Switzerland is an amazing country for mountain biking. On this site I will try to give some basic information about mountain biking in Switzerland and provide information about some bike tours and trails. To make selecting tours a little easier I have attempted to put together a difficulty rating based on physical fitness and technical skill which you can read more about below.
Physical Fitness: Rated as 1 to 5. A tour with rated 1 would be one that you can take your kids on and is not physically demanding, while a 5 would be very strenuous. In terms of Physical Fitness, distance, height gained and surface all play a significant role so please factor these into your assessment. If the surface is quite loose then this would make the tour physically more demanding.
1: Easy tour - Beginner:
Mainly flat, less then 500m height gain and/or less then 30km distance.
2: Slightly demanding - Beginner to Intermediate:
Between 500 and 1000m height gain and/or between 30 and 50km distance.
3: Moderately demanding - Intermediate:
1000 to 1500m height gain and/or 40 to 60km distance.
4: Demanding - Advanced:
1500m to 2000m height gain and/or 50 to 70km distance.
5: Extreme - Expert:
Greater then 2000m height gain and/or 70km distance.Paved and unpaved roads, single trail without any particular difficulties. They are mostly forest or meadow paths on a natural surface with good grip, or compact gravel. Steps, rocks or roots are not to be expected. The gradient will be slight to moderate, curves are not tight. Even without any particular MTB technique trails with S0 can be managed.
Technical Difficulty: Rated as 1 to 5 and also defined using the German Singetrail Scale. A tour mainly on tarred roads and nature streets would be graded as 1 and a downhill course requiring very long travel bikes and full body armour should be rated as 5. (Requiring is an important word here. A freeride course that most people use long travel bikes and body armour on, but is possible to ride on a hardtail or short travel bike should not be graded 5!).
1: Easy - Single Trail Scale - S0:
2: Slightly demanding - Single Trail Scale - S1:On a trail marked S1 you will already have to deal with smaller obstacles such as flat roots and small stones. Very often you'll find that the odd gulley or erosion damage is the reason for the raised difficulty rating. The surface may not always be firm. The gradient would have a maximum of 40%. Hairpin turns are not to be expected. On an S1 trail basic MTB technique and constant attention will be required. The trickier passages call for dosed braking and good body placement. They should generally be ridden in standing. Obstacles can be rolled over.
3: Moderately demanding - Single Trail Scale - S2:An S2 difficulty rated trails will most likely contain larger roots and stones. The surface is frequently loose. Steps can be expected. Often there are narrow curves and the gradient can be up to 70% in places. The obstacles require good body placement to be successfully ridden. Readiness to break at all times and the ability to shift your centre of gravity are necessary techniques as well as the ability to regulate braking force and to maintain permanent body tension.
4: Demanding - Single Trail Scale - S3:Blocked single trails with many larger boulders and / or root passages belong to category S3. There are often higher steps, hairpin turns and tricky traverses. The chance for some relaxed rolling is slim. Often the surface is very slippery and with loose scree. A gradient of over 70% is not unusual. Passages with an S3 grade don't yet require special trials (think Danny Macaskill!) technique, but do need very good control of your bike and unbroken concentration. Precise braking and a very good sense of balance is required.
5: Extreme - Single Trail Scale - S4:S4 describes very steep and blocked single trails with large boulders and / or demanding root passages, as well as frequently loose scree. Extremely steep slopes, narrow hairpin turns and steps on which the chainrings unavoidably touch are a frequent feature of a category S4 trail. In order to ride a category S4 trail, trial techniques such as being able to shift the front and back wheels (e.g. in hairpins) are absolutely essential as well as perfect braking technique and balance. Only extreme riders and exceptional bikers manage an S4 trail without getting off the bike. Even carrying a bike up such passages is often not without its dangers.
Tour Planning: There are many options available for mountain-bike tour planning in Switzerland. I personally find the singletrail maps very useful, but there is also a series of bike explorer maps available for large parts of Switzerland. Both these map sets have suggestions for tours, or alternatively you can pick a route yourself. I tend to use a mixture of the both the bike explorer and singletrail maps along with various books that can be found in any good book shop to plan a route which is loosely based on a tour from a book or map, but adapted to suit my mood or the people I am riding with on the day. Get some maps of the area you ride most and go out and explore. There is a ridiculous amount of biking potential in Switzerland.