Downhill from Scuol to Ftan
Mountain biking without breaking a sweat
For a family visit we had to go to Scuol, Switzerland, although a popular wintersport resort, it was not winter yet when we were there. On our last day there we rented some bicycles and cycled down the mountain.
Since it was our first time there and we took frequent stops it took us almost 2 hours to get back, but considering that it was mostly downhill I guess one could do it in 30 minutes.
There are various bike rental places in Scuol. Since you are in the mountains they only have mountain bikes. We got our bikes at the bike shop that is right next to the cable car station, as it was the only one that was open on Sunday.
We got a pair of Trek mountain bikes, fairly recent models with 26" wheels, hydraulic disc brakes and front suspension. They were a little bit dirty, but compared to all the other times I rented a mountain bike these were wonderful.
There was only one man in the bike shop, he spoke English, but was of the quiet type that you see more often in Switzerland. We were given two bicycles with the right frame sizes and a fitting helmet.
Although this is fairly standard practice, at every place I have rented a bicycle I have been disappointed at the service. I have come to expect it, but still remain puzzled by the lack of service, and this is was no exception.
What use is a bicycle helmet if you get a flat tire, or have a problem with the bicycle? There is not even a sticker with a phone number anywhere on the bicycle. And why not take 2 minutes to check if the seat height is set correctly? Make sure people bring some water, you can even try to sell them a bottle! Why not distinguish yourself and go the extra mile and provide a small tool kit to repair punctures and an emergency medical kit in a saddle bag, just like you would bring it on your own bicycle! If you don't trust your customers you can even seal it with a sticker and check it when the bicycle is returned.
It's the widespread disinterest in customer service that makes me dread renting bicycles. I have now reached the point where I rather go through a lot of hassle just to bring my own bicycle on trips.
After getting the bicycles we took them in the elevator one by one to the cable car that goes to Motta Naluns. There was some snow up there, but most of it had melted and the trail was wet.
Down the mountain
We did not go up any further up the mountain, we followed the trail that zigzagged down towards Ftan and then back to Scuol.
The trail was really wide and covered with gravel. Close to the cable car there were a lot of families on walking on the trail. I really missed having a bell on my bicycle, as the main obstacles here were people.
While I approached the people really slowly I was surprised how terrified some of the children seem to be at the sight of an approaching bicycle. The adults would shout "Achtung, Velo!" and the kids would storm off to the side of the path as if a raging bull was coming at them.
Although there were no raging bulls, we did have to go past some cows. I assume this is safe, since there are no signs to indicate otherwise. One of them started posturing with its hoof to indicate that it was not thrilled to have us there.
Another obstacle was some small fence that is there to warn cyclists to slow down. It's made of two a springy horizontal sticks that you can cycle right through. Never having seen one before I stopped for the first one to see how to get through there (you just push through).
I wanted to go right through the second one, but at the last second realised that there is no way to be sure that it works the same way. I pressed the brakes really hard and went through it at walking speed. It turned out it worked the same, but next time I will not make that assumption.
Along the way there were some nice vistas and about halfway down we arrived at the town Ftan, on a Sunday afternoon there was not much to do there. Here was the first place we had to cycle uphill. It was disappointingly difficult. I would not have thought that the slightly thinner air would make such a difference; but it was very difficult to breath.
The rest of the path was more downhill on the wide path, just braking no pedaling required. I tried to spice things up a bit by going off the trail and cutting through the corners over the grass. This was the first time I disabled the suspension lockout, but riding over the grass was still quite tame.
All in all it was more of a relaxing ride than a downhill mountain biking adventure. Mimi was feeling kind of sickly so it was good that she did not have to exert herself too much. For anybody interested in a real mountain biking trip, where you actually have to pedal and use the suspension I would suggest looking for another route.