Alsace in September
Great time of year to do this trip as the vineyards are being harvested. The weather is perfect for cycling! Much of the trip is on dedicated cycle paths which reduces the amount of riding in traffic.
We took the dinner package which saved us the hassle of trying to find dinner each night. A couple of the meals were terrific but most were average.
Lovely, but there were problems
A friend and I just completed the Alsace trip. We had perfect weather and it was lovely to ride through the vineyards while the grapes were being harvested. Accommodations and dinners ranged from superb (Osthouse) to “meh”. It seemed to us that the quality declined with each successive day.
The tour company rep who met us in Strasbourg was very rushed and did not give us a particularly warm welcome. We only discovered the next morning that the mileage computer on one of our bikes was faulty because an electrical lead had been pulled out. This is the bike he used to “demonstrate” so he should have known that it was faulty. We were never able to fix it because it required too small a screwdriver. This inhibited our route-finding throughout the week since the computer was on the navigator’s bike.
On the flip side, I had a crash (someone ran into me) and I called from the destination hotel and the company rep arranged for someone at the hotel to swap out my bent wheel. I was interested that the company rep didn’t ask if I had sustained any injuries.
The route instructions were sometimes difficult to follow. We were lucky to also have a personal GPS and it helped us know whether we were on track. I think part of the problem is that the North American interpretation of some navigation terms may differ from the the European. I urge the company to consider a separate sheet/map to help people find heir way out of Strasbourg. It is actually simple but not at all obvious.
Responses from Biketours.com
Chris, thank you very much for your review of the Alsace. I'm sorry to hear of your bike accident but thankful you are okay! I'll reach out to you about your accident, your Category B accommodations, and the directions so we can work with the tour operator to improve services.
Really sorry we took this trip
While we knew we signed up for a self-guided trip, we had no idea just how little this tour company would provide to us. Starting with bikes that have no water bottles moving quickly onto very poorly written directions and a GPS that was outdated years ago, the trip proved a disappointment each day. Most of the hotels had no a/c (in the middle of the summer) and we had paid for the more upgraded choices. While I must admit that we were guided onto mostly non-traffic bike paths whenever possible, we felt that all we did was ride all day long, with no pointers of what we might be passing of interest. We got lost a fair amount of times, and luckily we had a 23 yr.old, engineering graduate, who helped us decipher where we were vs. the directions. The weather could not have been more beautiful, thankfully, since there was no "back-up" should it turn terrible. We had to have our luggage ready by 9am, there went those leisurely mornings we thought we would have, only to notice that they were never picked up before we finished breakfast at 10am. The bikes were of good quality and thankfully also, we had no flat tires or breakdowns. I know I am spoiled from having taken many bike trips with reputable companies like Backroads and Duvine, etc. This trip was suggested by the friends we traveled with and the woman was smart in getting an e-bike. The rest of us had to walk our bikes up to one of the hotels that was perched on the highest point of the town. Only to finally reach the destination and to be told by the desk manager that if we had intended to eat there, he was sorry they were full for the evening...and that "he constantly tells the bike trip organizers that they should warn their bikers to make arrangements in advance." Clearly we were given no such instructions. We were LUCKY the manager was able to find us a taxi to take us to town for dinner. It was rather surreal. The food in this region was boring and repetitive. How many tart flambees does one want to eat?
The trip was excellent. The hotels selected were generally good (one was exceptional, one was mildly disappointing, the rest were all just good). The tour was well planned and pretty easy to follow. The first leg of the trip was in the valley. This helped to acclimate our group for the wine hills to come. The little villages and wine were exceptionally beautiful. We found the customer service of bike tours and the partner tour operator were also very good. We will definitely use bike tours sometime in the not too distant future.
Important note: with an E-Bike the trip was pretty easy (according to my wife). However, with a standard bicycle, I found some of the hills to be quite challanging. The second to last day I burned roughly 2900 calories.
Alsace Canals & Vineyards
The countryside and towns of Alsace are a great bicycling experience. The roads and trails are fairly flat and well marked. There is a bakery in every village!
Generally, we had excellent meals and accommodations. We had one hotel with a four star rating that was not air conditioned. We also had another hotel that did not offer any choices on the half-board menu.
We found our hybrid bicycles not quite up to climbing the few hills. We needed more low gears! Overall the turn-by-turn directions were adequate but sometimes confusing as our route did not always follow the posted bicycle travel signs.
We had a wonderful time enjoying the scenery and people along our tour and we will definitely come back to France for more.
Beautiful villages - beware of hills and train strikes
The tour operator is unusually cooperative about modifying the standard itinerary. I requested many changes to suit our interests and abilities and they fulfilled them all. We requested and received GPX tracks to load onto our own Garmin devices. The GPX and the map and the tour materials had been revised to reflect the changes I'd requested, which I appreciated very much.
Colmar is an exceptionally good place to center the trip. I recommend staying there several days and taking day trips by bicycle, or train plus bicycle, to nearby villages.
All of the hotels booked for us were high quality, and thoughtfully positioned for convenient access.
Segments of the trip are quite hilly: two chevrons on the map. We evaded the hills by planning alternate routes in the flat part of the valley. These routes presented a different view, still valuable and entertaining.
We had trouble with the SNCF train strike. Of course, that situation was beyond the tour operator's control, but it detracted from the experience.
One of the e-bikes was delivered with a bad battery. They replaced it the next day. That was okay for us, as I had an extra day planned for local sightseeing, so our overall schedule was not affected.
The villages are incredibly beautiful; the biking is either on lovely canal paths or quiet roads in the wine country; and the inns and restaurants are terrific. It is a well organized and well supported trip.
Responses from Biketours.com
Allen, thanks for your kind review. We're so glad to hear you had a great time on tour! We look forward to helping you in the future.
Early Fall Wine Country Tour
Beautiful countryside, quaint towns, idyllic bike paths along canals, vineyards forever. Lodging was excellent even on the lower priced end. Included breakfasts were excellent. Found that opportunities for lunch were nonexistent or limited so we learned to buy lunch food & wine first thing in the morning. Route finding was challenging at times as we were self guided. Local tour operator provided good orientation. 21 speed bikes were very heavy and awkward with handlebar pack.
Responses from Biketours.com
We're glad you had a great time on tour and great advice for future clients regarding lunch along the way! I love the handlebar bag but I understand it isn's for everyone as they can be bulky. We hope to help you plan a future tour.
One of our best bike tours ever
This bike tour was way more than we expected. Espace Randonnee gave us wonderful maps, directions, and bikes. I had an ebike for the first time and it was awesome. We rode down beautiful canal paths, and into picture book villages, laced with window boxes of geraniums. The accommodations were good to excellent, and we opted for the meal plan which we love because dinner was always arranged for you, and local specialties were served. The weather was perfect - all things considered, this was one of our top 2 bike tours ever!
Responses from Biketours.com
We're delighted to hear you had a great time in the Alsace region! We think slow travel is the best way to enjoy the local experiences. Thank you very much for your review and please let us know when you're ready to take another bike tour.
Fabulously beautiful towns and good routes
Bike Tours was excellent. Very helpful.
E bikes helped. Good bikes
Routes were varied and interesting with few busy roads.
Route maps were frustrating at times because some roads poorly marked.
Escape Rondonne's Thomas was poor for the introduction meeting- rushed and confusing; but the company did handle our bags well.