Rhine Cycle Route – Day 0 – Zurich to Andermatt

Morning. Zürich.

Missing Iceland already. Spectacular.

Got in via an early flight from Keflavik. Tired, but happy to have finally arrived in Switzerland. Time to get down to business and do some riding.

Walking off the flight, we catch a glimpse of our boxes being unloaded off the airplane. At a distance, they look very much intact.

Icelandair aircraft with bike boxes being unloaded down cargo ramp.
Bike boxes being unloaded from our airplane at the Zürich airport on May 3, 2014.

Baggage claim. Nervous. Images of a squashed bike box flash through my mind. Have the Icelandic and Swiss baggage handlers been kind to my box?

They have! Bless them. The bike boxes have all arrived. They look to have suffered little more than a few bumps and jiggles. Very glad that I can finally banish the horrible images of a squashed bike from my mind. I’m sure I’ll need parts on this trip, but I didn’t want to find myself in a bike shop on day zero.


The next order of business was, of course, to reassemble the bikes. No problem. Just need a place to work.

Finding the luggage carts incompatible with our boxes, we lug our bike boxes out of the baggage area by hand. Outside of the baggage claim area, we find a quiet corner of the terminal with plenty of room to work. Perfect.

A Surly Disc Trucker disassembled and in a bike box on the floor of the Zürich airport.
My Surly Disc Trucker in its bike box, some packing material already removed. Zürich airport – May 3, 2014.

Opening the box, I see that everything is more or less where I left it. Very glad that I took great care while packing the bike. The cardboard reinforcements that I added have fared well, and the items that I zip-tied in place have stayed right where they needed to. Using my pocket knife, I cut away some tape and cardboard before drawing the entire bike out of the box and onto the floor.

A Surly Disc Trucker bike (green) ready for reassembly on the floor of the Zürich airport.
My Surly Disc Trucker removed from its box, ready for reassembly. Zürich airport – May 3, 2014.

More cutting. Slicing. Pulling.

Bits of tape, bubble wrap and foam padding now litter the area, but I’ve managed to successfully liberate the bike and its parts from the packing material. In 10 minutes I’ve managed to undo the packing work that took me hours to create.

Laying out the parts, I start by re-positioning the stem and the handle bars. Brifters show no signs of damage, nor do the cables. Good. Next I replace the seat, water bottle cages and handlebar bag mount. Everything is looking good.

Next, the rear derailleur, chain, front fender, pedals and front wheel are re-positioned. I look the bike over. All the spokes look good. No scratches on the frame. I run the shifters through a few tests. Gears are changing crisply. Everything seems well aligned.

Finishing up, I realign the Tubus rear rack and tighten down the mounting bolts.

What the?

Missing an allen screw. A rather important allen screw, for which I don’t have a spare. Where the blazes might it have gone?

Concerned, I rifle through the box, then the pile of cut up packing material, then the box again, finally to discover that the fugitive screw had liberated itself from the rack hardware and found a nice home under the bottom flap of the box. Close call. I was minutes away from trying to get rid of that box all together.

Allen screw located, I finish adjusting the rack and check all the other fasteners for snugness. The bike is ready. Let’s do this!

From the arrivals level we descend into the bowels of the Zürich airport. Busy. People everywhere curiously look on as we roll our bikes through the terminal.

After acquiring some snacks at a shoppe in the terminal, we retrieve our train tickets and descend further onto the train platform. Getting the bike into the elevators is a squeeze. Shouldering the bike I take the escalator instead.

Train arrives. We sprint the bikes to the bike-friendly coach indicated by a huge sticker on the side of the train. Next stop: Zürich HB.

The train meanders through Zürich to the main terminal, arriving there in mere minutes. We offload, switch platforms, and wait for the InterRegio train that will carry us to our next change in Göschenen. Weather outside is damp.

Another train. This time the bikes are hung vertically by the door rather than being stowed in the vestibule. The ride to Göschenen is nearly an hour, giving us plenty of time to get a first glimpse of the beautiful Swiss countryside. Even from the train, the scenery is epic. We’re climbing.

Pulling into Göschenen we unload hastily to find ourselves on a quiet platform very much in the mountains. The temperature has dropped. I don my jacket.

A quick survey of the platform schedule reveals that our next train route directly into Andermatt is under repair and has been replaced by a shuttle bus. Shame. I was looking forward to riding a train outfitted with a cog drive to climb into Andermatt.

Platform stairs and signage at the Göschenen, Switzerland railway station on May 3, 2014.
Göschenen railway station – May 3, 2014

Waiting for the bus, we discover that we aren’t the only bike tourists headed for Andermatt. A Russian couple is also waiting for the shuttle bus. In broken English they tell us of their planned journey heading in the opposite direction as ours towards the warmer south.

The shuttle bus arrives and the driver gingerly coaxes all the bikes onto the bus, completely blocking the side entrance. We and the Russians squeeze into the back as the driver starts his ascent into Andermatt.

As we ascend, the weather turns fouler still. First rain, then the odd snowflake dance downward. Knowing full well that the road over the pass is still often closed this time of year, I begin to wonder if we’ll be forced to ride the train over the pass on the morrow. This would be a massive disappointment as I really wanted to pound out the initial climb.

Arriving, we unload and set out into the rain and fog to search for our overnight accommodation. The Russian couple heads in the opposite direction. I lob them the best “dasvidaniya” I can muster. They chuckle over my categorically awful pronunciation and return the gesture. Godspeed.

Andermatt is beautiful, even through the fog. Wishing that the weather would improve, I wonder quietly if I should’ve brought my skis. Checking in, the Bed and Breakfast proprietor assures us that clear skies are forecast tomorrow. Let’s hope so!

Andermatt - May 3, 2014
Andermatt – May 3, 2014

Rösti at a local pub for dinner. Delicious.

A cast iron plate filled with rösti, cheese, fresh tomato, and a pickle.
Rösti for dinner in Andermatt – May 3, 2014

I’m ready.

4 thoughts on “Rhine Cycle Route – Day 0 – Zurich to Andermatt”

  1. Thank you for sharing your experience!

    I wonder how you handled the bike card box when you arrive in zurich airport? Just throw it to trash bin or there’s some place for recycle? I am going to zurich but I am not sure whether throwing a large card box is legal in zurich…

    1. Disposing of the box actually proved to be a much bigger problem than we anticipated. For some reason, I thought that we’d be able to find a large trash receptacle outside, but this wasn’t possible. Fortunately a member of Zurich airport’s maintenance staff came by and offered to take our boxes away.

  2. Hi . Great Blog. A friend and I will be doing this in Mid-May . We cycled the camino del norde in Spain last summer and found that sometimes it can be hard staying to the trail. Can you advise on a good book that would outline best routes and some reasonably priced hostels along the way? Don’t really want to be taking dangerous highways , but on the other hand, if the official trail adds considerable distances on to the journey, i’d be inclined to take the shortest route to cut out needless meandering and longer days. This is mainly as we will only have 6 or 7 days of cycling and need to be as efficient as we can.

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