The Liip Bike Grand Tour Challenge 2019

  • Didier Raboud

For the second year in a row, Liipers took their bikes to cross Switzerland lake-to-lake. This post is their story.

2019 idea

In 2018's Liip Bike Grand Tour, I crossed Switzerland from West to East with two other Liipers, from the Liip Lausanne office to the Liip St-Gallen office, for the first Liip logo's slash. As the experience was really fulfilling, the idea sparked again in 2019. In late August, coordination started to find a suitable week to make another Grand Tour happen. As a way to up our game, and because the two "end" offices are so close from their respective lakes, it was concluded that a lake-to-lake, inverse slash would be a cool challenge.

Map in fullscreen

A Work-bike balance

People are like bicycles, they can keep their balance only as long as they keep moving.
Albert Einstein, in a letter he wrote to his son Eduard in 1930

Riding 320km in 5 days is certainly not for everyone, but it's not a particularily tough challenge for a regular road biker. However… What makes this more of a challenge is the self-imposed requirement to work (at least some hours) in every Liip office. This also means that the bikers have to carry their laptop, bike equipement, and clothes for a whole week, with them.

A list of biking gear to take, from the Liip wiki

Spreading the good wibes

Another goal was of course to show the world how cool and flexible both Liip and Liipers are. We spent quite a share of our biking time for some Social Media coverage on the Liip accounts:

Crossing Switzerland

Some highlights of this year's five days road trip.

OdyX and astons leaving Lake Constance in Horn

Raphaël and myself started this adventure with the arrival on Sunday October 6. in Horn, on the shores of Lake Constance. After reaching the St-Gallen office to work for some (little) hours in the Liip office, we left with a Tobias before noon towards Wil for a short lunch, and then towards the Zürich office. Luckily, the weather was pretty nice, but biking from 08:15 to 17:40 made for a long day.

astons, OdyX and tobion, happy, in front of the Zürich office

As we knew the track to Olten would take us around 4 hours, we worked the next morning from the Zürich office and left after lunch. Packing took more than expected and all three of us could only sail away shortly before two, in a still very nice weather.

We arrived in Olten (where no Liip office is to be found, yet?), before 18h00, for a well-deserved beer, after which Tobias had to return to Zurich. So far, so good; two days without rain, and about 170km covered. But the worst was to come, with heavy showers announced the whole next day.

a screenshot from the Swiss meteo app showing the wednesday rain showers

In a (bold) attempt to avoid the bulk of rain that was announced, we woke up really early, and managed to be fully-equipped with all we had as rain protecting gear, at 06:10.

astons and OdyX who think they're ready for the upcoming rain

We ended up covering the 68km regular climb from Olten to Bern in 3 hours of biking, and arrived (fully and completely wet, through all layers) at the Bern office around 09:45. Given the warmth relief, the warm shower and clothes changing, we only really managed to start working around 11:00.

Leaving early makes it easier to get work done in the offices, and Liip offices often have their daily scrum meetings at 09:00. So we tried to reach Fribourg before that time; hence an early wakeup again on Thursday. We ended up missing the 09:00 mark by some minutes, only to realize that their daily is at 09:15 ☺.

After an afternoon of productive work (during which Romain biked from Lausanne to join the next day's finale), we were pleasantly surprised by a late dinner with a large groups of Fribourg Liipers. Merci!

Finally, after a night shortened by the late dinner, we gathered in front of the Fribourg station to find Céline and Ludovic, joining for the final leg to Lausanne. As if the weather wanted to congratulate us, we had a very nice weather all day long, with the largest bikers group so far.

two biking Liipers in front of a sunny landscape with a church

Finally arriving on the shores of Lake Léman, we slowly came to realize we had crossed Switzerland from north-east to south-west; a very, very, satisfying feeling. We had made it!

Relive 'Liip Bike Grand Tour 2019'

Learnings

Smart routing helps

For most legs, and after some adaptation time, we ended up following brouter's fastbike-lowtraffic routing strategy (see the web version) to bring us from office to office. It seems to provide for the best compromise between low number of turns, not too many streetlights, altitude-aware routing, and low-traffic roads.

But sometimes, the compromises made by the algorithm can be surprising: the Flamatt residential area "90 meters climb over 400 meters distance" really caught us by surprise. But, once we had gone through it, we got pleasantly surprised to end up on countryside, mostly flat and empty roads.

Aim for early to mid-september

Despite initial hopes to lift a second Bike Grand Tour earlier in season than the year before, Liiper availabilites only made it possible in the first week of October. In Switzerland, that intermediate season period is risky for temperature and humidity. We were afraid mostly of cold, but what ended up being the most epic was a continuous rain shower on one day. But I'd do it again!

Roaming through all offices is really worth it

Having the opportunity to actually work in every office in a single week was really good; you really get a sense of the ambiance accross the whole company, and get to tighten bounds with face-to-face encounters. By not having scheduled meetings but rather uncoordinated work-time, several of us could have impromptu discussions, work-together moments, coordination time, etc. That really was useful, and we should encourage Liipers to work in offices that are not theirs way more often.

Great for building teamspirit

two wet Liipers during a break

Spending some 30 hours biking, and basically living, with colleagues, including in not-so-easy situations (such as early-morning biking, for 4 hours, under pouring rain), really has fuelled a better knowing of eachothers. This type of group experiences are worth doing much more often too!

5 happy Liipers in Lausanne Ouchy

Next year?

It's quite certain at this point that a similar event is likely to happen next years. 4 Liipers participated in 2018, 6 in 2019, let's reach 20 in 2020!


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