Route 1291 E-Bike Tour of Central Switzerland

Bikepacking the Civilised Way, with Eurotrek in Switzerland.

Thanks to social media and Youtube we are all being encouraged to have a go at bike packing. What could be better than lugging everything you need on the bike, mashing out endless kilometres and stumbling around in the dark to find a safe place to pitch up? The suffering being part of the adventure and bragging rights down the pub. Alternatively you could take the Route 1291 E-Bike Tour around Central Switzerland, which I was invited by Switzerland Tourism to try out.

Route 1291 E-Bike Tour will take you up some impressive routes!
Route 1291 E-Bike Tour will take you up some impressive routes!

Well to be honest all that struggling is not really my idea of a holiday. I enjoy cycling, but still want some creature comforts and not having to drag my stuff around with me. Thankfully, there are options for those of us who want a less hardcore approach.

The route

The relatively new Route 1291 E-Bike Tour has been designed as a circular route starting and finishing in Luzerne. The name celebrates the three founding cantons with a route designed to showcase the lesser visited parts. It covers 383 km with almost 8,000m of climbing, including some iconic climbs such as the Furka pass. There are also rolling hills and landscapes that are uniquely Swiss such as the UNESCO biosphere around Entlebuch. The route has been broken into seven manageable stages to be done at your own pace. Sightseeing and tourism along the route are encouraged, with recommended stops at historic sights, farms and even a winery. 

Plenty to stop and see on the route

The route is freely available to download, allowing the independent cyclist to tackle the course as they see fit. Luzerne tourism however has partnered with Eurotrek to provide a package designed to assist the less hardcore bikepacker. This includes hotels, luggage transfers and e-bikes. Before arrival an email is sent with explicit instructions for everything. You also receive a code for access to their app. This breaks down all the information you might want for each stage of the trip. It includes things to see, as well as useful contact information and advice for every situation. You also get a pack on arrival which has an instruction booklet in English for the bike.

Route 1291 E-Bike Tour – Day 1

We joined the Route 1291 E-Bike Tour on stage 5 and to be honest I was a little sceptical about the bike, it’s an urban e-bike made by Flyer which to me translates as a glorified shopping bike with quite an upright position. It’s hefty too, over 25kg. It’s installed with a pannier that you can fill with your necessities for the day as well as a charging cable. There’s also a bottle cage so there’s space for a bidon. The handlebar has a bell and a mobile phone holder allowing you to use your phone for navigation, though I took my Garmin and mount as a preferred option.

The Flyer Upstreet performed well despite initial misgivings

It really didn’t take more than a few turns around the car park to get to grips with the bike. As soon as you began to pedal the motor kicked in and the surge in power took everyone by surprise. We were soon underway with a gentle start down the road before heading cross country. The routes are predominantly on well surfaced roads. However in order to get from one valley to the next an unavoidable gravel section had to be tackled. Initially all was going smoothly, but the path was quite bad in sections. This left me wondering if an E-MTB would have been more appropriate!

On to the ride!

At this point the rain started too, adding to the drama of the day as we aided each other getting the bikes through the cow gates. Thankfully this turned out to be the only bothersome bit of the day. The scenery was enhanced by the moody sky and spirits lifted after a stop for warm refreshments. The weather aside, the rest of the day proved less technical, but at times slow from straining our necks to see the landscape at every angle and of course wanting to capture the perfect image. 

The locals are friendly!

The stop for lunch at the recommended Bergkäserei in Marbach allowed the charging of bikes for those that felt the need. For those that suffer from range anxiety it’s good to know that many of the suggested places on the Eurotrek app provide the opportunity to top up. You can do this while you’re having lunch or visiting a local site. 

Marbach is a great destination for cheese lovers! Their tour presentation is quirky, if you find the hidden drawers you are rewarded with a cheese sample! Naturally the restaurant and shop are dairy focused with a variety of goods and souvenirs. You can then also visit the local Buffalo farm that provides the milk. Apparently the buffalo love the interaction with new people and the farmer is happy to receive visitors: although you need to call ahead for an English translator if you want to do more than take photos.

After a hard day’s ride, dinner was something to look forward to

A happy ending

After a rather soggy, windy day everyone was understandably happy to reach the hotel. Our chosen lodgings for the evening – the Landgasthof Drei Könige Entlebuch – is certainly familiar with the needs of cyclists. They provided bike storage and newspapers to stuff into wet shoes, warm, spacious rooms and no shortage of hot water. The hotels do vary according to location and availability when you book, so each has its unique characteristics. In the mountains, typical hotels have slightly dated decor, but the hospitality is warm and friendly. They become more modern and well appointed as you travel to urban areas. Although to be honest, after long day out I was more than happy with a hot shower and a comfy clean bed: which all of these provided. 

And finally to bed!

Day 1 photos

Route 1291 E-Bike Tour – Day 2

On the second day I really wanted to put the bike to the test. It had the greatest elevation of my three day trip with 1000m of climbing before lunch. This included a beast of a hill which averaged 10%, but included pitches of 20%. There was even some gravel thrown in, just to make things a little bit spicy. There are four settings to choose with five gears. I found the bike worked well on Eco mode most of the time, however I still needed to make some effort for these ramps. So switching to the Auto option worked best as I really did seem to move almost effortlessly up these inclines. I didn’t note any huge difference when switching into High or Standard apart from the amount of charge being gobbled up. 

We arrived for lunch at the hilltop Hotel at Menzburg. Many of the group took the opportunity to charge batteries after a demanding morning. I opted to see if I really could go the distance on one charge. Switching between Eco and Auto did the trick along with quite a bit of downhill freewheeling. By the end of the day I got a little anxious watching my battery indicator switch to red and almost empty. Fortunately there was no sudden drop in charge as it ran increasingly low and I made it with 7km to spare! 

Day 2 photos

Of course the best bit about stopping at hilltop hotels is the descending that follows. Although in order to cool down, an afternoon detour was made into the old town of Willisau: refreshments were badly needed as well as a bit of shade. The old town centre is quite charming with bright flags waving from every building. It’s here you’ll find Café Amrein Chocolatier, famous for its special ginger biscuits, the Ringli.

Ringli are shaped like small, flat doughnuts and thanks to the high sugar content they are hard enough to crack teeth. They do however have a bizarre trick in order to eat them. The biscuit is placed in the palm of the hand which you then push hard into the elbow. This breaks the biscuit into pieces which you then slowly melt in your mouth. For some reason it doesn’t work the opposite way by bringing your elbow down onto the biscuit. You can find videos on Youtube or better yet, come and try it for yourself. 

The only downside to visiting Willisau was then trying to find the route out. I thought it was a little complicated following the signs and could have been clearer. Similarly this was the only place where drivers were a little impatient. They really could benefit from a proper crossing forcing cars to stop rather than have cyclists and pedestrians play chicken as they attempt to cross what is clearly a busy main road. Thankfully this was a minor blot on a fun day and we weaved our way through the rather flat landscape towards our endpoint in Sursee.

Route 1291 E-Bike Tour – Day 3

By day three and the final stage of the tour, we were back in the gentle rolling landscapes of lakes and vineyards close to Luzern. The route took us past Schloss Heidegg which was well worth a detour. It’s beautifully preserved and our guide Dieter – drawing on his love of Downton Abbey – really tried to bring the story of the castle to life.  There is also a bizarre contraption in the attic designed to delight kids young and old! They also have their own wine production which is worth sampling too! 

Stop and take a look around the Schloss Heidegg

There wasn’t any need to charge the bikes on the final day. What impressed me most was the network of quiet lanes and bike paths that are so close to the Luzern and yet it seems so rural. The final path running along the railway line and river dropped us right into the centre, so dealing with traffic was minimal and delightfully stress free. At this point you can choose to go a short distance along the lake to the park and beach. Neither are far from the train station and, if you are brave enough, you can go for a dip before finally returning your bike.

How was it?

I really cannot emphasise enough just how much fun I had with this tour and the e-bike. Apart from the tricky gravel on stage 5, the bikes really are robust and capable of just about anything. Without the assistance they are unwieldy to manoeuvre as the battery cuts out at 25kph. However they work really well in windy conditions, staying firmly on the road and the brakes are phenomenal. The last giving me a lot of confidence on the rather steep and winding roads. It was such a joy climbing these hills at a decent speed without my usual huffing and puffing. I did feel the effort in my legs at the end of the day, but without the e-bike I wouldn’t have been able to ride consecutive days in terrain which usually would be quite challenging.

The views are worth the effort

The other delightful thing is the suggested stops. They are of course all optional and you would struggle to do all of them in the time you have, but without having that local knowledge close to hand I probably wouldn’t have paid attention to some of the more unique highlights along the way and it made the experience all the more richer.

Any problems?

The only thing I found frustrating was the mobile phone support and app. The idea is to use your phone for navigation and I was keen to see how well the app worked. It’s a really well organised app with all the information you need for places to visit on route, support when you have a problem and point to point navigation. It is designed for you to download everything from your hotel wifi to avoid using up data. However I found that it still ate up battery life.

I also got really frustrated with the phone carry-case. I had to wrestle my phone into the pouch which is a pain when you want to access it for photos. It also wobbled about on the handlebar: I half expected to see my phone tumble down a hillside. I was grateful for having brought my Garmin with its map and turn by turn directions. The phone carrier ended up in my pannier!

I really recommend taking your preferred bike computer with a mount for the handlebars. It’s much easier to use something when you are familiar with it. You can of course also rely on the signposts which are everywhere. Just remember to make a note of which route number you need to follow which can be found in the app.

Do you need to be fit?

I only sampled three of the seven days of the trip with a group of mixed fitness and cycling experience. I’d say that some fitness is required, but you don’t need to be a regular cyclist. Though stage 3 is much more demanding and you’ll benefit with a lunchtime stop to top up the battery.

This tour is truly all about the journey rather than the destination. You are free to meander at your own pace and there are plenty of suggestions of where to visit along the way. The route is designed to be flexible so you can skip parts by using public transport. It’s quite easy to put bikes on the train and some buses. You can similarly choose to do a few days rather than a full week. Often the highlighted places have something interesting to offer which makes the tour distinctive and uniquely Swiss. I’d recommend it as a fun holiday for active people whether it’s with a partner or a bunch of friends. It’s not the most budget friendly option but it offers good value for money as a package in Switzerland.


The trip was organized by Eurotrek who provided very detailed information and instructions from the minute you arrive in Switzerland, including transport connections, transfers and accommodation. They also offer the route as a guided tour for women only groups of 6-12 people. 

Aside from the smoothness of the organisation, transporting your bags from place to place and sorting out good hotels, this trip really does take you well away from the usual touristic zones and plays a huge part in what makes it so attractive. The biosphere is know as the Wild West with good reason. Switzerland is scenic wherever you go, but what makes this special is the fact that in many places you won’t see a single car and maybe only the occasional walker. It’s quiet, picturesque and the people are welcoming, just don’t expect them to speak too much English.

Day 3 photos

Useful Websites/Good to Know

The Route 1291 E-Bike Tour has been designed to use a mixture of paths and trails but it does also rely on roads open to general traffic. 

The transport network in Switzerland is phenomenal, even the smallest villages are connected by bus when there isn’t a train. If you decide to skip parts of the route you can usually use the transport network. Bikes racks are available on trains and some buses, but be aware that reservations may be required and you need to purchase a ticket for your bike.

The SBB website and offices will provide you with the best options for getting from A to B. You can buy the tickets online and they offer multi day passes.

The route available with GPX files and suggested highlights and accommodation from

For the independent no frills bikepacking enthusiast, wild camping is strictly controlled in Switzerland. The TCS has links to the regulations for each canton.

You can of course try your luck with the local farmers who may be willing to allow a tent to be pitched on their land.

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