As soon as I landed in Paris, I knew I wanted a bicycle. Though I love and support the idea of Velibs, I have to admit I feel a bit dorky on those bulky gray carbon copies—plus, each Velib ride inevitably leaves me with grease on my pants. But a more important factor in my decision was an image I had formed when I first booked my ticket to France: me, riding a cool French bicycle, baguette in tow, zooming down the streets of the city of love. And the fancy hybrid I left back in Brooklyn would not do: I needed something that this romantic, idealized version of me could distinctly call his own.
So where does one go to find the bike they always dreamed of riding in Paris? There are a few different options that satisfy a variety of urges, from casual biker to fixie-dedicated hipster to everything in between.
1) Velo Vintage
To answer my own question: this is where I went to find the bike I always dreamed of riding in Paris. A craigslist post brought me to this small, 80s-inspired shop in the 18th. Upon entering the shop I was struck by the quality of their vintage rides, which looked more like art with a seat on it than transportation device. Their bikes range from classic French Peugeot’s to Dutch cruisers. Few are built for the Tour de France; style, comfort and more style reign here.
Although it would be easy to stop at window shopping here, a purchase at VV can be a wise—and even cost-effective—investment. While some of their bikes are in the 600+ Euro range, my very comfortable, sleek, blue 5-speed with a rear rack only set me back 180 €. Before riding off, co-owner Eddy told me to send a picture from wherever the bike ends up taking me. And I’m sure I will: on this bike I feel very photogenic.
Velo Vintage, 58 Rue du Ruisseau, 75018
2) Bicycle Store Paris
Entering this store is like walking into a hipster’s wet dream. Or the wet dream of anyone who likes beautiful bicycles. If you can look past the demonic clown art on the walls, BSP offers up a fantastic array of bikes, from fixed-gear (a favorite of bicycle messengers everywhere) to French velos de ville, in a stunning array of colors and designs. This store also has many extra parts, like handle-bar grips and saddles, on gorgeous multi-colored displays.
Everything about BSP is modern, from their bicycles to their Foosball table to their business model. “We are here to get people on bikes,” Simon, mechanic and co-owner, told me. And while many of their products are above 600+ Euros (a fair price, once you see these beauties), soon-to-arrive shipments promise lower prices. If money is no object, you can have them custom-build one for you. I’m not sure it gets much cooler than that.
Bicycle Store Paris, 17 Boulevard du Temple, 75003
Out of the three shops featured here, Bicloune looks most like the older, more conservative guy down the street who shakes his fist at you if you throw your ball over his fence. But fear not: this well-established shop has plenty of stylish and unique rides to peruse.
Their expansive showroom is literally stuffed wall-to-wall with options, some of which are normal every-day road bikes. But black-finished vintage bikes, beach cruisers fashioned after Harley Davidson motorcycles and vibrant tandems can be seen hanging from the ceiling as well. The choices here, from style to color to price, are certainly the most varied and plentiful. It is surely a “traditional” bike shop, but with unconventional options. As a side note, knowledge of French is a big plus here. .
Bicloune, 93 Boulevard Beaumarchais, 75003
Sure, having a baguette or attractive French significant other might get you close to looking Parisian, but what of your ride? If you, like me, dream of becoming a French postcard, the right bike might actually get you closer than you thought. Until then, I’ll leave you with the mental image of me, riding by on a sleek bicycle, front basket full of baguettes, maybe sending up a splash of sewer water as I pass…
Written by Eric Goldschein for the HiP Paris Blog. All images except lead by Cara Tobe. Looking for a fabulous vacation rental in Paris, Provence, or Tuscany? Check out Haven in Paris.