FreeWheeling

I took this photo recently and I love it. To me it is the ultimate in cycling freedom.

Going places, Paris style.

Going places, Paris style.

The photo was captured in Paris but is a common sight in many parts of France. Aside from the recommendation that you have a bike of some sort and a good quality chain to lock it up, there are few other requirements to get yourself cycling just about anywhere.

No one cares what sort of bike you ride – as long as it gets you where you need to go. There are some bits and bobs that make the whole thing a lot more practical however. A bell makes a lot of sense – how else do you warn people you are coming behind them? A basket? Naturally. It is practical and it is surprising how much it can carry! And this goes for the guys as well as the girls. Mudguards (fenders)? Common sense, really, in a place where it rains a lot. And what about your clothes? Well, in France, it’s simple – just wear what you have on when you decide to go out. (And because helmets are not compulsory, one can wear large earrings and a fancy hairdo if the mood takes you!).

So the preparations to ride somewhere are minimal. Get the bike out, toss a few things into the basket and away you go.

Where I live, it is definitely not ‘cool’ to have a basket, luggage rack or mudguards on your bike. And few people seem to venture out on rides without their trendy cycling jerseys, knicks and clip-in-shoes. (Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind if this is the gear they feel most comfortable riding in – they are welcome!). Perhaps the difference between where I live and Paris, is that most people who cycle in Paris are easy-going cyclists like the lady in my photo, whereas the majority of people who cycle in my district are doing fitness training.

However, I do look forward to the day when I can just grab my ordinary bike with a basket on the front, a classic old fashioned bike bell attached to my nondescript handlebars and cycle to the local grocery shop without attracting looks of superiority from other cyclists.

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8 Responses to FreeWheeling

  1. Colline says:

    You will love The Netherlands then. There cycling is definitely a family affair. I saw moms and dads cycling with their children on their bikes – the bicycle was their mode of transport. What was great were the lanes dedicated to cyclists only.

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    • Madoqua says:

      I believe the Netherlands is cycling heaven! We were going to try to get to Amsterdam this trip, but it did not work out that way.
      Next time though! I am really looking forward to it!

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  2. I know exactly what you mean! It was amazing – and wonderful – the other day to see a young woman in her work gear riding to the library during her lunch break. Of course, she had to wear her helmet, but otherwise she made no compromises – though I must confess she wasn’t wearing ladder-high stilettos. 🙂

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    • Madoqua says:

      I had to have a giggle at the thought of someone wearing stilletos on a bike, although I am sure the French or Dutch would manage fine!
      I would have loved to see your lady cyclist.
      Things are changing where I live, but we are a long way off having more casual cyclists than training cyclists.

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      • I’m sure ‘my’ girl was an outstanding exception to the lycra clad mob I see everywhere exercising on their bikes here. It’s such a shame they’ve become exercise machines rather than a breezy way of getting around, but I was thrilled to see that even Brisbane has street bike rentals like the big European cities.

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        • Madoqua says:

          Wow, that is very impressive! Having bikes to hire might be just the incentive I need to visit Brisbane. Last time I was there, I was impressed by the bike lanes in the area whee I was staying, but did not see any bikes for rent, so that is quite exciting.

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      • PS Just heard Boris Johnson talking about bikes being a way of emulating village life, with helmetlessness being the epitome of that sense of freedom and safety that we associate with villages.

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        • Madoqua says:

          That is interesting. I have always been in favour of wearing a helmet if I ride on the road (my head is worth a lot to me!), but I did ride helmetless on some of the cycle tracks in France. It was awesome!

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