Baumeler Travel provides guests with electric bikes. Right: Michael Mettler of Baumeler Travel Ltd. // © 2012 Deborah Dimond
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Don’t get me wrong, I am no Lance Armstrong, but when I saw the option of adding a Baumeler Travel electric bike (e-bike) adventure to my recent Switzerland trip, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity.
Since I had never ridden an e-bike before, I had no idea what to expect, and the idea of peddling up and down the base of the Swiss Alps sounded a bit daunting. It was only after I saw the company’s brochure with images of happy seniors peddling around lush, flowery meadows that I felt I was up for the challenge. And since Baumeler Travel has 50 years of cycling and hiking tours under its belt, I knew I would be in good hands.
“We are unique in Switzerland,” said Michael Mettler, managing director of Baumeler Travel Ltd. “Our bicycle trips include almost everything — from accommodations, meals, tour guides, sightseeing, entrance fees, a support vehicle and a chauffeur who organizes picnics. But we also want to give the client a bit of spare time so he or she can explore a city like Lucerne in the evening by themselves.”
Baumeler Travel caters to small groups with anywhere from two to 20 participants. There were four guests in my group, including professional biking enthusiasts and complete novices. We would soon find that the e-bike would help bridge the gap.
At first, I was under the impression that the e-bikes were like mopeds, but that was not the case at all. The motor amplifies as much as twice the amount of pressure a rider exerts. The company claimed that we would be “flying” up hills. While that might be the case for more experienced riders, in my case, I was more likely to chug up those steep hills like the Little Engine That Could, spewing out a breathy mantra of “I think I can, I think I can.”
Biking the idyllic foothills of the Alps was as invigorating as it was scenic. Dotting the rolling pastoral landscape were herds of sheep, goats and cattle. On our route from Huttwil to Willisau and then on to Lucerne, we admired the elaborate farmhouses which, according to our guide, were built more than 400 years ago. Other times, we were sailing through wooded areas which looked as if little Red Riding Hood would pop out at any minute.
There were many planned breaks during the trip, and lunches were often elaborate picnics with wine and crusty bread, rich aged meats and gourmet cheese. I figured that I was expending enough calories, so it was okay to indulge. Once, when we stopped to take a break and catch our breaths, a fellow guest inquired about a small cheese factory across the road. Our guide promptly excused himself and headed over to the factory to arrange an impromptu tour. It was a great treat to sneak behind the scenes and see cheese makers hard at work producing the very product for which the region is famous.
While the e-bikes are helpful for making long distances and steeper grades more manageable, I wouldn’t recommend this trip to a client who doesn’t ride occasionally. At the end of the night, it wasn’t so much that my legs hurt as much as my rear end.
Baumeler Travel offers many pre-arranged packages, but prides itself on flexibility and arranging custom, one-of-a-kind group tours. Whether the client prefers luxury or minimal amenities, the tour operator is happy to work with travel agents to create the ideal custom trip. While there are many ways to get from one place to another in Switzerland, I found that e-biking was by far the most fun.