In the months approaching my semester in France, I would often think of the sea of stylish bikes I thought myself bound to encounter. Yet, having spent the last three and a half months here, I find myself surprisingly disappointed and a bit perplexed at the lack of bike porn. For all the effort put forth by the French into fashion and personal accessories, the bicycle seems to fall by the wayside. Motorcycles and scooters hold the precedent here; there’s a large market for stylish accessories and sleek gasoline machines. They’re not exactly obvious, but for those who really search, small havens of bike customization do exist and it sure is pretty.
|A few bike shops have impressive displays of color like this.|
For those that ride bikes, there are over 1,800 “Velib” stations in Paris (bike-share service where one can rent a bike and return it at any other station). Due to the popularity and convenience of this program, actually owning a bike becomes less desirable. The French are also notoriously aggressive drivers, which make biking conditions intimidating for a lot of the population.
|This Orbea was locked up near the Louvre. Rare find in Paris.|
During my stay here, there hasn’t been a bike shop that I’ve passed and not walked into. Most were simple repair shops, selling heavy cruisers or simple commuter bikes. There were two that truly raised my heart beat. The first being the cover photo of this article; the name escapes me, which only enhances the dream-like experience of randomly stumbling upon this candy-land of bike parts.
|Every city has their fixies.|
The second was En Selle Marcel, a store located at the metro stop Etienne Marcel (40 Rue Tiquetonne). You can find their blog here. It’s described as the first luxury concept bike store in paris, and focuses heavily on custom city bikes. Really, really sophisticated bikes. It’s not quite my cup of espresso, but upon entering, I instantly felt like a part of high society. Simultaneously, feelings of inadequacy creeped in. Certainly, I was not dressed well-enough to be in here. I wandered around frantically, touching everything. A saleswoman asked me in French if she could help me with anything, to which I replied simply, “I don’t know.” I wish I had a photo of her face as she sat on her metaphorical high saddle, trying to process my answer.
Things were expectedly overpriced, but oh-so beautiful. It’s hard not to wander into a place like this and immediately start brainstorming a custom build. While I don’t have the means to indulge at this store, if this is what it takes for Parisians to get hyped on custom bikes, I’m totally for it.
Also actively imported to Paris is the ever-ironic Pedersen bike, which uses a hammock style seat to minimize bumps, acting like a suspension. It was developed by a Danish inventor by the name of Mikael Pedersen. According to Wikipedia, the suspension typically weighs only 4 ounces. Anyone looking to shave some weight for their own rig?
In other news, I’m US-bound at the end of the month, meaning a much-needed return to mountain biking.