Big European Odyssey - We all remember our firsts

We all remember our firsts. Our first kiss, our first car, our first home, our first holiday, the list goes on. And now, thanks to a wonderful week spent in the Valais region of Switzerland, I can add a new first to that list. Because it’s here, high in the Bernese and Pennine Alps, that I had my first e-mountain biking experiences, rides that will live long in my memory.

If I’m being totally honest I didn’t imagine that I’d be adding e-biking to my list of firsts on The Big European Odyssey, not because I am averse to e-bikes, quite the opposite in fact, only that I have never really had a need for one. But, as I quickly found out, even the fittest of cyclists can benefit from heading off on an e-bike, opening up a world of adventure that, with all the will in the world, simply wouldn’t be accessible with a normal bike.  

Not only that, but with my Mum joining us for this part of the trip in her own motorhome, it enabled us to head out and share some truly magical rides together, something that wouldn’t have been possible had she not had her e-mountain bike with her. With the CAMC now having eleven sites with e-bikes to rent, as well as numerous locations across Europe offering hire, there has never been a better time to give e-biking a try, or indeed if you’re already a convert, to look to expand your horizons and head further afield with your bikes. Might I recommend the Valais region in Switzerland? Here’s why…..

Champery: As well as being home to some of the world’s most extreme downhill mountain bike routes (the sport’s world championships have been held here before, and will again in 2024/25) the mountains above the quaint, biscuit-tin village of Champery have a vast network of gravel trails perfectly suited to e-bikes. The 600km of trails that weave their way through the heart of the mountains showcase the rugged beauty of a region that never fails to amaze at every juncture in the road, offering a variety of rides suited to all abilities, each with jaw-dropping scenery. Even more impressive are the sixteen charging stations dotted around, all located at mountain restaurants and cafes, ensuring total peace of mind knowing that you’ll never run out of charge, even if it does mean stopping for an extra coffee along the way, which is never been a bad thing. Our favourite stops included Chez Gaby, where you can enjoy a variety of traditional meals, and Alpage Lapisa, where along with your coffee you can see how the farm makes cheese. 

Nendaz: Perched high above the Rhone Valley that splits the Bernese and Pennie Alps, Nendaz is a delightful mountain village that provides the perfect base to head deeper, and higher, into the mountains on your bike. With over 200km of mountain biking trails and a variety of gondolas to take you up from the village itself you can be riding amongst lush fruit orchards and larch trees in the morning and rugged mountains at far higher altitudes in the afternoon. The highlight of the area is, without doubt, the ride up past Lac du Cleuson, which takes you into a off-road cycling paradise that no words can truly convey. Need a day to chill-out after all that cycling? Then head to Hotel Nendaz 4 Valeés & Spa and treat yourself to a day pass to their world-class spa and pool, where amongst the numerous different rooms at varying temperatures and humidities there’s an ice cave, a tropical jungle room, a children’s area and an indoor/outdoor pool with a lazy river. 

Martigny: Set at the foot of the Rhone Valley and flanked by verdant banks of vineyards and orchards the town of Martigny might not seem the first-choice destination for those seeking e-biking adventures. However, what it lacks in the obvious trails and tracks of both Champery and Nendaz, it more than makes up for with a wealth of other points of interest, thus making it the perfect destination for those looking to mix cycling with culture, gastronomy and history. For dog lovers no stay is complete without a visit to Barryland, where you can not only learn all about the history of St Bernard dogs, but get to spend time with these wonderful animals too, something Harrison and Dorothy loved on our visit. Needless to say a St Bernard puppy is top of their list of things they would like when we eventually finish our trip. 

Until our next update from the road you can follow our adventures on Instagram through @marcusleachglobal and @our.roaming.odyssey as well as on Twitter via @MarcusGLeach