cycling · training · traveling

Running and Rolling through Zurich

As I said in my post about fitness tourism, I’m trying my best not to stress about missing the usual workouts and instead to enjoy the opportunities that travel affords for doing different things.

One of the amazing things about Zurich, and Switzerland more generally, is how great the infrastructure is for cyclists. What this means is that lots and lots of people ride bikes–to the station, to their workplaces, to schools, to shopping.

There’s loads of bike parking all over the place. And most of the time, though the bikes are locked, they are not locked to anything. People feel generally comfortable leaving their bicycle untethered (though locked) outside of the main station in the middle of the busiest part of the city.

And what’s more, tourists (or anyone really) can borrow bikes for free through an initiative called “Zurirollt.”


Still and all, Zurich is a busy city not all that familiar to me, so my friend Diane and I opted for a guided cycling tour. This was high on my to-do list, and I’ve been watching the weather daily to see when a good time would be for it. Every day so far there’s been substantial rain in the forecast.

Our lucky break came on Monday morning. I heard from our guide, Bruno, from Toptrek Tours, the night before. We arranged to meet him at 9 a.m. on Monday by the cube clock in the Zurich Haufbanhof (main train station). He sent me this picture so we would know exactly where:


He assured us that the weather radar looked good, and also that he would have “emergency ponchos” for us if we ended up in heavier than a drizzle. We did encounter a little bit of rain, but for most of the four hours on the bikes we were in the clear. A bit chilly, not exactly a fine sunny day, but very little rain.

What’s great about a cycling tour of a new city is that you get to cover so much more ground than you otherwise would. Bruno was an excellent guide, with lots of local knowledge and a background in politics that made him more interesting than your average guide.

When I asked about good running spots, he showed me exactly where I should go for my morning run the next day.

There’s a paved path that runs through what used to be “needle park” (but has since been cleaned up) and along the river, past the public swimming baths (there are many in Zurich), and just generally out of the busy tourist and business districts and into a quieter part of town. I had an excellent run the next morning before the rain set in for the day again.

Running is another good way to see a place because, like cycling, you can cover a lot more ground than if you’re just walking. But walking has its place too. When I got back from my 5K run, Diane and I grabbed breakfast at the hotel and then wandered around the old part of town for the next few hours. By far, even with the cycling and the running, the majority of my vacation in Switzerland has been spent walking (with eating taking a close second).

The weather this week has been a bit of a let-down. We spent a very rainy day in Lucerne today, but since it was the only day we had we explored it on foot in the rain until we just couldn’t go another step.

Tomorrow, another run along the river, some more exploring across on the other side, one more lunch at Hiltl, the oldest vegetarian restaurant in Europe (established in 1898). Then it’s time to pack and head home. I look forward to getting my routine back, but I can truly say that this has been one of the more successful breaks from routine that I’ve ever spent in terms of integrating activity into my trip.