TMV: Saverne to Châtenois

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This is the second section of the TMV, a newer long-distance bikepacking route in Alsace, France.  If you’ve missed it, check out the first part of the the route from Wissembourg to Saverne.

The Traversee du Massif Vosgien (TMV) continues from Saverne, back into the hills.  Andi jumped on a train from Germany with his Pugsley to meet us with only a day notice.  After a quick coffee and croissant at the train station, we immediately set out riding and routefinding, blending traditional maps with his Garmin GPS.  Once on the route, we settle into a big climb back to elevation.  In each of the the three major sections of the route– the north Vosges, the piedmont, and the more mountainous southern Vosges— the route becomes more topographically dramatic.  Through the piedmont segment from Saverne to Châtenois, the route ranges from about 200 to 800m (∼600-2600ft).

Climbing back into the hills.

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Cold, clear springs can be found along forest service roads and in towns.  This one was situated next to the church, under a watchful eye.

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For lunch, Andi turns cold water into a warm pot of green tea.  Lots of fun titanium bits to discuss.

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And plenty of fatbike discussions.  His Surly Pugsley is built with durability in mind, using doublewall 36h Surly Large Marge rims to a weatherproof Rohloff gearhub and a Schmidt dynamo hub.  Phil Wood, Chris King, and White Industries represent top-quality American makers, while additional German products round out the component list.  Luggage is a mix of Revelate equipment, and a homemade framebag, which features a fully-weatherproof zipper, as may be used in underwater equipment such as a wetsuit.  I tested the zipper– it is actually waterproof, unlike the shielded zippers use on lots of outdoor equipment.  All of this came together with lightweight camping equipment and DIY fenders for his ride on the GST this past month, a new bikepacking route in Germany that follows the former border between East and West Germany.

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Every good descent is countered by another good climb.  These aren’t the Rocky Mountains, but our legs are tired at the end of a day on the TMV.

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There is some pavement on the route.  With luck, that means climbing on pavement and descending on dirt.  It doesn’t always work out that way.

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The trail is very well maintained by local VTT clubs.  Active forestry means a few recently downed trees stand in our path.

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The climb from Ottrott to Mont Sainte Odile is a push, ending in well-worn singletrack.  At the top, swarms of tourists visit the mountaintop convent.  Swarms of tourists ogle Andi’s Pugsley.  Lael’s French is far superior to either of ours, so she is on ‘diplomatic fatbike duty’.  This is something all of us are familiar with, each having spent considerable time on a fatbike.

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The TMV is heavily forested much of the time, although not without the touch of humans.  Many forests are heavily managed as evidenced by selective cuts, picnic tables for hikers and bikers, and this owl, sculpted from a remnant pine stump.  Small towns can be found everywhere– in the valleys, on the hillsides, and even sometimes at the top of a climb.  Forest service roads are largely closed to motor vehicle traffic, in which case the forests are signed as ‘Zones of Tranquility’, for the practice of silent sports.

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The Vosges give a characteristic shadow feature every evening.  It is our plan to camp high when possible.

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This evening provides a special treat.

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Along the route– above the route– Château du Bernstein offers a place to sleep for the night.  These ruins are accessed by a dirt road, and are less popular than some of the other great castles in the area.  Spending a night in a castle is a special way to experience such a place.

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A little hike-a-bike up to our camp.  Note, grabbing hold of he chainstay is often the best technique to haul a bike up or over things, especially on a bike with a sloping top tube.

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But our sights are set even higher.

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After local wine, dinner and a fire, Lael and I climb further.  A dark, narrow staircase leads to the top.

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Andi’s camp below, in the master bedroom.

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Ours, above.

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Our bedroom for the night is breezy with a 5AM sunrise– perfect.  In the past it might have been a watchtower, or just a nice place to watch the sun rise.  It may have been a good place to plan local conquests, although it is now a great place to imagine routes and rides in the hills.  On a clear day, the Rhine River and the Black Forest are visible.

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From here, we descend towards Châtenois, near Selestat.  Wild strawberries slow our descent.

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As do wild poppies, which have been present for many weeks.  We are growing to love Alsace greatly, especially when the sun is shining.  It has been almost two weeks without a drop of rain.

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Where the mountains meet the valley of the Rhine, grapes grab hold to hillsides.  Above, our momentary home– Château du Bernstein.

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The third and final section of the TMV can be found here, from Châtenois to Thann.

4 thoughts on “TMV: Saverne to Châtenois

    • Joan,

      I am happy to know that you have been following along. Lots of great riding to be had all over Europe, and a proliferation of e-bikes since thelast time I was here, including charging centers at major touristic centers. While each country boasts unique cycling facilities which we have found useful, we’ve also had very good luck charting our own course with the aid of a detailed road map, which are commonly available here.

      Heading east; we’ll see how things change.


  1. This is so beautiful guys! Camping in a castle ruins is seriously a lifetime dream of mine!
    Funny thing… the first time I went mountain biking was up Mont Sant Odile. I remember those large rocks really well… and it was pouring so hard.
    So good to see there are more developed trails there.


    • Rusty, I’ve not gotten back to you for all the right reasons– I have not wanted to shortchange you on actual words and thoughts from being too busy or connected to an unreliable network.

      Alsace, and the Vosges, are amazing. We’ve enjoyed everywhere we have travelled in France over the years, but Alsace stands out. The people are happy, proud, and hardy, three characteristics that are not always found together in France. The wine is exceptional. The Vosges, as under-appreciated as Alsace, are amazing These are real mountains, although one can easily climb, hike, bike almost every countour. Forests and roads are plentiful, singletrack trails are numerous and well-signed, and again, great wine is never more than a big descent away.

      Upon your return to Alsace, bring the Unit and the Mirada and some chunky rubber. You and Mel would love to shred (shred is joke-speak for a casual bicycle wander, as we do) the roads and trails here, with endlessly wonderful camping.

      As for the Rhine, it gets real nice upstream of Basel from what we have seen. Recently rode upriver in Switzerland/Germany along the green waters of the Rhine, swimming everywhere along the way. Another thought: the EuroVelo6 route follows the Loire, Rhine, Danube from Brittany to the Black Sea. Or, there is a new EuroVelo15 route in development, which is exclusive to the Rhine. Or, the Rhine to the Rhone gets you to the Mediterranean with wine all the way. Yes, France is incredible!

      Eastward for now.

      nicholas, and lael

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