A wet week post-Luxembourg has sent us looking elsewhere for good weather. Clay-rich French soil has caked our drivetrains more than a few times, and soaked our socks to the point that you don’t want to be behind us in line at the supermarché. After nearly two months of rain, excepting my hiatus while visiting New York, we began looking south– at Provence, Spain and Italy. Instead, in the face of potentially more wet weather, we set our sights east to the Vosges mountains, and a new long-distance mountain bike route through Alsace, the forested northeastern corner of France. Notably, the region is home to the Rhine basin and cool-weather grapes, but the uplands rise quickly and sharply, in Appalachian style, in a way that continues to remind me of home. They are also responsible for some of the only beer brewed in France, a continuing theme of our trip. The Traversée du Massif Vosgien will be our home for the next week.
The only risk of this decision was more wet weather, making muddy mountain trails unrideable, and no fun. We broke from the GR5 after drying out in Metz, and hit the road for two days to reach the start of the trail. Lael and I swore that if the rain continued, we would, absolutely, ride south as fast as possible. Two days of road touring reminded us why we ride off-pavement whenever possible, although we did encounter many peaceful canals, voie verte and country roads. Road touring in France is blissful, for sure, although we still find it more peaceful, and interesting, to ride dirt.
With barely the chance to check the weather forecast in the past two weeks, a funny thing happened when we arrived at the start of the route in Wissembourg near the German border– the skies cleared, and the sun promised to stay all week. What lucky kids we are! We made a brief tour along the Rhine to Strasbourg to let the forest dry for a few days. Strasbourg is surprising– perhaps our favorite city anywhere– boasting pan-European style, bikes of all kinds, hip kids and old French, and the mighty Rhine. There is more to say, but make a visit if you can.
Below: Near Metz, in the north of France near Luxembourg, at the top of a muddy hike-a-bike that convinced us to begin looking elsewhere.
Riding to Wissembourg from Metz, to see for ourselves if the trail was in rideable condition.
Crossing the northern stretch of the Vosges Mountains. Camping in public forests is straightforward in this part of the country. Always comparing to the familiar, this feels much like Oregon, or the Lost Coast of California. The southern Vosges are supposed to be much taller and more rugged.
In Wissembourg, Espace Cycles is a good place to check in for parts and repairs. Cheap 29″ Schwalbe tires are in abundance. Lael has got a new Nobby Nic in the rear for 30€. Wissembourg, like a very little brother to Strasbourg, is also amazing. Situated at the north end of the Vosges on the German border, it is a haven for hiking and biking. Germans visit daily in hordes.
The TMV, on verra.