After much consideration, we decided to pack up the bikes and bring them to Switzerland rather than renting. We knew we’d be riding often and on difficult terrain so it was beneficial to have the comfort level of own equipment. After seeing many of the available rental bikes we were happy to have our own rides.
Given the amount of clothing and equipment required for our trip, we traveled fairly light with two suitcases and two EVOC Bike Travel Pro bags. The bike bags did a great job of protecting the bikes and were easy to move through the airports, especially with the addition of a clip-on front wheel.
The Evoc bags complete with bikes, hydration packs, riding shoes, and helmets weighed right at the airline’s 23kg (50.7 lbs) limit. And now that we are home, the bags are available to rent from the Velo Studio.
What I Rode
I rode a 2018 Scott Spark 700 Tuned featuring a full carbon frame (main triangle and swingarm), Fox 34 Factory suspension fork, SRAM XO1 Eagle 12-speed drivetrain, and SRAM Guide RSC brakes with 180mm Centerline X rotors. I rode the bike with the stock 27.5″ Plus wheels featuring 2.8″ Maxxis Rekon tires, which can also fit 29″ wheels.
The 120mm of rear travel and 130mm of front travel worked well for my riding style and the terrain we encountered since I don’t do any large jumps or drops. I actually ditched my dropper post in favor of a carbon unit.
What She Rode
Kristin rode a 2017 Scott Spark 700 Contessa with a carbon fiber front triangle and aluminum rear swingarm with 120mm travel front & rear. Her bike comes stock with Shimano XT drivetrain and brakes, a dropper post, and 27.5″ wheels with Maxxis 2.35″ tires and was converted to a 1x system with a 30t chainring and 11-46t cassette.
What we learned
In Zermatt, we took various gondolas and railways up the mountain and rode more downhill than up. The slopes can be a 20% grade, and with up to 12 miles of descending there is no choice but to work the brakes very hard.
Regardless of the various braking techniques, we used to keep the rotors and pads cool, they still heated up to boiling temperatures, requiring we regular stops just to let the brakes cool down. The braking power would start fading noticeably and you knew it was time to stop. By accidentally touching one rotor with her leg after dismounting Kristin actually burned herself badly!
Both the Guide RSC and the XT 8000 brakes come standard with organic/resin pads and have been fantastic riding on local trails, but they were not quite up to the task in Zermatt. While never had a brake failure, by the end of the trip, the disc pads were in dire need of replacement. Visiting Bike Arena, a new local bike shop, I noticed they were stocked with more rotors and pads then I’ve ever seen in a shop (clearly they know their market).
My recommendation for any trip involving long high alpine descents is to modify your brakes with as much cooling power as possible. This means the largest rotors possible, rotors with cooling fins and/or 2-piece designs to prevent warping, and swap out stock pads as necessary with semi-metallic. And, if feasible, consider bringing extra pads and keeping them in your hydration pack.