Biking along the Alsace Wine Route

On September 3, 2015, we had the pleasure of biking about 30 miles along the Alsace Wine Route. We rented 21 speed hybrid road bikes from the Office of Tourism from Selestat, France, and headed out on bikes at 10am for a full day of biking along vineyards and medieval wine-producing towns of Alsace. The Alsace Wine (Route Des Vin Alsace) runs north and south in the eastern French province of Alsace from Mulhouse to Strasbourg. We decided to bike in mid-Alsace, from Selestat, biking through or past the following towns: Kintzheim, Orschwiller, St. Hippolyte, Rorschwihr, Bergheim, Ribeauville, Riquewihr, Kientzheim, Kaysersberg (near Colmar). Within the first hour, my back tire blew with a loud bang, just outside of Orshwiller. We walked to the nearest Office of Tourism, about a mile away in Kintzheim, and traded in our old beater rental bikes for a major upgrade to brand new Movelo Electric/Hyrid bikes. With a tourist discount card given to us by our landlady in Selestat, these Movelo bikes were even less expensive than the 21 speed older bikes. Cost per day for rental is 15 euros (normally 20 euros). These new design electric hybrid bikes were first introduced to France here in Alsace, in nearly every tourism office, with recharging stations scattered through Alsace. See When I return to USA, I’m looking to make a major investment in one of the Movelo bikes as a commuter vehicle in Cannon Beach. The Movelo Electic bike allows you to pedal an 8-speed bike without electric assistance, or choose one of four settings of electric powered assistance, from “eco” to “sport” to “power”. The higher the electric setting, the more power assists you in pedaling, and the more it also drains the battery. Anytime going uphill, we kept our bikes on “power,” which felt as though a big invisible hand was helping to push our bikes along, just as when you first learned to ride a bike and your mom or dad helped push from behind. The digital screens tells you your speed (we did get these bikes up to 30 mph going down a very, smooth but steep paved bike path). the screen also shows how much battery you have left. In five hours of use, we only used half a battery charge. The comfy padded seats featured a shock absorber, making the ride delightful. Our whole day changed for the better with that flat tire. Sometimes, little inconveniences happen (like a flat tire on a rental bike) for good reason. We cruised through vineyards, into quaint medieval towns, past parish church buildings with their steeples soaring high into the air and bells heard across the land. We stopped for lunch in beautiful Ribeauville, ordering the traditional Alsatian harvest meal of flammekuchen, something like a simple flour-flatbread tortilla with white sauce, onions, ham and white cheese; along with tastings of beautiful local white wine of Alsace, Pinot Blanc and Reisling. We walked among the 16th century timber-framed homes and shops, and ancient city tours and medieval walls, marveling at the colors and flowers in abundance in these old world villages. We saw families harvesting together, gathering in white grapes, which will be turned into Alsatian sparkling wine, called “Cremant”. One such harvester, a women in her 30s told us the harvest was 5 weeks early this year, due to the hot summer. In a few weeks, we too will help a German family with their grape harvest. We biked past statues of grape harvesters, and statues of crucifixes with Jesus on the cross next to vineyards as grape harvesters passed by with their newly harvested grapes heading to the local winery. We biked up hills and ridges to overlooks, giving us views across the Alsatian valley, from the foothills of the Vosges Mountains across many vineyards and fields to the Rhine River flowing placidly through the valley below. We stopped to enjoy tasting the grapes ripening on the vine. Local vineyard owners allow passersby to taste their grapes. We got as far south as Kaysersberg, birth town of the amazing Dr. Albert Schweitzer (see previous blog post on our visit to the Schweitzer museum in Kaysersberg), where we stopped off for a cup of coffee in a beautiful little outdoor café, as we listened to a harpist play peaceful music echoing off the timber-framed houses and cobblestones in the square. We needed to return the rental bikes before the Office of Tourism closed at 5:30pm in Kintzheim 25 kilometers away. So we headed back north along the Veloroute du Vignoble , a dedicated paved bike path, running north/south though much of Alsace, also used by tractors pulling trailers of freshly harvested grapes. Along the way, we were enchanted by a pair of wild storks, feeding among herons and crows, following behind a tractor plowing the fields. What a joy to journey in open air, by bike, especially by electric power-assist bicycles, through a vineyard region which has been growing grapes and producing world-renowned wines for more than a thousand years. If you choose to visit France, I highly recommend renting Movelo electric/pedal hybrid bikes, and touring Alsace, vineyard to vineyard, face to face, grace to grace, smelling, tasting, and being refreshed by God’s good harvest lands.