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Souped Up

by Tara

I am now the proud owner of a brand new Brooks Champion Flyer S saddle! It's a leather seat specifically designed for women, complete with sturdy springs that provide extra cushion on bumpy roads. Supposedly it won't be comfortable until it breaks in, but as soon as I sat on mine for the first time, it was love. Compared to my old saddle, a Terry Liberator Gel-X (boooo), it is seriously heaven on earth. I swear it is so great I may as well be sitting on a couch. Goodbye chafing, hello Brooks!

Brooks Saddle

The improvements don't end there. I also have a new handlebar stem! My old one was adjustable and would jiggle and creak every time I pressed down or pulled back on my bars, a frequent occurrence during difficult climbs. Now that I know exactly where I want my hands to be, we got a permanent stem to keep them there. Also on the handlebar-annoyance front was my loosish Ortlieb bar bag mount. It had a stripped bolt preventing repair and has now been replaced, rendering it as sturdy as the day we left.

Where did all of this bicycle bounty come from? From the coolest bike shop in Switzerland: Tretlager Radikal Hochwertig (haha, say that three times fast)! During our ride to Bern we both spotted it and decided to have a look around. Normally this is a fruitless affair—the shops we've visited so far rarely carry anything we need and almost universally know nothing about touring. Still, we keep poking our heads into them when we pass by, looking around hopefully. Today it paid off big time.

They had EVERYTHING for touring! We ran around like kids in a candy shop marveling to one-another "they have the seat I want!", "they have the spare part I need!", and finally "they even have our TIRES?!" Outside of the two spares in Tyler's tool pannier we've never seen Schawlbe Marathon XRs in real life anywhere. We're currently using Continental "Travel Contacts" and they are very flat-prone. Tyler has been wanting to replace them for weeks but refused to give up our only spares to do it. The shop had it all, and the extremely knowledgeable Susan and Evelyn helped us find it.

New Tires

With everything purchased, we were about to leave and begin assembling our new gear when their technician arrived and offered to do it for us! After four months of being in charge of (almost) everything bicycle-maintenance related, Tyler was more than happy to let someone else do the work. The friendly and experienced mechanic Klauss, a serious long distance tourer himself, took charge.

Tyler & Klauss

He gave Tyler a refresher course on adjusting our hubs (according to Tyler his front hub had a tiny bit of 'play' that shouldn't be there—and isn't now!), installed my new saddle, mounted our new rear tires, put my bars on their new stem and finally, affixed my new Ortlieb bar bag mount.

Amidst the flurry of work, Klauss decided he wanted a coffee and asked if we wanted one as well. Neither of us drinks coffee on our own but we rarely turn it down when offered. When we gave an enthusiastic yes he disappeared into the company break room, returning a few minutes later with a tea tray, three porcelain cups of hot coffee, sugar, creamer, and three pastries.

Coffee & Snacks

Talk about customer service! With grease-smudged fingers we sipped from our cups and Klauss explained that he'd bought the pastries at a discount bakery just around the corner.

Over the course of three hours, we worked on our bikes and exchanged many touring tips and stories. To our pleasant surprise we found out that Klauss understood all to well about not putting in too many kilometers a day—he'd spent nine months traveling between Panama and Mexico. Some macho tourers might pride themselves on how far and how fast they ride, but we all agreed that we couldn't help but wonder how much they were missing out on by not taking the time to really see what they ride through.

As we were finishing our coffee, Klauss informed me that the bakery he'd mentioned earlier closed in just a few minutes! I wasted no time, leaving bike-fixing behind in favor of hunting for cheap cookies.

With Klauss' instructions I quickly located what could best be described as a second-hand store of the bakery world. Surrounded by factory-direct mini-pies and cakes I was greeted in rapid-fire German (it wouldn't have mattered if it was slow German) by a woman named Doris. I smiled my biggest smile and sheepishly said, "English?"

To my surprise, Doris immediately switched to perfect English. She told me she was Canadian, "stuck" living in Switzerland because of her husband's job. She was a hoot; we had fun chatting away about the continent we both call home and she was thrilled to have an understanding ear to vent her frustrations about Switzerland to.

When her very Swiss boss came in, we changed the subject quickly and started talking about our bike trip. When he caught wind of it he immediately grabbed an armful of individually-wrapped chocolate tartlettes and dumped them into my shopping bag! Apparently his brother is on a world bike tour of his own and he knew just how much free baked-goods would be appreciated by hungry cyclists. Thank you so much!

When I returned to the bike shop, Tyler and Klauss were still working so I took the chance to read up on my new seat and decided I would henceforth be in charge of taking care of both of our Brooks saddles. I also discovered that the store had a second floor that we hadn't noticed in our first floor flurry. Wandering upstairs, I found all kinds of camping gear! This spurred another round of excited gear-finds, including a much needed annual maintenance kit for our MSR stove!

Once our bikes were settled and we'd scoured every nook and cranny of the store, we began packing our bikes. While we were outside reassembling things Klauss was preparing (unbeknownst to us) a detailed map of Bern with highlighted campsites, fountains, and good free-camp locations. Incredible. After taking pictures, exchanging info, and lots of grateful goodbyes, we rode off to find one of Klauss' recommended free-camps.

Evelyn, Susan &  Klauss

Now, here we are, lying in our tent cozied up in the woods off of a walking/biking trail. It is indeed a perfect free-camp. Thanks Klauss!

Oh and today we also rode on fantastic bike paths through lots of beautiful places, including the lovely town of Thun. Below are some photos—what a day!

Around Thun Lake Thun Fuscia Maybe
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hi guys - I'm a friend of Lian's and I've been following your blog and loving it. So you don't like the Liberator X, Tara? I'm thinking of buying one for long-distance touring, so I'd love your feedback on it. Happy travels! -manjula
Posted by m. on August 16th, 2009 at 4:08 PM
I post (very rarely) on BCO and I've been reading your blog since you guys set out. I just want you to know how much I enjoy reading about your adventures and how often your stories about the kindness of people you meet along the way makes me say "Awwww." I'm really stoked that you guys are sharing your trip on this blog, and although I don't know either of you, I really look forward to each post and wish you both the best of luck as you continue to travel.
Posted by Kerry on August 16th, 2009 at 11:56 PM
Hi Manjula, thanks for the kind words! Feedback coming soon-- I'm working on a journal post about the two saddles. :-)

Aw, thanks Kerry! We're glad you're enjoying our travels. It never fails to astound me just how many kind, generous people there are out in the world!
Posted by Tara on August 19th, 2009 at 9:16 AM
Hi Tara & Tyler

Oanh here. I was just coming in to say I'd also like to know what worked and didn't work re Terry Liberator versus Brooks, and I see that Manjula has beat me to it! Now I know you're working on it so I'll leave you be and wait patiently :-D

Switzerland sounds great, even if a bit ex-y.

Happy Travels!
Posted by nnonews on August 24th, 2009 at 3:12 PM