Destination Louisiane: Free Wheelin’ in the Big Easy

Destination Louisiane

Family-run cycling company puts a unique spin on sightseeing in New Orleans

NEW ORLEANS — The company name is a nod to musician Bob Dylan, thanks to a family connection to one of his band members. When you’re ready to get on two wheels and take on the Big Easy, Free Wheelin’ Bike Tours can show you a good time, and teach you something.

After months of being cooped up because of COVID, this is a great option for anyone who wants exercise, fresh air and the chance to learn something new about New Orleans. It’s an outdoor learning adventure that will reset your soul with the spirit of the city, whether you’re visiting for the first time or the fiftieth.

“We try to get more realistic perspectives of the city; most people don’t see the outside of that six block stretch of Bourbon Street and they think it’s New Orleans,” says tour guide Teddy Schiro, who created the Creole & Crescent Tour that has evolved as the company’s most popular outing.

Free Wheelin’ Bike Tours Owner Ryan Bergeron, who is also a guide, smiles as he lists the perks of a cycling tour: “A walking tour might cover one mile, maybe if you’re lucky. A mule tour probably won’t go outside the Quarter usually; a segway tour same thing, in and around the Quarter, whereas with a bike tour you’re covering multiple miles.”

And multiple neighborhoods. Starting from the bike shop at 1025 Bienville Street,where they also offer rentals, the ride soon spins along the edge of the Quarter, down Frenchmen Street, before heading to City Park, Bayou St. John and Treme. It ends in Congo Square.

“There’s so much unique history to New Orleans and Louisiana, but New Orleans specifically, that even people who have lived here all their lives and who have had family here for many generations, they come on a tour with us and they’ll learn things that they’ve never learned,” says Bergeron.

WGNO’s Stephanie Oswald joined a tour, cycling along the sights of Frenchmen Street and Esplanade Avenue, spinning past St. Louis Cemetery #3, and gliding by the beautiful statues sprinkled about the NOMA sculpture garden.

One of the most poignant stops is in the heart of the Treme neighborhood, at what’s believed to be the first African Catholic Church ever built. Outside sits a large cross made from the chains of a salvaged slave ship.

“Similar to the tomb of the unknown soldier in Arlington, this pays tribute not to just the slaves in New Orleans, but all through the country. It’s only fitting that in the first African neighborhood in the continent, the world’s first African Catholic church was built, right here in the heart of Treme, in1841,” recites Teddy.

Four California tourists went on the cycling tour on this day, celebrating a 13th birthday and delighting in the entertaining history lesson taught by Teddy.

Cheramie Raffield has been to New Orleans countless times, but was thrilled with what she was able to show her daughter (the birthday girl!).

“As much as we come visit, he showed us stuff that I’ve never seen and I would have never been able to show that to her,” says Raffield.

Eileen Petersen and her daughter were also impressed.

“I thought it was amazing I have never really known about all the ins and outs of everything and I really appreciated that Teddy welcomed us like a local,” says Eileen, who was seeing New Orleans for the very first time.

The cost of a ticket includes your bike and helmet rental, a water, and something you can’t put a price tag on: your guide’s personality.

“Green’s the most important color in New Orleans. You can ask our last few mayors they’ll tell you, it’s true,” says Teddy, as the cyclists laugh.

“You can’t beat fresh air and sunlight, it’s great for your spirit, it’s great for your body of course,” says Bergeron.

Most tours are $50 per ticket, plus tax. It’s a wonderful way to get some exercise and see the signature neighborhoods of the Big Easy. Other options include a foodie tour and a Voodoo-themed cycling adventure.

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