SUI GENERIS punk rock bike shop home-brew art/craft love

Paris bike culture

I read that "the French are very serious about cycling," but the Paris we visited did not match up with my preconceived notions. While we were there, I saw very few of what I would call "serious" cyclists (Lycra-clad riders on racing bikes with drop bars). On the contrary, the vast majority of bicycles around Paris were purely utilitarian.

The average bike had straight bars, basic pedals, a comfortable saddle, fenders and a rack. For some reason that I never grokked, many were "girl" bikes--partly explained by the fact that more women ride bikes, but lots of these bikes were being ridden by men.

Being a bike geek, I ogled every chained-up bicycle that we passed on the street and looked for trends and standouts. Not a single single-speed or fixed gear could be seen. And yet not a more suitable city could be imagined, since Paris is nigh entirely flat. One thing was for sure, though, these bikes got used. They were dirty and beat and old. As for brands, Peugeot was popular (as they were for cars and motorcycles), and "Decathlon" bicycles were ubiquitous as well.

We found a Decathlon store on or near the Champs-Elysees and went in to investigate. Sure enough, they sold and serviced a line of bikes along with tons of other sporting goods (think REI). I found a floor model "Vitamin," one that I'd seen plenty of and thought it looked pretty cool... being sold for 100 euros!* Had I been admiring the French equivalent of a Wal-Mart bike?

Not being able to speak or read French too well, I couldn't much tell. Suffice it to say that Parisians as a whole aren't some super-knowledgeable elite bicycling clique. They buy their bikes to use 'em, and considerations of weight or quality don't compete with low low prices. Just one more way that they're really just like us Americans.

Categories: bicycles

*121.11 U.S. dollars

No comments: