Long-term record broken – reckless cyclists cycle on

Summer 2015: Nelson and I cycle to Kraków and argue about every city except for two. We do agree on which was the most beau­ti­ful and on which was the weird­est one, the lat­ter hav­ing been Bückeburg (the older amongst our read­ers may remem­ber it as the ancient cap­it­al of the county of Schaumburg), Bückeburg, where a com­plete stranger gave us 20,— € because we looked like cyc­lists and where Nelson had got eyes as big as sau­cers in face of the Wasserstraßenkreuz. This weird­ness has now been super­seded, not only by a cer­tain sum of Swiss Franks that decency for­bids me to name, but also, on the same day, by a bike route more grot­esque than any ever.

The day before we had climbed – for once by car, which our gra­cious hosts had lent us – the Moron massive, fol­low­ing a road so steep and bent and nar­row that I’m abso­lutely sure my mum would have refused to take it (I would have said I wore a hel­met, but hey, Mum, it was a car!) lead­ing to the Tour de Moron. That’s a view tower not on the highest, but still on one of the best posi­tioned moun­tains in the Swiss Jura, allow­ing for a round view of Vosges, Black Forest, the nearby Jura chains them­selves and, on the brink of the clouds that slowly crawled into dis­sol­u­tion across their jagged, snowy peaks: the Alps, seen for the first time on this our trip.

tramelan-tour-de-moron-panorama-1024x234 Long-term record broken – reckless cyclists cycle on

That view also pre­pared us well for the next day, for the over­view of the val­leys right below gave us much bet­ter ideas than the maps: Go down to Tavannes, then into the over­grown pass between the two great massives on the oth­er side, and all major climbs shall have been avoided. Obvious from above, very fuzzy on the map: In the fol­low­ing nar­row val­leys, a huge street col­oured depic­ted in a pois­on­ous green seemed braided togeth­er with a tiny, unnumbered bike route in a blue that could mean any­thing from “safe” to “non-exist­ent”. But if the altern­at­ive is to get lost in Jurassic forests once more, to be appre­hen­ded by the con­tra­band­ists, too exhausted from the dev­ast­at­ing climbs to fight back—

The valley it was.

A few kilo­met­ers inside the nar­row chasms, after the first down­hills of spec­tac­u­lar views and 60 km/h, we reached the vil­lage of Sonceboz. The sig­nage was amaz­ing – in the less bike-affine parts of Germany, almost all of Poland and even some of the emp­ti­er regions of France, bike routes can be invis­ible at best, at worst mis­lead­ing. From Westphalia’s pleas­ant pas­tures I’m used to find­ing bike signs point­ing to the nearest set­tle­ments by just going straight into any dir­ec­tion for 200 metres. Here, while not as dense per­haps, the signs are argu­ably bet­ter: They provide you with minute instruc­tions on how to reach all rel­ev­ant long-haul des­tin­a­tions, by road or by train, once even cas­u­ally explain­ing the rail tar­iffs for bikes. On a road sign. So we didn’t voice the shred of a doubt when shortly after Sonceboz the signs clearly and in a most artic­u­late way bid us to enter what looked like a motor­way – what the car signs unequi­voc­ally called a motor­way – what was a motor­way. Go below the bridge, don’t enter the left side, go around the 270 degrees curve …

It was a motor­way. Autobahn. No high­er cat­egory of roads in the coun­try. Two lanes per dir­ec­tion, cross­ing the bent val­leys trans­vers­ally through tun­nels of up to 1000 metres length, cars zoom­ing by leg­ally at 100 km/h, with a yel­low line on the side sep­ar­at­ing a lane for us, on which we were some­times out­paced by oth­er cyc­lists. Marvellous road qual­ity, by the way: We weren’t going so much slower than the cars. Fortunately, the road sloped down­wards all the time, a climb up these tun­nels would likely have felt etern­al.

tramelan-tunnel-end-1024x576 Long-term record broken – reckless cyclists cycle on

And then, after a while, the first exit: Surely we must leave our funny dis­pos­i­tion here – nay: the bike lane con­tin­ued to cling to the motor­way, and only left it two more exits later, right at the out­skirts of Biel. Another few kilo­metres down­hill we stopped for the first time in fif­teen minutes (an hour at least, it seemed to us), stut­ter­ing and curs­ing and shout­ing the giddy can-you-believe-its that typ­ic­ally accom­pany an acute adren­aline over­dose.

But if you believe you had been sur­prised, just ima­gine the odd German car driver who, after the shock of hav­ing to slow down from his nat­ive 180 km/h, sud­denly has a bloody cyc­list in front of him!”

Italy will have to come up with some ser­i­ous shit if it wants us to remem­ber it.

tramelan-motorway-exit-1024x576 Long-term record broken – reckless cyclists cycle on

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