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, some crossed Switzerland from West to East, from the Liip Lausanne office to the Liip St. Gallen office. That was the first Liip logo's slash. As the experience was really fulfilling, the idea poped up 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 320 km 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 in 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

Telling the story of each of the five days of this road trip would be boring, so let's focus on some highlights.

Two Liipers leaving Lake Constance in Horn

The adventure started when arriving on Sunday October 6 in Horn, on the shores of Lake Constance, with two Liipers.

After working for a few hours in the St. Gallen office, we left with a third Liiper before noon towards Wil for a short lunch, and then towards the ZĂŒrich office. Luckily, the weather was pretty nice, but biking from 08:15 to 17:40 made for a long day.

Three happy Liipers in front of the ZĂŒrich office

As we knew the track to Olten would take us around four hours, we worked the next morning from the ZĂŒrich 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 18:00. So far, so good; two days without rain, and about 170 km 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, the two remaining bikers woke up really early, and managed to be fully-equipped with all they had as rain protecting gear, at 06:10.

two bikers who think they're ready for the upcoming rain

We ended up covering the 68 km regular climb from Olten to Bern in three 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. 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. â˜ș

After an afternoon of productive work (during which a Lausanne Liiper 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 three more Liipers to join for the final leg to Lausanne. As if the weather wanted to congratulate us, we had a very nice weather all day long.

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

Finally arriving on the shores of Lake LĂ©man, we slowly came to realize we had crossed Switzerland from north-east to south-west; which was a 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 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 were pleasantly happy to end up on countryside, mostly flat 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 regarding temperature and humidity. We were afraid mostly of cold weather, but what ended up being the most epic was continuous rain showers on one day.

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 I encourage Liipers to work in offices that are not theirs 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 four hours, under pouring rain), really has fuelled a better knowing of eachothers. This type of group experiences are worth doing much more often!

5 happy Liipers in Lausanne Ouchy

Next year?

It's quite certain at this point that a similar event is likely to happen next year. Four Liipers participated in 2018, six in 2019, let's reach twenty in 2020!


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