Over the summer, my son and I biked National Bike Route Number 5 – The Mittelland Route. I am not an experienced or avid biker and this was more biking than I had ever done in my life. It was a challenge for me, but it was also very interesting and a lot of fun.
So, what were the logistics for the trip? And, which stages do I recommend? Read on to find out more about how we managed to do this trip and which parts I thought were the best.
What was the route and how long did it take?
The route we did was National Bike Route Number 5 – The Mittelland Route. This route is 375 km long and crosses the Swiss Mittelland, the flat(ish) area lying between the Jura Mountains and the Alps, starting at Romanshorn and ending at Lausanne. The route is broken into 7 stages ranging from 37 km to 64 km long. We (my 15 year old son and I) covered the entire route over 9 non-consecutive days of biking over the summer school break.
The route is a mix of paved and gravel bike paths, country roads, and, occasionally, busy streets. The route is clearly marked the whole way with red cycle path signs with a blue number 5.
You can find maps and further information about each stage on the Swiss Mobility website’s Bike Route Number 5 page. I hadn’t done much biking in Switzerland before this trip, so one of the pages I also found helpful to read was Swiss Biking 101 by Swiss Family Fun.
What bikes did you use?
We used our own mountain bikes. A city or road bike would be fine, I think, for all stages except stage 7 where there was a 5 to 6 km section through a rough trail in the forest.
Need to rent a bike? If you need to rent bikes, we have used Rent A Bike before and were happy with them. Most locations are at or next to train stations and it is possible to do a one way rental.
What about bike transport/parking?
To get our bikes to the trail start, we purchased a bike day pass from SBB and took our bikes on the train with us. Bikes generally aren’t permitted on trains during rush hours so we didn’t get an early start. Some trains also require a bike reservation but as we were only taking local trains to the start, we did not need to make a reservation. For more information, see the SBB page about taking bikes on the train.
At the end of each ride, we simply locked our bikes at the covered bike racks at the train station. The train stations at the official end of each stage all had decent bike parking with covered bike racks where it was easy to lock our bikes up properly. We left the bikes overnight while we went home and sometimes as long as four days depending on our schedule and the weather. Note: Not all train stations have good bike parking. There were a few smaller stations along the way that we passed that had poorly designed bike racks and properly locking the bike to the rack would not have been possible. I found it useful to look up the bike parking info on the SBB website and to look at google images of the bike parking areas for the train stations I planned to stop at before we went.
At the end of our trip, rather than taking our bikes on the train back home with us, we took them to the SBB luggage counter and had our bikes shipped back to our local train station where we could pick them up two days later.
Did you worry about bike theft? Yes, even though our bikes are not particularly valuable and we made sure to lock them up properly when we left them. At Solothurn, the light attached by a screwed on clamp on my son’s bike was stolen. The AXA insurance website has some good statistics about bike theft in Switzerland and some tips about how to protect your bike.
Did you have a favorite stage?
If I had to pick one stage as my favorite, I would pick Stage 5 Solothurn to Ins.
It was the flattest stage and I really enjoyed pedaling along the canals. Büren an der Aare was a cute town with multiple lunch options. And the Hagneck hydroelectric power plant was interesting to see.
In a close second place, was Stage 4 Aarau to Solothurn. It too was relatively flat and really pretty as it followed so closely along the Aare river.
My least favorite? Easily the last stage, Stage 7 Yverdon to Lausanne. It had the most hills and the busiest streets.
Any favorite stops?
Yes, we enjoyed walking around the Hagneck hydroelectric power plant in Stage 5 Solothurn to Ins.
And the Menhires at Clendy – pre-historic standing stones, at the end of Stage 6 Ins to Yverdon, were also a worthwhile stop.
I also found it personally gratifying when during Stage 6 of the bike route we crossed over Stage 7 of the Trans Swiss Trail National Hiking Route 2. The Trans Swiss trail crosses Switzerland in the opposite direction and my husband I are currently working on a hike through it (we are on stage 19 of 32).
I really enjoyed the bike trip, but if I plan another bike trip, I think I will do something shorter. I wanted to stop at more things to take pictures and explore a bit more.
There are lots of trails to choose from so who knows what the future holds!