20 July 2022
A high school sport’s teacher by profession Monika Büchi is a long-time SHIMANO ambassador. The Swiss rider hails from the northern canton of Aargau and has competed in the Enduro World Series, but as work and life have got increasingly busy Monika has had to squeeze in post work rides like the rest of us. At least until the summer school holidays start. [Photos by Donovan Wyrsch.]
Long summer afternoons and evenings are perfect for after-work adventuring. Fortunately for Monika she has the Jurasüdfuss, or Jurassic Mountains in English, right on her doorstep. Hopping on her PRO equipped Specialized Enduro she set off to show us that there’s superb Swiss mountain biking beyond the Alps.
The ride from her house to the trails takes Monika past Aare River which lends its name to her home canton.
Her Specialized S-Works Enduro features a PRO Tharsis 3Five cockpit, PRO Lock On Race Grips and a PRO Stealth Off Road Saddle.
Though best known for its rocky alpine trails Switzerland boasts a plethora of rooty forest singletracks and sculpted flow trails too.
The rooty trails of the Homberg Forest require precise steering, which is why Monika chooses the PRO Tharsis 3Five 55mm Stem and the PRO Thrasis 3Five Carbon Riser Handlebar, trimmed to 780mm.
After a couple of laps of the forest Monika set out for the trail head, atop the Gisliflue.
The hike-a-bike was certainly worth it
The Gisliflue Descent features a technical, rocky, top section before dropping into back into the rooty forest below.
With golden hour approaching, Monika mounted her bike light to illuminate the trails ahead of the gathering dusk.
Descending by headlight, as the sun set on an epic post-work ride.
Then it was home through the forests. No time for a late one on a week night.
PRO: Monika, tell us a bit more about yourself; what do you teach and how do you fit your riding and racing into your busy work schedule?
Monika Büchi: I teach physical education at a high school. That allows me a fair amount of freedom as I’ve work 80%, rather than full time, and then use the other for training, or maintaining my bikes. The benefits of teaching are that aside from the lessons I can do the planning in work hours, when I’m not teaching classes, or after-hours if the weather is good. There is a downside though, I can’t just put in for leave and join friends on a trip. That made racing hard too! During the summer months I was racing nearly every weekend. I’d work Monday to Friday, fit bike and kit cleaning, as well as servicing my bikes into the evenings, then drive to the race on Friday after work, race all weekend and repeat for the next week. When races had track walks on Thursdays or were further away, I had to take unpaid leave to allow for the travel time or to be at the event earlier.
The stress of knowing that an injury would not only affect my racing but also my work was part of the reason I decided to pivot away from Enduro World Series racing. I’ve broken my collarbone and had a shoulder injury, both of which put me out of action. But the key deciding factor in moving to multi-stage races was that I prefer to ride tracks ‘blind’. I enjoy the real Endurospirit of racing without the track walk. As a result, I’ve decided to focus on races like the Trans Provence, Trans BC, Trans Madeira and Trans Savoie, all of which I have podiumed in, and the Trans Nomad which I won in 2018.
I’ve also spent a lot of my time in the last few years working towards the construction of pumptracks in my area. We opened one in Buchs two weeks ago and will be opening another in Aarau next year. They’re projects I’m really excited to see realized!
Aside from my teaching, racing and pumptrack building I also give personal cycling coaching lessons.
Meet PRO Ambassador Monika Büchi
PRO: Tell us about the riding in Aargau, what’s it like in comparison to the rest of Switzerland and what can visitors to the canton expect?
MB: Here, in Aargau, we have a lot of technical ridge lines and not that many long descends. So, you go up 400-500 metres, traverse along a ridge on a technical trail, riding up and down, then drop down to the valley in order to connect to the next ridge. You can pretty much just keep repeating the climb/traverse/descend process from ridge to ridge for as long as you have the energy to carry on. The landscape makes it easy to fit 800 to 1 500 metres of elevation gain into one short ride!
The ground here is exceptionally varied. You have loamy forest trails and rooty tracks, but also singletracks through grassy meadows and lots of rocky paths. The Jura stones are very sharp and exceptionally slippery when wet. All of this helps to make the riding exciting and technical.
PRO: What PRO components are you riding and what do you like most about them?
MB: I’m running a PRO Tharsis 3Five cockpit with a 55 millimetre Tharsis 3Five CNC Stem and the Thrasis 3Five Carbon Riser Handlebar trimmed to 780mm. The cockpit is completed with PRO Lock On Race Grips. My saddle of choice is the PRO Stealth Off Road Saddle, which sits atop a PRO Tharsis 160 Dropper Seatpost. What I really love about PRO is when combined with SHIMANO it’s possible to create an entire bike build from what’s essentially one brand. So, in addition to the PRO components, I also run a full SHIMANO XTR drivetrain and brakes on my Specialized S-Works Enduro bike.
PRO: Where else will your bike be taking you this summer or do you have any cool trips planned for the European winter before you swap your MTB for skis?
MB: I’m planning a surf trip, to the Atlantic coast, first actually, after that I’m off to the Pyrenees, to the area in which the Trans Nomad takes place. In the autumn I’ll be riding in the Aosta valley in Italy as well as in the south of France for a multi-day trip. In between I’ll enjoy the mountains in Switzerland, exploring Wallis and Graubünden. I would have loved to race the Stone King Rally too but, unfortunately, I didn’t get a start slot for this year.
When I was younger, I used to ski more but, actually nowadays I’m on the bike whole year around. I even ride in snowy conditions, which is pretty awesome! But yes, snow sports were of my big hobbies before I got into mountain biking.
Follow Monika on Instagram as she takes on her local trails and adventures around Europe this summer at @monikabuechi.