Mike In Europe: Bike Touring the Moselle & Rhine Rivers
A week of bicycle touring the Moselle and Rhine Rivers. Two of Europe’s most popular cycling routes. Pedaling down the Moselle River from Luxembourg City to Koblenz and then up the Rhine.
After a week in Luxembourg living a not so bike tourist lifestyle with my friend Mac (and employer when not doing things such as this) I was ready to try really try to grind out some distance over the next week. I left Luxembourg City on Thursday July, 4th to begin bicycle touring the Moselle and Rhine Rivers. My first destination would be Koblenz, Germany where I would pick up a replacement bank card and then turn south and pedal up the Rhine River. Everything was set up perfectly in terms of weather and terrain to accomplish my goal of covering some ground quickly. The only thing holding me back at all was a reservation I had made at a hotel in Koblenz in order to have my bank card shipped to me. They only had one night of availability 4 nights out. It would not take me that long to get to Koblenz.
Leaving the city I only had 25 km of rolling hills before I hit the riverside path on the border of Luxembourg and Germany in the town of Remich. After that is was literally downhill for the remainder of the 275 km to Koblenz. I wanted to space it out equally but I got into the ease of it and road farther than I ever have putting in about 170 km that first day. Through the Roman City of Trier for lunch and into the winding section of the river where I stopped to camp that first evening. My July 4th dinner consisted of a few Bitburgers Pils and Currywurst. I slowed down the next two days to stop from getting too far ahead of schedule. The Moselle is a twisting river flanked by vineyards on every possible slope. It’s quaint and scenic and full of mostly day trippers cycling from the various campgrounds along the way. It is a very easy ride but without stopping for frequent glasses of wine or nice dinners I was ready get through it. I think Luxembourg to Koblenz would be a good two day challenge. On the positive side I would say the scenery of vineyards and hilltop castles is pretty stellar and there is no lack of campgrounds along the way. On the negative side you will have to slow down for the crowds a little more than you would like and while there are plenty of restaurants it can be difficult to find a simple shop to get water or snacks along the way.
I arrived in Koblenz on Saturday, a day earlier than my reservation at the hotel where I would receive my replacement card. I just didn’t know how to stretch that leg of the trip out any longer. Luckily I found a perfectly located campground where the Moselle meets the Rhine to ride out the afternoon and evening in the sun. I tried to find a bike shop that might clean my chain for me and was met with really strange looks wherever I went. They couldn’t understand why anyone would want to remove the oil from their chain and then put it back. I wan’t going to try to explain why it’s good to keep your chain clean so just gave up on that foreign concept. On Sunday I checked in to my hotel, found out I was given the only room without a shower, and received my package without any issues. Koblenz was rather uneventful.
After a large German breakfast I hit the trail on Monday morning for what turned out to be a another of the longer rides I have ever done. The ride south from Koblenz to Mainz is another classic ride and where I picked up n the Eurovelo 15 route. Similar to the Moselle the Rhine is flanked with vineyards and castles. The Rhine is significantly wider and has significantly more and larger castles. I had read to expect more day trip bike traffic but did not find this to be true. I did however run across more long distance cyclists. South of the city of Mainz the landscape flattens out quickly and the river broadens to cover a large wetland area. When the land flattens the flood protection systems and levees start. For the remainder of my Rhine trip I would mostly be riding on top and beside of these levees as well as through Agricultural and Industrial areas. I spent my first two nights out of Koblenz in Worms, Germany and then Louterburg, France. In contrast to the vineyards and castles of the North I found the southern stretches to be much less interesting. The systems of trails are still excellent for recreation riding but after several days the lack of castles really starts to wear on you. Although south of Strasbourg, France the Grand Canal d’Alsace is pretty cool to cycle along and bumping into a large theme park in what seemed like the middle of a swamp was something to shake things up.
Three days and 455 km after leaving Koblenz I road into Freiburg, Germany for a few days rest. Riding 6 of seven days since leaving Luxembourg City I was able to ride 735 kilometers and achieved my personal goal of putting in a strong stretch of riding. I did not expect to get this far so quickly really. Of all the places I have seen so far I would put Freiburg as my favorite. Outdoor activities and mountain biking in particular seems to be what this place is all about. So now I am taking a day of rest. I would make it two but some big music festival is tomorrow, Friday July 12, and everything is booked solid. Then the general plan is to make a run for the Alps and Switzerland. From there I don’t know whether I will venture directly South into Italy or cut back towards France. I’ve been thinking that if I can find a place to store the bike for a week I wouldn’t mind taking a train to revisit the Naples area. Then I will likely head into France and see how far I can make it to the Pyrenees. As the Summer continues to heat up here I’m thinking the mountains are the key.