike early. It had been a British thread so cost us 95 francs in the end, but at least it was done. Lawrence had used a loan bike.

We then returned to the hostel, collected our bags, got a few provisions and set off on the route to Brienz, downhill and flat at first along the lake. But Will was unhappy about something nearly all the way.

We stopped at a lovely spot near a campsite to do jumps into the lake from a diving board. This made everyone happy and we got some excellent video from it. Ash was very pleased to do such good flips into the water. One of the nicest moments on the tour. I didn’t go in because there were other people watching and I don’t really like an audience – probably should have though. Left there at 6.00. Dark clouds spreading over.

Second half it was hillier, and we went past a big waterfall in the woods. After leaving there it began to rain and we got quite wet before stopping under the bridge at Brienz. All except John and Will went on after a few moments to the hostel, they waited a bit and then went.

This was a new warden and he had put us in a 12-bed room with a family of teenage girls, a boy and parents/grandparents. This was out of order. I complained. He said he didn’t know about any rules about not having mixed dorms, but would look it up.

He also could offer us no food – said we were too late. But did have a microwave and small self-catering kitchen, so we bought some meals from the garage and ate them downstairs.

Today's ride included a total climb of 529m.

Tuesday 6 August 2013
0800-2300
Tour: Switzerland Day 8 Brienz to Hospental (39 mi)
5 present: Lawrence Buttress, Ash Freeman, Michael Jones, John Rogers, Will Rogers
HD video footage from today's ride
Report to be written from the following notes made by Michael.

Brienz to Hospental. This was our alpine climb day. We got up early at around 7.30, retrieved our washed clothes which was not fully dried by the warden’s drying room, then went into Brienz to use the coop there to buy provisions and reserves for a long day. I also checked at the station and found we could take a train from Oberwald to Realp if we missed the 5.20 bus we had reserved from Interlaken.

Then followed route along valley, got water from fountain at start of climb, then found ourselves going downhill again. I bought some pastries from the bakery there, then we were on the main climb which was 16.0 miles. I called it 160 clicks and gave people a countdown, but it was a very long climb and John particularly was struggling with his heavy panniers. We had to stop for lunch in a wood beside the road well before halfway. Lawrence was slow after lunch from eating too much, but was OK again after an hour. Near the top it got cloudy, then we got a thunderstorm with heavy rain but there was no time to stop. Will was not in a happy state. Ash’s knees had been hurting a lot earlier, he spent a few hours just staying with John so I didn’t see much of him then, but for the final 2 hours he was at the front with me, wanting to be first up. And he was! We reached the top of Grimsel Pass by 7.00 and took photos. Rain had stopped now, but it was quite chilly. Temperatures had been like UK for the last few hours.

Great descent and photos, then more descent to Oberwald. Quiet place, eventually found the station. We got on a car train so only 36 francs to Realp, kids went free! Ate cheese and rolls on the train, very warm in there, then it was downhill in the descending darkness for a few miles to Hospental. We had missed Furka Pass of course, but it had been downhill all the way from Grimsel.

Got to the hostel rather late, just time for showers and bed. There was another thunderstorm in the night and rain came in the roof window above my bed, so I had to close it for a while.

John only just managed the climb, was pleased he had achieved it but would not want to do it again. He commented that I was the only one who seemed to be enjoying the hill, with no pains or illnesses.

Today's ride included a massive climb of 1741m and a descent of 991m.

Wednesday 7 August 2013
0800-2300
Tour: Switzerland Day 9 Hospental to Lucern (37 mi)
5 present: Lawrence Buttress, Ash Freeman, Michael Jones, John Rogers, Will Rogers
Hospental YH (9:58)
Unusual sleeping arrangements at Hospental YH (8:09)
Hospental YH (9:58)
HD video footage from today's ride
Report to be written from the following notes made by Michael.

Hospental to Zurich. We had a long day planned although the first third was supposed to be downhill and remainder was flat. We left fairly early, rode downhill to Andermatt, did some shopping there and then set off on the downhill. Incredible road engineering with loads of roads and snow covers and hairpins. There was a lot of downhill, getting less steep as we went on. Finally arrived at Altdorf around 12.30 I guess and wanted to get some lunch. Station shop was expensive, and it took us a while to find the town centre. When we did most places were shut for lunch, so we ended up having to buy a burger and chips for Ash and a hot cheese pie for me. Then when we came out the bakery was open, so I bought a very nice strawberry flan for Ash and me to share.

It was now gone 2pm with a long way to go, so we decided to ride to Brunnen and take a train from there. The route was noisy, next to the main road, and had some uphill at the start. We passed a bridge over the lake where Will was hoping to jump off, but it was not safe and I went on. Brunnen was nice, found the station easily using Satnav and bought tickets to Lucerne.

Train dropped us near the railway museum so we rode around the lake and then up through the very busy town to the hostel. Made beds and had showers. Ash and I showered, then we had a dessert only from the restaurant (custard slice) for 2 francs each (others joined us).

Then all but Lawrence went for a ride down to the lake to find the outdoor cinema screen, which we found. Then back to find the crepe place which John had seen earlier, but that was closed, then back to the station where we went to a MacDonalds for food .. Ash and I had MacFlurries. Then back to the hostel for 9.50. Bed for around 10.40 I guess. I sneaked downstairs when everyone was asleep to use my phone with wifi, first to check latest news about Ash’s friend so I could give Ash the most up to date information tomorrow, and second to check weather forecast for tomorrow.

Today's ride included a total climb of 350m and a huge descent of 1402m.

Thursday 8 August 2013
0800-2300
Tour: Switzerland Day 10 Lucern to Zurich (19 mi)
5 present: Lawrence Buttress, Ash Freeman, Michael Jones, John Rogers, Will Rogers
Lucern YH (9:42)
Lucern YH (9:42)
Ash goes retro (10:10)
John tries a Penny Farthing by the side of the cycle path in Lucern (10:09)
Shelter from heavy rain in a very nice café at Rotkreuz (11:19)
HD video footage from today's ride
Report to be written from the following notes made by Michael.

Lucern to Zurich. Saw the weather forecast last night on my phone, rain in Zurich all day, and moving into Lucerne as well. We set off along cycle paths at a good pace and made it to the town before Zug before the rain began. Found a great café, really warm and welcoming, best of the tour, had drinks and cakes in there, then thunder began and rain was torrential. Did our shopping in Migros next door, then decided to check out the station and took the train direct to Zurich, getting there around 1.30.

Collected our bike bags – they had lost the yellow bungee that I had put around the whole package – then headed along busy roads to the swimming place. Sadly it was closed, but we asked someone and realised we could swim down to the area from above and still jump. Well Ash did that after some preparation to make sure he could get across, then he found people inside and they let us in. So they all did great jumps, and the rain all but stopped while we were there. But after his first jump Ash grabbed some chains and got a wood splinter right under his nail, which was causing him agony. He still did his jumps and flips and dives, but after an hour or so we headed back to the station where the chemist was supposed to be able to help. They directed us to the doctors next door, and they saw Ash immediately. Big black American woman injected anaesthetic poorly causing Ash a lot of pain, then cut nail back to remove the old wood splinter which separated into many small pieces. Her assistant left for a while then Ash moved his hand and got a nasty cut that was bleeding! Useless woman. Got charged £150, plus £12 or so for painkillers. Ash was shaking and suffering extreme pain during all this, he thanked me afterwards for helping out.

The others had done shopping in the many excellent station shops, now we went down and did the same, bought some excellent pizzas and other desserts from the Migros Take-Away and ate outside under a tree. Now it was raining a little again. Ash found it hard to cycle and John didn’t want to look at the lakeside stuff now, so we went straight to the hostel and settled there for the night. Ash had decided he wanted me to tell him the news tonight so after showering and making beds we went down and got a key to the conference room 2 and chatted privately for half an hour. Had two of the yoghurt drinks, but only I drank one.

Went back to the dorm, I told everyone what the news was since Ash asked me to – he was too choked up – then he lay on his bed clearly upset and we went to bed. The others of course didn’t know Ash’s friend anywhere near as well as Ash, so they weren’t so emotionally upset, but they were clearly concerned to see Ash upset. We got to bed around 10.45, holding the one window open with my bungee strap.

Today's ride included a total climb of 91m and a total descent of 115m.

Friday 9 August 2013Tour: Switzerland Day 11 Zurich to Home (2 mi)
5 present: Lawrence Buttress, Ash Freeman, Michael Jones, John Rogers, Will Rogers
HD video footage from today's ride
Report to be written from the following notes made by Michael.

Zurich to home. Alarms went off at 5.05. The other bloke had taken his bed after I went to sleep. Everyone got up quietly and efficiently, and we were all ready for breakfast at around 5.50 with bikes loaded. It was raining heavily. Breakfast was ready although nobody was serving. We had a good final breakfast, then set off around 6.05. Around 2 miles to the station, SatNav took us there faultlessly. Got there just after 6.30 although we were all soaked.

Dismantled bikes more efficiently this time and had trolleys ready for our bikes .. all except Lawrence who didn’t have 2 francs. Turned out we were assembling right on the correct platform. Loaded the bikes in the front two carriages, although Lawrence’s bag fell apart on the way to the front as he had added it to someone else’s trolley! In the process he lost the quick release nut for his back wheel, although we didn’t discover that until Paris.

Journey was fine, we passed it very nicely with lots of card games, everyone took part. Whist and Knockout Whist. Train was travelling at 183 mph according to satnav. Rain stopped shortly outside Switzerland. Arrived Paris on time at around 11.35.

Reassembled bikes easily on the platform, Lawrence found his missing wheel bolt, we assembled it so he could ride it carefully. Got someone on the station to point out on my satnav the location of good bike shops, we rode there and found a shop with a spare bolt and spring for 1 euro. I then thought I had 45 minutes before we needed to check our bikes in, and used that to go to the Seine (lost them once by turning right without checking behind) and showed them the Seine and Notre Dam, and went along a bit so they could see the Eifel Tower. From a distance.

Then hurried back to Gare du Nord to check bikes in for 1.43. But then realised, after we had pushed the bikes to the back of the station and taken off panniers, that we were 2 hours too early. I had put the wrong time on my guide sheet. I suggested to John that we should not check bikes in yet, but he felt they had already taken off panniers so probably easier to leave them now. Sadly that turned out to be the wrong decision.

Well we did that, then had the job of carrying our panniers AND bike bags back to the station. I spent time looking for a trolley but couldn’t find one, so we just had to carry them. Dumped all our stuff near a little kiosk, then John looked after it while the rest of us went to the crepe place and bought savoury food – Ash had a steak and cheese burger, I had a pizza, very nice. Lawrence had a nutella and banana crepe. Returned to John, then Ash and I stayed while rest wandered.

Ash chatted to me here. We had what food we had left, including a dessert thing from Migros and some chocolate.

We took our bags up to Eurostar, checked in, got on the train after a little wait and the train left on time at 1713. Journey was good again, with more card games that kept us all happy. I was now feeling really shattered though. Got into London 6.39 UK time, but then found our bikes were not on that train ..Paris had sent them on an earlier train! So we had to carry our luggage all the way to Euro Despatch, where bikes were waiting. So that made us a bit late. Then the reflector on my mudguard was loose and I didn’t have time to tighten it, and of course it dropped off on the way to Paddington and got run over by a bus. Then I found I had not entered the location of Paddington station into my satnav, so we only went to a location near it! Had to ask someone and put it into my satnav, then got there by 7.30 with the train leaving 7.45! Ash and I rushed to Sainsbury to get a few things to eat, came back and found John looking concerned because Will had gone off to get food! We rushed to platform 10 which had now been announced – Ash had gone on ahead with Lawrence. Seemed like John would miss the train. Two other cyclists were trying to get on, but we had booked so they could not go on. At the last minute, 7.41, John and Will turned up and we all left OK.

Now finally I got Neil to top up Ash’s phone with £10, then he was able to catch up with messages on the way home. We ate our food as well. We did play a few card games. Train was delayed, so we got into Newton around 11.18 instead of 10.38. Everyone was waiting. Neil had found the V70 battery totally flat so lights didn’t work for 10 minutes after bump starting. But it recovered and he was waiting. Ash cycled to Neil’s so he didn’t have to cram into the back of the car.

Sunday 11 August 2013
1015-1500
Social: Switzerland tour videos
4 present: Lawrence Buttress, Ash Freeman, Michael Jones, John Rogers
The Swiss cyclists, who returned home late on Friday night, had requested a social rather than a ride today, so that is what was arranged. It was a special social though, where we loaded our tour videos onto computers and picked out the fun bits to watch again.

Computer games finished off the day nicely.

Friday 16 August 2013Social: Badminton
4 present: Ash Freeman, Michael Jones, George Rogers, Will Rogers
Lawrence apparently forgot about the social tonight, but the rest of us enjoyed a mix of computer games, badminton at Ashmoor and a games theme quiz.

Sunday 18 August 2013
1015-1240
Morning ride: Hembury Woods (8 mi)Sunny and dry
4 present: Lawrence Buttress, Ash Freeman, Michael Jones, Jack Parnell
Everyone seemed to want a shorter ride today but we had promised some off-road riding, so we rode through Buckfast and took the lower Hembury track to Shuttaford. During the summer months we often see the Bhudist camp in the field beside the track, and they were back again this year, meditating in their huge marquee.

The slalom track through Hembury made our return route great fun, bringing us home by 12.40.

Friday 23 August 2013Social: Supermarket Special
4 present: Ash Freeman, Michael Jones, Jack Parnell, Will Rogers
For this evening's social we started with some computer games, visited Tesco to buy a few snacks and then returned to Buckfastleigh for a music quiz.

Sunday 25 August 2013
1015-1330
Morning ride: Dartington (13 mi)Sunny and warm
7 present: Lawrence Buttress, Ash Freeman, Michael Jones, Callum O'Brien, Jack Parnell, John Rogers, Will Rogers
Cider Press Centre, Dartington
Cider Press Centre, Dartington
Crossing the railway line near Staverton recreation ground
Perfect weather and a good turnout made this great ride. We followed Colston road to the cycle path at Dartington and enjoyed refreshments at the Venus café in the Cider Press Centre. We then rode to the riverside path at Staverton and visited the recreation ground for some frisbee and rocket fun. Ash tried a few flips on level ground as well. We returned home via Abham.

Friday 30 August 2013
1900-2220
Social: Badminton
6 present: Lawrence Buttress, Ash Freeman, Michael Jones, Callum O'Brien, Jack Parnell, Will Rogers
We started the evening with a game of Supreme Commander, ruined slightly when Callum nuked Will early on, then used two cars to drive to Newton Abbot leisure centre to play badminton from 9 until 10.

Sunday 1 September 2013
1015-1317
Morning ride: Avon Dam (13 mi)Sunny and warm (19°C)
4 present: Lawrence Buttress, Ash Freeman, Michael Jones, Alastair Shapland
The Abbot's Way bridleway from Water Oak Corner
Great views from Dean Moor on the Abbot's Way
Everyone wanted an offroad ride today, and Avon Dam was the obvious choice on such a perfect morning. Since they were so fast up Dean Hill Ash took us down to South Brent and up to Shipley Bridge from there.

We ate ice-creams while Ash did some flips over a hillock, then we had a very enjoyable ride up to the dam and back to Buckfastleigh via the Abbots Way track to Cross Furzes.

If you have enjoyed reading these reports please send us a comment using the form on our Contact page

Page