Text: David Everett | Photography: Tim Bardsley-Smith
Over the past three months, if you’ve been paying attention, you’ll have noticed that we’ve published a ten-part travel series covering pretty much every corner of the cheese-loving nation of Switzerland. We’ve roamed from the lakeside of Ticino to the peak of the Matterhorn on a variety of bikes, from our beloved road bikes right through to sit-up-and-beg style e-bikes.
Shot back in September, the ‘Discovering Switzerland’ project was to be our most significant and ambitious to date. In partnership with Tourism Switzerland and their regional bodies, we were tasked with showcasing not just the well-known cycling destinations of the country — such as the Furka Pass or the cobbled climb of the Gotthard Pass — but also its lesser-known gems. This included some regions that those who like to ride wouldn’t usually consider venturing to. It would take a month of filming for our team of seven on the ground, followed by a bunch of post-production to bring the project to fruition.
Going into the project, we knew things were going to be different to how we’d usually approach a Roadtripping feature. The sheer scale and extent of the production were far grander than we’d ever tackled. Tourism Switzerland wanted something that would appeal not just to the usual CyclingTips reader but all branches of the cycling family tree — from mountain bike riders through to those who may just borrow a town hire bike. All the bases needed to be covered.
I can hear you now: you’re thinking “Wow! A month of riding your bike in Switzerland, lovely stuff!” — and I’m not going to say it wasn’t lovely, as that would be a downright lie.
Spending a month filming in dream cycling landscapes has to be appreciated for what it is — a job that many would swiftly swap their normal day jobs for. Even when you factor in a tight itinerary, a client to keep happy, and no second chances to head back and do reshoots.
We’d be changing locations on a daily basis, dealing with whatever the weather would throw at us (and boy did we get some weather). A full on adventure discovering places with huge miles in the legs it wouldn’t quite be — the ‘chamois time/ride time’ balance would fall heavily on the ‘chamois time’ side of the spectrum. Instead, we’d be capturing the scenic highlights that the guides for each area would word us up on each morning or evening. Short stretches of road would be ridden and re-ridden, and camera angles changed. Clouds and wind would be patiently waited upon until the light was just right. Drones would be sent up — and on several occasions spectacularly and unhappily downed.
And then there was the food: quality local food… huge portions of local quality food… huge portions of local quality food with extra cheese on. Day after day, it would be forced upon us by welcoming local tourist guides. We’d not want to upset them or seem rude by telling them that cheese for the third time that day after three weeks just wasn’t quite what we desired at that moment. The cycling clothing soon started to feel that little tighter.
Yep, there were challenges — some expected, others not quite so.
As for the crew: it consisted of four guys from Sydney — Mikki, Mitch, Oli and Josh from My Media Sydney, a filming and production company. They were all young, keen and with the skills to capture the best of Switzerland and us, but also most certainly not from the cycling world. Then there was Tim Bardsley-Smith, a long-time CyclingTips collaborator; he’d be wielding his camera, snapping the stills in his impressively unique style and generally trying to keep the show on the road.
The final two pieces of the jigsaw were Keir and me. Keir’s originally from Canada, but now resides in Holland. Wade had met and befriended Keir at last year’s Taiwan KOM and thought he was a perfect match for the project. He looked good on a bike, and could be away from home for a month. And then there was me. A Canadian and a bloke from the north of England, two accents perfectly fitted for an international presenting job! We’d both have plenty of opportunity to work on our ‘posh telephone voices’ over the month’s filming.
We feel the hard work paid off. There’s been a ton of grafting over the past three months to finally bring the project alive — not just hard work from the team that was on the ground, but from the local guides in Switzerland to Iain back in the Melbourne office who brought all the content together and produced the series.
We feel that it’s well worth spending some of your valuable time checking out. There are words (luckily from Keir, not me — I’m no wordsmith), moving images and photos… something for everyone.
And from behind the scenes, these are the warts and all vlogs — from an epic month of bikes, mountains, crashes, posh hotels and cheese. Oh, the copious, copious amounts of cheese!
Not seen the actual series? Visit the Discovering Switzerland landing page to catch up on all ten episodes.