On two continents, 6,600 kilometers away from their home countries – we found two guys who literally swapped their lives: one in America, the other in Germany. How does biking feel in each of their new worlds? Who finds the best trails? Who drinks the best beer? Hear their stories and follow their adventures as they hit the trails in their new worlds.

I stood with my jeans pulled down around my knees in the cold gray garage at the Switzerland/Germany border wondering how much more intrusive this search was going to get. I knew there wasn’t any weed in my car and the drug sniffing dog confirmed it. I’ve been harassed many times in my life by cops in America but usually I had done something to piss them off. In this case, I was just driving home from the Indoor Bike Park near Zürich, Switzerland.

Traveling in Europe

America is massive and it takes several days to drive across it even if you don’t stop to sleep or explore and as long as you have a driver’s license, you can usually drive anywhere within the US borders. You can drive without interruption through most of Europe as well, but there are some exceptions. Switzerland is one of them and not all of its borders crossings are the same. The checkpoints at the boundary with Germany are quite large with several lanes while the one near Chatel, France is just a line in the road occasionally monitored by an uninterested officer. In our case it wasn’t the Swiss that had corralled me, it was the Germans, and I’m still not sure what triggered their suspicion.

Der Indoor-Park bietet immer perfekte Bedingungen!
The Indoor Bike Park has perfect conditions every day!

The Indoor Bike Park

Axel, Moriz, and I had a great session at Indoor Bike Park which is about 2.5 hours from Stuttgart, Germany. The park is really fun and well built. It has a foam pit, dirt jump line, a pump track, and there are plans to build a half pipe soon. The riding surfaces have all been paved so the conditions are perfect all of the time. Axel and Mo didn’t seem to have any problem tricking the jump line or pulling manuals through the whoops, but I feel like a beginner. I get exhausted easily on the pump track and I am not very good at it, but it is inspiring to watch the locals destroy the track.

Dieser Bikepark ist so nett, dass man die ganze Familie mitbringen kann.
Unlike many bike parks, this one is nice enough to bring your family.

The park caters to riders of every level. I’ve taken my kids who are five and seven years old to ride the park in the winter and they are stoked to do laps around the track for hours. There is a BMX gate and a proper league full of kids who are really committed to racing, but there are also rental bikes for anyone who just wants to give it a try. There is a strict limit of how many riders can be in the park at a time and the pump track is directional, so the collision factor is pretty low. The spectator’s area is comfortable with an elevated seating area that overlooks the park and there is a cafe on site for some snacks. I spend most of my time in the foam pit trying to create muscle memory for some tricks I want to take to dirt this year. Mostly I land on my head, but for some reason the foam pit never really gets old.

Für jeden gibt es die richtige Schwierigkeit.
There is the right level for everyone.

Your license please

So after the session we took off our sweaty and stinky pads, stashed everything inside the van, and headed back towards Germany. We passed the Swiss guards with no issues, but the German guard motioned for me to lower my window and gave me instructions in German. My German is awful and I know better than to try to talk to cops in anything other than my native tongue, so I told him I don’t speak German and he sighed and asked me for my license in broken English. He took a long look at my ID and then signaled me to pull to the side as he walked away in the opposite direction. A few minutes later he returned and asked me to follow him with my vehicle. He led me to a garage with the door up and two more guards inside and told me to pull in. Even though I hadn’t done anything wrong and I knew there weren’t any drugs in my van, I became really nervous and was tempted to just make a hard left turn and take off. A high-speed police chase never seems to end well for anyone though so I pulled into the garage and watched the door close slowly behind me.

Ein Foampit hat seinen eigenen Reiz.
A Foampit never gets old.

“Get out of zee car, sit in zee chairs, and everyone give me your identification.” We complied and when he saw that Axel and Mo are Germans, he got pissed. He yelled at them for making him speak English and then asked me, “where do you keep your marijuana?” Ummmm … say what? I told him I had none. “Come on, I know you like marijuana, where do you keep it?” By this time the other guards had already emptied most of the contents of the van and spread them across the floor of the garage. As they were opening and searching all of the compartments of the van, I prayed that Axel and Mo had been honest when they assured me that their bags were clean of anything illegal. We knew we just had to be patient. The primary guard left and a few minutes later returned with his drug-sniffing dog. The guard gave me a nasty look and proceeded to search the van and all of the contents again but this time with the assistance of the dog. Oh, the poor dog! I’ve read that a dog’s nose is a thousand times more sensitive that a human’s nose. My wife just about vomits every time she gets into my car because of the terrible “biker smell.” We felt pretty bad for this unfortunate animal that was told to poke his nose into all of our bags and try to do his job.

Manchmal wird man nicht einfach durchgewunken.
Beware … Sometimes they don’t just wave you past.


So this brings me back to where I started … with my pants down around my knees. I’m not sure what upset this border so badly but after close inspection of my shorts he finally accepted that we really didn’t have any drugs and he told us to pack the van and leave. We left quickly and the guys laughed at me the whole way home. Actually, they are probably still laughing about it.

Nichts wie weg hier!
Let’s get out of here!

The incident at the border hasn’t soured my desire to travel in Europe and I’ve been back to Switzerland several times since this happened. The Indoor Bike Park is loads of fun as a destination or as a nice break en route to or from a the Alps. I will caution you though to either leave the weed at home or prepare for an even more intimate encounter with the border guards.

More Information: indoorbikepark.ch/

Enjoyed this story? Take a trip to the rest of the series: Introduction | Freiburg | Goodbye Germany | Stromberg | What a Small World it is | My First European Bike Trip | Let the Games Begin! | Getting to Know the Shapers of Châtel | Roanoke – A Diamond in the Rough, Part 1 | Making Friends in High Places | Roanoke Part 2

Words & Photos: Evan Phillips

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