Photo: North side of Passwang.
Green trees, ridges, rolling hills, meadows, little villages. Typical Jura really.
Route: Crémines Zoo (by train) – Vermes – Delemont (inc old town and Vorbourg) – Bärchwil – Passwang – Oensingen – Solothurn.
Length: 94km, +1500m, -1800m.
Season: Spring to Autumn. Probably doable in winter, but it wouldn’t be as nice then.
Arrival/Departure: Train to Crémines Zoo / Train from Solothurn.
Supplies: There are lots of shops and restaurants along the way. Before Passwang all of the fountains were labeled as not being suitable for drinking.
Alternate routes/shortcuts: Some sections could be skipped by train.
Exposure/Hazards: Moderate traffic on the roads.
Late May/Early June is a perfect time of year for this route. It is pretty much dense forests and meadows all the way, so it is at its best when in full spring bloom.
This jumps on and off the official biking routes a few times. Most of my routing is fine, though the descent down from Vorbourg whilst not steep is a bit bumpy.
Parts of this like Passwang can be a popular car/motorbike touring route. There were certainly some motorbikes about, but it wasn’t too bad. It was a public holiday in some cantons in the area so it is hard to say what is normal or to be expected, certainly more motorbikes at the weekends.
Notes along the route
It never gets less special getting on the train in a German speaking area and then getting off in a French speaking one 20 minutes later.
You could get off at Gänsbrunnen and just cruise down to the zoo for a few minutes, but I like doing my last adjustments and GPS setup with a few bison or tigers staring at me over the fence.
The pass and valley/gorge from Crocelles to Vermes is one of my favourite parts of Switzerland (as I have mentioned before on other rides in the area). I really love the landscape in this part of the Jura, and in the middle the gorge opens up to a sort of hidden valley with some very lonely farmhouses
After Vermes there is one more section of gorge before you emerge into the much wider and open (ie boring) valley on the way to Delemont.
This was my first time actually going into Delemont. Like Aarau it is somewhere I have changed trains at or passed by, but had never ventured beyond the station. The old town is nice enough with enough restaurants to give it some life. Not a must see, but if you want a tourist-free old town this isn’t a bad option.
Took a diversion up to Vorbourg for a view back over the valley. Turned out that the view around the corner from Restaurant Vorbourg was much more interesting than the view back over Delemont. The Chapelle was quite big and worth a quick visit.
Through the Birse valley on the official bike route. This is a fairly major route connecting to Basel, but felt strangely empty and forgotten. You do get put on the road, at times it narrowed quite a bit, though traffic was light (at that time at least). Looking at the map it seems you could follow a gravel road on the opposite side of the valley instead of joining the road.
Turning off through the series of villages on route 348 was much nicer. Beautiful landscape, but the climbing up and down was a bit brutal at times.
Out of Erischwil the climb towards Passwang is very gentle until Oberbeinwil at which point it turns into a steeper more Alpine like pass for a few hundred meters of height gain up a series of switchbacks. There are nice views to distract you at least – the area on the north side of the Passwang is just stunning.
Took a small diversion to the former Kloster at Beinwil which is worth a quick look in itself, and it has a little farm shop which also sells ice cream (contactless payment via Twint).
I suffered more on the climb than I should have today. Maybe it was the heat, it had rained a bit earlier and humidity was very high. Maybe it was just a bad day. I made it in one go at least.
The road doesn’t quite reach the top of the pass itself but goes through a tunnel. It is short but a bit narrow, I would advise having at least a rear light to feel a bit safer.
Stopped at the Restaurant Alpenblick Passwang on the first bend below the pass for a beer. Thanks to a few lucky dips in the next two ridges there is an open window for a good view of the Alps (on a clear day), though the restaurant and the car park are the wrong way around so half of what you are looking at from the terrace is asphalt.
Turned off the pass road after a few bends to follow a farm road that stayed up on the valleyside before a final drop into Mümliswil. There were a few little bumps to climb, but it was worth it for a traffic free route. There is an interesting little cafe, Hagli Beiz, which I will drop into next time I pass by rather than the standard restaurant on the road.
From Mümliswil it is a gentle ride through Balsthal out of the Jura to Oensingen. The main highlight is passing the two castles near Balsthal.
Could shortcut the last 20km or so by train. I should have really, it was hot and with an annoying headwind.