Reverence: Velib-The Paris Free Bicycle System

Reverence: Velib-The Paris Free Bicycle System

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Before arriving in Paris I kept hearing, “Oh the best way to see Paris is on foot, walk the whole city, it’s really the only way to experience it.” I’d rather be shot and thrown into a dumpster by the Seine. Walking is not for cyclists – it sours the guns, it’s slow as hell. We are not walkers, we are rouleurs.

Enter the Velib – the word is an amalgam of velo and liberty, 20000 bikes, 1800 stations spread around the city. This was conceived to get cars off the streets and judging from the number of people using the bikes, it must be doing something right. These are not intended for sightseeing as much as they are a 24/7, nearly free way to get from point to point without a car and its associated pains.  The bikes were custom-designed, 3 speeds, adjustable seat, a cable lock, basket, front and rear lights driven off the hubs. The coolest part is the sturdy male tab that easily mates with the base station. Post-ride you dock your bike into any open base, it locks, and you walk away. Brilliant.

Having been here for two days makes me an expert in all things Parisian, of course. The city is rather flat so the three gears are enough, the tires are tough, it’s no speedster but really who cares?  It’s not your bike. No emotional attachment; use it and walk away. There is always another just like it waiting for the next ride. I’ve ridden a few of these bikes that needed some love but almost all of them have been great.

One subscribes to this kind of service. I bought a one week service for 8 euros. A whole year is only 29 euros. The first half hour is free, the next is 1 euro. You log in, grab a bike, adjust the seat, no time lost in adjusting the helmet as none are provided. Then you accelerate into the maelstrom that is Paris traffic; a torrent of motos, scooters, trucks, buses and bikes. Exciting and dangerous-absolument. But I figure I’ll still last longer than that cyclist with headphones and cigarette.

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// General // Reverence

  1. @boston biwheel

    Portland is going to launch a bike-share as well. We’ll see how well it does.

  2. @mcsqueak
    No whistles included with the bikes I hope.

  3. @Nate

    Each rental bike comes with a complementary whistle, pair of tight black jeans, and a stick-on ironic mustache. Ne helmets allowed.

  4. @Pedale.Forchetta
    I love that the room glows yellow!

  5. We have these rentals in our town too. Not sure which bank sponsors them but every time I see one it is in need a many repairs. I seen one where the front brake didn’t even work and the person riding it had no clue. Not even sure if they even have lights on them.

    fasthair

  6. Is Gianni Bjarne Riis?

  7. Not gonna happen down here in Australia with our mandatory helmet laws.

  8. We visited Dublin last Christmas but didn’t use the system because…. Rule #9?

  9. @frank

    Gianni has been hard at work in Switzerland as well, worshiping at the UCI headquarters. The bottom picture is pure fucking class. The best bit of it being the full on perfect kneel form in fucking flip-flops.


    Gianni continues to be my hero.

    Merckx Will Be Done. Note the sign on the wall containing original velomiskrit teachings describing the location of the Bidons that to this day hold water carried upon His Bike. Legend tells us the water in these Bidons is considered sacred to all Velominati, and thus could not be trusted to any one rider. Hence, they were distributed in various locations about the world, and only by deciphering the clues (from the original Velomiskrit) could their locations be found. A map to these locations is rumored to be inscribed in invisible ink upon a map buried beneath the Roubaix velodrome.

  10. @eightzero

    Merckx Will Be Done. Note the sign on the wall containing original velomiskrit teachings describing the location of the Bidons that to this day hold water carried upon His Bike. Legend tells us the water in these Bidons is considered sacred to all Velominati, and thus could not be trusted to any one rider. Hence, they were distributed in various locations about the world, and only by deciphering the clues (from the original Velomiskrit) could their locations be found. A map to these locations is rumored to be inscribed in invisible ink upon a map buried beneath the Roubaix velodrome.

    All you need is Nicolas Cage (ugh) or Tom Hanks (meh) to star in it, and you have the makings of a summer blockbuster.

  11. @mcsqueak
    Can Tom Cruise play Clentador?

  12. I like the Velib. Anything to get a 20-something-year-old Parisian girl in a sundress to ride around Paris on a bike. The only things missing in the basket are a baguette and some flowers.

    Merci, Gianni.

  13. @Harminator

    Sure, they’re about the same size so that should work.

  14. @Gianni its cool shit like this that makes me want to actually visit another country. I may do so some day. But I get so nervous I get the shakes when I think about traveling outside the US. Eddy H. Merckx, I don’t even like to visit some places IN the US. Like Texas. Or “the South.” Makes me nervous and I begin to cry a lot.

    Hate to say it Frank, but the site has become all too popular. All us assholes chiming in at once. We need a new section at the top (along with the aforementioned “the Rides”); we now need “the Bullshit” – a place of general bullshittery.

  15. @frank
    @Ron

    The best bit of it being the full on perfect kneel form in fucking flip-flops

    I wish I was wearing boat shoes.

  16. @marko

    And do the French people know about us?

    I got nothing! No respect with my Velominati shirt. If we had an instant French translation dongle (Frank?) some might read it.
    I was on a cycling sock budget there too and came away with a chapeau cyclisme (?). Amazing shop utterly packed with nice bikes, the stem and bars turned to fit more in and make them harder to ride away with.

  17. @Nikolai
    No one cares about helmets, double parking, smoking, dogs in restaurants, or diet foods. People here are healthier, thinner, and more content than in the US. What does it all mean, besides the fact we are all doomed in the US?

  18. @Nikolai

    I thought they were talking about bringing one in Melbourne ?

    There was a recent post on Cycling Tips suggesting they should waive the helmet laws for users of the bike rental system, which of course caused precitable shock and horror.

  19. Montreal uses the bixi system. It seems rather popular there, and looks to be a success there.

    However when I visit that city later this month for the GP cycliste I will be riding my own bike.

  20. Off topic, but how do I change the avatar on here? While I still have facial hair, I no longer rock hair to my shoulders. I have no clue how the current photo got there.

  21. @mcsqueak
    Ok, so we’re casting a Merckx movie. I’ll put Clive Owen in as Merckx. Daniel Craig as Anquetil. Javier Bardem as Ocana.

  22. There’s a clothing shop on Republique called OH LUMIER, there you will find a couple wool jersey’s on the cheap and it’s not too far from Cycles Laurent. Good post. Thanks. I spent 6 months in Paris and I didn’t realize how much i missed it.

  23. @Gianni

    @Nikolai
    No one cares about helmets, double parking, smoking, dogs in restaurants, or diet foods. People here are healthier, thinner, and more content than in the US. What does it all mean, besides the fact we are all doomed in the US?

    Just came back from Nice, southern France, where they have the same system. And shitloads of fantastic roads to cycle. To add to the above they have really good food there – more or less everything is organic by default and actually has taste! Unlike in London where I live.

    You might want to check the following written by someone whos eems to have left the US for France: http://livinginfrance.mon-coach-langues.com/post/2010/03/31/Cycling-in-France.

    Very relaxed too. On one day I had a couple of hours to myself as family preferred to stay in the apartment and so decided to check the local bike shop. It just happened that it was during lunch time, and all shops other than supermarkets or chain stores close for 2 hrs for lunch.

    best regards,

  24. I was in Seville yesterday and they’ve got the same bikes. They’re a bit different from the Boris bikes in London. It’s great to see all these cities getting into biking. It’s so much nicer to cycle to work than to cram into the tube – especially being a short bloke, armpit level…

  25. @brett

    Is Gianni Bjarne Riis?

    I do have the same malformed Danish skull as him. His palmares are better but I never used EPO.

  26. @PeterP
    Grazie for the link to the France article. Very interesting. I also love the way all businesses close and everyone has a relaxed 1-1.5 hour lunch, talking, a glass of wine, some espresso after. It’s better than the 0.5 lunch I’d take by myself, in my office, at my computer, reading cyclingnews…what a loser.

    @Oldschooly

    There’s a clothing shop on Republique called OH LUMIER, there you will find a couple wool jersey’s on the cheap and it’s not too far from Cycles Laurent

    Thanks for the tip, we just rode by Laurent Cycles again today as my wife had lost her new cycling hat, maybe one last trip to Oh Lumier will happen tomorrow, our last day here. I loves me the cycling swag.

  27. If we are sharing photos of how we pay homage to Him (bless his name)… you’ll have to ignore my gurning, but how about this one:

    Went to a dinner earlier this year for the launch of Maglia Rosa, and the Prophet himself came to bless the occasion

  28. @roadslave
    You went to the Rouleur dinner? A guest article is in order.

    That is the Most.Awesome.Pic.Ever.

  29. Gianni and Mrs. Wife – Great read up, I got to go on them for an hour last year and have also tried them in Montreal. It really is the way to go in a city. In Montreal I have seen a maintenance truck hauling off the damaged ones and all that I rode were in good nick – perhaps because they spend the winter out of use they are in better shape?

    What a great trip – you made it to the shrine of shrines (in proper obeyance) and looking extremely fit and at your ultimate climbing weight – an attempt at the Volcano when you get home – Neh?

    Travel and bikes are the last frontier of cycling. I do take my little home chopped 16″ fixie Dahon when I travel so at least I am riding and not walking. I am always in muftie, never in V kit and of course look like a complete wanker but who cares I am on my bike… and I love urban gorilla riding!

    @roadslave
    And now I post that with Himself staring at my post… Redfaced and cringing – THANKS Roadslave (so jealous)! It looks like you were at the part of the evening where the cigars and stories were going to begin?

  30. @roadslave

    If we are sharing photos of how we pay homage to Him (bless his name)… you’ll have to ignore my gurning, but how about this one:

    Went to a dinner earlier this year for the launch of Maglia Rosa, and The Prophet himself came to bless the occasion

    It’s pretty much the same look.

    Top marks, Roadslave. Judging by the timing, it looks like this may have helped you when grinding up the Kapelmuur.

  31. @Rob

    What a great trip – you made it to the shrine of shrines (in proper obeyance) and looking extremely fit and at your ultimate climbing weight – an attempt at the Volcano when you get home – Neh?

    I decided I’m working on Gianni for my next assault in January. He’s so fucking trim and it’s only at most a half-day’s suffering. Who gives a shit? Sure, you want to die while you’re riding up, but as soon as you step off the bike the suffering eases.

    Besides, he did it so long ago, I’m sure he’s bound to do a better time now that he’s lighter than ever. I don’t think getting older really matters much in a climb this long.

  32. Gianni – Ah ha ha, @Gianni

    @frank
    @Ron

    The best bit of it being the full on perfect kneel form in fucking flip-flops

    I wish I was wearing boat shoes.

    Ah ha ha. No you don’t. They’re awful.

    I don’t even know what to make of that site Frank linked to yesterday. How can there be that many of those types in the world? It’s baffling. But yes, that photo of the plaid shirt dick was spot on.

    Nice photo, roadslave! I seriously don’t know what I’d do if stood next to Merckx. People like that aren’t real to me, too super human, too incredible, too mythic. I’d probably just smile a huge one like you though and feel lucky as.

  33. Gianni does look fit & trim for a climb! I think if we keep on building him up, and challenging his lemur-sized manhood, we can get him to ride with you next time, Frank!

    Maybe we could start a no expenses paid contest and the winner could act as the DS for you two? The VMH can only do so many duties. Maybe the VSP #2 has to buy his own ticket to HI and then fill & carry bidons all day.

  34. @roadslave
    I’m in awe. A dinner for the launch of the Maglia Rosa, what does that mean and how do I get invited to that sort of thing? Do tell.

  35. @Ron
    Thank you for the giant pit lemur reference, I hoped someone saw that. That was the French wine talking…

    @frank
    @Rob
    Another climb? I don’t think so. Frank and I may attempt the East Maui Loop, essentially around Haleakala, 175km and a fuck-ton of climbing, dirt roads, terrible asphalt pave. Who wouldn’t want to do that?
    Why would I even suggest a ride like that with a 35 year old, Olympic grade, massive seat post showin’ Dutch Monkey?…madness, again, that devil French red wine.

  36. @frank

    Besides, he did it so long ago, I’m sure he’s bound to do a better time now that he’s lighter than ever. I don’t think getting older really matters much in a climb this long

    Ned “da lung” Overend just won the Mt Washington Hill Climb. He is Rob’s and my age so we can’t really be using the age excuse too often. And that is no hill, such a cruel whore of a climb for us big boys. Much worse than Maui and only 7 or 8 miles. Rob, of course, placed 2nd one year.
    Frank, you would enjoy that one.

  37. Wait a second, do Giant Lemurs & Dutch Monkeys get along well enough to spend 175kms turning the cranks together?

    Do we have a primate behavior specialist amongst the Followers?

    Gianni – No problem! I more or less feel as if I’m on a group ride in this community, so most of what I hear (read) is in my head somewhere. Might be hurtin’ too much at the time to mention it, but I laughed at that yesterday.

  38. @roadslave
    Top shelf man. I thought I was cool ’cause I got to spend an afternoon taking turns with Warren Miller. You totally topped it……..

  39. @scaler911

    @roadslave
    Top shelf man. I thought I was cool ’cause I got to spend an afternoon taking turns with Warren Miller. You totally topped it……..

    Did you spend the whole afternoon falling over in lift lines and not sticking the drops?
    Did he spout inane blather as well?
    I’m sure he’s a loverly fella and great skier who well and truly lived the dream, but by cripes his films used to shit me.

  40. @JIPM, @frank, @Gianni, @scaler911 thanks for comments… it was an awesome occasion… it was the Rouleur dinner, so good spot Jeff… getting in was a case of a) hitting refresh every seven seconds on a thursday evening waiting for the email to come through announcing tickets were available, and b) once it went live, just throwing money at the problem… not a cheap evening, but well worth it. The Prophet was on great form – expansive, reflective, humerous, ruthless… combined will Zilli and Liggett, made for a fun evening. Liggett really has NO filter on what comes out of his mouth… he was meant to be MC for the evening, but answered every question before passing them across to Him… very amusing.

    Frank – good spot: in this photo, I only have one chin, and was climbing well for my weight… I may even have been only two weeks to peaking… hearing Him talk about His seven wins of Milan San Remo was inspiring “I knew that the longer and tougher the race, the more likely I was to win… because I knew I could ride harder and longer than all my competitors… that is why I won Milan San-Remo so many times”

    Interestingly, He thinks the current bunch of cyclists are the most exciting for a generation… so for all our lamenting the lack of panache, He disagrees.

    BTW, the dinner itself was great fun… every single person there was a bike nut, so for four hours we just talked bikes and shit. Who had Di2, who had Campy… carbon or titanium… what do you use to moisturise after shaving your legs?… do you track power to weight or VAM? there was no embarrassment, no furtive looks to our ‘normal’ friends, wives, partners etc. we could just be ourselves, talking about what we love. It felt great to be out in the open with our kind.

  41. @mouse

    @scaler911

    @roadslave
    Top shelf man. I thought I was cool ’cause I got to spend an afternoon taking turns with Warren Miller. You totally topped it……..

    Did you spend the whole afternoon falling over in lift lines and not sticking the drops?
    Did he spout inane blather as well?
    I’m sure he’s a loverly fella and great skier who well and truly lived the dream, but by cripes his films used to shit me.

    Naw. He’s actually a pretty charming guy. I was working Ski Patrol, and was just showing him around. He’s a old school, don’t let the nickel between your knees drop, kinda skier. Graceful.
    I get what you’re saying, believe me,. That said, something to be said about making a living doing something that’s a hobby for most of the rest of us. Kinda like cycling, no?

  42. Yeah, i admit I’m being a bit harsh, but hey, the internet gives you license to be a cock doesn’t it?
    The rant really was more out of a sense of jealousy for;
    a) Miller being able to make a life out of skiing
    b) You skiing

    A sad combination of living in Aus where the skiing is pitiful and young child rearing has kept me away.

  43. @ChrisO
    They do have a bike share system in Melbourne now and it is a complete balls up which will eventually whither away. The bikes never get used because you need to wear a helmet – which potential users typically aren’t carrying. Cannot believe the idiots who set this up didn’t foresee this problem. They are now trying things like ‘temporary helmets’ (WTF indeed)…

    @frank
    So pleased to see a photo of a community member who isn’t 6’2″ plus with a full head of hair. Glad you are one of us.

  44. @mouse

    Yeah, i admit I’m being a bit harsh, but hey, the internet gives you license to be a cock doesn’t it?
    The rant really was more out of a sense of jealousy for;
    a) Miller being able to make a life out of skiing
    b) You skiing
    A sad combination of living in Aus where the skiing is pitiful and young child rearing has kept me away.

    Didn’t take it that way at all dude. I am very aware of how lucky I am to live where I do, and the odd experiences that I have had.

  45. @markus – if your talking about me… you are right on the fact I don’t have a full head of hair… far from it. But I am 6’2″ – in circumference, though

  46. Awesome picture, I once saw the bike snob in my butter dish,next to meeting Steida and riding with a world omnium champ, that’s about as close to the gods I have been.

    My town has a bike borrow system, you take a bike that isn’t locked up and leave it in the ditch for the next guy….

  47. @King Clydesdale
    http://en.gravatar.com/ seems to be the place to sort the avatars out

  48. @Dr C

    @King Clydesdale
    http://en.gravatar.com/ seems to be the place to sort the avatars out

    Thanks Doc.

    Also, looks like we beat bicycling.com to the punch, they just wrote there own article about the Velib.

  49. Breaking News: George Hincrappie announces his departure from the BMC Pro Team to the unclassified Montreal Commuter’s Collective

    Mr Hincrappie is quoted as saying “My off seasson will comprise of repeated traffic light sprints and hill rep on my new team bike as a result of the numerous code violations pointed out by the Velominati. By the time the new season starts, I will be a hardman

  50. These esteemed colleges of Journalism courses in Delhi would be better option you ought to earn your degree.

    Please don’t misunderstand; I appreciate entertainment being a lot as the next individual.
    One groovy method of getting the newest news is actually use in the internet.

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