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Tuesday, July 19, 2022

June 12th - Prologue (Zurich)

 I was frantic - there was only one middle piece derailleur cable. I checked both Trico Ironcase boxes, and then I checked the checked baggage. There was no cable. I was sunk. I cursed myself for not stowing the middle piece cables properly. I cursed the powers that be at TSA that routinely opened bike boxes without taking care that all the pieces in the bike box stayed inside the bike box. But it was Sunday, and none of the bike shops were open. I was distraught.

My 2019 tour had started out with a disaster - having booked an ebike with the Swiss rental system, I had arrived only to discover that (1) my rental registration had disappeared into the ether, and that (2) bikes that fit Xiaoqin were tough to get, and (3) everyone I had interacted with questioned my sanity in renting an ebike for such a long time. This time, I thought I would outsmart everyone by using the long term rental system, which was cheaper by the month than renting a bike for 20 days. The catch was that the request requires a Swiss phone number and a Swiss address, which fortunately Savitha agreed to let me use.

Being mindful of the problems that occurred last time, we immediately took the tram to downtown after dropping our luggage with the hotel to go to the train station. I walked Xiaoqin and the kids to the Sprungli Confisere, got them seated, and then went to the train station to pick up the bike, which to my relief caused me no problems whatsoever! The new rental bike was unusual: it had a Gates Belt Drive (no chain), and a CVT gearing system in the hub, with no discrete gears, so you'd just twist the shifter to a position you liked unless you hit a stop in either direction. The combination made it the quietest and most maintenance free bike I'd ever seen: the belt never made noise and never needed lube, no matter what rain, mud, or dirty conditions we threw at it, and the disc brakes didn't make noise, though I suspect that if I was the one driving the bike I'd make it squeal on the descents.

I rode back to the hotel, and immediately started assembling the triplet. and my heart sank when I discovered that I was missing a derailleur piece. I thought hard about it and then decided that since the first day didn't feature massive climbing, I could live without the front derailleur and lock the bike into the middle chainring. In fact, I removed the entire front derailleur and packed it into a ziploc bag. Upon further consideration, I realized that I only really used the granny and the middle chainring on the triplet, and stopping to lock it into the small chainring for the big long climbs I was anticipating would slow us down but not a lot.

I finished reassembling the triplet, moved it into the hotel, and at this point the Novotel Zurich Airport Meese was ok with me checking in, so I moved all the luggage into our room and stowed away the triplet before riding off on the ebike to meet Xiaoqin, Savitha, and the kids. I installed the gopro mount on the e-bike, the Nite-Ize Handlebar Mount, and moved a bottle cage from the triplet over to the e-bike. I filled up a waterbottle and got it ready to go.

Unfortunately, Xiaoqin's phone had run out of battery, so the gathering took half an hour to organize, but we eventually got together, had dinner, and Savitha was kind enough to show Xiaoqin and the kids how to use the tram to get back to the hotel while I rode the ebike back.

We were exhausted, and took melatonin pills in the hopes that we would all be able to sleep through the night.

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