3 days bike touring around Lake Neuchâtel to test my set up before Mammenn, my big trip around France starting end of May.

La Map Mammenn 6000 Hexagonal


DAY 1: Lausanne – Portalban / 72KM, 400m elevation gain

I planned to leave at 9 in the morning, and of course it is 10.30 when I finally push off. That is very typical of me: even if everything was packed the previous evening (which here too, took much more time than expected), I still needed to have a second coffee, put the trash out, and find many other excuses to delay the start.

I’ve packed my sleeping mattress and spare clothing in the big handlebar bag. My camera and money are in the smaller bag that leans on top for easy access. In my back panniers are my sleeping bag and electronics on one side and the tent on the other side. I tried to not fully load the panniers, which will prove useful during the trip, when I have to cram food in them after a grocery stop, take off my jacket at noon or when I’m not awake enough in the morning to properly fold the tent.

From a past experience of bike touring with an aluminium road bike and 28mm tires, I’m afraid my bike is going to be tippy, but I’m extremely pleased with how it feels. No problem to steer or stop. The only thing that’s a bit complicated is lifting the back of the bike (the 2 panniers in the back are were the most weight is) to lean it against something, but in the end it won’t prove a hassle at all during the journey. I’m also very pleased with the speed of the bike on the flat. Because of the wide 2.15 inches tires (55 mm) and the weight, I was afraid progress would be slow, but it’s proving really nice to cruise on the flats, the big mountain bike cassette is helping in the uphill and the steel frame is very comfortable on little gravel roads.

I’m familiar with the beginning of the route, going North away from Lausanne, mostly through quiet farm roads and then cruising down to Yverdon-les-Bains. Yverdon-Les-Bains is a beautiful little town on the western tip of Lake Neuchâtel. I’m not immune to the charm of its center, with cobblestone streets and houses painted in terracotta and yellow shades. After refueling with coffee and apple pie, I change into short cycling bibs in the toilets of the bakery and wave goodbye to Yverdon. A few kilometers later, I stop at a closed campsite on the lakeshore to apply a generous amount of sunscreen on my legs. The rays of sun of the lake, sandy beach and tall pines make it feel like I’m somewhere on the Mediterranean.

After several kilometers on gravel roads in the trees along the lake, the route takes me back up to go through Estavayer-le-Lac, very cute little town with a lot of cobblestones and old stone constructions. And it’s not long before I arrive at my campsite for the night a bit farther along the lake, were I’m the only tent camper for the night.

It’s only end of March, so even though the day was gorgeous, it’s cooling off quickly in the evening. So after putting up the tent, I’m very glad to find that the bathroom is well heated and to have a hot shower. I layer up with a pair of leggings, my softshell jacket and a beanie and I feast on noodle soup and bread and cheese with my sleeping bag covering my legs.

View of the Vosges from the top of Hohneck

Camping spot the first night


Lake Neuchâtel or the South of France?

La Map Mammenn 6000 Hexagonal

In Neuchâtel

DAY 2: Portalban – Vallorbe / 105KM, 1’150m elevation gain

After a breakfast of chocolate chips pains au lait and instant coffee, I pack camp and quickly chat with the campground owner before leaving for what I know is going to be a big day with a loaded bike. My tent fly is soaked from the morning frost and I would prefer to not arrive too late to my campsite tonight, so that it has some time to dry before he sun goes down.

This morning I’m looping around the lake mostly through quiet farm roads before I arrive in Neuchâtel. I stop to snap a few pictures of its beautiful waterfront but I’m soon back on the bike as I still have some way to go today. Not too long after Neuchâtel, it starts climbing in the vineyards above the lake. I’m really warm and sweaty. I want to change out of my fleece leggings but I’m only passing through little villages without a proper place to stop in view. I start to regret I didn’t take a break at a bakery in Neuchâtel. Finally the road is going through a forest and I take the opportunity of a side trail to take a break and change into shorts.

Now I’m in the vineyards, overlooking the lake on the North side. I’m bathed in the afternoon sun, it feels amazing. Mid-afternoon, I still haven’t seen any bakery and Google seems to say I won’t be passing any in the near future. So I finally stop at a little village grocery store to get some bread, cheese and tomatoes but also Haribos and Rivella (yaaay, sugar)! I linger at the fountain in the middle of the village fountain to refuel. Time for the final push and climb up to Vallorbe in the Jura. The route abandons the lakeside to go through little roads in the forest. I feel super grateful for all the different kind of landscape I got to cycle through in the same day. Definitely not boring!

When I finally arrive in Vallorbe, nobody is at the campsite I booked. A note says to go check at the ice rink, or maybe at the swimming pool. Finding nobody there either (luckily both a within a few hundred meters) I come back to the campsite and try a few phone numbers without success. I see the washrooms are open and heated, which is really all I need, so I just pitch my tent, wanting to catch the last rays of the sun to dry the fly.

In Neuchâtel

DAY 3: Vallorbe – Lausanne / 46KM, 700m elevation gain

Someone shows up in the morning at the campground reception. She is extremely kind and jokes that her male colleagues thought I did an error when they saw the booking. For a woman. Alone. With a tent. End of March. I admit that the night was quite fresh, even with my big sleeping bag. Also, I did a strategical error when pitching the tent in the evening as I wanted to catch the sun before it set. But this morning my tent is in the shade and coated in a thick layer of frost. I linger a bit to spread it in the sun and chat with a camping car owner. Today I’m heading back home and I don’t have a long way. Then I pull out my phone and sees there is a bakery 200m away. I’m not taking my chances this time and I take a second breakfast: a delicious pain au chocolat and a slightly better coffee than the instant one I made wearing my gloves an hour prior.

This last day is quite uneventful. The sun is still shining and the Komoot itinerary I mapped takes me through charming forest gravel roads where I’m alone. It’s mostly a great route, except for the tiny steep paths it makes me take towards the end, which feels even more stupid because I’m close to home, so I know there area and the fact there are gentler roads around. Or maybe it’s just that my legs are tired after those 3 days and the anticipation of getting back… Anyway, I’m really glad when I’m up the last hill just before arriving home. Nothing like a shower and your own bed.

View of the Vosges from the top of Hohneck

Happy me with my bike