What is the E-MOUNTAINBIKE City Escape series?
The E-MOUNTAINBIKE City Escapes are a series of international guides created in collaboration with Haibike. The aim is to inspire a new generation of riders to embark on a different sort of lifestyle – one with new perspectives and full of possibilities. The City Escapes throw back the curtain on exciting ways to experience cities across the globe, whether you’re a tourist or a long-time resident.
Each E-MOUNTAINBIKE City Escape Guide inspires in its own unique way. Get to know a new side of global cities, meet interesting locals, and pick up the best insider tips, such as the local lingo, the dos and don’ts, as well as the must-visit cafes, bars, restaurants, and bike shops. Naturally, GPX files of selected routes are included. In each City Escape feature, we also present the bikes that we used for exploring the city and its surroundings. This E-MOUNTAINBIKE City Escape Zurich is supported by Haibike and Range Rover.
Dive into the following six chapters:
- 1/6 Zurich’s double life: An exciting blend of NYC and Berlin?
- 2/6 Night owls – the mountains are calling: A night escape to Flims Laax Falera
- 3/6 New horizons: Velo style, design and retro road bikes
- 4/6 Guest in Züri: Forget about time in turbo Mode
- 5/6 Escape essentials: Cafés, bars, restaurants, and the dos and don’ts in Zurich
- 6/6 Escape faster: Our gateway- and exploration-vehicles at a glance
Zurich’s double life – An exciting blend of NYC and Berlin?
If you haven’t been to Zurich yet, it’s easy to get a biased and perhaps distorted view of the picturesque city on the northern end of Lake Zurich. The largest city in Switzerland is mainly known for its pretty old town and posh boutiques on the Bahnhofstrasse and considered an important international banking and financial centre. Despite its population of “just” 400,000 people, Zurich ranks amongst some of the hippest places in the world, standing alongside Paris and New York. But the pretty town at the northern tip of the Swiss Alps leads a double life, split between parallel worlds which seem to coexist in peaceful harmony.
“Züri”, as the locals call their hometown, has a lot to offer. At first glance you might only see a straight-cut, dutiful and busy city, but get closer and you’ll recognise its creative, relaxed, authentic and even humorous side. In 1916, the Cabaret Voltaire – Zurich’s artist hangout par excellence at the time – gave birth to the Dada movement, which ran counter to “traditional” art forms and society’s ideals, rejecting and satirising them instead. Essentially, it was the artists revolting against art, rejecting the social rules and values of their time.
Even to this day, many different anti-cultural movements survive and co-exist in all parts of Zurich, with everything from creative new bohemians to well-mannered anti-capitalists. However, funnily enough no one can afford to be poor in Zurich as it’s one of the most expensive cities in the world. Nevertheless, the many lidos on the river Limmat, the Frau Gerolds Garten gastro-mecca, the Zurich Pride Festival, the underground travelling circuses and the countless trendy bars and clubs along the Langstrasse all bear witness to how contrasting Zurich can be and emphasise just how much importance this community attaches to personal self-development, creativity and individualism. If we were to characterise Zurich in just one sentence, we could describe it as an expensive version of Berlin or a village-sized NYC.
Oh, and before we forget. With its beautiful views over the Swiss Alps and Lake Zurich, the many local mountains and two official bike trails, Zurich is also a superb eMTB spot! As Zurich is close to several alpine biking hotspots, we chose one and decided to drive just one and a half hours by car to check out the area of Flims Laax Falera too.
Night owls: the mountains are calling – A night escape to Flims Laax Falera
Why take a whole week’s holidays, when two (un)planned days are more than enough? To get the most out of our two days in the fresh mountain air, we answered the call of the night and drove to Flims Laax Falera. On our nighttime mission, we treated ourselves to an electrifying adrenaline kick on knobbly tires and experienced the unique vibes of pop-up glamping.
Do you know that inebriating feeling when you start working at the crack of dawn while the whole city is still asleep? When you feel that those magical, productive hours count twice as much as in the daytime? Admittedly, in this case we didn’t get up to go to work, but the principle is the same: so why not jump into your car and escape the city for 48 hours?
It’s 6:00 am and we stop at a petrol station outside Laax. The place is empty. It’s just us and a few builders who are driving to one of the many summer construction sites in Laax. Apart from that, we’re surrounded by peace and silence – even the sun is still asleep. The distinctive sound of the coffee grinder inside the shop is the only sign that the world is slowly waking up.
As we knock back our first coffee, the caffeine kicks in and we gather our thoughts. Of course, life as a digital nomad or entrepreneur is often no picnic, but the flexibility to organize your own work and make spontaneous trips is worth the price! While brave citizens go to work, we’re checking out from everyday life. We feel like outlaws. There’s still half an hour separating us from our first mission of the day: watching the sunrise from the trail – on our bikes of course!
The drive from Zurich took about an hour and a half – not too bad for a spontaneous cycling adventure. With its 330 km of marked routes and lush, diverse natural landscape, the biking-area around Flims Laax Falera has a lot to offer: The routes range from natural trails and man-made freeride trails with wooden North Shore features to an intricate network of hiking trails. And if you’re not too keen on exercise and want to take it easy for the day, you can take one of the many forest paths and ride straight to one of the turquoise lakes. The lush mountain meadows, fragrant fir forests and breathtaking Alpine views make for a picture perfect setting.
We park at the Rock Resort. From here we drop directly into the first trail, which spits us out in the heart of the Flimserwald forest. With that good start to set the mood, we set off along a short but awesome route. Standing high on a ridge, we look deep into the impressive Rhine Gorge, the Grand Canyon of Switzerland. And it only gets better. As planned, the sun rolls out of bed to welcome us, emerging shyly over the mountain range in the horizon. With a big grin on our faces, we carry on towards the turquoise gems of the region, the stunning mountain lakes of Cauma and Cresta. Though the popular Caumasee won’t be too busy at this time of day, we instead decide to go to the Crestasee – between Flims and Trin – to take a refreshing morning dip. The deep blue water, the clean air and the majestic mountains behind the ridge – could it get any better than this? Well, not for Instagram, but sadly the traffic on the main road is getting louder by the minute and reminds us that we’re far away from civilization, but that we are in the middle of a popular and easily accessible Alpine region. If you’re after solitary moments in nature, you better climb a bit higher and that’s exactly what we’re doing!
Wimps lose out, early birds win. But the lake was still pretty cold.
Yes, the lake is very cold in the morning, so we decide to pedal back to Laax after a short break soaking up the warming sun. Thanks to the electric support, the ride is cruisy and relaxed. Back at the resort, we put the bikes on the carrier and make our way to a very special place that might be the dream of every weekend adventurer. TCS Pop-Up Glamping opened its doors in summer 2019 and inspired all sorts of short-term dropouts to take some time and celebrate the beauty of summer in close contact with nature, without renouncing all comfort. Considering the short and intense nature of turbo escapades, it’s important to have some creature comforts. After all you want to feel fresh, relaxed and recharged when you get back from your short adventure.
No breakaway is a true breakaway if you don’t take some time for yourself, where you’re totally free to improvise. EMTBing feels like the perfect excuse to flee from everyday life and look for new adventures, riding where you wouldn’t ride with a traditional mountain bike, because it’s A) too exhausting, B) unknown or C) still too exhausting.
After less than 48 hours we’re brimming over with new experiences and memories. The fun Runca Trail, the spectacular ride from the Vorab glacier, the sweet honey from Segnesboden, the whistling marmots, the short visit to the imposing waterfall, the sunrise in the Flimserwald and the icy dip in the Crestasee lake. At an altitude of 2,252 m there is a special surprise for all riders: a short pump-track in the Freestyle GaLAAXy Park at the Crap Sogn Gion mountain station. But the unforgettable moments don’t end there: the campfire at the glamping grounds, sunbathing in a converted barn on the Alp Nagens, the mouth-watering cheese tour led by Alpmaster Silvan… that’s a lot of experience to process.
The great thing about night escapes, is that they work for both locals and visitors, digital nomads and employees (with a little bit more of planning). Do you end up in amazing places for work but never get a chance to explore them properly? And yet, it only takes a bit of strategic planning to turn a short work trip into a great holiday. The next time you find yourself daydreaming, roll up your sleeves and get going… because a mini-trip can easily become a mega-holiday!
eMTB tours Flims Laax Falera
New horizons – Velo style, design and retro road bikes
Bicycles are incredibly popular in Zurich. But just like the city itself, the cycling scene is made up of a large number of different subcultures. No one knows this better than Njazi Nivokazi, who runs Zurich’s Scampi Cicli boutique with business partner and good friend Michi Buchegger.
In a small but charming bike boutique in Zurich’s 4th district, Aussersihl, the two friends have been inspiring and enriching the local cycling scene since 2013, making themselves popular across town and well beyond the city limits. Here you’ll find exclusive retro road bikes from the 70s and 80s, an incredible collection of original components, all sorts of rare finds and a superb selection of accessories. This down-to-earth mini boutique opens just two days a week. Make sure to step inside this small corner of happiness, where life is all about tinkering on bikes, talking over coffee and celebrating the bicycle in its purest form.
While everyday business also requires Njazi and Michi to build modern racers with wireless groupsets and modern technology, nothing makes their heart beat quite as fast as retro racer. Talk to Njazi and you’ll soon understand why. As soon as you touch on the retro-subject, his face lights up and his fascination for real craftsmanship, mechanical simplicity and elaborate aesthetics comes through. In his opinion, a retro bike is the ultimate in style and luckily for Njazi and Michi, it’s in demand more than ever. People want to ride “beautifully”, because style is an important part of Zurich’s attitude. In this city you have to learn to stand out and show that you have individual flair. What better way than with the old style icons?
What gives a better sense of a society’s key traits than the products this society makes, consumes and loves?
At this point, it’s worth mentioning that there are some very clear rules which apply to style and product design in Switzerland: linearity, minimalism and authentic craftsmanship define the timeless constant that characterises many Swiss products. From ‘sans-serif Helvetica’, one of the world’s best-known fonts, to Mondaine’s classic station clocks, Freitag’s popular bags made from used truck tarps, to furniture manufacturer USM Haller and young coffee machine brand ZURIGA.
Njazi is well aware of this, always trying to fulfil this pledge and commitment to simplicity and quality while building retro racers for his customers. Yet, his focus is not on the actual work, but on introducing his customers to the intricate subcultures of the cycling scene, igniting their passion, inspiring them and opening up new horizons.
Towards the end of our visit to Scampi Cicli, we talk about cargo bikes, mind-clearing mini escapes and the many faces of Zurich and its countless cycling subcultures. As we talked, it dawned on us: actually, they’re all about the same thing – identity, inspiration, technology and fun.
Njazi himself has never ridden an electric mountain bike. Firstly, he doesn’t own one and secondly, he’s a purist with a soft spot for classic retro technology. When we ask him if he’s ever been to the Uetliberg by bike and experienced Zurich from above, Njiazi shakes his head. A thoughtful silence falls over the room as plans and ideas flash through our heads – next time we’re in Zurich we will have to check if we lit the spark to try something new. The reality is that subcultures are always in motion and inevitably end up mixing and influencing each other. That’s exactly when new horizons open up for the people of a city, just like in Zurich’s 4th district.
Guest in Züri – Forget about time in turbo mode
Over 6 million overnight tourist stays per year are recorded in the Zurich region, with guests spending an average 1.7 days in the city – just like us! And that’s not enough time to explore the culture of the city in a traditional way, let alone get familiar with its (sub-)cultures. But in this cycle-friendly city, an eMTB is the ideal way to hop between busy tourist sights and reach secret escapes in turbo mode – probably the best means of transportation for fast, modern metropolitan adventurers.
As we pull up in front of the 25hours Hotel on the Langstrasse, the dust of our night escape in Laax is still sticking to our car. This road is the heart and soul of Zurich’s former red light district and has become one of the city’s most popular areas over the past few years. Here you’ll find everything from trendy clubs to cool bars. Amongst them, the last remainders of Zurich’s illegal street scene as well as a number of 24-hour stores that feed the cravings of the nocturnal party fauna. In the daytime, you can enjoy the many international specialities this area has to offer and even the traditional vegetarian Hiltl Restaurant has a branch in the Langstrasse. This part of town is the hip, gentrifying antagonist to the idyllic old town on the lake-side. Here, tough street life meets trendy cosmopolitans, young designers and restaurateurs as well as cultural trendsetters who are actively (and radically) engaged in changing the face of this part of town. But there’s something unusual happening here. While in other neighbourhoods all the different (sub-)cultures and social strata tend to stack up and perhaps even isolate themselves, Langstrasse is forging an international and multicultural community. When you’re here, you understand that no matter where we come from, no matter where we live, we’re all just souls in transition, temporary guests… so let’s have a good time and overcome our social limitations.
As far as we’re concerned, we’ve also overcome our physical limitations by taking our eMTBs along. As soon as we got here, we jumped in the saddle and looked at the city from a biking perspective. A good network of cycle paths and the bike-friendly attitude of the locals, make it easy to cruise through Zurich’s streets on two wheels. We rode past well-known squares, the railway station, the old town and along Lake Zurich.
We’ve been pedalling for less than 15 minutes and we’re already leaving behind the chaotic pace of city life, flying up the Uetliberg on electric steroids. With each meter of altitude gained the air gets clearer. Once you reach the top, you’ll be rewarded with a breathtaking view of the Alps. From here you have a choice of two official trails, complemented by a handful of secret ones. If you turn away from the Zurich side and head south-west, you’ll feel like you’ve landed in another world, surrounded by a landscape of lush meadows and isolated farms. A kingdom of peace and nature, where the hectic city life is only a distant memory and yet still just around the corner. Here it’s easy to forget about time. While our human batteries recharge in no time, we’re looking forward to the rising full moon and suddenly realise that we don’t have any lights with us!
We make our way into the valley over a classic bike park trail with berms, jumps and north shore features. With every vertical metre we drop, it gets darker and we have to rely on our bike handling instinct instead of our eyes. Funnily enough, we don’t seem to be the only ones fascinated by the rising full moon forgetting the time – riding downhill we are joined by other riders. As the dark forest spits us out again, we feel relieved. We made it! What a day! Though it’s not over yet, tomorrow we have another 0.7 days to discover more jewels in this city!
But it’s when you’re holding your well-deserved post-ride pint in your hands that you realise: you don’t really have to escape Zurich to escape everyday life… here you’ll find almost everything you need. And this is true for everyone… or at least that was the impression we gathered! In the run-up to our Zurich trip, we contacted some local riders and asked them to show us around their home trails. However, their enthusiasm,was rather curbed because in their opinion the trails aren’t all that good. We suspect that it’s the oversupply of endless Alpine trails and breathtaking views within less than two hours drive that make it hard to see, let alone appreciate, what you have on your doorstep. While it’s hard not to have high expectations in a city like Zurich, you should never take this sort of luxury for granted, unless the dreamlike full moon views from the Uetliberg don’t stir any emotions in you!
Thanks to its location, the multi-faceted neighbourhoods and many subcultures, Zurich features many gems that neither tourists or locals know. An eMTB is the ideal means of transport to explore a bike-friendly city like Zurich and its idyllic nature – turbo mode on! And of course, you’re welcome to forget the time but please don’t forget your lights!
eBike tours Zurich
Escape Essentials – Cafés, bars, restaurants, and the dos and don’ts in Zurich
m-way Shop Zurich – new concept store close to the main train station
Where? Zollstrasse 51/53, 8005 Zurich
stromvelo.ch – stylish ebike store with a focus on urban mobility
Where? Bucheggstrasse 121, 8057 Zurich
Velo Zürich – extensive assortment of products and large workshop
Where? Rautistrasse 33, 8047 Zürich
e-motion e-Bike Welt Dietikon – huge range, eMTB and City ebike rental
Where? Oberdorfstrasse 11, 8953 Dietikon
Cuisine, accomodation and pleasure
Restaurant ROSI – Eating Bavarian in Zurich? Yes please! Visit ROSI’s, which serves up creative and modern dishes inspired by Bavarian cuisine, all in a cosy, familiar atmosphere. One of the best spots in Zurich!
Where? Sihlfeldstrasse 89, 8004 Zürich
Hiltl – Founded in 1898, Hiltl is the oldest vegetarian restaurant in the world but continues to stay up to date as a modern establishment. The main building in the Sihlstrasse includes a buffet, a sumptuous à la carte restaurant, a patisserie, a bar and bistro, various seminar rooms, an academy and a club. Dine and dance? Why not? The various Hiltl locations in Zurich are all conceived around different concepts.
Where? Sihlstrasse 28, 8001 Zürich
Restaurant Gamper – The simple decoration makes it clear that this restaurant focuses on the essentials. Quality dishes prepared with local seasonal products. The menu changes from week to week, sometimes even from day to day.
Where? Nietengasse 1, 8004 Zürich
Miki Ramen – Every city needs a good Ramen. This cosy Japanese restaurant Miki Ramen is a particularly good choice!
Where? Sihlfeldstrasse 63, 8003 Zürich
ViCAFE – If you’re after great coffee, this is an excellent choice. You’ll find a number of ViCAFE Espresso bars in different styles all across Zurich. They roast their own coffee and also own the production rights for the legendary Swiss VIVI COLA.
Frau Gerolds Garten – This hip, modular city garden is located right behind the Freitag Tower and has a lot to offer: small shops, plenty of art, fresh, tasty cuisine and even a vegetable garden. The setup changes according to the season: In summer you’ll find a garden restaurant, terraces and open-air bars. In winter a cosy winter room in the wooden pavilion as well as an outdoor bar serving mulled wine.
Where? Geroldstrasse 23/23a, 8005 Zürich
Rio Bar – the perfect apero-bar to chill after an eMTB ride on a beautiful summer day. It’s right by the river and has a cosy terrace, stylish furniture and homemade food – go on, you deserved it! Also, a great insider tip for exquisite lunch menus.
Where? Gessnerallee 17, 8001 Zürich
MAME Coffee – This excellent new wave café on the Röntgenplatz celebrates the art of coffee! The modern establishment offers a wide selection of coffee varieties and is an international meeting point. Tip: let the barista advise you!
Where? Josefstrasse 160, 8005 Zürich
KAFISCHNAPS – Authentic café-bar, restaurant and hotel in one – traditional bar culture meets cosmopolitan life. The coffee beans are roasted directly over a coal fire in Switzerland’s oldest and last big roastery, Caffe Ferrari. Right above the café bar, there is a small hotel with a handful of charming and affordable rooms.
Where? Kornhausstrasse 57, 8037 Zürich
25hours Hotel Zürich Langstrasse – This boutique hotel overlooking the railway station offers international oriental cuisine and a cool bar. By the way, you’re even allowed to take your eMTB to your room! If you’re only planning to ride around town, you can also rent a bike or a mini bike.
Where? Langstrasse 150, 8004 Zürich
- Sunrise on the Uetliberg
- Shopping tour in the Viadukt: the arches of the Zurich railway viaduct built in 1894 are home to trendy boutiques, delis, studios, galleries and fashion labels. At the heart of this complex is the market hall, where local farmers and grocers sell their produce.
- Swimming in the Limmat: Lake Zurich is very beautiful too, but there’s something special about flowing water! Our recommendation is to go to River bath Unterer Letten
- Drift aimlessly through Zurich West and explore its subcultures, shops and cafés. Let the architecture and the people get close to you!
- Not respecting the traffic rules: driving too fast or ignoring parking rules can become very expensive.
- Zurich is a popular tourist destination: be careful not to get stuck in hordes of tourists in the old town
- Don’t let the busy city centre stress you out
- Don’t stay in just one district: Zurich has so much to offer, so get out of your routine and comfort zone, explore the city and try something new!
Schwizerdütsch for beginners (Swiss German)
Of course, in Zurich you’ll get by with English or German, but a little Swiss German can’t hurt the impression you make on the locals. So, here’s a crash course for you:
Grüezi (mitenand)!: Hello (together)!
Mi Name isch… / I heisse…: My name is…
Merci/danke: Thank you
Äxgüsi (from the french frz. excusez): Sorry, pardon
Wie gaht’s dir/ihne?: How are you?
Mir gaht’s guet, danke!: I’m doing well / I’m ok, cheers!
Mir gaht’s nöd so guet!: I’m not that great!
Was machsch hütte?: What are you doing today?
At the restaurant (or before)
En guete!: Enjoy your meal!
Kenne Si es guets Restaurant / e gueti Bar?: Do you know a good restaurant / a good bar?
I hätti gern es/e… : I would like a…
E Staange: A small beer (half pint)
Es Groosses: A big beer (a pint)
Es Glaas Wii: A glass of wine
I würdi gern e Schwiizer Spezialität probiere: I would like to try a Swiss speciality
Willsch mit mir ein Kaffi go trinke?: Do you want to meet up for a coffee?
Wemmer emol zämme öpis unterneh?: Do you want to do something together?
Du gesch wunderschöni Auge: Your eyes are beautiful
Wie isch dini Natelnummere: What’s your phone number?
Escape faster – Our gateway- and exploration-vehicles at a glance
Haibike XDURO Nduro 2.0 Yamaha Elektro Bike 2020
Although the XDURO Nduro 2.0 is only the entry-level model of the Nduro range, it doesn’t have to hide, even in Zurich. This version features a solid spec and comes at an attractive price of € 3,999. The bike features Yamaha’s new PW-X2 motor with a 500 Wh battery and RockShox suspension with 180 mm front and rear travel. In combination with its trail-oriented geometry, the bike provides enough reserves for fast after-work laps around the Uetliberg and, of course, for rad night escapes on Alpine terrain!
Price € 3,999
Weight 23.2 kg (Size M)
More Info: haibike.com
Land Rover Range Rover Sport P400e Plug-in Hybrid SE
The iconic British SUV looks incredibly good both on the busy streets of Zurich and the natural landscape of the Swiss Alps! We put our eMTBs on the bike rack and quickly fled into the mountains in the Range Rover Sport P400e Plug-in Hybrid. Apart from being the perfect match for our eMTBs, this car is very comfortable and very capable off road. In full-electric mode, you can drive this car around town for up to 50 km completely emissions free.
More Info: landrover.de
An overview of the E-MOUNTAINBIKE City Escape
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It's finally here: The 2019 E-MOUNTAINBIKE Print Edition, our timeless annual issue! Consisting of around 240 (!) pages, the 2019 E-MOUNTAINBIKE Print Editon offers a ton of inspiration, buyers advice, and eMTB know-how as well as reviews of the hottest bikes of the year. Our premium magazine is aimed at experienced eMTBers and beginners alike. Click here for more information (new window) or order it directly in our shop or on Amazon.de!
Words & Photos: Robin Schmitt