Rhine Cycle Route – Day 3 – Chur to Buchs

Another day of great weather. Who said coming to Europe in the Spring would be a bad idea?

I was quite happy to be heading out of Chur. Stuffy. Missed that open country air. Barnyard > car exhaust.

On our way out of town, we stopped at several stores to buy some necessary supplies. It’s worth noting that central Chur is home to several great cycle shops; a key stop if ever a tourist is in need of some repairs.

Rejoining the route at Chur’s main rail station, we thread our way through several urban streets before joining a designated bikeway that took us back towards the Rhine. The route follows the Rhine, though runs more closely to a large highway. The pathway is relatively straight and clear, so this is a great segment to do at speed. It didn’t take us long to put Chur about 10 kilometres behind us and find ourselves back in smaller towns and farmland. The riding had been flat. My legs were grateful.

Coming into the area surrounding Igis, I noted that the valley had widened and that the hillside ranches were slowly giving way to grain fields and expansive vegetable plots. Some of the grain looked within a month of harvest. The Swiss really take agriculture seriously. I had heard there was still snow on the ground at home in Canada. I thought again about the merits of moving to Switzerland. Absolutely stunning, and a seemingly ideal climate.

Just before heading into Igis, we stopped for some lunch. The sunshine, grass, and wind made fine dining companions.

A large green grain field with a village and mountains in the background.
The location of our first big snack stop on Day 3, just outside of Igis. The Alps in the background made an ideal backdrop for a great break from riding. Together with the food we still had from the villages before Chur, this rest break became one of my all time favorites of the entire trip. Now well out of Chur, we were back into farming country, which I grew to greatly prefer. May 6, 2014 – Igis, Switzerland.

For lunch: Sausage, cheese, bread, oranges, and a carrot. I noticed that my pannier was already starting to smell like a deli. Liked that. I’ll never wash it.

Passing through Igis, the route turns and heads back into the hills. Short climbs, epic views.

First castle sighted. Private residence. As the castle was mostly obscured from the roadway, and not wanting to trespass in case they still had an archer on staff, I opted to take a snapshot of the postcard perfect driveway.

A gated and tree lined driveway.
A stunning driveway to a small castle just outside of Igis, Switzerland. Beautiful. May 6, 2014 – Igis, Switzerland.

Immediately next to the castle, a lovely pig farm. We stopped to become acquainted with the locals. Lovely critters.

A large hog standing in the yard outside a pig barn.
A large hog in the yard of a pig farm just outside of Igis, Switzerland. This particular one was quite social and visited with us for a few minutes before resuming eating. In a world where plenty of food animals live in relative squalor and cruelty, these pigs have it very good. Lots of open field to roam within and access to lots of sunshine. – May 6, 2014

Leaving the farm, the route briefly re-enters some wooded area and crosses a small river before beginning to climb again.

A green Surly Disc Trucker with loaded panniers.
Behold the unadulterated beauty of the author’s (utterly majestic) Surley Disc Trucker in full touring mode. This is the last photo taken of the bike before the weather turned sour the next day and forever spoiled the utter perfection of new bike parts. The photo was taken over the river Landquart which feeds the Rhine just a few kilometers downstream. May 6, 2014 – Malans, Switzerland.

As we climbed, the view of the valley below got better and better. I greatly enjoyed looking down on dozens of Swiss farms as we climbed gently up the hillside.

Then, all of a sudden, vineyards!

A scenic shot of a vineyard and the river valley below.
A Swiss vineyard along a hillside just as the route is about to enter Malans. We saw hundreds of these vineyards through this part of the Rhine, and though it was only May, they looked to be well on their way to a great crop. May 6, 2014 – Malans, Switzerland.

Had we taken a wrong turn and ended up in the Mediterranean? Switzerland’s climate continued to surprise me. Epic snow in the winter, with a spring and summer that must come on strong. Locals are able to have a gnarly ski season and then move right into sowing a righteous garden. As someone who dreams of little more than a killer garden, open country and a full root cellar, I felt a hint of jealousy as I reviewed the local scene. What a great country.

The vineyards continued for a while, spackled with small towns along the way. We made regular stops to eat chocolate, a habit that became hard to break when our total journey concluded.

Soon, a steady descent began back down to the valley floor. This descent was far tamer than the ones of the last two days, but still great fun.

Leaving Bad Ragaz, the route follows closely to the river for a 13km straight shot, then enters Liechtenstein. Though long and straight with relatively uniform scenery, this straight section is anything but boring. The scenery is still very good, and it provides a great opportunity to bring the speed up a bit and give the legs a bit of a workout; a great way to earn the next chocolate bar…or three.

A straight section of bike path bordering the Rhine river in the river valley.
A very long and relatively straight section of the bike path just outside of Bad Ragaz, Switzerland. Though very straight and flat, the scenery in the valley is quite good at times and can be covered at a solid place. A great section to open up the taps and push hard for an hour or so. Not far ahead Liechtenstein is entered. May 6, 2014 – Bad Ragaz, Switzerland.

Entering Liechtenstein, we found villages and countryside essentially identical to Switzerland’s. Riding for just a bit longer, we spot a huge castle atop a hill in Balzers and decide to get a better look. Leaving the route, we cycle into Balzers along the highway and climb a steep hill to find ourselves in the castle yard. The view was completely worth the climb.

Picture of a large castle atop a hill, photographed from below.
Schloss Gutenberg as seen from the town of Balzers which surrounds it. May 6, 2014 – Balzers, Liechtenstein.
Houses, with an old church in the foreground, taken from an elevated location.
Part of the city of Balzers taken from atop the hill that holds Schloss Gutenberg. Many great views can be had. Well worth the short climb. May 6, 2014 – Balzers, Leichtenstein.
A wide angle shot of a treed valley with sparse houses in the foreground. Photo take from the top of the large hill that Schloss Gutenberg is on.
One of the many spectacular views from the Schloss Gutenberg hill. Located at a high point in the immediate area, it’s possible to get great views in almost every direction. Like Switzerland, Liechtenstein is very pretty. May 6, 2014 – Balzers, Liechtenstein.

Leaving Balzers, we rejoin the route alongside the Rhine (which has widened greatly) and ride quickly along the bike path that follows the river. Most of this section is a straight shot, so again, it’s a great place to make up some time. In very little time at all, we passed through Vaduz to take in some more of Liechtenstein.

Vaduz is a very nice place, but due to it being later in the day, we didn’t find many things open. Though we had officially left the Rhine route to explore the town, navigation was not difficult, and we were able to rejoin the route by following some signs indicating the bikeway back to the river.

Rejoining the Rhine route, we find that the route immediately crosses the river heading back into Switzerland and the Swiss town of Buchs. Climbing slightly, we ascend through Buchs to find our overnight halt. Along the way, we cycle through Buchs’ main shopping district with a wide street and walkways lined with dozens of shops. Reminded me of State Street in Santa Barbara, for some reason.

Stashing our bikes at our hotel, I note that the sky is starting to grow close again. Will it rain?

Day 3 Stats

Day’s distance: 68.71 km
Average speed: 17.6 km / h
Max speed: 52.5 km / h
Total distance: 182 km
Seat time: 3:53

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