Supercharged Swiss Wheels

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Apply Swiss ingenuity and an active love of the outdoors to a landscape profuse with mountains, and you get the rechargeable Swiss electric bike.

These cycles have been growing in popularity throughout Europe, but leave it to the Swiss to fine-tune them and to create what may be the most extensive support network of marked trails anywhere in the world.

Ubiquitous battery-charging stations along the trails make long trips feasible, as do groups such as Swiss Trails, which can provide daily luggage transport.

With more than 400 rental stations across Switzerland, the newest versions of e-bikes boost pedal stroke up to 150 percent with the push of a button. They guarantee that even less fit riders can attack harrowing inclines with the grace of a Lance Armstrong.

But athletes, too, sing their wheelie praises. “I felt a little bit as if I was cheating, but my Swiss Flyer was more like insurance,” says college student Lizzy Williams, who rode from Basel through the hair-raising Gotthard Pass to Lugano.

This piece, written by Becca Hensley, appeared in the May 2012 issue of National Geographic Traveler.