2021

2021 was another COVID-19 pandemic year. It looked promising at some point with pretty effective vaccines, but people being people[1], 2021 turned out being just another 2020 in disguise. I allowed myself to see friends and family a bit more often, and go on vacation or weekend trips in Switzerland and neighboring France and Italy. I am still not longing for international travel, let alone air travel, so that was perfectly fine. What I am missing, as in 2020, are live concerts. Some happened again, but I don’t trust the epidemiological situation enough yet.

Job

As a continuation of 2020, 2021 was a work-from-home year. With quite a twist though. Long story short, my employer Bestmile ran out of money. A very promising deal got canceled last minute resulting in everyone being laid off. Management was smart enough to have enough cash reserves to pay everyone until their contracts ended, which meant that we got 3 months of paid Summer semi-vacation. Four years ago, my job search was a miserable endeavour: too long, too many applications, too many soul-sucking interviews, too many disappointments. This time, I wrote half a dozen applications, mostly at companies I applied for in the past. And it worked out! I’m a happy Archilogic employee since September. The job is full-remote, but I still decided to move from Lausanne to Zurich, where their headquarters are located.

I will miss that view after moving to Zurich. While biking from my place in Lausanne to Mom’s place in Montreux
I will miss that view after moving to Zurich. While biking from my place in Lausanne to Mom’s place in Montreux

BMX

Lausanne is a very nice city, but one thing speaking in favor of Zurich are the BMX infrastructures. There are a good outdoor skatepark, several indoor ones, a decent outdoor pumptrack (none in Lausanne) and a more open-minded trails scene. I have been saying this for the last 10 years, but this time it might be true: the next 4-5 years might be the last years that I can decently ride BMX, so being here in Zurich is a plus.

Overall my BMX year was pretty lousy. I wasn’t in the mood to deal with the vibe at “our” local trails, so I think I rode there only twice. Which is completely ridiculous compared to the ginormous amount of hours spent building the place. It is what it is… I went a couple of times to Genève. On one of those occasions I randomly ran into Switzerland’s BMX Freestyle Olympic champ Nikita Ducarroz at the trails. She sure can handle her bike! I’ve been to the pumptrack at the UCI headquarters in Aigle[2] with Gabriel and kids. Since November he can go ride at the shiny new pumptrack, bowl and skatepark in Bulle. The previous park was the place where we both started riding BMX.

Mountain biking

I renewed my SBB Velopass. Originally, the motivation was that I would go at least once a week to the BMX trails. But I got injured in 2020, so that didn’t happen. Instead, I used the Velopass to go mountain biking in the Jura and Vallée de Joux region first, and later in the mountains above Vevey and Montreux, as well as Leysin.

On the way up to the “summit” closest to Lausanne, the Mont Tendre
On the way up to the “summit” closest to Lausanne, the Mont Tendre

I did a couple of dumb snow tours. One was at Vallée de Joux, in early Spring. I was a bit optimistic regarding the progress of snow melting. But it turned out ok. The other one was not ok at all. Here’s the story I posted on Strava:

This was the initial plan: take the train from Montreux up to Rochers-de-Naye, then ride down to Roche (with a climb in between for good measure). The weather looked ok, not sunny, but no rain on the radar.
This was the initial plan: take the train from Montreux up to Rochers-de-Naye, then ride down to Roche (with a climb in between for good measure). The weather looked ok, not sunny, but no rain on the radar.
When the train gets to Caux (A), the driver informs me that there is a hail storm at Rochers-de-Naye and that I’d better go off before Paccot. I get off in Caux and decide to improvise a ride to Col de Soladier (B). I had done this last summer, but the other way around. I came down a boring gravel road (C) and decided that this time I could spice it up by taking a smaller mountain trail (D). Shortly after Caux, at around 1200m it started snowing. By the time I got to Col de Jaman (~1500m), it was seriously snowing. I should have turned around at that point.
When the train gets to Caux (A), the driver informs me that there is a hail storm at Rochers-de-Naye and that I’d better go off before Paccot. I get off in Caux and decide to improvise a ride to Col de Soladier (B). I had done this last summer, but the other way around. I came down a boring gravel road (C) and decided that this time I could spice it up by taking a smaller mountain trail (D). Shortly after Caux, at around 1200m it started snowing. By the time I got to Col de Jaman (~1500m), it was seriously snowing. I should have turned around at that point.
On that mountain trail, while it was windy, foggy and snowing, I got into not one, not two, but three really scary situations. Honestly it’s a miracle I got out of this without a scratch. First, I had to cross a super steep stretch of snow, ~50m wide I guess (A). I could have slid easily a couple of hundred meters down had I slipped. When I finally got to B, I could not see where the trail was going. I could already hardly see the trail because of the snow, but here it was dropping so steep that I couldn’t see it at all. With my super slippery shoes (normal Five Tens with flat soles), trying to climb this down on mud+snow while carrying a bike was a death sentence. So I turned around. But not without making another mistake. I didn’t want to cross the snow stretch (A) again, so I decided I could try another path. But I got stuck again, on a narrow ultra slippery “cliff walk”. So I gave up and decided that the “safest” way down was to slide on my ass on a snowslide (C). It was super steep and scary as fuck. Somehow I managed not to get too much speed and made it safely to the trail down below, which actually was the gravel road I didn’t want to take initially…
On that mountain trail, while it was windy, foggy and snowing, I got into not one, not two, but three really scary situations. Honestly it’s a miracle I got out of this without a scratch. First, I had to cross a super steep stretch of snow, ~50m wide I guess (A). I could have slid easily a couple of hundred meters down had I slipped. When I finally got to B, I could not see where the trail was going. I could already hardly see the trail because of the snow, but here it was dropping so steep that I couldn’t see it at all. With my super slippery shoes (normal Five Tens with flat soles), trying to climb this down on mud+snow while carrying a bike was a death sentence. So I turned around. But not without making another mistake. I didn’t want to cross the snow stretch (A) again, so I decided I could try another path. But I got stuck again, on a narrow ultra slippery “cliff walk”. So I gave up and decided that the “safest” way down was to slide on my ass on a snowslide (C). It was super steep and scary as fuck. Somehow I managed not to get too much speed and made it safely to the trail down below, which actually was the gravel road I didn’t want to take initially…
There’s the start of my ass-slide down the mountain side. And the end is at the road you see at the bottom.
There’s the start of my ass-slide down the mountain side. And the end is at the road you see at the bottom.
Mountaineering across a snowslide with super slippery shoes and a 15kg bike. Remember, things are always steeper than they look on camera.
Mountaineering across a snowslide with super slippery shoes and a 15kg bike. Remember, things are always steeper than they look on camera.

Learnings: when in the mountains and it starts snowing, turn around. A couple of months later, I actually did the tour I initially planned (Rochers-de-Naye to Roche via Malatraix) with Gabriel:

The view from the Malatraix
The view from the Malatraix

Instead of going to close Valais, I went twice to Lenzerheide for a couple of days. I had a blast both times. Once I was joined by Urs for 2 days, and the next time I rode with Rico, Jessie and Jo. This was the first bikepark riding on my Santa Cruz Megatower. It works flawlessly. Another time, Damien brought me to La Thuile. Best. Place. Ever! I have to return somehow in 2022.

Bike Kingdom
Bike Kingdom

Here are my mandatory year over year Strava stats:

Year Time Distance Elevation gain
2020 124h 2229km 38281m
2021 205h (+65%) 3024km (+35%) 73203m (+91%)

Something feels a bit off about these numbers. I probably did more lift-assisted rides in 2021 than in 2020.

Strava stats
Strava stats

If I ever find a girlfriend again, I would like her to have some passion, or at least interest, for some regular physical activity. I don’t care what it is, it does not have to be shared, but I don’t think not doing anything is healthy, both physically and mentally. Anyway. So, why not try to meet those rare girls who ride mountain bikes? There have been a couple of attempts in 2021. More on that further down, read on!

Consumerism

Every year I think back to the stuff I bought and go: “hhmm, I did pretty well this year!”. Then I actually go through my online accounts, emails and scanned paper receipts, and it systematically turns out to be more than I thought. My point is, don’t buy shit you don’t actually need. Here’s where I failed:

These were not really needed:

Cargo bike adventure
Cargo bike adventure

These were kinda required expenses:

Things I successfully did not buy:

Media

Games

Not much gaming this year, but I didn’t miss it. On the PS4, I got the very hyped Swiss game Mundaun, that I played very little. Not my thing. On the Switch, I bought Tetris Effect Connected, the online multiplayer version of the Tetris Connected I got last year on PS4. I am a bit disappointed by the classic mode. Why can’t we get an exact replica of NES Tetris on any modern console? I also played LEGO Builder’s Journey, which is very cute, but boring. My game of the year is Metroid Dread, even if I actually stopped playing at some point, getting too frustrated by the boss fights, and the guided-but-not-really exploration part.

Similar to the Playdate anecdote above, the Steam Deck was not released in Switzerland (because not in the EU?). I never had and probably never will have a gaming PC, so I would be a potential client for that kind of hardware. I also sometimes consider getting an Xbox with the Game Pass.

Podcasts

I stopped listening to a lot of podcasts I have been listening to for years. I got fed up by ATP, RecDiff, Cortex

Here are a bunch of episodes I enjoyed from other podcasts:

…with a bit of a (good) French language invasion:

Series

Fewer podcast listening, and also fewer tv shows watching. Which is a good thing.

YouTube

I might have replaced a good chunk of my tv-show-watching time with YouTube watching. I don’t log in, and often clear my cookies, but even then, I have to admit that the YouTube recommendation algorithms are pretty good. I watched and often subscribed to the RSS feeds of the channels:

Concerts

The pandemic, especially in 2020, forced artists to be even more creative. For example, I had a lot of fun watching Mikey And His Uke covering various songs.

Here’s one with, among others, Moby going back to his early 1980s punk roots:

Then one with none others than Tony Hawk and Steve Caballero. Millencolin being skaters themselves, they must have been super stoked (or maybe they know each other well. I don’t know, it’s fun either way):

Joan Jett’s classic:

Dating

I think in 2020 I went on exactly one date. So in 2021 I was a bit more motivated to try again. The first one was with Carmen. She was only the second girl I dated more than once. On the first date, we walked around one evening in Lausanne, on the second we had pizza in Sion, on the third time we chilled at her place in Sion. On the fourth (record number of dates at this point) we had a burger in Lausanne, and on the fifth date, we went on a stupid hike. We mutually agreed that we enjoy each other’s company but that it wouldn’t work out, so we should just stay friends. We’ve seen each other reguarly since. That was a nice outcome for once.

Not long after, I had a date in Neuchâtel with Oriane. We went on a bike ride in Chaumont, and then chilled a bit by the lake. Everything went well, and she seemed open to meeting again. But sadly it never happened. She never explicitly turned my suggestions down, but always had excuses. I hate it when they do that. Grow a pair and own your decisions!

I talked to this girl Juliana on Tinder in the summer of 2020, but when I suggested we should meet, she turned it down, saying that she just met someone. I later randomly spotted her at a shopping mall in Lausanne. One year later, I get this message signed Jul from an unknown number. We had a drink one evening, but that was it. I still follow her on Strava because she does triathlon, which has always fascinated me. So yeah, on that one, I think we both weren’t really interested.

One nice thing with these dating apps is that you might meet people you would otherwise never meet. For example, I ended up in Genève on a date with Sharzad, a girl from Iran who recently came to Switzerland. It was an interesting evening, I even got to show off my recently acquired but quite ridiculous Arabic reading skills (Persian/Farsi uses the same letters). But again, apparently not enough interest on both sides to meet a second time.

Then there was another attempt at meeting a mountain biking girl. I match with this girl named Meije on a Sunday evening. On Monday morning she writes and says that she’s in the Lausanne region at the Bernex bikepark for the day. I improvise a trip there: 30min boat ride to Evian, 1h bike ride to Bernex. I try to call her a couple of times, but I can’t get through. I wait at the bikepark entrance, but cannot spot her. I see a girl next to a van on the parking lot, but she doesn’t look quite like the Tinder pictures. I still go talk to her and start by a remark about the shitty muddy riding conditions. She looks up at me, with that typical annoyed why-are-you-talking-to-me look. I figured, I didn’t recognize her, she didn’t recognize me, so she was not Meije. I decide to give up and ride back to Evian. As soon as I got a data connection again on my phone, I messaged her, telling her about my adventures. Turns out, the girl with the evil don’t-bother-me look was actually her. It’s funny that we both were too dumb to recognize each other.

Meije’s reaction is the reason I usually don’t even try to talk to girls. You also constantly hear about them feeling harassed. There are probably signals when a girl is open to being flirted with. But I think we’ve established at this point that I’m really bad at reading signals. Anyway, one summer evening I was chilling in the park next to my apartment and this girl Merline randomly comes up to me and starts hitting on me. It was so awkward. It might be third time this has happened to me ever (the other two being at a bar and at a party, so more likely), but it’s still weird every time.

The most recent dates I had were here in Zurich. In the span of 2 weeks I met with Diana twice. Right now she’s visiting her family in Mexico, so we’ll see how that turns out once she’s back.

Health

Family

Last year, my grandad passed away. For a while, it looked like my grandma would follow this year. She tripped over her radio’s power chord and broke her pubic bone. At 92 years old, spending weeks in bed really fucks with your health. She somehow made it through though. So far. ç

Other

Part of my close family speaks Arabic. I thought it would be fun to learn another alphabet, but I didn’t want to take it too seriously. Duolingo finally added Arabic lessons this year, so I gave it a try. The way their lessons are built has some limitations though. Nothing is explained, ever. You have to guess what the grammatical rules are, and the lesson themes and vocabulary are a bit random sometimes. In theory I should by now be able to read Arabic, but I realized that I lack a bit of discipline and rely a lot on the spoken bits provided by the Duolingo app.

Duolingo stats: almost 60 hours total; a couple of lessons every day, 232 days in a row
Duolingo stats: almost 60 hours total; a couple of lessons every day, 232 days in a row

Epilogue

These Covid times are a bit of a blur. I sometimes am not sure anymore if the whole thing started in 2019 or 2020. While drafting this text, some things I scribbled down for 2021 actually happened in 2020. It’s confusing.

2021 has been an ok year. I wasn’t expecting to have to change jobs, but it turned out fine as I ended up at the place I wanted to work at last time I was looking for a job. I made a couple of good friends at my previous job, and re-united with old friends from Zurich. It’s been a sporty year with a lot of mountain biking but unacceptably little BMX riding.

Embrace the suck. Move the fuck forward.


  1. seriously, sometimes the only thing that keeps me alive is the curiosity of witnessing how bad humankind is gonna fuck up. Schadenfreude: final boss. ↩︎

  2. I never heard back from the guy who at some point in 2020 answered my email inquiry about being allowed to ride the amazing skatepark they have there. Honestly, if that park was open to the public, or at least to not-total-beginners, I might not have felt the need to move away from Lausanne. ↩︎