632 Mi.(1,017 KM)
% Rideable (time)
For Lael Wilcox, long-distance cycling evolved into ultra-endurance racing and developing a girls’ biking mentorship program and women’s scholarships. Lael holds the women’s record for the Tour Divide and won the 2016 Trans Am. She’s currently guiding endurance gravel camps for The Cyclist’s Menu and preparing for her third season of Anchorage GRIT, the Tour Divide, and the Silk Road Mountain Race. Find her on Instagram.
With a four year history, the Navad 1000 is a bikepacking race route that begins in Romanshorn on Lake Constance and ends at the statue of Freddie Mercury in Montreux on Lake Geneva. There are much faster ways to connect these two locations with much less climbing. Instead, the Navad 1000 is a carefully crafted mountain route with at least 30 significant climbs and as many sweeping vistas. The climbs are always steep, but often on quiet paved or well-maintained dirt roads. There is almost no traffic on these roads, and pavement is often a relief as the grades can be extreme. The route breaks you in over time, hitting higher elevations and longer climbs (and more epic scenery) past Finsterwald, the halfway point. The first half of the ride contains only a third of the climbing.
Switzerland is a land of fresh water, so expect to find fountains every 5-10 kilometers. There are bakeries and stores in most villages, and plenty of bike shops and hotels along the way. The route developer, Willi Felix, designed the Navad 1000 to pass small villages and services to make logistics and resupply easy. He also included waypoints for all services, making this route very approachable for beginners. There is no need to carry multiple days of food as it is readily available throughout the route. Ultimately, the ride requires a decent level of fitness and mental toughness, but navigation, and finding food, water, shelter and other services is very easy and convenient.
Ride the route at your own pace or sign up for the race in June. It’s a challenge any way you approach it, but also incredibly rewarding. What could be more idyllic than climbing through the Alps past cows with soft bells, through green meadows with wildflowers, and alongside crystal blue lakes? It’s really that good, but you have to work for it.
The Navad 1000 is all about climbing, and gains an average of 3,000 meters per 100km (9,800 feet every 62 miles). It’s steep, but generally follows well-graded dirt roads. If ridden in the intended direction (Romanshorn-Montreux), several of the climbs are paved and the descents are on singletrack. Logistics are easy. Fresh water springs, towns, and resources dot the route. Camping is easy, as most of this land is pastoral and the locals welcome long distance hikers and bikers.
Route development: Swiss born, with a background in international road racing and route planning, route developer Willi Felix has organized 20 week-long mountain rallies over 16 years to showcase the fantastic mountain riding in Switzerland. These rallies were a week of 100km climbing days, fully planned and supported logistics, and saw 150-200 participants. Out of the mountain rallies was born the Navad 1000 – a route designed for its beauty – with the intention of encouraging more self-supported and challenging riding. The Navad 1000 is almost entirely rideable and never forces more than 100 feet of hike-a-bike at any given time. Willi races his own route every June and ensures that the route is 100% accurate every year by scouting the route before the race. The Navad 1000 is a Swiss masterpiece.
Note that there are many POIs in the map above. Here is a basic legend: RES (restaurant); HOT (hotel); SHO (shop/grocery store)
- Climbing the Grosse Scheidegg and Kleine Scheidegg near Grindelwald, historic climbs with views of the Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau
- Ascending the Napf
- Singletrack through alpine meadows and wildflowers
- Col de Jaman, the final mountain pass to Montreux
- Montreux. Situated on the shorelines of Lake Geneva with towering mountain views, Montreux is a colorful town and home to the Montreux Jazz Festival
- Crossing into French speaking Switzerland
- Singletrack traversing craters through Stübleni (south of Lenk)
- Park UNESCO Biosphere Entlebuch past Finsterwald: rugged, natural singletrack
- Descending into Interlaken
- Crystal blue lakes
- Mountain hut restaurants
- Easy travel logistics. Switzerland has a very sophisticated and extensive rail network. Zurich and Geneva both have international airports.
- Modern resources and easy resupply
- The diverse nature of every mountain pass and valley
- Visiting Freddie Mercury in Montreux (Willi says, “Freddie is working for the Navad 1000 full time.”)
- When to go: end of May to October. The best time to ride this route is summer. The highest point on the route 6,800 feet and winter snow will typically melt and dry at this elevation by the end of May.
- Gear recommendations: Due to rough terrain, steep climbing, and descents, at least a 2” tire, low gearing and disc brakes are recommended. For example, my gearing for the race was a 30T chainring with a 10-50T cassette. I rode a 29er hardtail with a suspension fork. Other racers preferred full suspension.
- Logistics: Zurich is the easiest airport access to the start. From there, it’s an hour on the train to Romanshorn. There is also an international airport in Geneva near the finish in Montreux.
- Switzerland maintains the Schengen Area tourist travel agreement with the European Union. US citizens are allowed a total of 90 days over six months in these countries.
Both camping and staying in hotels are viable options for this route. If well planned, the entire route could be traversed from hotel to hotel. In regards to camping, the Swiss Alpine Club says, “A single overnight stay by a small number of people above the forest line is normally not a problem if undertaken considerately. An emergency bivouac is generally permitted.”
There are pure water fountains in every village and near farmhouses along the route. Restaurants and stores dot the entire stretch. Most villages have a Volg mini supermarket running from 6:00 am to 9:00 pm. There is no scarcity of resources. Dairy in Switzerland is a source of national pride showcased through their milk chocolate and cheese.
The GPX track was originally broken into 11 sections. Each section could work well as a day plan at touring pace. The first section from Romanshorn is mild, with only 3,300 feet (1,000 meters) of climbing in the first 62 miles (100km). It quickly intensifies from there. The Navad 1000 crosses from German speaking Switzerland to French speaking Switzerland after Saanen (mile 530, km 853).