Astride our mountain bikes, the five of us zoom down the switchbacks below 6,500-foot Grimsel Pass on an adrenalin-rush 4,000 foot descent over just 10 miles. I stay tucked in behind Ruedi, our leader and a Swiss bicycle guide, as we flash through tunnels, weave through s-curves, and brake hard to negotiate hairpin turns. When I risk a peek down at the speedometer on my handlebars while going flat out on one of the short straightaways, I was impressed to see it registering 56 kilometers per hour. The grade is steep, and we are smoking.
It is early morning, just after sunrise, so there is little traffic on the twisting mountain highway. Fortunately, Swiss drivers are chill when it comes to bicyclists. The motorists who are on the road that early hang back a polite distance until they get a clear chance to pass, then they punch it big time to blow by you in a few seconds.
The high speed bicycle descent covered the entire distance in only 25 minutes. As Ruedi and I finally pulled up in the valley bottom near the legendary Aare Gorge, a famous landmark in the region, we were followed in succession by Hao, from Bejing, Gregor, the Pole, and Ilan, the Israeli, and Jose, the Brazilian. We were an international group of adventure journalists who had come to follow the waters of the river Aare from its source high in the Swiss Alps all the way down into Bern, the capitol city of Switzerland.