Rent an electric bike to get off the beaten path—and onto the very underrated Herzroute ("Heart Route") cycling trail of Switzerland.
Riding the Herzroute on electric bikes is one of the most beautiful ways to see the Swiss countryside.
When Bobby suggested we add a 74-kilometer electric bike ride to our Switzerland itinerary, I agreed with slight trepidation. I had become a biking enthusiast, but mostly on the flat surfaces and wide open roads of Denver. Nonetheless, on our last day in Switzerland, we found ourselves at an electric bike rental shop—and embarked on a 74 kilometer electric ride on the Herzroute / Herz Route from Lake Thun to Langnau.
It turns our e-biking is reasonably easy, even for the moderately unfit (translation: me). Best of all? it's shockingly underrated—and un-touristy.
Over five hours, we pedaled past charming Swiss villages, raced through misty forests, and descended into grass green valleys dotted with grazing farm animals. We'd ride by lone chalets nestled in alpine meadows meadows, stopping only to switch out our e-bike batteries and lunch at a little inn on farm fresh salads.
With the chorus of cowbells as our soundtrack, the snowcapped alps as our backdrop, and the countryside to ourselves, it was one of my favorite travel experiences to date.
THE HISTORY OF SWITZERLAND'S HERZROUTE
Conceptualized in 1989, the Herzroute was inspired by Route 66 in the U.S. Founder Paul Hasler flipped the number to make it Route 99, and christened it the Herzroute ("Heart Route") because the journey could warm your heart with its beauty. Hasler then partnered with Flyer e-bikes to provide bike rentals and battery charging stations along the route. See the official Herzroute website for more info.
Today, the Herzroute passes through 17 historic cities, 20 lakes, and countless natural wonders.
HOW TO GET AN ELECTRIC BIKE RENTAL
The route is divided in 13 different stages, covering 720 kilometers and 12,000 meters of elevation in total. Over 3,000 red signposts mark the route from Lake Geneva to Lake Constance, where 25 battery changing stations are located. Flyer e-bikes are available for rent at all starting points and returned to the corresponding endpoint.
It's best to call the day before or reserve bikes online. Neither the pickup/drop-off points nor the route itself seemed particularly busy, but I think as a result of that, there weren't always attendants manning the stations.
The electric bikes make it possible to cruise up and down the mountains—there are a handful of slightly challenging hills, but for the most part it’s a fun and easy ride (while 4 hours longer than a SoulCycle class, it’s significantly easier!)
The path is well-marked with bike signs and the bike operators also provide you with a map/guide to point out places to swap your batteries, grab a bite to eat, etc.
OUR BIKE TRAIL : LAKE THUN TO LANGNAU
We picked the Lake Thun to Langnau route, the "kingpin" of the Herzroute—which is the longest and supposedly most challenging section. (It wasn't that challenging though—I promise I'm not very athletic.) Since we stayed the night in Zurich, we took a train from Zurich main station to Lake Thun (a little under 2 hours). From there, the e-bike rental shop was just a few minutes' walk away.
Biking the trail took us about 5 hours in total, but between taking the train to Lake Thun and back from Zurich, this pretty much occupied a full day. Bobby, a now-Zurich local, has done several of the routes and says they've all been similarly beautiful.
On the Lake Thun to Langnau route, there’s a stopping point along the way at a school house, where you can swap for fresh batteries. In the little hut, you'll come across a guest book, drinks for purchase (on the honor system:), and complimentary elderflower syrup to taste.
As we were researching for the Switzerland Herzroute, we couldn't find a lot of information in English about it. It's a (very) surprisingly under-documented, underrated experience that truly feels off the beaten path!
Biking the Herzroute was my favorite day of our week-long trip in Switzerland—which included Luzerne, Wengen, and Zurich. If you have a flexible day in your itinerary, I'd absolutely recommend e-biking your way through the Swiss heart route.
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Price : CHF 62 for a day rental (about $70 USD)
What to bring : Bring sunscreen and sunglasses. While there are places to stop on most routes, you'll want to bring plenty of water and snacks just in case you get hungry or thirsty during a long part of the journey.
What to wear : We rode in the spring, and the temperature varied drastically throughout the day. I'd wear comfortable athletic clothes with layers—one hour we'd be sweating up a hill, and the next we'd shivering with the snowy alps ahead of us. A hat would also have been nice for the sunny stretches!
How to book: Reserve a bike online.
PS : Did you know that the fairytale villages of the Alsace wine region is only a 2h30 train ride away from Zurich? 100% the cutest place to go wine tasting, ever.