Riding Susten Pass: Exploring Switzerland’s “Big 3” Mountain Passes

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So here we have it. We discussed riding Grimsel and Furka in our previous two instalments. And now we look at the details of riding Susten Pass to bring our mini series to a close.

With its great riding surface and epic views, Susten Pass is easier-going than Grimsel and Furka. But it’s one you simple have to ride!

We’ve also included a basic route which you can ride as well as some things to watch out for when riding the passes of Grimsel, Furka and Susten.

riding susten pass
Beautiful scenery of Susten Pass (image via From The Top Of Switzerland)

Riding Susten Pass: At A Glance

susten pass on the map
Susten Pass on the map

Where is it? Switzerland

Where does it start/end? Wassen / Innertkirchen

How far is it? 46 km (28 miles)

How high is it? 2264 m

When is it open? June to November

What’s the road surface like? Paved – generally very good

Location

Susten Pass links Innertkirchen (canton of Bern) with Wassen (canton of Uri.)

Related: Riding Grimsel Pass: Exploring Swizerland’s Big 3

snow on susten
Expect to see snow on the Big 3 – even in summer (image via hpgruesen/Pexels)

Riding Susten Pass: The Details

Beginning in the east (Wassen), you’re immediately treated to a 17.4 km climb, with an elevation gain of 1308 m.

Overall, expect to enjoy a total ascent of around 11 miles. Because every single one of those miles treats you to picture-perfect views of snowy mountains and glacial lakes.

When riding Susten Pass, you will be treated to more greenery than on Grimsel and Furka – as well as fewer switchbacks.

That being said, the ride still makes for dramatic scenic views with only the odd tight corner to make sure you’re eyes are on the road!

The pass is also relatively wide all the way along and with good views through the bends. But be careful!

Whilst riding Susten Pass invites you to power through the bends and almost challenges you to get your knee down, there are a few bends that have zero barriers or run-offs.

Susten isn’t the most technical of The Big 3, but many argue that it is the most enjoyable.

And that’s no bad thing!

sustenpass in summer
Probably the least challenging, but often considered the most enjoyable (Image via consuming-fire/Pexels)

Riding Susten Pass, Grimsel & Furka In A Day

There’s no reason why you couldn’t ride all three of these passes on the same day.

In the past, I’ve ridden them over separate days to give me more time to enjoy the views.

Splitting the passes into days means you can take in a few of the touristy attractions (such as Gelmersee via the Gelmerbahn – which I highly recommend) and enjoy a more relaxing experience in the Alps.

I’ve also ridden them all in one day which makes for an excellent, adrenalin-fuelled day of riding that you will never, ever forget.

Related: Riding Furka Pass: Exploring Swizerland’s Big 3

riding susten pass - epic scenery
It’s well worth taking your time and drinking in the views (image via suitcasesandsunsets)

Riding Susten Pass, Grimsel & Furka: Route Details:

Difficulty – easy with some technically challenging sections

Distance – 200 km (119 miles)

Duration – approx. 4 hours 30 minutes

Ascent – 8892m

Decent – 7255m

Highest Point – 2433 m

Lowest Point – 566 m

susten by motorcycle
Susten Pass has a great road surface all the way (image via Elias)

Start / End Point

Stopping in or around Interlaken and starting/ending your round trip from here is quite a good place to be based.

Starting and ending in Interlaken means you get to enjoy riding Susten Pass as well as the passes of Grimsel and Furka alongside the turquoise waters of Lake Brienz.

Directions

Interlaken – Brienzersee – Meiringen – Innertkirchen – Guttanen – Grimselpass – Gletsch – Furkastrasse – Furkapass – Realp – Hospental – Andermatt – Göschenen – Wassen – Sustenpass – Meiringen – Interlaken

Big 3 mini route
Simple round trip route from Interlaken
big 3 route elevation

It’s Not All Rosy

I’m not normally a kill-joy sort of person.

But I feel it wouldn’t be fair to tell you all the good bits of riding Susten Pass, Grimsel & Furka without informing you of the shit bits as well.

Believe it or not, there actually are shit bits!

Related: Stelvio Pass: Spectacular? Or Spectacularly Overrated?

susten pass straight
If only it was always this quiet!

Traffic

When you look at the images on the internet of these passes, they always fail to show you the hoards of people you’ll have to share your experience with.

Be warned – you may be one of many people riding Susten Pass, visiting Grimsel, or enjoying the Furka.

Cars, motorbikes, caravans, camper vans, motor homes, bicycles, tourist buses, hikers, classic-car-clubs… they will all be there.

All at the same time.

And you will all want each other’s bit of road.

riding susten pass
Unfortunately, Susten pass isn’t always this quiet!

Selfie Chasers

Unfortunately, you will also encounter a lot of tourists when riding Susten Pass, Grimsel & Furka.

Most people have travelled a fair distance to witness this beautiful part of the world.

They want the photographs and the experiences just as much as you do.

As a result, people will stop in the middle of the road to take a selfie on their phone.

And car drivers will park in the most stupid places – regardless of the many pull-in places.

sports cars on sustenpass
A common sight on Alpine passes

Street Rossi’s

You will also come across a lot of riders who are just a little bit too excited. They’ve come a long way for these roads and sometimes it gets the better of them.

You’ll also see local riders who know every inch of the passes, and they’ll treat them as their own personal race tracks.

In general, I can live with this. But be warned. They’ll sit up your tailpipe or in your blind spot.

They’re usually in groups and they will try to hurry you along or pressure you into moving.

The sports bike riders generally just hurtle past you and they’ve come and gone before you’ve even realised.

The big adventure bikes tend to sit a few inches from your back wheel and then barge past like they own the road.

In my experience, it’s better just to move to the side and let them past when riding Susten Pass, Grimsel & Furka.

bikers - riding susten pass
If you’re the only biker on the pass, it’s a lucky day!

Riding Susten Pass: Don’t Get Caught Speeding

Over the years, the Swiss police have begun to crack down on speeding riders in their country.

I’m not necessarily saying it’s a bad thing.

To be fair, I’ve had many a good time in the Alps and never once have I had any trouble with the Swiss police.

But I know people who have found themselves by the side of the road giving their bank details to a Swiss copper.

The fines for speeding in Switzerland are astronomical. On-the-spot fines are in the region of 4,000 Swiss Francs (around 3,400 GBP, 4,400 USD, or 3,700 Euro) and oftentimes, they will ban you from riding in Switzerland.

From here, you will have to get your bike picked up and transported to a neighbouring country before you can ride.

Related: Using A Route Planner To Explore Europe

swiss police
If you see this waiting for you at the bottom of a pass, prepare for a VERY expensive end to your day

The Weather

You can’t really blame the weather! But sometimes, the mountains have a funny way of throwing bad weather at you just as you reach a stretch of road you’ve been looking forward to riding for months.

Yes, the weather will turn on you unexpectedly.

If it’s warm and sunny when you start the day, take a few extra layers in your top box just in case it gets cold.

And take your waterproofs because it probably will rain at some point.

Related: The Best Motorcycle Touring Rain Gear

raining in the alps
The rain likely get you at some point. Make sure waterproofs are in your top box

Snow

Expect to see snow. Even if you’re there in the height of summer, there is a good chance you will have to manoeuvre your way around some snow at the summits.

It’s a weird feeling when you’re riding in 30-degree heat with your summer gear on – and there’s snow on the road!

Also, take note of closure dates.

These passes only tend to be open from May to October – but they are subject to change.

Avoid The Weekends

Like everywhere on the planet, these passes are busier on weekends. If you can, get there during mid-week and spend a few days exploring.

You might be lucky and get the place to yourself.

But even if you do come across some traffic, it will be a hell of a lot less than it would be on a Saturday or Sunday!

snow when riding susten pass
Prepare for snow at the road side

Riding Susten Pass, Grimsel & the Furka: To Conclude

Whenever you decide to go and whichever way you decide to ride the passes of Grimsel, Furka and Susten, you’re sure to have a time you won’t forget!

My best advice is to ride them to enjoy them rather than riding them to go fast.

Take in the scenery. Lap up the immense views. Take photos.

And make memories that will last a lifetime!

Feel free to share!
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